What Is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
When a loved one is killed by someone else’s negligence, the criminal justice system is often not the only way to pursue justice. Apart from criminal liability, the perpetrator could be liable to compensate members of the victim’s family through a wrongful death lawsuit.
What is a wrongful death lawsuit?
A wrongful death lawsuit is a legal action brought by the Administrator of the Estate of a person who has died due to another party’s negligence, recklessness, or intentional acts. Any settlement or verdict obtained is paid to the beneficiaries of the deceased’s Estate, this usually includes some combination of the parents, children or siblings of the deceased. The purpose of a wrongful death lawsuit is to seek compensation for the losses the surviving family members suffered due to their loved one’s death.
An experienced wrongful death attorney can bring a lawsuit on behalf of the estate and surviving family members. In this way, the family can seek various types of compensation:
- Economic damages: This includes compensation for the financial losses suffered by the beneficiaries, such as lost income and benefits, medical expenses, and funeral expenses.
- Non-economic damages: This includes compensation for the loss of companionship and loss of guidance and support suffered by the surviving family members. It also includes compensation for the conscience pain and suffering of the deceased.
- Punitive damages: In some cases, the court may award punitive damages to punish the party responsible for the death and deter similar behavior in the future.
How is a wrongful death lawsuit different from a personal injury lawsuit?
Both personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits are civil matters and aim to make the victim whole again after an accident caused by the negligence of another. A personal injury lawsuit is brought to seek justice for a person injured, but not fatally, in an accident. On the other hand, a wrongful death lawsuit always involves the pursuit of justice for the death of a person. Both kinds of lawsuits may involve separate criminal charges that lead to jail time.
What are the different kinds of wrongful death cases possible?
A wrongful death lawsuit may target an automobile driver, a company responsible for defective products leading to a fatal accident, a bar that overserved alcohol to a drunk driver, medical professionals suspected of negligence or incompetence, or businesses that hire such professionals. It may also target an employer who maintains dangerous work conditions.
The plaintiff would need to gather and present witnesses and evidence in court to prove that the defendant’s actions caused the victim’s death. They would also need to bring their wrongful death action before the statute of limitations. The typical statute of limitations for wrongful death in North Carolina is two (2) years, but there are sometimes exceptions that may extend the deadline.
The defendant’s lawyer will likely argue that the defendant owed no duty to the victim or that their actions did not breach such duty, among other things. Wrongful death lawsuits are usually complex legal actions that require an experienced attorney to argue. For this reason, contacting a lawyer experienced in wrongful death actions can be critical to success in these lawsuits.