How Do I know if I Qualify For a Wrongful Death Case?

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A wrongful death lawyer and a client in a white office room discussing their case together.Losing a family member is a life-changing tragedy that can leave you devastated and unsure of the future. If your loved one’s death was caused by someone else’s actions or inactions, a wrongful death attorney will be able to help you.

What Qualifies as a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

According to Wikipedia, a wrongful death claim is a claim against a person who can be held liable for a death. The legal representative of the victim of a wrongful death is able to pursue a wrongful death claim in North Carolina.

No amount of money will ever be enough to make up for the loss of your loved one. The purpose of a wrongful death lawsuit is for financial compensation for the victim’s family.

Damages typically include any remaining medical expenses, the cost of the funeral, and the pain and suffering of the family as well as the victim before the death. The surviving spouse and children may also request financial support depending on the circumstances.

A wrongful death lawsuit is a civil case that must prove that the victim died because of the wrongful actions of others. In order to be successful, the wrongful death attorney must prove four elements showing that the defendant is responsible for the victim’s death.

If any of these factors cannot be proven, the death of the victim would not constitute a wrongful death and would be considered to have been caused by some other reason.

What Is Considered a Wrongful Death?

When someone dies because of the reckless, intentional, or negligent actions of someone else, their death is considered a wrongful death. The cause of their death may have been the fault of another person or a business or entity, such as a government agency.

When a wrongful death has occurred, the victim’s family may be able to receive compensation for their losses through a wrongful death claim against the person or party responsible. The first step is to contact a wrongful death attorney to learn about your legal rights and options in your unique circumstances.

What Do I Need to Have a Successful Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

To be successful in your wrongful death lawsuit, your lawyer will first discuss the details of your case with you to determine if your situation qualifies. They will then build your case in order to prove the elements of liability.

What Are the Four Elements of a Wrongful Death Claim?

The four elements required to prove a wrongful death claim are as follows:

  1. The defendant owed your family member a duty of care
  2. The defendant breached that duty of care
  3. The breach of care caused the accident
  4. Your family member was killed as a result of the accident, and your family has suffered damages from that death

Duty of Care

Your family member must have been owed a duty of care from the defendant. The duty of care generally means that someone must refrain from causing harm to another person.

For example, when someone drives a car on a public road, they owe a duty of care to everyone else sharing that road and must, therefore, drive safely and abide by the rules of the road. Your lawyer must prove that the defendant was obligated to keep your family member safe.

Breached Duty of Care

Once the duty of care has been established, the lawyer must then prove that the defendant did not uphold the duty owed to the victim. For example, the defendant may have been speeding or failed to stop at a red traffic light.

The Breach of Care Caused the Accident

Every wrongful death case is different. There are countless scenarios, circumstances, and situations that may have caused a single accident.

The lawyer must be able to prove that the breach of duty is what caused the accident. For example, if the defendant was speeding and collided with the victim, the lawyer must prove that the excessive speed was to blame for causing the accident.

They can do this by proving that the accident would not have occurred had the defendant been driving at a safe and legal speed using expert witnesses and evidence of stopping distances and reaction times. This is where the lawyer will need as much proof as possible and evidence to back up the claims.

The Victim’s Death Was Caused by the Accident, and Your Family Has Suffered Damages From Their Death

The final element of a successful wrongful death case is to prove that the victim’s injuries and death were caused by the accident. This means that the victim must have suffered injuries and death as a result of the accident.

Obviously, there would be no wrongful death if the victim had survived the event. The death of the victim must have been caused by the breach of duty that caused the accident.

Your family must have also suffered damages, such as funeral expenses or pain and suffering, in order to seek compensation.

After these four elements have been established, the wrongful death attorney must present evidence of damages for which compensation is being pursued.

The proof only has to show the defendant’s recklessness is true by above fifty percent of surety because wrongful death cases are civil trials and not criminal trials where the evidence must prove beyond a reasonable doubt.

The main two factors to consider while building your case are whether the defendant was negligent and the amount of compensation you should receive for your damages. Strong evidence of negligence includes any legal documentation showing fault or the verdict of a criminal trial, if available.

However, you may still file a claim without a criminal trial, as it may not take place until after your case has been filed and possibly even settled.

Your wrongful death attorney will help you by investigating your family member’s accident to determine fault and proof of negligence. Your lawyer will also consult with an economist to determine the full amount of compensation that you will be able to pursue.

People without legal knowledge and experience in investigating accidents will find proving their case very difficult. The North Carolina wrongful death attorneys at Tatum & Atkinson know how to build a strong case and will get you the compensation that you are entitled to receive.

What Types of Damages Can Be Claimed In a Wrongful Death Case?

The deceased victim’s family is the plaintiff in a wrongful death lawsuit. If successful, the court will order the defendant to pay the plaintiff’s claimed damages.

The determination of the value of the award for damages potentially includes the following factors:

  • Funeral Expenses
  • Transportation Of the Deceased
  • Burial or Cremation Expenses
  • Medical Bills For the Deceased As a Result of the Accident
  • Lost Wages the Victim Would Have Earned Had They Lived
  • Pain and Suffering of the Deceased
  • A Reasonable Value For Non-Economic Damages

Funeral Expenses

According to Funeralocity, the average cost for a funeral in North Carolina is just over $8,000 and varies depending on the city, elected services, and service provider. Wrongful death accidents are unplanned events that can leave families unable to pay for funeral arrangements.

Transportation of the Deceased

Not all wrongful death accident victims die close to home. The cost to bring them home varies wildly depending upon the following criteria:

  • Distance They Must Travel
  • Fees for Shipping Arrangements
  • Method of Transportation
  • Weight of the Deceased

Burial or Cremation Expenses

Direct burials without the cost of a funeral range between around $1,200 – $1,600. Cremation is approximately just under $1,000.

The cost for each method fluctuates depending on location and the type of coffin or urn chosen.

Medical Bills for the Deceased As a Result of the Accident

Wrongful death accidents are horrific, especially when high speeds or falls are involved. With the advancements in safety features in vehicles today, many people survive the initial crash.

Unfortunately, some still succumb to injuries and die in the hospital. Any treatment they received before their death, including transportation to the hospital, will be charged to their estate.

While families are not responsible for paying these expenses, medical bills are expensive and would take a large portion, if not all, of the deceased’s estate. Some families could be left with nothing, especially if family assets were only in the deceased’s name.

Lost Wages the Victim Would Have Earned Had They Lived

The income the deceased would have earned if the accident had not happened is also calculated in a claim for damages. This amount is significant to families who depend on the victim as the household’s primary income source.

Pain and Suffering of the Deceased

The family can also receive financial compensation for any pain the victim experienced from the accident until death. Some deaths happen instantly, while other victims experience extreme pain from their injuries, and they may have suffered for a long time before help arrived or if they were trapped somewhere.

A Reasonable Value for Non-Economic Damages

Family members are owed compensation for the loss of their loved one. Non-economic damages are for the loss of the individual.

For example, a child who lost a parent also loses a guide, counselor, and comforter, while a spouse also loses a companion, support, and consortium. They are losing future memories and will suffer emotionally for the rest of their lives.

There is also consideration given to the value of the victim’s life. For example, if the victim provided professional services, that would have allowed them to increase their earning potential exponentially.

How Does North Carolina’s Contributory Negligence Law Affect Wrongful Death Accidents?

North Carolina is one of the few states with a contributory negligence law. According to Find Law, the Pure Contributory Negligence doctrine bars recovery by the plaintiff if they’re just partially at fault (even as little as 1%).

This law prevents injured victims from receiving compensation if they had any part in causing the accident that caused their injuries. The victim would only have to be found sharing as little as one percent of the fault for the incident to be ineligible for receiving any compensation due to the contributory negligence law.

Many defendants or their insurance companies attempt to use the contributory negligence law to avoid liability for their part in causing the accident. In order for someone to use this law as an affirmative defense, they must prove that the victim was somehow negligent and that this negligence contributed to the cause of the accident.

Using contributory negligence as a defense may seem easy, but it is actually difficult to prove. Tatum & Atkinson’s experienced wrongful death attorneys know how to overcome this defense strategy to ensure that you get your compensation.

Contact a North Carolina Wrongful Death Law Firm Today

If someone you love has been tragically killed in a wrongful death accident in North Carolina, contact Tatum & Atkinson: The Heavy Hitters as soon as possible. We will represent your family to make sure that you get the best possible outcome from your wrongful death case.

Call (800) LAW-0804 today for a free consultation.