Wrongful Death Attorney in Charlotte, North Carolina
Wrongful death is any preventable death caused by the negligence, recklessness, or maliciousness of another person. Though nothing can change the past or bring your loved one back, you and your family may wish to pursue a wrongful death claim to seek closure, justice, and financial compensation for your loss. Holding the at-fault party accountable can help get answers, ease financial burdens, and discourage similar behavior in the future.
It is important to hire an experienced Charlotte injury attorney to help you pursue all of the damages to which you and your family may be entitled. Stewart Law Offices in North Carolina has been fighting for the rights of families facing the unjust loss of a loved one since 1995.
Our Charlotte wrongful death lawyers will provide an honest and thorough evaluation of your case.
Types and Causes of Fatal Accidents
Whether death is intentional or not, if it was preventable and caused by another party, then it may qualify as wrongful death. Surviving family members could be eligible to pursue a wrongful death claim if they lost a loved one due to:
- Car Accidents
- Truck Accidents
- Motorcycle Accidents
- Bicycle Accidents
- Pedestrian Accidents
- Medical Malpractice
- Maritime Accidents
You should get a knowledgeable wrongful death lawyer involved as soon as possible so an independent investigation can be conducted into the accident and important evidence can be preserved.
Keep in mind that liability can be extremely complex in many of these accidents. In some cases, it may be possible that multiple parties bear responsibility for your loved one’s death. In such cases, it may be possible that other defendants could then begin blaming one another for your loved one’s death in an attempt to minimize their own liability. A skilled Charlotte wrongful death lawyer will work to identify every potentially liable party and build a strong case for maximum compensation.
How Do You Prove a Wrongful Death Claim in North Carolina?
Any time a loved one dies unexpectedly, it can seem wrong and unjust. However, there are certain elements that you must prove as part of a wrongful death claim:
- Duty of Care — You must show that the defendant had an obligation to the victim to act in a safe and lawful manner.
- Breach of Duty — You must prove that the defendant breached that duty of care by failing to act in a safe and lawful manner.
- Causation — You must show that breach of duty caused the victim to suffer injuries, in this case, death.
- Damages — You must demonstrate that those injuries resulted in damages, usually a financial loss for the surviving family in wrongful death claims.
Arguing against defendants who deny their liability can be especially difficult in a wrongful death case because the victim is deceased and cannot provide their own testimony. Our experienced Charlotte wrongful death attorneys will work to obtain the evidence necessary to support your wrongful death claim.
The Statute of Limitations on North Carolina Wrongful Death Claims
North Carolina, state law requires wrongful death actions to be filed within two years of the date of death. While many families are often far too overwhelmed with grief to even consider legal action after a loved one’s death, you must not delay in seeking legal representation due to the time-sensitive nature of many aspects relating to these types of claims.
North Carolina General Statute § 1-53 also provides that a wrongful death claim cannot be filed when the ordinary statute of limitations for a personal injury claim that could have been filed by the deceased has passed. In other words, the family of a person who dies from injuries suffered more than four years ago likely would not have legal recourse in North Carolina.
The statute of limitations can also be tolled (or delayed) in two other situations. The minor child of a deceased parent or a plaintiff who is suffering from a lack of capacities such as a mental impairment that prevents him or her from filing a claim may be able to file claims after the original limitations period has passed. With a minor, for example, the statute of limitations may be extended to two years past the minor’s 18th birthday.
To learn whether you are eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit, contact Stewart Law Offices.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in North Carolina?
In North Carolina, the personal representative of the deceased’s estate can file a wrongful death lawsuit. The personal representative is often the deceased individual’s surviving spouse, adult child, or parent.
When the deceased person had some kind of estate planning document, a personal representative may be a named administrator or executor in the document. In other cases, the personal representative may be appointed by the court in accordance with North Carolina intestate succession laws.
Compensation in a Wrongful Death Case
Depending on the circumstances of your case, our Charlotte wrongful death attorneys may seek compensation for:
- Medical bills
- Funeral expenses
- Your loved one’s pain and suffering
- Lost income
- Loss of services
- Loss of protection
- Lost care and assistance of the decedent
- Loss of companionship, guidance, and other assistance
Punitive damages, also known as exemplary damages, may be awarded in extreme cases. These damages are intended to punish defendants who engaged in exceptionally reckless behavior such as fraud, malice, or willful or wanton conduct.
North Carolina law limits punitive damages to $250,000 or three times the compensatory damages, whichever is greater. The jury is not informed of this limit, and the limit does not apply in cases involving a defendant who was operating a motor vehicle while impaired (one of the most common causes of punitive damage awards).
Unfortunately, in many cases, accident victims do not have an estate plan in place. In these circumstances, North Carolina intestate succession laws dictate how compensation is awarded:
- When a deceased person was married, all damages are awarded to the surviving spouse if there are no children, descendants of children, or parents surviving.
- When there are a surviving spouse and no children or descendants of children but one or both parents are surviving, the first $50,000 goes to the spouse and the remainder is divided evenly between the spouse and the surviving parent or parents.
- If there is a surviving spouse and one child or one descendant of a child, the first $30,000 goes to the spouse and the remainder is divided evenly between the spouse and the surviving child or descendant of the non-surviving child.
- When there are a surviving spouse and two or more children or their descendants, the first $30,000 goes to the spouse, one-third of the remainder goes to the spouse, and the remaining two-thirds is equally distributed to children and/or descendants.
- When a deceased person was not married but their children or descendants are alive, then those children or descendants receive all of the benefits.
- The benefits of a wrongful death claim go to the deceased person’s parents when they are alive but the deceased had no children.
- Surviving siblings can equally share proceeds when there are no surviving children, descendants of children, or parents.
- If there are no children, descendants of children, parents, siblings, or descendants of siblings, then half of the wrongful death damages can be awarded to paternal grandparents (or paternal uncles, aunts, or their descendants when paternal grandparents are not surviving) and half goes to maternal grandparents (or, when not surviving, to maternal uncles, aunts or their descendants).
What You Need to Know After a Wrongful Death
If your loved one was killed in an accident caused by another party’s negligence, you will want to get an attorney involved as soon as possible. Our compassionate Charlotte wrongful death lawyers can handle all required court filings, appearances, and related paperwork so you and your family can take the time you need to grieve.
Determining who the deceased person’s legal representative is can be complicated in some cases, and families may have disputes over who should handle the wrongful death lawsuit. Our attorneys will also be able to help clarify which individual should be responsible for filing a wrongful death claim.
Some families may be contacted by insurance companies representing the negligent parties in their cases. It is important to not allow anybody to speak to these insurers or their agents until legal representation has been secured.
In some cases, an insurance company may quickly offer the family a lump-sum settlement and aggressively pressure you to accept it. Never accept these offers without first consulting with a lawyer because these settlements can be far too low.
How Our Wrongful Death Law Firm Can Help Your Family
Stewart Law Offices will conduct a diligent investigation and determine the true value of your claim while fighting to help your family pursue every last dollar of compensation you deserve. Our law firm is dedicated to helping families hold negligent parties accountable in wrongful death cases.
Was your loved one killed in an accident caused by another party’s negligence in the greater Charlotte area? Do not wait to retain legal counsel for help with your wrongful death claim.