Charlotte Wrongful Death Attorneys
A Charlotte wrongful death attorney is there for you after a death due to negligence or wrongdoing. The laws allow surviving family members to be compensated when they suffer financial and non-economic losses due to the death of someone they love. A wrongful death case makes it possible for family members to receive monetary damages from those responsible for the death.
Auger & Auger Personal Injury Lawyers have extensive experience in wrongful death claims. Our attorneys have been recognized by clients and peers as dedicated advocates for injured victims and their surviving family members. Our top AVVO client rating, our membership in the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, and the many other awards and accolades we have received all show that our firm and attorneys are committed to providing top-notch representation to those who have been harmed. We will bring more than 50 years of combined legal experience to help you get full and fair compensation.
Charlotte Wrongful Death Laws
Who can seek wrongful death compensation in Charlotte?
This question comes up often. Under North Carolina law, only the personal representative or executor of a deceased person’s estate can file a wrongful death suit. This person was generally chosen by the decedent when they made out a will. If they died without a will, the probate court will appoint someone to act as a personal representative, usually a close relative like a surviving spouse, an adult child, a parent, or a sibling. There are a few things to understand about this system:
- Although only the personal representative can file a claim, they do so on behalf of the estate’s heirs, and any damages will be divided among the heirs according to North Carolina estate law after any applicable legal fees and court costs are paid.
- An estate must be opened for the deceased before anyone can file a wrongful death claim.
- In most cases, this is not an issue. Occasionally someone may pass without any significant assets, and their surviving family members do not see the point in opening an estate. Or it may not be necessary. In North Carolina, if the estate is worth less than $20,000, the surviving spouse can file an affidavit and inherit everything.
- Under state law, you have two years to open an estate following the decedent’s passing.
- You also have two years to file a wrongful death claim, and it can take a few weeks or months to get an estate opened, depending on how busy the courts are. So if you believe you might want to pursue a wrongful death claim, you’ll have to think about how long it’s been since your loved one passed, how long it might take to open an estate, and then how much time your attorney might need to prepare to file a wrongful death suit. For this reason, it’s a good idea to talk to a wrongful death lawyer as soon as you can. There is no obligation to do anything, but a lawyer can explain the process and answer your questions.
What Are The Next Steps To Seeking Damages For A Wrongful Death?
The personal representative of a deceased victim may pursue a wrongful death claim to recover compensation for spouses, children, and other close relatives or dependents of someone who is killed. A case can be made against individuals responsible for causing death or against companies and even government agencies. These claims can arise due to:
- Car, motorcycle, and truck crashes. Motor vehicle accidents are a very common reason for wrongful death cases. It will be necessary to prove that the at-fault party failed in their duty to drive safely, leading to an accident that ultimately caused the deceased person’s death. This can happen for many reasons, including drunk driving, distracted driving, failing to follow the speed limit, ignoring red lights or other traffic laws, etc. Your attorney will go over the accident report with you and ask questions to clarify what happened.
- Dangerous products, including defective vehicles, dangerous drugs, and defective medical devices. In these cases, it’s important to show that the product was defective somehow, that this defect caused the death, that the dangerous item was used per the manufacturer’s instructions, and that there was no warning that the product could cause a dangerous condition.
- Medical negligence. This can describe any situation where a doctor, nurse, or other healthcare worker acted in a negligent way that led to a person’s death. Of course, the mere fact that someone was receiving medical care at the time of their death does not mean the care was negligent. It will be essential to show that the healthcare provider acted in a way that was not consistent with a generally accepted “standard of care” in their profession and that this negligence caused the death.
- Nursing home abuse and negligence. No one wants to think about an elderly relative experiencing abuse or neglect in a nursing home, but unfortunately, these situations happen more often than you might realize. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that 1 in 6 individuals over the age of 60 faced abuse in a community setting in the past year. In these cases, you must demonstrate that the abuse or neglect caused the patient’s demise.
- Property owner negligence. This can occur in public places or private residences that the victim entered legally, including situations where a dangerous condition was not apparent, such as a sharp drop that could lead to a fatal fall, and there was no warning sign. There are also cases where something heavy fell on the victim, or a dangerous piece of equipment was left unattended, and a person died. Negligent security is another possibility – if your loved one was killed in a violent attack and the property owner did not provide adequate security to prevent such a situation, the owner may have been negligent. It will be necessary to show that the property owner or manager failed to take “reasonable care” in keeping the property safe for visitors.
- Construction site accidents. A list of the top 25 most dangerous jobs in America, compiled by an insurance analysis firm, reveals that twelve of these most dangerous jobs are in the construction industry. Self-employed or contract workers are more than three times more likely to die on the job in construction work, but a tragic accident can happen to anyone. If a person who died on the job was an employee, their family might be eligible to file a worker’s compensation claim. However, even if this claim is approved, the family will only receive two-thirds of the decedent’s regular weekly salary for 500 weeks. (If benefits are designated for minor children, weekly payments will continue until they’re 18.) In some situations, two-thirds of the decedent’s usual weekly pay is insufficient to support the family’s living expenses. You can file a wrongful death claim instead of a worker’s comp claim if you believe this would be a better solution for your situation. We recommend talking with a wrongful death attorney before filing a worker’s comp claim to understand your options better and make an informed decision about what you want to do.
In these and many other situations, you need to determine who was responsible for causing the death, and you must be able to prove that the defendant did something wrong or breached some legal obligation. Auger & Auger Personal Injury Lawyers will help identify who can be held financially responsible and can work hard to make a case against them. We can also answer any questions you have and help you better understand the process.
What Kind of Damages Are Available in a Charlotte Wrongful Death Case?
“Damages” are the financial consequences a person or entity has to pay the victim’s heirs if the wrongful death case is successful. It can be hard to think of your losses being summed up in a dollar amount, but this is the only way a court can compensate a family for their loss.
Sometimes people express that they don’t see the use in pursuing a claim because the money can’t compensate them for a lost loved one. That’s true. However, the financial damages paid in a wrongful death case can do other things that a deceased loved one might have wanted for their family. These damages can help support the decedent’s spouse and children, relieving any financial difficulties they might be facing. The grieving process is difficult enough without worrying about how to make rent or stretch the food in the pantry until payday. Additionally, if your loved one had minor children, they might have wanted to save money so their kids could go to college or begin their lives as adults. Damages from a wrongful death case can help ensure this happens, even if they didn’t have the chance to build a savings account for the children before they died.
Here are some of the potential damages you and your attorney may discuss seeking in a wrongful death case:
- Any medical bills related to the injury or illness that ultimately resulted in your loved one’s death. These can be quite staggering, even if the deceased was only in the hospital for a day or less before they passed. Often when someone is seriously injured or ill, medical staff may perform multiple procedures or surgeries to save their life, which can lead to debt for the surviving family members. We’ve met people who received a life insurance payment after their spouse’s death, only to realize it didn’t even cover all their medical bills. If unpaid, these bills become a debt to the late individual’s estate. Sadly, this can mean that much of the money they intended to leave their heirs goes to pay the medical bills instead. A wrongful death suit on behalf of the estate can help reduce the risk of that happening.
- The decedent’s pain and suffering that occurred prior to their passing.
- Funeral and burial expenses. Again, these costs can eat up all or most of the coverage provided by an inexpensive life insurance policy.
- Loss of income, particularly if the deceased was the main financial provider for the family. Your attorney will be able to estimate how much income the deceased may have earned if they had lived.
- Loss of consortium or companionship. This refers to the emotional loss of no longer having a loved one’s support, care, guidance, comfort, advice, companionship, etc.
- Punitive damages. These don’t apply in most cases. However, in some situations where the defendant is found to have caused the death through “malice or willful or wanton conduct,” a jury may award additional “punitive” damages to punish the defendant further.
What If There Was No Criminal Conviction? Can I Still File A Wrongful Death Claim On Behalf Of The Estate?
Yes. Although you can certainly file a wrongful death claim against someone found criminally culpable, a conviction is not necessary. Criminal law requires a finding of “guilty beyond a reasonable doubt” for a conviction, so the burden of proof is very high. Often a person is not found guilty in criminal court simply because the jury decided the evidence against them was not sufficient for a “guilty beyond a reasonable doubt” verdict. Contrary to popular belief, the jury is not tasked with deciding if a person is guilty or innocent, only if the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. For this reason, there are also many situations where a prosecutor will decide not to pursue charges in the first place because they recognize that there isn’t enough evidence to prove it in court.
These situations can be extremely frustrating for the deceased person’s loved ones. You may want some measure of justice for your loved one’s death, only to find out you can’t get it through the criminal justice system. However, you may still be able to seek some consequences for the person or entity responsible through a wrongful death case. Here’s why:
- A wrongful death case is a civil suit or tort. A defendant who loses a civil case will receive a judgment they have to pay in damages, but they will not go to prison.
- In these cases, the jury only has to find that the defendant was more likely guilty than not, based on a “preponderance of evidence.”
- This is a much lower burden of proof than in a criminal case. It simply means that the jury believes it’s more likely than not that the defendant caused the death. As a result, you may get a verdict in a civil case that would not have been possible in a criminal one.
An example of this is the wrongful death suit against football player and actor O. J. Simpson. Most people recall his heavily publicized trial for murder, which ended in 1995 with an acquittal. Not long after that, family members of the two murder victims sued Simpson in civil court and eventually won a $33.5 million dollar judgment against him. Simpson refused to pay it, and in subsequent years the amount grew to around $70 million. An attorney for Fred Goldman, whose son was one of the murder victims, seized some of Simpson’s assets, including proceeds from a video game and royalties on a book called If I Did It, a theoretical account of how someone might have committed the murders.
Compensation for Charlotte Families and Victims
Compensation can be obtained through a negotiated settlement or may be awarded by a jury. The money should cover financial losses, such as the loss of the wages that the deceased is no longer able to provide to the family and the loss of value on the services the deceased was providing to their loved ones. If there were medical bills incurred before death, those should be covered, as should burial costs for the deceased’s funeral.
A death does not just cause financial damage. Compensations should also provide for loss of the deceased’s love, companionship, guidance, and care. Proving the value of these intangible damages can be difficult, but a Charlotte attorney can help you demonstrate the extent of the loss.
Getting Help from a Lawyer
Those who cause a death need to be held accountable and should provide total and fair compensation so families of the deceased are not left coping with financial hardship in addition to their grief. Auger & Auger Attorneys at Law will work hard to help get the money that families need to move on, even though their lives will never be the same. Call (855) 971-1114 today to learn more about how a Charlotte wrongful death lawyer can help.