Raleigh Wrongful Death Lawyer
If you lost a loved one due to the negligence or recklessness of another person, we are so sorry for your loss. It’s always hard to lose a loved one, but it can be especially difficult to move forward if the loss was unexpected. Our Raleigh wrongful death lawyers want to fight for your financial recovery, but more importantly, we want to support you as you work through your grief.
At Whitley Law Firm, our clients are our family. We want to uplift you and offer our compassion during your search for justice. Not only will we handle every aspect of your legal case, but we will use our time, resources, and dedication to build a path forward. Using our ties to this community, we will connect you with others who can help. It is our ultimate goal to set you on a path toward personal, emotional, and financial recovery, and we will fight fiercely to achieve it.
Call (919) 785-5000, or visit us online for your free consultation.
The Whitley Advantage for Raleigh Wrongful Death Clients
Our firm has served severely injured accident victims and bereaved families in North Carolina for nearly 50 years. As a result, we’ve formed deep connections with the people in this community. We are on a first-name basis with our neighbors, medical professionals, and other experts who could be an asset to your case.
As a locally owned and operated firm with deep ties to the Raleigh area, we are confident we can assist you in ways that other firms cannot. You deserve individualized care and attention, and our personal injury lawyers aim to provide that.
This whole-hearted care and kindness is the Whitley Advantage.
Legal Services We Provide as We Handle Your Case
First and foremost, we want to give you your best shot at justice. That means you get the benefit of our knowledge and experience during a completely free consultation. Whether we decide to work together or not, we want to be a listening ear and sympathetic resource for you. Not only will we listen to your story and offer comfort, but we will guide you on the next best steps for your circumstances.
If we decide to work together, we want to go above and beyond. Here are some of the services we offer:
- We investigate the accident that led to the loss of your loved one. This involves gathering evidence to support your case and building a strong argument on your behalf.
- We present your case to the insurer or jury.
- We recruit experts who can testify to the cause of the accident and your resulting losses.
- We negotiate for compensation that is appropriate for your family’s losses.
- We give you room to grieve and recover while we handle the legal process.
- We prepare your case for litigation from the beginning, so you don’t have to worry about an expired deadline.
- We handle all case-related communication.
- We provide frequent, upfront, and honest communication about the progress of your case.
You should never feel in the dark about the progress of your claim or lawsuit. You will have your attorney’s phone number and email, so you have a direct line of communication with them. You can request an appointment at any time, and we return your phone calls within 24 hours. We work for you, not the other way around.
Wrongful Death Cases We Help Families With in Raleigh
Wrongful death cases often center around the negligence or recklessness of another party that resulted in the loss of a valued family member. Wrongful death cases cover many different areas of law, including car accidents, medical negligence, and product liability. All you need to know is that we are here to build your case if you lost a loved one because of someone’s actions or inaction.
Here are a few types of wrongful death cases we can help you with:
- Reckless, distracted, or aggressive driving accidents
- Accidents caused by intoxicated drivers
- Pedestrian accidents
- Bicycling accidents
- Over or under-medication errors
- Dangerous drugs
- Delayed treatment mistakes
- Improper treatment from medical professionals
- Negligent or abusive care from a nursing home
- Accidents in the workplace
- Slip, trip, and fall accidents
- Construction site accidents
- Deaths resulting from violent criminal acts
- Drowning accidents
- Toxic exposure
However your loved one was hurt, if someone else is to blame, we can pursue damages through an insurance claim or lawsuit. We can give you more information, answer your questions, and provide free legal guidance during your consultation.
Raleigh Wrongful Death FAQs
In North Carolina, wrongful death claims must be brought by the personal representative of the deceased’s estate. North Carolina General Statutes (N.C.G.S.) Chapter 28A, Article 1, Section 1 defines a personal representative as an executor or administrator.
An executor is someone named in a decedent’s will to administer the estate after his or her death. Usually (but not always), the executor is a family member. An administrator, meanwhile, is someone named by the probate court to handle the estate if the decedent died without a will; typically an heir can apply to be appointed as administrator to bring a wrongful death claim.
Damages for wrongful death are recoverable by the estate and distributed to heirs of the estate, which are typically surviving family members.
The statute of limitations for wrongful death claims is set by N.C.G.S. 1-53(4). If your loved one was killed by the negligence or wrongdoing of another, you have 2 years to bring a claim.
Under North Carolina law, the clock on your wrongful death claim doesn’t start ticking until the date your loved one passes away. This is important to keep in mind if your relative survived his or her injuries initially before tragically succumbing to them later.
You should contact a Raleigh wrongful death lawyer as soon as possible if your loved one died as a result of someone else’s negligence. Our attorneys will investigate promptly, thoroughly collect all relevant evidence, and file a wrongful death claim on your behalf before the statute of limitations expires.
The spouse of someone who dies due to negligence can sue for wrongful death provided he or she is the decedent’s personal representative.
Regardless of whether the surviving spouse is named as the personal representative, spouses are heirs of the estate. Therefore, the spouse is entitled to compensation should the wrongful death claim succeed.
An adult child can sue for the wrongful death of a parent if he or she is named the personal representative of the parent’s estate.
Minor children cannot bring wrongful death claims on their own. However, this does not mean they are not entitled to compensation. While only the personal representative can file suit, any biological or adopted children of the deceased (adults and minors) will be entitled to a share of the proceeds from a settlement or trial award.
The recovered amount is distributed to surviving family members after expenses of the estate and attorney fees. Distribution is governed according to the North Carolina Intestate Succession Act. Even if the decedent has a will that specifies a different allocation of assets, proceeds from a wrongful death lawsuit will be distributed as follows:
- Surviving spouse: If the decedent had a spouse and no children at the time of death, the entirety of the settlement or award goes to the spouse.
- Surviving spouse and children: If the decedent had a spouse and one child at the time of death, the spouse and the child are each entitled to half of the proceeds. If there is a spouse and two or more surviving children, the spouse receives one-third of the proceeds while the remaining two-thirds are divided among the children.
- Surviving children and no spouse: Proceeds from the wrongful death claim are distributed among surviving children and the lineal descendants of any deceased children (i.e., grandchildren and so on of the deceased).
If the decedent did not have a spouse or children, the proceeds from the wrongful death claim are distributed among other family members. Depending on the circumstances, this may include parents, siblings, and others.
Proceeds from a wrongful death settlement or award are not treated as assets for the payment of debts. However, creditors can make claims for payment of burial expenses and the cost of medical care up to $4,500 (capped at 50% of the recovered amount after attorneys’ fees are deducted).
The following elements must be proved for a wrongful death claim to succeed:
- The defendant owed your loved one a duty of care. (A duty of care is a legal obligation to avoid harming someone else.)
- The defendant was negligent (i.e., the duty of care was breached).
- Your loved one was killed as a result of the defendant’s negligence.
- The wrongful death resulted in damages to which the plaintiff would have been entitled had he or she survived.
A Raleigh wrongful death attorney will collect evidence on your behalf to prove each of these elements. It is crucial to work with a law firm well-versed in handling wrongful death claims to maximize the likelihood of success in your case.
If you suspect that negligence was a factor in your loved one’s death, you should seek legal counsel as soon as possible. Anyone in the family can speak to a lawyer, but only the personal representative can actually bring the wrongful death claim. In some cases, it may be necessary for surviving relatives to talk among themselves and determine the best course of action.
Once you hire a wrongful death attorney, the following steps will typically take place:
- Your lawyer will investigate the incident that led to your loved one’s death to determine liability and causation.
- Damages are assessed.
- A claim is made against the defendant(s) and/or the insurer(s).
- Parties enter into settlement negotiations.
- If a settlement is reached, the personal representative supervises the distribution of the proceeds.
If a settlement cannot be reached, our wrongful death lawyers will file a lawsuit with the appropriate court. What comes next typically includes preparing for trial, resuming or continuing settlement negotiations, and (if necessary) presenting your case in court.
Many different parties may be at fault for the wrongful death of a loved one. This includes:
- Businesses and corporations
- Property owners
- Government entities
- Medical professionals
- And more
Usually, however, compensation for wrongful death is paid by one or more insurance companies for the defendant(s). Damages in a wrongful death claim can be substantial, potentially exceeding the available insurance coverage. It is important to account for all liable parties to ensure that you and your family can recover the maximum compensation you deserve.
The success of a wrongful death claim rests on multiple factors. These include:
- The strength and availability of the evidence
- The credibility of any witnesses to the incident that led to the wrongful death
- Your ability to prove the nature and extent of the damages you and your family have suffered
Unfortunately, families also have to reckon with the likelihood that the defense will try to argue that the victim’s negligence was a factor in his or her death. North Carolina is one of only a few states still using a contributory negligence standard in personal injury and wrongful death claims.
If the other side can prove that the victim contributed in any way to the accident that resulted in their death, surviving family members may be barred from recovering compensation. This standard can make it extremely difficult for families to obtain compensation for wrongful death. However, it is not impossible to overcome the contributory negligence defense if you have an experienced and knowledgeable attorney on your side.
Who Is Eligible to File a Wrongful Death Case in North Carolina?
Only certain members of the family may benefit from a wrongful death lawsuit, and only the personal representative of the decedent’s estate can pursue damages on their behalf. Per N.C.G.S. § 28A-1-1, the personal representative is the executor or administrator. Your attorney can help you determine who this is or appoint a personal representative.
However, typically the loved one will have named the executor (most likely a family member) in their will to handle their estate after their passing. An administrator, on the other hand, handles the estate if the loved one passed without a will. They are named by the probate court. This person can also be a surviving family member.
Whether an administrator or executor, this personal representative will pursue wrongful death damages on behalf of the surviving family members.
Can the Surviving Spouse File a Wrongful Death Case?
If the spouse is designated as the personal representative in the decedent’s will, they can file a wrongful death case and pursue damages; however, regardless of whether they’ve received this designation, spouses are a legal heir. Heirs are entitled to the damages that the personal representative and their attorney are able to secure.
Can Surviving Children File a Wrongful Death Case?
Biological and adopted children, whether adults or minors, are entitled to wrongful death damages as heirs of the decedent’s estate. However, minor children cannot pursue a case on their own, and adult children can file a wrongful death case only if they are the personal representative of the estate.
Who Can Receive Damages in a Wrongful Death Claim or Lawsuit?
Money secured from a wrongful death case is distributed differently depending on the number of heirs. The amount recovered would also depend on the estate’s expenses (such as medical bills), as the financial award would pay these first. Regardless of how the will distributes other assets, wrongful death compensation is given to:
- The surviving spouse. If the person who passed had no surviving children, then the spouse would receive the entire financial award.
- The surviving spouse and children. Both the spouse and child are entitled to half of the compensation if there is only one child. If there are two children, the award will be split equally into thirds.
- The surviving children. If there is no spouse, the surviving children (or grandchildren of deceased children) will receive equal parts of the financial award.
If no spouse, children, or other lineal descendants remain, the award may be distributed among the person’s parents, siblings, or other family members. Our team can help you determine how the award may be distributed in your case.
How Long Do You Have to Sue for Wrongful Death in North Carolina?
Per N.C.G.S. 1-53(4), the personal representative generally has two years to file a wrongful death lawsuit. The date of your loved one’s passing begins the countdown. Some exceptions apply to the statute of limitations, so an attorney can help you correctly interpret and meet those deadlines.
How Does an Attorney Demonstrate Negligence in a Wrongful Death Case?
In a wrongful death case, your attorney must show that another party’s negligence caused their accident. That requires meeting these four criteria:
- Duty of care. The person who caused the accident owed your loved one a duty of care to behave as any other reasonable person would in the same situation.
- Breach of duty of care. They failed to act reasonably and were, therefore, negligent or reckless with your loved one’s safety.
- Causation. The responsible party’s negligence caused (or was the proximate cause of) your loved one’s accident and passing.
- Damages. You lost your loved one in the accident, and your family experienced personal and financial suffering as a result.
To meet these criteria, your attorney would gather evidence such as the accident report, surveillance footage, photo and video evidence, and expert testimony. These would help to demonstrate to the insurer or court that the at-fault party caused the accident through negligence.
Who Pays the Damages in a Wrongful Death Case?
The person who caused the accident is typically financially responsible for your losses (usually through their insurance company). This will depend on the type of wrongful death case you’re filing and may include more than one person or entity. In wrongful death claims, liability could rest with:
- Property owners or managers
- Residents of a rental property
- Government entities
- Doctors, nurses, and hospitals
- Nursing home staff
There are many other potentially liable parties. Your attorney will investigate the cause of your loved one’s passing to identify who is responsible for your damages.
What Are My Chances of Winning a Wrongful Death Case?
In most cases, the strength of the available evidence determines the outcome. Supporting information will include how credible and abundant your witnesses are. The evidence in your case should demonstrate the cause of your loved one’s passing, along with your family’s hardships.
Unfortunately, your family may face claims from the defense that your loved one contributed to their accident in some way. Our attorneys will protect you and your case from any unfair allegations.
Choose Whitley Law Firm to Advocate for Your Family
Wrongful death law is complex, and you have enough to deal with already. Our firm can take on your case’s responsibilities while you focus on yourself and your priorities. We hope you’ll allow us to facilitate your family’s healing, recovery, and fight for justice.
Call (919) 785-5000 or visit us online to get started.