Navigating the aftermath of losing a beloved family member in a car accident is daunting, especially when the collision was preventable.
Surviving family members have legal rights if someone else’s negligence is responsible for your loved one’s death.
One such right is initiating a wrongful death lawsuit for a car accident, which helps you and your family get justice.
Filing a lawsuit can also help bring some families closure and potentially keep another family from experiencing the same trauma.
In 2021, 1,783 people were killed in North Carolina auto accidents, a 7.5% increase from 2020. 5.5% of all drivers killed were from out of state.
Pedestrians are at a higher risk of fatal injuries in auto accidents. In 2021, 262 pedestrians died in motor vehicle accidents, a 5.2% increase from 2020. Fatalities can occur anywhere in the state, from busy city centers to rural areas.
If you have questions about pursuing a wrongful death lawsuit for a fatal car accident in North Carolina, please get in touch with Mehta & McConnell, PLLC.
In the meantime, read on to learn more about North Carolina wrongful death lawsuits.
Defining Wrongful Death in the Context of a Car Accident
Regarding personal injury claims, wrongful death is when someone’s negligent, reckless, or intentional actions result in another party’s death.
Applying this to the context of a car accident, someone driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs or someone who is distracted by their phone could be liable in a wrongful death claim.
In this setting, a wrongful death lawsuit serves dual purposes: it paves the way for the family to secure some financial compensation and enforces accountability.
Holding the responsible parties legally liable could help prevent another family from experiencing a similar tragic loss.
Who Can Sue for Wrongful Death Case?
Understanding who can sue for wrongful death is crucial. In North Carolina, the eligibility to initiate a wrongful death claim lies exclusively with the personal representative of the decedent’s estate.
This individual, often named in the deceased person’s will, could be a spouse, adult child, parent, or a legally appointed representative.
When someone dies without leaving a will, also known as dying “intestate,” the court should appoint a personal representative.
While the personal representative is the one who files the lawsuit, any compensation is reserved for the decedent’s heirs, such as a surviving spouse or children.
Who’s Responsible for a Fatal Car Accident in North Carolina?
Identifying at least one responsible party is paramount for initiating a wrongful death lawsuit in North Carolina. One or more parties may share liability for your family member’s death.
Possible parties include the following:
- Another motorist. The other driver could bear responsibility, especially if their actions directly led to the fatal incident.
- Employers. If an employee is driving a company car (or truck) or is in the course and scope of their job, the employer might be liable.
- Government entities. Issues with the road or the other motorist being a government employee could lead to a government entity sharing liability.
- Construction companies. Accidents caused by poorly signaled construction zones or hazardous equipment storage might land the construction company in trouble.
- Restaurants and bars. In some instances, establishments could be liable if they serve alcohol to individuals who subsequently engage in fatal drunk driving.
- Manufacturers. If a vehicle malfunction due to design or manufacturing flaws causes an accident, the manufacturer may be held accountable under product liability regulations.
Figuring out who is liable is one of the challenging aspects of pursuing a wrongful death lawsuit. That is why hiring a North Carolina wrongful death attorney is recommended.
Your attorney at Mehta & McConnell, PLLC, can help you identify all potentially liable parties.
The Process of Pursuing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
Filing a wrongful death lawsuit after a car accident involves several key steps. First, gather all possible evidence related to the accident, such as police reports and witness statements.
Next, you may try to negotiate a potential settlement before filing a lawsuit. The best car accident wrongful death settlements are the result of skilled negotiations. That’s why you want an experienced legal advocate representing your family.
If there’s no chance of settlement, the personal representative must file the lawsuit with the court. That includes submitting a legal document detailing the events and claims against the defendants.
Once the claim is in litigation, both parties engage in the discovery phase. Both sides share information and examine each other’s evidence.
Other aspects of discovery include written questions, depositions, and expert reports. Settlement discussions may follow.
If your attorney cannot reach an amicable settlement, preparing your case for trial may be necessary. Should your case go to trial, a judge or jury will decide. Throughout this process, having a reliable legal team is crucial.
How Long Do You Have to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in North Carolina?
In North Carolina, the statute of limitations for a wrongful death lawsuit in a car accident is usually two years.
That means any lawsuit seeking compensation for wrongful death must be filed within two years following the incident that caused the fatality. However, it’s important to note there’s an exception.
Under the exception rule, a wrongful death suit may be barred if the decedent would have been prohibited from filing a lawsuit for bodily harm due to the expiration of the statute of limitations.
The personal injury statute of limitations is typically three years from the date of the injury.
To understand how this exception applies, consider a scenario where an individual is injured in a car accident and succumbs to their injuries two years post-accident.
The personal representative would need to file a lawsuit within one year from the date of death, not the standard two years.
Why Hire a North Carolina Wrongful Death Lawyer
You need dependable legal assistance when faced with the difficult journey of a wrongful death lawsuit after a car accident.
At Mehta & McConnell, we prioritize providing clear, straightforward advice and support to our clients.
Our experienced lawyers are well-versed in North Carolina laws. We’re here to guide you through every step of the legal process.
While our firm was established in 2021, we have over 30 years of combined legal experience. We started our careers representing insurance companies and large corporations.
Now, we use that experience to help injured victims to seek justice. If you need assistance pursuing a wrongful death lawsuit for a car accident in North Carolina, contact our office to schedule a consultation.