While any death of a loved one is tragic, when that death is the result of an accident that was caused by the negligence of another party, it can be especially devastating to the victim’s family. Not only are there emotional struggles as the family processes their grief and loss, but there is often a financial impact that can cause great stress, especially if the loved one was the primary breadwinner in the family. Under North Carolina, families who suffer this type of loss may be able to seek relief through a wrongful death lawsuit.
Damages in a Wrongful Death Claim
According to the statute, “the personal representative of the deceased person's estate may file a civil claim seeking damages for the wrongful death.” This means that a personal representative can file the lawsuit on behalf of the victim’s estate and their surviving family members. If the victim had an estate plan in place, the executor of the estate may be the person to file the lawsuit. If there was no estate plan or the executor does not file, the court can appoint another person, often the victim’s spouse, adult child, parents, or other family member.
The damages obtained in a wrongful death lawsuit are for the exclusive benefit of the victim’s survivors and can include the following:
Medical expenses: Prior to the victim’s death, they may have needed extensive medical care, such as emergency treatment, surgeries, hospitalizations, and more. These expenses often result in a huge financial burden on the family, however, part of the compensation awarded in a wrongful death lawsuit can go to covering all of these bills.
Funeral expenses: Any funeral expenses the family incurred because of the victim’s death are also able to be compensated in a wrongful death claim. This includes funeral home viewing costs, caskets, urn, cremation, cemetery plot, and headstone.
- Lost income: If the victim’s income was used to provide for the family’s expenses, such as food, housing, utilities, etc., a wrongful death lawsuit award can compensate the family for the loss of future income the victim would have provided if they had survived. These damages can also cover other financial help the victim provided, including health insurance and pension/retirement benefits.
- Pain and suffering: If the victim experienced a great deal of physical and emotional suffering prior to dying, the wrongful death lawsuit may address this trauma for the family. Pain and suffering damages can also include the grief and mental anguish the family suffers through because of their loss.
- Loss of society: Financial damages can also include the loss of companionship, love, support, and guidance the victim would have offered their family in the future.
- Punitive damages: If the actions of the party that caused the accident that killed the victim were particularly egregious, there may also be punitive damages awarded to the family. This is intended to “punish” the at-fault party. One example where punitive damages are often awarded in wrongful death lawsuits is fatal drunk driving accidents.
Contact a Carolinas Injury Attorney
Our North Carolina personal injury firm has successfully represented many victims and their families and we are available to meet and discuss the circumstances of your case and how we may be able to help. We also offer a free wrongful death guide for families who have lost a loved one in an accident. The guide covers topics such as the statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death claim, what types of damages can be pursued, and who can be appointed as a personal representative.
To learn more, call Shapiro, Appleton & Washburn to schedule a free and confidential consultation with one of our North Carolina wrongful death attorneys.
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