When a loved one is killed in an accident, you may not know what to do. The unexpected loss of a loved one is traumatic as well as tragic. If the death was caused by someone’s action, or someone’s negligence, you may be able to recoup some monetary losses through a wrongful death lawsuit in North Carolina. There are laws in place that can help in some situations. Each state is a little different, however, so it is a good idea to get a lawyer experienced in this field to work with you.
Some losses you may be able to recoup include funeral and burial expenses. In addition, you may be able to recoup the loss of the family member’s income that would have come in if the person had not died. The loss of support from the family member is slightly different but is another area where you might be due compensation. Medical expenses and compensation for pain and suffering may also be recovered by a civil suit.
You will be traumatized by the loss of a loved one, so you do not have to act immediately. As soon as you are able you should contact a wrongful death attorney. In North Carolina, you have two years after the death to file your lawsuit.
Keep in mind also that wrongful death is a civil lawsuit, which is separate from any criminal charges or criminal trials that may be held. You may still file the suit whether the person is convicted or not. You may also file the suit even if no one is charged with a crime. If a person is killed in an accident with a large truck, for example, you may be able to prove negligence even though criminal charges are not filed in such cases.
In North Carolina, the “personal representative” of the person who was killed is the only one who can file a wrongful death lawsuit. If there is a will, that person would be the executor of the will. If there is no will, the person who is the administrator of the estate, which is often the next of kin. The court may also appoint someone to be the administrator.
Not everyone can receive payment from a wrongful death lawsuit in North Carolina. The people who would receive proceeds in the order of the state’s succession laws would be eligible. Another important note is that proceeds of a civil lawsuit do not become part of the estate of the deceased person. This keeps creditors from being able to get the money.
In a wrongful death lawsuit, you do not have to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt, as you do in criminal cases. A “preponderance of the evidence” that suggests what happened or should happen, is what is required. This means the jury must be convinced.
To win such a case you must prove that the person being sued caused the death that happened. This is often the easier part to prove. If someone ran over someone with a car, for instance, it is clear who caused the death. The second part is harder. You must prove the death was a foreseeable result of the action, and that it could have been avoided. You must prove the person could have avoided killing another person if they had not been negligent.
One factor that can hinder your wrongful death lawsuit in North Carolina is the “contributory negligence” clause that some states use in civil cases. This means if it can be proven that the victim had even one percent responsibility, the other person is not liable for any damages. That clause can shipwreck a wrongful death case.
It is important to have an attorney who is experienced and knowledgeable about wrongful death cases. If you are filing a suit against a large company or an insurance company, you will find they have their own team of lawyers ready to defend their client.
Most cases are settled out of court, and it is in your best interest to have a good lawyer represent you in negotiations. If a settlement cannot be agreed on, the case can go to trial. You need an attorney who has a reputation for not being afraid to take a case to court when negotiations fail. Most attorneys will give you a free consultation to see how strong your case is. Attorneys only get paid if they win, and their payment comes out of the settlement of the lawsuit, whether it went to court or was settled early.