How do I know if I qualify for a wrongful death case?
Losing a loved one is an incredibly difficult experience in any situation, and for some, it can be made more stressful with financial worries. Often there are medical bills left behind, and if the deceased was the primary earner for the family, the loss of income can also be an issue. Worse, many life insurance policies barely cover funeral expenses, and then the surviving spouse has to work out how to pay the mortgage or support their children on a drastically reduced income.
Often people have questions about wrongful death claims not just because of financial worries, but because of their concern that their loved one’s death could have been prevented. Unfortunately, there are many situations where the negligence of another party has led to a person’s death. This is the basis for wrongful death claims.
What Is Required for a Wrongful Death Claim?
North Carolina law states that a wrongful death case can be filed if a person dies due to the neglect or wrongful act of another (person or business entity) in a situation where the decedent could have filed a personal injury lawsuit if they’d lived. The estate’s personal representative is the only person who can file such a claim, and the state must be opened at the time, so it’s important to consider a wrongful death claim before the estate closes. There is also a statute of limitations of two years from the date of the decedent’s death.
Wrongful death suits can be filed for a variety of accidental deaths caused by another party, including medical malpractice, motor vehicle accidents, plane or train crashes, drownings, construction site accidents, or other workplace accidents. They can also sometimes be filed when the other party committed an intentional act to hurt another, with or without criminal charges.
How Do You Prove Liability in a Wrongful Death Case?
There are three things that need to be proven for a judge or jury to find a plaintiff liable in a wrongful death case:
- Duty of care. Your attorney must prove that the plaintiff had a duty to take reasonable steps to avoid injury. If the deceased died in a workplace accident, they might present evidence that the employer had a duty to follow OSHA regulations and provide a safe workplace for employees, for example.
- Breach of duty of care. Once your lawyer has demonstrated that the plaintiff had a duty of care, they will then need to prove this duty was ignored. In the workplace example, they might present evidence or witness testimony that the deceased’s supervisor regularly ignored safety regulations, or specifically instructed workers to ignore them.
- Causation. Once your attorney has established a breach of duty of care, they will then need to explain how this led directly to the decedent’s death. For example, they might present evidence that the supervisor’s instructions to ignore a forklift regulation led to the deceased being hit by the forklift and killed.
These are the three basic factors that an wrongful death attorney will consider in determining if you qualify for a wrongful death case. If you’re wondering if you qualify, the best thing to do is contact a personal injury attorney from Auger & Auger Accident and Injury Lawyers. Your lawyer will ask questions to determine if there is enough evidence to prove the standards listed above, then advise you on your options. Remember that even if your attorney believes there is enough evidence, you won’t be able to file a suit if you are not the estate’s personal representative, so you may also need to speak with an estate attorney.