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What amount is awarded in successful wrongful death cases?

The loss of a loved one is something that no one can really put a price on. The courts of North Carolina and every other state in the country are prepared to do just that, however, especially when it can be shown that the death resulted from negligence of another.

Seeking compensation through a wrongful death claim may, in fact, be the only effective means to holding the responsible party accountable. And by putting this effort in the hands of an experienced attorney, it gives you the space you need to grieve and to begin whatever healing is possible.

A common question related to these issues tends to be how much of an award is possible. The answer, as is often the case with legal matters, depends on the specifics of the given case. The provisions of a given state's laws also can have an influence on the outcome. But there are some general standards that apply.

The main thing that courts seek to measure is the financial injury that has been suffered. This is more traditionally known as pecuniary damages. The laws in most states call for a level of compensation that is fair and just.

That is typically determined by assessing costs for medical and burial expenses. It might also include assessments based on the income a wrongful death victim might reasonably have generated had he or she lived. A dollar figure could also be assigned to account for the loss of services caused by the death, as well as the lost prospect of any possible inheritance.

So, for example, if the decedent is an adult wage earner contributing to the needs of dependents, recovery could be sought for loss of income and loss of parental services and guidance. A jury could determine the amount of income lost by taking the decedent's income at the time of death and projecting that out into the future for some period of time.

In North Carolina, additional punitive damages might be awarded by the court. Such an award isn't based on quantifiable loss, but rather is used to punish the conduct that caused the death. Usually there needs to be evidence that the conduct was malicious, willful or wanton.

Source: FindLaw, "Wrongful Death Overview," accessed Oct. 16, 2015

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