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Wrongful Death: Common Questions

Posted On: July 3, 2010 5:31 pm

Below, we provide answers to commonly asked questions about wrongful death. For more, visit our wrongful death FAQs page.

What is a Wrongful Death?

Basically, a death is categorized as “wrongful” when it results from the negligent actions or recklessness of a third party.  For example, if a person caused an accident due to negligent behaviors and another person dies as a result, it would be considered a wrongful death.

Wrongful death is defined as the taking of the life of an individual from the willful or negligent act of another person or persons. A wrongful death action may be filed by heirs or beneficiaries of the deceased person and is separate from criminal action. Thus, if someone is tried for murder or manslaughter, the family of the victim may also sue for wrongful death, regardless of the outcome of any criminal proceedings.

Wrongful death actions are an area of Tort law that is governed by statute. Statutes in wrongful death cases vary from state to state, but generally define who may sue for wrongful death and what limits may be applied to an award of damages, if any.

Intentional and unintentional acts that cause an injury resulting in death may be brought to action for wrongful death. An intentional wrongful death could be something like an injury sustained during a fight that resulted in death, and an unintentional wrongful death could be something like a death that resulted from a car accident in which the other party involved was driving negligently. Wrongful death statutes do not apply to unborn fetuses.

Is Proving Negligence Difficult in Wrongful Death Cases?

Yes, proving negligence is extremely difficult.  Due to the fact that negligence must be proven in order for families to proceed with wrongful death claims, most families choose to work with a personal injury lawyer who has experience with these types of claims and cases.

How Much is A Wrongful Death Claim Worth?

When people are in the midst of filing a wrongful death claim, one of the questions that they usually have on their minds is “how much money can we receive for our loss?”

Figuring out the amount of compensation that can be awarded for a wrongful death lawsuit is not an exact science. However, in some cases, family members that win or settle their cases will get paid for their lost family member’s medical bills and funeral expenses.

Family members may also be given compensation for their lost loved one’s potential earned income, loss of companionship and pain and suffering.

A lawyer can also determine how much your case might be worth.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?

A wrongful death is a type of killing that results from another person’s recklessness, misconduct or negligence.  For example, if a person was driving under the influence and caused a drunk driving accident that led to another person’s death, it would be categorized as a wrongful death because the driver acted negligently.

In the state of North Carolina, people can file wrongful death claims if:

–  they are an immediate family of the person that was wrongfully killed (spouse, child or parent)
–  they are 18 years of age or older
–  they can prove that the death of their family member resulted from the negligence of another person or third party

If all of these criteria are meat, people may file wrongful death claims which will allow them to seek monetary damages for things such as their loss of companionship, pain and suffering of the deceased before death and lost family member’s funeral expenses.

If you are thinking about filing a wrongful death claim in Raleigh, contact the Whitley Law Firm to arrange to speak with a compassionate Raleigh personal injury lawyer.