The family of an 83-year-old man is grieving after a Gaston County car accident claimed his life. The crash, which occurred at the notoriously dangerous curve on Patrick Road near Union Road, was reportedly the fault of a 16-year-old driver. The accident not only killed the 83-year-old but put his wife in critical condition. The teen was arrested and charged with misdemeanor death by vehicle and careless and reckless driving. In addition to facing criminal charges for his conduct, the teen may also face harsh civil consequences. The elderly man's family may be thinking about filing a wrongful death lawsuit against the teen.
What is Wrongful Death?
When an accident claims the life of a victim in North Carolina, the family may have legal options available to recover damages. Wrongful death claims allow the victim's estate to recover monetary damages from the person responsible for the fatal crash.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
While many states provide the victim's family the right to file the claim, North Carolina requires wrongful death claims to be filed by a personal representative of the victim's estate. This personal representative can be (a) named directly in the victim's will or (b) appointed after the victim's death. Personal representatives are generally close family members of the victim (e.g., spouse, child, partner).
Elements of a Wrongful Death Claim
What must be proved in order to recover monetary damages from a wrongful death claim? In North Carolina, a victim's family/estate may be entitled to damages if they can prove:
- The defendant had a duty to prevent harm
- The defendant breached this duty in some way, and
- The victim's death is a result of this breach of duty.
In other words, the family must prove that the victim's death was the result of the defendant's wrongful actions or negligence.
Damages Available in Wrongful Death Actions
Family members may want to pursue a wrongful death claim because it can allow them to recover monetary damages for the loss of their loved one. In North Carolina, damages are generally limited to what the victim would have been able to recover himself, had he survived the accident.
Damages available in North Carolina wrongful death lawsuits include:
- Medical expenses related to the care, treatment, and hospitalization of the victim before death
- Pain and suffering
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Value of lost income, service, care and assistance, and companionship the victim would have provided, and
- Nominal damages the jury determines to be appropriate.
Families may also be able to recover punitive damages if the defendant acted with malice, willful, or wanton conduct.
All Victims Entitled to Compensation
The victim's wife, who was also injured in the car accident, may also be considering a personal injury lawsuit of her own. Since her injuries were caused by the teen's actions, she may be able to recover damages in addition to compensation that may be recovered by her late husband's estate.
Have you been injured in a North Carolina car accident? Contact the personal injury attorneys at Caulder & Valentine to learn about your rights as an accident victim. We can help you recover the money you deserve after an unexpected accident and injury. Call today to request a free consultation.