Wrongful death cases in North Carolina often provide compensation to the family members or beneficiaries of a person who has died due to another party’s negligence or intentional wrongdoing.
While no amount of money can make up for a loved one’s death, a wrongful death lawsuit attempts to compensate surviving family members for their financial losses.
Understandably, family members want to know what a wrongful death lawsuit is worth.
We’re here for you if you have questions about wrongful death settlements in North Carolina. Our lawyers have years of experience assisting grieving family members to get justice.
We understand the complex legal issues in these matters and know how to build a solid case.
Wrongful death claims can include compensation for losing financial support, companionship, and guidance.
However, it can be challenging to calculate the average settlement for wrongful death cases in North Carolina, as the amount awarded can vary widely depending on several factors.
Read on to learn more about what things can impact a potential wrongful death lawsuit settlement.
Why It’s Impossible to Calculate Average Wrongful Death Settlements
For several reasons, calculating an “average” settlement for wrongful death cases in North Carolina is challenging.
First, every case is unique and will have its own facts and circumstances that affect the outcome.
Second, whether the case settles out of court or an award is granted by a jury after a trial can greatly impact the compensation award. When cases go to trial, it is a lengthy process.
When you take the time to present all the evidence to a jury, you risk no award at all if the jury doesn’t rule in your favor.
Conversely, if you do win your trial, a jury award is likely to be significantly higher than if you had settled the case out of court. So this discrepancy also makes it difficult to find an “average” award amount.
However, when cases settle out of court, the terms of the settlement are not in the public record. And most cases settle out of court! Therefore, we have limited information from which to calculate an “average.”
Given these factors, any average settlement amount is of little to no value. Rather than focus on average settlement amounts, please speak with one of our North Carolina wrongful death lawyers.
We can help you better understand what your family’s case might be worth.
Factors that Impact Wrongful Death Settlements in NC
When reviewing a wrongful death claim, we look at several factors that impact your potential case value.
Three of the most important factors are liability, damages, and available insurance coverage.
If someone is responsible for the death of your loved one, they are liable for your losses. In some states, you still recover some compensation even if the deceased was partially at fault.
However, North Carolina is a contributory negligence state. Unfortunately, that means there is no financial recovery if the deceased was even 1% at fault.
Contributory negligence is very restrictive, so the defendant’s insurance company will look for a way to attribute some responsibility to the deceased to avoid having to pay damages.
To successfully prove liability against the defendants, you must prove the following:
- The defendant owed the deceased a duty of care;
- The defendant breached this duty of care;
- The breach is what caused your loved one’s death; and
- Your family suffered financial losses due to your family member’s death.
Proving liability in wrongful death claims can be more complicated because the deceased cannot speak for themselves or share their version of events.
An experienced wrongful death lawyer knows how to present evidence and successfully argue for compensation.
Another determining factor that impacts a wrongful death settlement is the amount of insurance coverage the defendant has.
Insurance that’s available to pay a claim varies significantly between types of accidents and the defendants involved.
If your loved one died in a car accident, the defendant driver might only have $30,000 in bodily injury liability limits.
If the death resulted from medical malpractice during surgery, the hospital or doctor might have a seven-figure liability policy.
The amount of damages that a family can recover in a wrongful death case depends on the specific facts and circumstances of the case.
In most states, wrongful death damages are limited to surviving family members’ losses, such as financial support, future income, and companionship.
In North Carolina, wrongful death damages can include medical expenses, funeral expenses, and pain and suffering.
North Carolina also allows for the recovery of punitive damages in some situations. If your loved one’s death was due to “malice or willful or wanton misconduct,” the court might award punitive damages.
Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death in North Carolina
In North Carolina, the statute of limitations for a wrongful death claim is typically two years from the date of death.
That means you must file a lawsuit within those two years, or the court will likely dismiss your case, and your family will not receive compensation.
It doesn’t matter how strong your case is against the defendants or how egregious their actions were.
North Carolina law requires the estate’s personal representative to file the wrongful death lawsuit.
It doesn’t mean that this individual will be the one who receives any settlement or award, just that the courts require them to be the filing party.
Coordinating filing a wrongful death lawsuit might take longer than a typical personal injury lawsuit.
It’s important to note that there might be some exceptions to the two-year statute of limitations.
However, it’s unlikely that the deadline will be extended in most situations. You could have considerably less time if your claim involves a government defendant.
Don’t inadvertently risk your compensation; contact a wrongful death lawyer right away.
Contact a North Carolina Wrongful Death Lawyer at Mehta & McConnell, PLLC
As explained, factors such as liability, damages, and available insurance coverage can all impact North Carolina wrongful death settlements.
We recommend you speak with one of our lawyers, who can help evaluate your potential settlement value.
We have decades of combined experience resolving personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits. Call us today to schedule an appointment.
We will review your case and help you calculate fair compensation for your loved one’s death and the losses you’ve suffered as a result.