How does recklessness affect wrongful death claims? | Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp

Reckless behavior that leads to another person’s death can make the reckless individual or organization liable for paying punitive damages to the deceased victim’s family. Punitive damages are noncriminal fines awarded as part of a civil lawsuit judgment. They must be paid in addition to any economic compensation and noneconomic damages like those for pain and suffering that get awarded to the family.

In North Carolina, punitive damages can be awarded following a wrongful death from a drunk or drugged driving accident. Punitive damages can also be sought in medical malpractice cases and in cases arising from dangerous and defective products. Driving under the influence is assumed to be reckless because a person who is not fully in control of his or her own body cannot be expected to control a car or truck. In medical malpractice and dangerous or defective products cases, punitive damages are due when a person or organization knew that deadly risks existed but intentionally did nothing to remove or mitigate those risks.