Car Accidents and Wrongful Death in North Carolina

carA 44-year-old woman was involved in a Charlotte car accident that resulted in the death of another driver. The accident happened at night on Freedom Drive. A man was making a U-turn on Freedom Drive when the woman’s white Chevy Silverado hit the passenger side of his car and sent it into the outbound lanes. He was taken to the hospital and was later pronounced dead. The woman and the passenger in her car weren’t injured.

The woman was speeding, and after she hit the decedent’s vehicle, she drove off the road and hit a utility pole. Power lines fell, and the pole split. The woman was charged with involuntary manslaughter, careless driving, reckless driving, and speeding.

If a loved one is involved in a car accident caused by someone else that results in his or her death, you may be able to bring a wrongful death lawsuit against the at-fault driver. Wrongful deaths in North Carolina are those caused by someone else’s fault, neglect, or wrongful act. The decedent must have had the right to sue for his own injuries had he survived. A wrongful death lawsuit is brought to put the surviving members of the decedent’s family into the same financial position in which they would have been if the decedent hadn’t died. It is wholly separate from a criminal proceeding for manslaughter or murder that may also be brought by a prosecutor.

Many wrongful death cases are based on negligence, though the basis for liability can also be intentionally wrongful conduct. To prove negligence, the plaintiff will need to establish:  (1) the defendant’s duty, (2) the defendant’s breach of duty, (3) causation, and (4) damages. For example, if the defendant speeded and crashed into another car, or was driving drunk and crashed into another car, these could be the basis of a wrongful death case predicated on the defendant’s negligence. On the other hand, if the defendant’s brakes gave out due to a manufacturing defect, and this was the cause of the decedent’s death, the plaintiff might need to turn to the manufacturer to recover damages for the manufacturing defect. The plaintiff must also abide by the requirements of General Statute §28A-18-2 and show that there are beneficiaries entitled to a recovery of damages.

Damages you can recover as a family member under the Wrongful Death Act include medical care and treatment, reasonable funeral expenses, the defendant’s net income, the present monetary value of the decedent to those entitled to receive damages, the services and protection of the decedent, society and companionship to those entitled to receive it, and compensation for the pain and suffering experienced by the decedent. Pain and suffering is only available, however, if the victim was conscious of pain and suffering between the time of the accident and the death. The consciousness need not be long to recover pain and suffering damages, but it must be at least for a brief period. Punitive damages can only be recovered to the extent the decedent could have recovered them had he survived. They might be appropriate when the car accident is a result of malicious, willful, or wanton conduct.

If you have lost a loved one due to the wrongful conduct or negligent driving of another party, the experienced Charlotte car accident attorneys at Maurer Law may be able to help you recover compensation. We represent clients in the Charlotte, NC metro area and also Greensboro, NC and Winston-Salem, NC. Contact us at 919-229-8359 or via our online form.

More Blog Posts You Might Be Interested In:

Vicarious Liability in a North Carolina Trucking Accident

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Wrongful Death and Contributory Negligence in North Carolina