The death of a loved one is a tragedy that results in great loss to their loved ones, from missing companionship and counsel to the loss of the income the deceased person provided. If the death was the result of negligence by another party, there is the basis for a civil lawsuit aimed at recouping financial damages.
Our New Bern wrongful death attorneys at Chesnutt & Clemmons serve clients throughout Craven County and into Pamlico County, Carteret County, including Havelock. We work with both the English and Spanish-speaking communities.
What is Wrongful Death?
Under North Carolina law, wrongful death is defined as a death caused by a wrongful act, neglect or fault of another person or entity. This can include situations where someone was killed as a result of medical malpractice, a car accident caused by a reckless driver, a defective product, a workplace accident caused by unsafe conditions, or any other situation where someone's negligence or intentional actions led to the death of another person.
To win a wrongful death lawsuit in North Carolina, the plaintiff must prove the following elements:
- Duty of care: The defendant (at-fault party) had a duty of care to the plaintiff (deceased individual). This means that the defendant had a legal obligation to act in a reasonable and prudent manner to prevent harm to the deceased person.
- Breach of duty: The defendant breached their duty of care by acting negligently, recklessly, or intentionally. This means that the defendant's actions fell below the standard of care that a reasonable person would have exercised under similar circumstances.
- Causation: The defendant's breach of duty was the direct cause of the plaintiff's death. This means that the defendant's actions were a substantial factor in causing the death.
- Damages: The plaintiff suffered damages as a result of the deceased person's death. This means that the plaintiff has incurred financial, emotional, or other losses as a result of the death.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in North Carolina?
The state of North Carolina has stricter limits on who can bring forth a wrongful death claim than other states. Only the legally authorized personal representative of the deceased can do so. If there is an existing last will and testament, that representative may be already named. Otherwise, it will likely fall to the closest living relative, presumably a spouse or children.
It’s also worth pointing out that wrongful death lawsuits can be filed in both civil and criminal matters. The person who died because of the result of criminal activity can’t bring formal charges against the defendant—that’s up to the District Attorney. But they can seek financial damages for the losses through legal proceedings that may be running parallel to what’s happening with the D.A. on the criminal side. Wrongful death lawsuits can also be filed in strictly civil matters, such as negligence in a car accident.
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Winning a wrongful death case will require proving the four elements of negligence that exist in all injury cases. Then the question becomes what financial damages can be awarded, given that the actual victim is now deceased.
A wrongful death settlement may include the following…
- Basic funeral expenses and any other medical costs associated with the wrongful death.
- The loss of income, including the deceased’s current earnings, and what they might be reasonably projected to earn in the future.
- The loss of companionship. While no one can truly put a price tag on the friendship that may exist between spouses and other loved ones, a dollar value is all the court can offer. They have to at least try to quantify the loss of companionship.
- The loss of counsel. Similar to companionship, children may have lost a confidant that they could rely on to help guide them through life. Witness testimony on the loss of counsel and the loss of companionship are both helpful to the court in establishing a final dollar value in the settlement.
Experienced & Aggressive New Bern Wrongful Death Lawyers
Chesnutt & Clemmons has been winning cases and fair settlements since 1994 because we combine hard-nosed negotiation and courtroom skills with a deep sense of personal compassion for your clients. Your fight is our fight.
Marcus Chesnutt Attorney
Gary Clemmons Attorney
T.R. Cook Attorney
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