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If you recently lost a loved one in an accident in Wilmington, NC, the idea of taking legal action while dealing with wrenching emotional trauma may seem overwhelming. However, if your family member died as the result of someone else’s negligence, filing a wrongful death claim might be the only way to seek justice on their behalf and fair compensation for you and your family. With the help of a Wilmington wrongful death attorney, you won’t have to face these challenges alone.
At Poisson, Poisson & Bower, PLLC, we have three generations of experience helping surviving family members throughout southeastern North Carolina secure the financial recoveries they deserve. Contact us whenever your family is ready for a free initial consultation to learn more about how we can support you through this difficult time.
Understanding Wrongful Death Laws in North Carolina
Under North Carolina law, a “wrongful death” is defined as any death caused by another party’s wrongful or negligent act, or failure to act. In general, the actions that qualify for a wrongful death claim are the same as those that would have provided the deceased with sufficient grounds for a personal injury claim had they survived.
It’s important to understand that wrongful death claims are civil claims, not criminal proceedings. This means that at-fault individuals in wrongful death claims are solely responsible for any financial penalties they owe to surviving family members or estates. An at-fault individual will not face criminal prosecution or penalties such as jail time as a result of a successful wrongful death claim.
In addition, civil wrongful death claims are completely separate from criminal cases and do not depend on a criminal conviction. Civil cases have a lower burden of proof. That means an at-fault party could be found liable in civil court even though the criminal system acquitted them.
In many states, surviving family members can file wrongful death claims themselves when a person dies. However, North Carolina law allows only the personal representative of the deceased’s estate to file a wrongful death claim. If the deceased person had a valid will, they probably named a personal representative in their will.
If the deceased did not have a will or their preferred personal representative cannot fulfill their duties, the court can appoint a different personal representative. In many cases, surviving spouses, adult children, or parents may be named as personal representatives for North Carolina wrongful death cases.
How a Lawyer Can Help with Your Wrongful Death Claim
The compassionate wrongful death lawyers of Poisson, Poisson & Bower, PLLC, can support you through every stage of your Wilmington wrongful death claim by:
- Helping you understand your legal rights and the financial recovery options available to you and your family
- Investigating the circumstances surrounding your loved one’s death to determine what happened and who may be at fault
- Identifying and preserving critical evidence to support your claim, such as physical clues from the scene of the fatal incident and testimony from eyewitnesses
- Consulting with expert witnesses such as medical professionals and accident reconstruction specialists who can provide professional insight into the causes and effects of your loved one’s death
- Managing critical medical records, legal documents, and filing deadlines on your behalf so you can focus on what matters most
- Negotiating forcefully with insurance providers or providing aggressive representation in court to maximize the compensation you and your family receive
Filing a Wrongful Death Action in Wilmington
When you file a wrongful death claim in Wilmington, you must be able to prove that another party’s wrongdoing led to your loved one’s death.
You must demonstrate the three following elements:
- The other party had a legal obligation to your loved one. This legal obligation can take many different forms. For example, the at-fault party may have been a motorist who had a duty to drive safely and obey local traffic laws or a medical professional responsible for delivering a certain standard of care.
- The other party failed to uphold that legal obligation. To demonstrate this element, you could provide evidence that a motorist failed to practice safe driving or obey traffic laws or that your loved one’s medical provider failed to provide expected standards of care, for example.
- The other party’s failure to uphold their legal obligation was a direct cause of your loved one’s death. To demonstrate this element, you must show proof that the at-fault party’s negligence ultimately led to your loved one’s death.
Common Causes of Wrongful Death
Wrongful deaths caused by the reckless or negligent acts of other parties are unfortunately common.
Many of the wrongful death cases our skilled lawyers handle are the result of:
- Motor vehicle crashes – Fatal car, truck, and motorcycle accidents caused by drivers who are intoxicated, distracted, or otherwise negligent
- Pedestrian or bicycle accidents – Accidents involving vulnerable bicyclists or pedestrians who negligent motorists strike
- Unsafe premises accidents – Deadly accidents such as slip-and-falls that occur on unsafe premises due to the negligence of property owners or managers
- Unsafe products accidents – Deaths due to unsafe products with dangerous defects created or distributed by negligent manufacturers or retailers
- Medical malpractice – Fatal injuries caused by medical errors or mistakes made by negligent doctors, nurses, anesthesiologists, or other healthcare providers
- Work-related accidents – Workplace deaths resulting from employer, employee, or third-party negligence that occur at work or in the course of work-related duties
- Acts of violence – Violent acts such as domestic abuse, stabbings, or shootings that cause fatal injuries
Types of Compensation for Wrongful Death
In a successful wrongful death lawsuit, negligent parties or their insurance company must pay monetary compensation to the deceased’s survivors or estate. The money awarded to surviving family members in a Wilmington wrongful death case is intended to compensate them for the following losses:
- Medical bills or hospital expenses paid by the family as a result of the injury or illness that ultimately caused their loved one’s death
- Reasonable funeral, burial, or crematory expenses incurred by the family
- The value of the family’s loss of any income provided by the deceased
- The subjective value of the family’s loss of the deceased’s services, protection, care, assistance, companionship, guidance, comfort, and advice
- The subjective value of the pain and suffering the deceased endured as a result of the injuries they suffered before their eventual death
- Other wrongful death damages
These are just some of the types of compensation you may be entitled to. An experienced wrongful death attorney in Wilmington can help you file a claim to recover compensation that takes into account the total scope of your losses.
Contact a Wilmington Wrongful Death Attorney for Help Today
At the law firm of Poisson, Poisson & Bower, PLLC, we are committed to helping our clients seek the money and the justice they deserve following a family member’s untimely passing. That’s why we offer free initial consultations and legal advice so that anyone who believes they may have a case can speak with an experienced wrongful death lawyer in New Hanover County without any upfront costs.
Contact our Wilmington wrongful death lawyers today online or by phone for a free consultation to learn more about your legal options.