What Is a Wrongful Death Case?
When the intentional, reckless, or negligent behavior of another person or company causes a death, certain family members closely related to the person who died may bring a wrongful death claim. The purpose of the wrongful death claim is to compensate the family for their loss.
One way to think about wrongful death claims is to compare them to personal injury cases. In a personal injury case, the injured person brings the claim to court to seek compensation from the party that caused the harm. In a wrongful death case, the injured person is no longer able to bring his or her own claim to court. Instead, North Carolina law allows certain family members to step in to bring the claim.
How Does a Wrongful Death Claim Get to Court?
In North Carolina, the surviving spouse of a deceased person may file a wrongful death claim. If there is no surviving spouse, then any surviving children may file the claim. If the deceased person had no spouse or children who survived, the deceased person’s parents may file the claim. If the deceased person had no spouse, children, or parents, the administrator of the person’s estate can sue on the person’s behalf.
In all these cases, a wrongful death case gets to court when the appropriate family member or administrator files the lawsuit in court. Wrongful death claims are civil lawsuits, which means the family member or administrator files them directly and liability is expressed solely in terms of money damages.
The claim can often be brought to court even if the deceased person died before bringing a personal injury lawsuit. For instance, imagine a person who was injured in a car accident and lived for several weeks afterward, but eventually died of the injuries suffered in the crash. The person’s family might bring a wrongful death lawsuit, even though many days passed between the accident and the death. If the injured person had filed a personal injury claim but died before that claim was resolved, the estate can often pursue the claim on the injured person’s behalf.
If you believe you have a wrongful death case, talk to an attorney as soon as possible. Certain deadlines apply to wrongful death cases in North Carolina, and a lawyer can help you make sure you do not miss them. Your Raleigh wrongful death lawyer can also help you ensure that you maximize your chances at recovery in the face of often-complex rules regarding wrongful death claims and survivorships.
In some situations, a criminal case may be pending against the person who caused the death. A wrongful death claim can still be filed even if the criminal case is still being heard. However, because civil and criminal cases can interact in complex ways, it is important to work with a lawyer to file a wrongful death claim.