Elements of a Wrongful Death Claim

If a fatal injury is caused by another’s negligent or careless conduct, the burden of proof in the civil trial necessary to collect for wrongful death damages in North Carolina is “preponderance of the evidence”. Under North Carolina law, “preponderance of evidence” simply means a slight tipping of the scales. Put another way, the plaintiff must show that the allegation asserted is “more likely than not” true.

All of the negligence laws discussed throughout this book apply win the wrongful death context. Claimants in the wrongful death action must prove that other drivers’ or parties’ errors caused the fatal injury, and most of the accident case is presented just as if the victim had survived. Because wrongful death actions are based on statutory law, the claim must be in conformity with the requirements of the North Carolina Wrongful Death Act, codified in North Carolina General Statutes 28A-18-2. The elements of a wrongful death claim include the classic elements of a negligence case, plus additional proof required to show:

  • the full financial value of losses incurred by the family;
  • the emotional loss and quality of all relationships affected; and
  • the identity and family standing of all beneficiaries entitled to share in any wrongful death settlement.
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