Wrongful Death

Greensboro Wrongful Death Attorneys

A wrongful death claim is a civil action brought by the survivors of a person who was killed through someone else’s negligence or wrongdoing. It can arise when the deceased person would have a valid personal injury claim if he or she had lived. Wrongful death is a legal means to seek justice for your loved one, hold responsible parties accountable, and recover compensation for your family’s future. 

What If Wrongful Death Was Caused by a Criminal Act?

A person facing criminal charges for the same event can be sued in civil court by the family members and dependents of the deceased. Even if the accused is not found guilty of criminal charges, he or she may be found liable in a wrongful death action, because the burden of proof is lower. 

What Are the Elements of a Wrongful Death Claim?

Most wrongful death claims are based on negligence, the same as most personal injury lawsuits. 

To establish negligence, you must show that:

  • The defendant had a duty of care to the deceased person.
  • The defendant breached that duty of care.
  • The breach of duty was the cause of the injury to the deceased person.
  • The defendant should have foreseen that someone would be harmed by his or her action or inaction.
  • The injury resulted in actual financial damages.

To win a wrongful death claim you must prove both actual cause (the defendant’s act or omission caused the person’s death) and proximate cause (the death was a foreseeable result of the defendant’s action or omission). You must also prove that you are a legal beneficiary of the deceased and entitled to share the recovery. 

Who Can Benefit From a Wrongful Death Claim in North Carolina?

Under state law, people who qualify under intestate succession law also qualify as beneficiaries in a wrongful death claim. Survivors of the deceased are entitled to share the recovery as follows:

  • Spouse alone: Spouse receives the entire recovery.
  • Spouse and one child: Surviving spouse and child each receive half.
  • Spouse and two or more children: Surviving spouse receives one-third of the recovery, and surviving children divide the remaining two-thirds equally. 

If there is no surviving spouse or children, parents of the deceased person are entitled to the recovery. If no spouse, children, or parents survive the deceased person, surviving siblings can benefit from a wrongful death claim. 

What Are the Damages in a Wrongful Death Claim?

Each case is different, and wrongful death damages will depend on the particular circumstances. 

Common damages in wrongful death claims include:

  • Medical expenses related to the final injury or illness of the deceased
  • Reasonable funeral and burial expenses
  • Loss of income from the deceased
  • Pain and suffering of the deceased
  • Surviving family members’ loss of protection, care, guidance, and companionship of the deceased
  • Punitive damages (designed to punish the defendant for wrongdoing) in some cases. In North Carolina, punitive damages are capped at $250,000 or three times the amount of compensatory damages, whichever is higher.

If you have lost a loved one through the negligence or wrongdoing of another, contact Comerford Chilson & Moser at (336) 568-8779. We can tell you if you have a wrongful death case and what damages you may be entitled to claim. 

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