Losing a loved one is always a painful experience, but it’s especially painful when the loss could have been prevented. If a loved one passed away due to someone else’s actions, you have the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Here are five things you must know about this type of lawsuit.
- There are several types of wrongful death cases.
You may be able to file a wrongful death claim against more than one person or group. For example, if your loved one was hit by a city bus, you may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the transportation agency and the bus driver. Several types of personal injury cases may be classified as wrongful death claims:
- Medical malpractice cases
- Auto/motorcycle accidents
- Work-related accidents
- Defective products
- Airplane crashes
- A successful wrongful death claim has four elements.
Every wrongful death claim must have four elements:
- The case involves the death of a human being.
- The death was the result of someone else’s negligence, or due to someone else’s intent to cause harm.
- The surviving family members are suffering financially due to the death.
- A personal representative has been appointed to represent the deceased person.
- Wrongful death awards are calculated based on a variety of factors.
Courts use several factors to determine the amount of a wrongful death award. If your loved one was hospitalized as the result of his or her injuries, you have the right to recover compensation for any medical bills related to the incident. The award may also include some money for the pain and suffering of your loved one. For example, if your loved one was involved in a serious motor vehicle accident and went through several surgeries before passing away, you may be able to recover for pain and suffering.
Income is also a factor in determining a fair award. If your loved one was 40 years old and could have continued working for 25 years, you are likely to recover more than you would if your loved one was close to retirement age. The courts also consider the loss of companionship and household services when calculating the amount of a wrongful death award. All of these items are considered compensatory damages, or damages intended to replace what was lost.
- North Carolina law allows victims to collect punitive damages.
Some states prohibit plaintiffs from recovering punitive damages in wrongful death cases, but North Carolina is not one of them. Punitive damages are intended to punish a defendant for his or her actions. The state limits the amount of punitive damages to the greater of $250,000 or three times the amount of compensatory damages awarded by the court. If you are awarded $100,000 in compensatory damages, for example, your punitive damages would be capped at $300,000.
- You need to hire a wrongful death attorney.
If you go to court without a personal injury lawyer, there is a very good chance you will lose your case. A wrongful death attorney cannot guarantee a win, but your chances are much better if you have an experienced legal representative. A skilled attorney can collect evidence, hire expert witnesses, and examine witnesses in court.
If your loved one passed away because someone else was malicious or careless, you deserve to recover compensation for your loss. You have a limited amount of time to file a lawsuit, so contact a wrongful death attorney as soon as possible.