Recently, there was an accident in North Carolina in which one person was killed, two were injured, a horse had to be put down, and another horse was sent for veterinary care. A pickup hit a wagon train, and a witness said it sounded like a bomb exploded. The wagon train was run by a group of hobbyists, and it crossed the county every Labor Day weekend. There were 18 wagons and 20 horses in the wagon train. Due to the accident, Labor Day events were canceled.
If a loved one is killed in an accident, you may be able to bring a North Carolina wrongful death lawsuit. Each state defines wrongful death slightly differently and has its own rules about who can bring this type of lawsuit. Under North Carolina law, a wrongful death is one that’s caused by somebody else’s wrongful act, default, or neglect. In this way, it’s like a personal injury claim, but the injured person isn’t able to bring the case himself or herself. The decedent’s estate can sue for damages.
The wrongful death lawsuit is separate from any criminal charges that may be brought. While the personal representative of the decedent’s estate files the wrongful death lawsuit, a prosecutor files a criminal case. Both can proceed at the same time, and they can have different outcomes, due to the differing burdens of proof in each. The burden of proof in a criminal case is “beyond a reasonable doubt,” which means a criminal case can be defeated by simply raising a doubt about guilt in the minds of the jurors. In contrast, the burden of proof in a civil case is merely “preponderance of the evidence,” which means the plaintiff needs to show their version of events is more likely true than not true.
A wrongful death claim can ask for damages for both the estate and family members, such as a surviving spouse and children. Often, the personal representative of the estate is a surviving spouse, parent, or adult child.
Damages that may be obtained include burial and funeral bills, medical bills, the pain and suffering of the decedent if he or she didn’t die instantly, lost wages, loss of protection, services and care, and loss of companionship, society, comfort, and guidance. These damages are first applied to reimburse an estate for the costs and expenses associated with bringing a wrongful death case. After that, they go toward attorneys’ fees and costs and paying any medical bills, funeral bills, and burial bills. Only after that do the beneficiaries get a portion of the damages. In some cases, it may be possible to get punitive damages, but this is rare in the context of vehicle accidents. Punitive damages are awarded to punish egregious actions that caused the death and deter future similar conduct.
If your loved one died as a result of someone else’s negligence, you may be able to recover damages through a wrongful death case. You only have two years from the date of the decedent’s death to file your lawsuit.
If you suffered injuries due to the wrongful conduct or negligence of another party, the experienced North Carolina wrongful death attorneys at Maurer Law may be able to help you recover compensation. Contact us at 919-229-8359 or via our online form.
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