How is Negligence Proven in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

Home / FAQ / Wrongful Death Lawyer FAQ / How is Negligence Proven in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

Wrongful death lawyers going through a lawbook to look for information to help their clients' cases.A wrongful death is a tragic event that no family should have to endure. When this devastating event does occur, the family is eligible to receive compensation for the loss of their loved one through a wrongful death lawsuit filed on behalf of the victim’s estate.

In order for this civil lawsuit to be successful, the lawyer handling the case must prove that the wrongful actions of others caused the victim’s death. The reason the victim died must be linked to the defendant. This link is formed by proving that the defendant’s negligence caused the victim’s death.

According to the Legal Information Institute at Cornell Law School, negligence is a failure to behave with the level of care that someone of ordinary prudence would have exercised under the same circumstances. When someone fails to give a standard level of care to someone else, and that failure causes that person to die, a wrongful death has occurred.

What Does Wrongful Death Mean?

According to Forbes, a wrongful death occurs when a person or entity fails to fulfill a legal duty and causes a death to occur. When this happens, a wrongful death lawsuit can be filed by certain surviving family members or by a personal representative from the estate of the deceased.

Essentially, a wrongful death describes a death that occurred because of someone else’s actions or inactions. Wrongful deaths do not include deaths from natural causes or pure accidents that could not have been avoided by anyone other than the victims themselves.

How Do You Prove Wrongful Death?

A wrongful death is made up of four elements. In order to prove that your family member was the victim of a wrongful death, you must prove the four elements. A knowledgeable attorney with experience in winning wrongful death claims is an invaluable resource to have during your pursuit of compensation.

Your attorney will guide you through the complex process of proving a wrongful death.

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

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 You Have Suffered Damages as a Result

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.

You and your family must have also suffered damages as a result of your family member’s death. Funeral expenses and medical bills for your loved one are usually substantial financial damages.

These damages are what will decide the amount of compensation that you will receive.

If the victim was your spouse or parent or another close family member that you relied on financially, the loss of their income would be included in your claim. The services your family member would have provided had they lived, such as care and guidance, are given value and added to your damages suffered, as well as any lost pension or inheritance.

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.

Understanding North Carolina’s Wrongful Death Laws

State laws differ on many important aspects of wrongful death cases. It is important to know which laws apply to your case.

For example, the person who may file a wrongful death lawsuit is different from one state to another. The victim’s spouse or children may sue for damages in some states, while parents may sue for compensation for the death of their minor child.

Certain states allow extended family, such as grandparents, uncles, aunts, or cousins, to seek compensation for the wrongful death. Other states allow unrelated people who would have received an inheritance or who were financially dependent on the victim to file a lawsuit.

Some states, such as North Carolina, do not permit family members to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Only a personal representative or executor of the victim’s will is eligible to file a wrongful death claim, and it must be made on behalf of the victim’s estate.

How Long Do I Have to File a Wrongful Death Claim?

Another law that varies among states is the statute of limitations. These statutes restrict the length of time the family has to file the wrongful death claim.

In North Carolina, the statute of limitations is two years from the date of death.

Many of the laws involved in a wrongful death case have exceptions and variations that depend upon the unique circumstances of each case. An experienced wrongful death lawyer will have the knowledge necessary to make sure your claim is filed correctly and on time.

Contact North Carolina Wrongful Death Law Firm, Tatum & Atkinson: The Heavy Hitters, for More Information on Your Case

Tatum & Atkinson: The Heavy Hitters are experienced and knowledgeable wrongful death attorneys who know all the applicable laws in North Carolina.

Wrongful deaths are always tragic, and we understand that no amount of money will make up for the person you have lost. Our goal is to help you get the compensation that you are legally entitled to receive to ease the financial burden of your loss.

Our hope is that a successful settlement will give you some peace and closure from this devastating situation.

Call us at (800) LAW-0804 for a free consultation. There is no financial risk to you because we will not change anything until you have received your settlement or have received a favorable verdict. Call us today so we can get started.