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Raleigh Wrongful Death Attorneys

Few things are more painful than the sudden and unexpected loss of a loved one. The situation becomes even more difficult when the death is caused by the wrongdoing of a person or company. Car accidents, defective products, work accidents, dangerous property conditions, and other hazards can cause fatal injuries if proper care is not taken to avoid the accident or to mitigate or warn of the risk.

If you’ve lost a close relative in an accident, you may have many questions. What will our family do now? What happened? How could this accident have been prevented? How will we pay medical and funeral bills and other expenses, as well as the household bills in the future? Is there any way to hold a negligent party accountable for the loss they’ve caused our family?

At Younce, Vtipil, Baznik & Banks, P.A., our accidental death attorneys work hard to help families secure the compensation they need after an accident claims a life. To learn more, call our office today for a free consultation and advice about your legal options. Let us bear the burden of handling the legal matters while you focus on grieving and putting your life back together.

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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.

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Potential Damages in a North Carolina Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Like a personal injury case, a wrongful death claim typically pursues certain types and amounts of money damages.

In most wrongful death claims, damages include:

  • Expenses related to death, like medical care, funeral, and burial expenses
  • Loss of the earnings the deceased person would have made if he or she had lived
  • Compensation for the deceased person’s pain and suffering
  • The loss of the care, companionship, and protection that the deceased person would have provided to his or her surviving family members if not for the death

Even if the deceased person never held a job, a wrongful death claim may seek damages for the value the person contributed to the family in other ways. For instance, suppose that a spouse who stayed home to take care of the household and raise the children was killed in a car accident. The surviving spouse may file a wrongful death claim to seek damages, including compensation for the loss of the household care and childcare services the stay-at-home spouse provided, the loss of the spouse’s love and companionship, and other losses.

Although an experienced lawyer will always prepare for the possibility of trial, most wrongful death claims in North Carolina are settled before they go to trial. The length of time it takes to complete a wrongful death case depends on many factors, including the complexity of the facts involved, the number of potentially negligent parties, and how settlement negotiations proceed. Be prepared for the case to last anywhere from a few months to several years, and choose a lawyer who is willing to take the time needed to ensure your family receives a full and fair settlement.

Wrongful Death Frequently Asked Questions

Wrongful Death

Who can file a wrongful death case?

A surviving spouse may bring a wrongful death claim. If there is no surviving spouse, the children may bring the death claim. If there is not a surviving spouse or surviving children, the parents of the decedent may pursue the wrongful death claim. Absent a surviving spouse, surviving children, and surviving parents, the administrator of the decedent’s estate can sue on behalf of the estate.

What is a wrongful death claim?

In general terms, a wrongful death claim refers to a cause of action that may be brought by certain family members of a decedent whose death was precipitated by the wrongful conduct of another. The wrongful act that resulted in death may have been intentional, reckless, or negligent. In cases where a dangerous product caused the death, it may not be necessary to show wrongful conduct in order to recover.

Can I bring a wrongful death action if the deceased never held a job?

Yes, even if the decedent never held a job, they may have contributed in some other way to the family. A good example of such a decedent is a housewife, who contributes services, guidance and nurturing to her family. These contributions are quantifiable as “pecuniary losses” in a wrongful death action.

Can someone sue for the pain and suffering of a decedent?

Yes, in addition to the wrongful death, a decedent’s family may recover damages for the pain and suffering that the decedent endured prior to death.

What if a person dies before bringing a personal injury lawsuit?

It depends on whether a person dies as a result of the injuries or from unrelated causes. If a person injured in an accident subsequently dies because of those injuries, that person’s heirs may recover money through a lawsuit. If a person with a personal injury claim dies from unrelated causes, the claim survives in most cases and may be brought by the executor or personal representative of the deceased person’s estate.

What kinds of damages are recoverable in these cases?

Normally, the following are recoverable:

  • Expenses associated with the death (medical & funeral);
  • Loss of victim’s anticipated earnings;
  • Pain and suffering; and
  • The loss of care, protection, companionship to the survivors.

What is the first step in pursuing a wrongful death claim?

Given that wrongful death claims and survival actions generally involve a variety of complex legal issues, the first step is to consult an attorney at Younce, Vtipil, Baznik & Banks, P.A. An attorney should be consulted as soon as reasonably possible because there are statutes of limitations and possibly other critical deadlines that may impact the case.

How long will my wrongful death case last?

The vast majority of all cases, including wrongful death cases, are settled prior to trial. Some cases are settled prior to the filing of a lawsuit, while others are settled during litigation or even on the steps of the courthouse just before trial. A wrongful death case, if litigated to trial, could last a number of years. One who pursues a wrongful death case should understand from the outset that a quick resolution cannot be guaranteed.

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Speak to A Compassionate Raleigh Wrongful Death Attorney Today

The attorneys at Younce, Vtipil, Baznik & Banks, P.A., understand that nothing is as precious as a life – and nothing is more devastating than losing someone you love, especially when the death was preventable. That’s why we put compassion, listening, and care first when we work with clients on wrongful death cases. We take the time to understand how death has changed your family’s lives, and we bring our legal knowledge and courtroom experience to bear as we fight for the compensation your family deserves.

To learn more, contact our office today. You can call us or fill out our online contact form, whichever is more convenient for you. As always, your initial consultation with one of our attorneys is free and confidential.

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