People involved in accidents can file a personal injury claim to receive compensation for the damage caused. But what happens if an accident is fatal, leading to death? In this case, surviving family members can pursue a wrongful death claim.
Only an experienced and compassionate Lewisville wrongful death lawyer has the expertise to fight for the rights of you and your family. Call our Lewisville personal injury lawyers today to schedule a free* consultation today at 336-727-9886.
The Definition of Wrongful Death in North Carolina
Wrongful death is caused by the “wrongful” conduct of another party, as the term suggests. It occurs when an individual fails to meet a legal duty leading to the victim’s demise. Actions that cause wrongful death include:
- Intentional behavior
- Criminal conduct
Various people, including surviving family members and a personal representative, can file a wrongful death lawsuit. In the case, plaintiffs must prove the following:
- An individual was negligent or intentionally committed a wrongful act
- The actions directly led to the death
- The victim’s death caused damages
Surviving family members are awarded compensation if they successfully prove these elements.
Who is Qualified to File a Wrongful Death Claim?
Because the deceased can’t sue for wrongful death, it’s critical to understand who is legally allowed to file a wrongful death claim. The following are parties that can file the claim.
- Immediate family members. Family members like children and spouses can be compensated in a wrongful death claim.
- Surviving spouses. A spouse of the deceased has a right to recovery.
- Other immediate family members. Other relatives of the victim, for example, grandparents and siblings, can file a wrongful death lawsuit.
- Individuals who suffer financially. Any person who suffers financially because of the death can bring a wrongful death lawsuit.
- A personal representative of the victim’s estate is also allowed to file a lawsuit.
Parties that Can Be Sued For Wrongful Death
Almost anyone can be sued for wrongful death, but here are common examples:
- Companies that produce faulty products
- Drivers causing collisions
- Companies failing to warn people about the risks of using their products
- Builders of faulty roads
- Medical professionals who commit a malpractice
A Lewisville wrongful death lawyer will guide individuals about all potential defendants they can file a claim against in wrongful death cases.
Can a Surviving Family Member File for Punitive Damages?
Punitive damages are available after wrongful death incidents, and surviving family members can file for these damages. They aren’t meant to compensate the plaintiff for losses but to punish the defendant for gross conduct.
These damages have strict requirements, meaning the surviving family members must prove that the defendant’s actions were egregious. The law may have caps on how much punitive damages one can receive.
It’s advisable to speak to a professional wrongful death attorney for accurate information regarding the availability of punitive damages and what it takes to get them.
How to Prove Negligence in a Wrongful Death Case?
Individuals must prove that the defendant failed to exercise reasonable care leading to the victim’s death. These are the elements that must typically be established to show there was negligence.
Duty of Care
Duty of care arises if the parties have a relationship giving one party a legal obligation over the other. Here are some examples where a duty of care exists:
- A driver on the highway owes pedestrians, cyclists, and other drivers a duty of care
- Healthcare professionals have a legal duty of care toward their patients
- Business owners owe a duty of care to clients
Breach of Duty of Care
Breach of duty occurs when the duty of care isn’t fulfilled. Individuals must prove that the defendant breached the duty by failing to act reasonably. For example, in a case involving a driver, it can be demonstrated that the driver failed to drive under the speed limit or was under the influence while operating the vehicle.
The plaintiff must prove that the duty of care violation was the actual cause of the deceased person’s death. For example, if the incident is a road accident, one must show that the driver’s behavior is the actual cause of the accident leading to death.
Lastly, the victim must have suffered harm because of the negligence, which makes them entitled to compensation. Damages resulting from the death can include emotional distress, medical bills, pain, and suffering.
If a driver is speeding and cuts off a person, the individual can’t pursue a case, although there’s negligence, because no compensable loss was suffered.
How to Start a Wrongful Death Claim in North Carolina
A wrongful death lawsuit requires a lot of work, so the first step should always be to hire a qualified and experienced lawyer to help with the legal process. Successfully filing a wrongful death lawsuit involves building the case, starting negotiations, preparing for trial, and showing up for the actual trial.
Here’s a breakdown of every step:
Building the Case
One must build a solid case to ensure their lawsuit is successful. A lawyer specializing in wrongful death will help by providing invaluable advice to navigate the issue. Let’s see what it takes to build a case.
- Determine the Defendants: It involves identifying all individuals and entities liable for the victim’s death. The people can be government agencies, healthcare providers, employers, and other negligent individuals.
- Acquiring Evidence to Support the Case: Evidence in a case is necessary to support one’s claims. Documents like medical records and contracts can serve as evidence. Witness testimonies, videos, and photographs may also be helpful in the case.
- Show Negligence: Victims should establish evidence by demonstrating a duty of care, breach, causation, and the harm arising from the death.
The damages, whether economic or non-economic, must be documented through records like funeral expenses and the cost of medical care.
Negotiations offer the opportunity to agree on a fair settlement without facing the lengthy trial process. The parties involved hold discussions after having assessed the damages. They then evaluate possible and suitable offers for the harm.
A wrongful death attorney is usually the victim’s advocate during the negotiations to help secure the best outcome. Factors like damages suffered, offers presented, and potential court outcomes are all considered before reaching an agreement.
Preparation and Trial
A wrongful death case requires thorough preparation. Activities that go into preparing for the trial include:
- Compiling the evidence: All the evidence needs to be organized well so it’s easy to present on the day of the trial. An attorney will help assemble the evidence to ensure nothing is left out.
- Preparing the Witnesses: If there are witnesses at the trial, they need to be briefed in advance to prepare them for the trial.
The victims can also do mock trials and anticipate the defendant’s arguments to prepare them for trial.
The court will communicate the actual date and time of the trial, and all one has to do is show up with the evidence ready. Court procedures and a trial timeline are also provided, and parties involved in the case must adhere.
The plaintiffs will present their case and answer questions to help the jury make a ruling. What’s most important is to be professional and respectful throughout the trial. One is allowed to appeal if they’re not impressed by the court’s final verdict.
Useful Evidence in a Wrongful Death Suit
Individuals must present a variety of evidence to support their wrongful death suit. The evidence includes:
A Death Certificate
Details about the deceased person’s death are important in a wrongful death case. A copy of the official death certificate is necessary as it proves the victim died and shows the real cause of death.
The Victim’s Medical Records
The medical records of the deceased are crucial in the event of a wrongful death suit. The medical costs serve as proof of damages. This evidence also supports claims of injury to the deceased caused by the defendant’s negligent behavior.
There are different kinds of pieces of physical evidence that can be presented, including photographs and defective products.
Police and Autopsy Records
The police usually make a report after examining the victim’s death. Such evidence and an autopsy report are vital in a wrongful death suit.
Details like tax returns and bank statements provide evidence on issues such as the amount of wages lost which is necessary in determining the amount of compensation.
Contact a Lewisville Wrongful Death Lawyer at McIver Law Firm Today!
Wrongful death is damaging to the victims affected, and they should seek compensation for harm. The process may be challenging and lengthy, but you can make a successful claim with the help of professional lawyers like the ones at McIver Law Firm. Get in touch with us today for all your wrongful death lawsuit concerns.