Raleigh Wrongful Death Attorney
If you have lost a loved one in a preventable accident caused by another’s negligent actions, you have rights under North Carolina law to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Contact Nagle & Associates, P.A. to speak to a qualified wrongful death lawyer who can help determine who was responsible for the death of your loved one as well as how you should be compensated. We offer free consultations; call (919) 433-0035 today.
Why Choose Our Firm
- We have successfully obtained more than $400 million for North Carolina clients.
- Our success is based on decades of experience and the founder of our firm’s knowledge, having previously worked for insurance companies.
- We do not take a cent out-of-pocket, and only once we have won your case do we charge one of the lowest industry fees — twenty-five percent of your settlement or one-third of your jury award.
How Working with a Raleigh Wrongful Death Attorney Can Help Your Case
Hiring a Raleigh wrongful death lawyer to represent your loved one’s case can be beneficial to your total settlement award. They understand and know the laws applicable to wrongful death cases and frequently work with insurance companies to negotiate fair settlements. This is a trying time for your family, and you should not have to bear the burden of dealing with an insurance company alone. An attorney will have your best interests in mind and fight to ensure your awarded compensation accurately reflects your losses.
North Carolina’s Definition of Wrongful Death
Under Section 28A-18-2 of the North Carolina General Statutes, a wrongful death claim exists when “the death of a person is caused by a wrongful act, neglect or default of another.”
In other words, the family of a deceased loved one has the grounds to file a wrongful death lawsuit if the deceased individual could have pursued a personal injury claim had they survived.
Who Can Legally File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Raleigh?
North Carolina law limits the persons who may file a wrongful death lawsuit to the court-approved administrator of the deceased victim’s estate. Only two types of people may serve as a personal representative:
- The person named as the administrator of the victim’s estate, if the deceased had a will; or,
- If the deceased victim did not have a will, anyone who would qualify as a personal representative under North Carolina’s intestate succession law.
One of the deceased’s family members can petition the court to appoint someone to act as Administrator of the Estate if the personal representative is unwilling or cannot pursue the claim. Although the estate is responsible for filing a wrongful death lawsuit, any money recovered is distributed according to the provisions of the state’s intestate succession law.
In most cases, wrongful death claims must be filed within two years of the date of a loved one’s death, under North Carolina’s statute of limitations. If the case is not pursued within that time period, the family will likely lose out on their chance of obtaining compensation.
Common Wrongful Death Cases
There is a large variety of fatal accidents that are grounds for a wrongful death lawsuit. However, our Raleigh wrongful death lawyers represent families who have lost loved ones in:
- Car accidents
- Bicycle accidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Truck accidents
- Pedestrian accidents
- Work zone accidents
If you believe your loved one suffered a wrongful death, a lawyer can review the facts of the accident and determine if there is a party that can be held responsible.
How North Carolina Wrongful Death Claims Differ from Personal Injury Claims
Personal injury claims in North Carolina are usually filed by an individual who has suffered an injury caused by the careless, negligent, or reckless actions of another party. The only exception to when individuals do not bring claims in these situations is when they are under the age of 18 or mentally incapacitated, in which case a parent or guardian will be required to file the claim on their behalf.
Wrongful death claims are generally different in that these claims are filed by someone other than the person who initially suffered the injury that led to their death. Under North Carolina law, the personal representative, often referred to as the executor, of the deceased’s estate is responsible for filing a wrongful death claim in court. If there is no will or estate plan in place, the personal representative will be appointed by the court. In most situations, a personal representative or executor will be a surviving parent, spouse, or adult child of the deceased.
Another way that wrongful death claims differ from personal injury cases in North Carolina is the type of compensation available for a successful claim. Personal injury cases seek compensation for losses suffered by the injured person, including medical bills, lost wages, and their personal pain and suffering losses. Wrongful death cases, on the other hand, work to secure compensation for those same types of losses as well as the list of damages mentioned in the next section.
Available Compensation in a Wrongful Death Claim
There are two types of damages often awarded to surviving families in wrongful death claims, economic damages which are measurable losses, and non-economic damages, which are subjective losses. “Damages” refers to the compensation sought for a legal wrong committed by another party. The damages awarded will vary based on the circumstances of each case and may include:
- Medical bills related to the death;
- Funeral, cremation, or burial costs;
- Loss of the victim’s expected wages;
- Loss of benefits;
- Reduction in the inheritance suffered by surviving children;
- Loss of parental guidance;
- Loss of support and services that the victim provided, such as childcare;
- Loss of society, companionship, comfort, guidance, and advice.
- Conscious pain and suffering the deceased endured due to their injuries; and,
- Nine percent interest on top of the damages awarded, which are calculated from the date of death.
In some cases, punitive damages may also be awarded if the defendant’s actions were malicious or egregious. Unlike other types of compensation, punitive damages are intended as a punishment to the at-fault party.
Determining the Value of a North Carolina Wrongful Death Claim
There are many factors that go into determining how much a wrongful death claim in North Carolina should be. Regardless of whether or not a wrongful death claim is resolved through an insurance settlement or a wrongful death jury verdict, it is crucial to adequately calculate the monetary value of the claim. However, placing a monetary value on a life is difficult and emotional. In general, we will find that valuing these claims requires assistance from economic, financial, and medical experts who can examine the unique situation and provide estimates to insurance carriers or to a personal injury jury.
Some of the factors that could be considered when working to reach a fair wrongful death compensation amount include the following:
- The age of the deceased
- The health of the deceased
- The life expectancy of the deceased
- The deceased’s current income
- Future expected earnings of the deceased
- The age of the deceased’s dependents
- The career training and education of the deceased
- Medical bills and other expenses that occurred as a result of the incident
- The value of lost benefits to the family (pensions, retirement plans, health insurance, etc.)
- Funeral and burial expenses
When working to place a value on a wrongful death claim, it is crucial to be as objective as possible. This means ensuring that financial experts are involved and using only the facts surrounding the deceased’s life. There should not be any speculation because broad estimates will give insurance carriers and defendant’s the ability to lower the total amount.
Difference Between a Wrongful Death Claim and a Survival Action in NC
If we are going to compare wrongful death claims to personal injury claims, it would be more appropriate to look at survival actions in North Carolina. A survival action is a claim filed by the estate of the deceased from the period of time from when the injury occurred and when the deceased’s lost their life. This period of time could be moments, days, weeks, or even months. Survival actions revolve around damage is sustained by the deceased while they were alive but after the injury occurred and before they passed away.
We have covered North Carolina laws regarding wrongful death claims on this page, and we will find that survival actions arise in the same situations. However, the types of damages awarded for a survival action are a bit different and would be similar to the types of compensation available to the deceased had they lived and been able to file a personal injury claim against the at-fault party. For survival action claims in North Carolina, damages can include:
- All medical expenses occurring from when the injury occurred to the time of death
- Lost wages from when the injury occurred to win the injured passed away
- Pain and suffering endured by the injury victim from the time of injury to the time of death
It is not uncommon for wrongful death claims and survival actions to be filed at the same time in North Carolina. If you have any questions regarding survival actions, we encourage you to speak to one of our skilled attorneys who has extensive experience handling wrongful death claims.
How Do You Prove Wrongful Death?
To claim compensation in a wrongful death lawsuit, the following elements must be proven:
- Duty of Care: The at-fault party owed the deceased a duty of care. For example, the duty to drive carefully and obey the rules of the road.
- Breach of Duty: The at-fault party violated their duty by failing to act with the same level of care that a reasonable person would provide in a similar situation. For example, a negligent driver who operates a vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- Causation: The at-fault party’s breach of their duty of care directly led to the individual’s death.
- Damages: The surviving family suffered actual losses as a result of their loved one’s death.
A wrongful death attorney will help you gather the necessary evidence to use as grounds for filing the claim and as proof of liability. That will involve
- Investigating the accident to determine who was responsible.
- Obtaining police reports, medical records, photos, and videos,
- Interviewing eyewitnesses
- Hiring expert witnesses to reconstruct what happened or show how your life and that of your family have been negatively affected by your loss, and testify accordingly.
North Carolina applies contributory negligence in wrongful death cases. This law is quite harsh, as it means that if a deceased victim was even one percent responsible for their fatal accident, their family cannot recover compensation. As a result, each case requires a carefully planned legal strategy to ensure liability falls on the correct party.
Wrongful Death Claims and Criminal Charges
It is not uncommon for individuals to confuse wrongful death lawsuits with criminal charges. We want to cover a few specific facts about criminal cases and wrongful death actions in North Carolina.
Yes, it is true that wrongful death claims often revolve around the criminal conduct of an at-fault party. However, it is crucial to point out that wrongful death claims that occur in civil court are completely separate from cases going on in the criminal court system against the at-fault party. A civil wrongful death claim is filed by the estate of the deceased against the at-fault party in an effort to recover compensation for their losses. Criminal charges are filed by state prosecutors in a separate court and pursue punishment against the at-fault party for their actions that resulted in a death.
Even if a person does not face criminal charges, or if they are found not guilty of the charges brought against them, they can still face a civil wrongful death lawsuit by the estate of the deceased. Additionally, there does not have to be any type of criminal action in order for a civil wrongful death lawsuit to be filed against an individual.
If you are confused about civil wrongful death claims and criminal charges filed against an individual, please speak to one of our wrongful death lawyers who can help walk you through the difference between the two and how to navigate your situation moving forward.
How Long do You Have to File a Wrongful Death Claim in North Carolina?
When we look at information set forth under North Carolina law, we can see that wrongful death claims must be filed in civil court no later than two years from the date of the deceased’s death. This means that the personal representative or the executor of the estate has a two-year timeframe with which to file these claims in court, or they will likely lose the ability to recover compensation on behalf of the estate or family members.
However, we do need to point out that the timeframes involved in filing these cases may be significantly shorter depending on various circumstances. For example, if you know that you will be relying on an insurance settlement to recover compensation for these losses, you need to file the claim and/or lawsuit as soon as possible. Insurance carriers have very strict reporting deadlines depending on the situation, often within a few days after an incident occurs. Failing to file an insurance claim quickly could result in a claim delay or denial.
Additionally, claims filed against government entities or government employees have shorter filing deadlines than typical wrongful death claims. There are specific rules that plaintiffs must follow with cases against governments in North Carolina.
We strongly encourage you to work with a skilled wrongful death lawyer as soon as possible after the death occurs so that you have the best chance of recovering maximum compensation. Statutory time limits are taken very seriously by North Carolina courts.
Speak to a Dedicated Wrongful Death Attorney in Raleigh
Our lawyers at Nagle & Associates, P.A. look out for our clients and care about your future. Call our Raleigh wrongful death attorneys to get started on your case at (919) 433-0035. We offer free consultations, and if you are unable to come to us, we will come to you.