Charlotte Wrongful Death Lawyer

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Wrongful death occurs when someone is killed as a result of someone else’s negligent behavior. In the event of such a tragic and inconceivable situation, the victim’s family has the opportunity to file a claim for wrongful death. While the value of your loved one’s life can’t be replaced, a claim can give you and your family some financial relief. If you live in Charlotte and are facing a potential wrongful death case, you should reach out to a Charlotte wrongful death lawyer.

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Butler, Quinn & Hochman, PLLC, has been proudly serving clients and advocating for Latino families in the Charlotte area for well over a decade. We value respect, honesty, integrity, and compassion above all else, and we are devoted to providing you with sound legal counsel for your case.

It can be daunting and somewhat terrifying to be facing a legal situation alone, especially one that could alter the course of your life. Having an experienced wrongful death lawyer on your side could change things for the better.

Wrongful Death in Charlotte, North Carolina

According to North Carolina General Statute 28A-18-2, a wrongful death is caused by the wrongful actions, negligence, or inaction of another person. It is reasonable to assume that had the victim survived the wrongful death, they would have pursued a personal injury claim to obtain damages for themselves. In that sense, a wrongful death claim is a personal injury claim that is pursued by the victim’s family instead of the victim themselves.

A wrongful death suit is a civil matter, not a criminal one. No one will go to jail over a wrongful death suit; instead, they may be ordered to pay the plaintiff compensation. In a criminal case, the defendant must be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of committing a crime. In a civil case, the defendant must only be proven liable for the wrongful death via evidence gathered by the plaintiff and their legal team.

North Carolina law does specify the possibility that a defendant could be battling civil charges and criminal charges for the same act of wrongful death at the same time.

Who Can Sue for Wrongful Death in Charlotte?

Under North Carolina state law, the only one who can file a wrongful death claim is the victim’s personal representative, whoever that may be. This person, also called an executor, is named in the victim’s will. If the victim did not have a will, or the named representative cannot fulfill the actions placed upon them, another personal representative will be appointed by the court. This representative is more than often a surviving spouse, the victim’s adult child, or the victim’s parent.

What Is the Average Wrongful Death Settlement?

Calculating an average wrongful death settlement amount can be difficult. Every case is different and involves specific circumstances that can change the amount of compensation. The more damages involved, the higher the settlement should be. However, the average settlement in the state tends to be in the range of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Certain claims may reach $1 million or even more if the losses are extremely extensive.

The amount of compensation is determined by a number of significant factors. This amount can be awarded through an agreed-upon settlement reached by both parties or determined by a jury after a civil court trial. Here are some of the more common damages that are paid in a wrongful death case:

  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Loss of the deceased’s income
  • Medical expenses prior to the victim’s death
  • A survival action, which is essentially pain and suffering prior to the victim’s death
  • Loss of care and guidance
  • Loss of love and/or companionship
  • Loss of protection provided by the deceased
  • Punitive damages if the negligent behavior that caused the victim’s death was malicious or somewhat intentional. These are not intended to compensate the plaintiff for their losses but to punish the defendant for their egregious negligence or recklessness.

Loss of Consortium

Loss of consortium is a type of damage claimed in a wrongful death case that is more conceptual than physical. By claiming a loss of consortium, you are claiming that the wrongful death of your loved one has caused an unintentional alienation of affection. The harm that the defendant has caused you and yours means that your loved one can no longer provide you with affection, love, companionship, or sexual relations. Here is what can be implicated under a loss of consortium:

  • Loss of Companionship: After the death of the decedent, it is now impossible for the surviving partner to engage in shared activities, date nights, hobbies, and anything that the two enjoyed together.
  • Loss of Intimacy: The wrongful death of the deceased has led to the surviving spouse or partner being unable to have physical intimacy with the person they loved.
  • Loss of Household Services: If the deceased spouse or partner was partially or wholly responsible for taking care of the household, their absence implies an additional strain on the surviving spouse or partner, who now has to do twice the work to maintain the household.
  • Emotional Trauma: Losing a loved one is horrifically traumatic. If the death was not immediate, and the surviving spouse or partner witnessed the gradual decline of their partner’s health that ultimately resulted in death, that trauma is likely amplified. This has resulted in a traumatic impact on the survivor’s daily life.

Non-Economic Damages

A loss of consortium falls under the category of non-economic damages, which cannot be directly compensated with money. Non-economic damages are unique to the person claiming the damage, and they do not have any obvious financial value. Other non-economic damages include:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Loss of reputation
  • Humiliation
  • Public embarrassment
  • Mental anguish
  • Shock

Spouses and romantic partners can claim a loss of consortium in an attempt to receive compensation for a loss of sexual relations and/or the ability to conceive children with their now-deceased romantic partner.

The victim’s children could potentially claim a loss of consortium in an attempt to receive compensation for a loss of parental guidance. They can no longer play with their deceased parent or participate in shared activities with them. More so, a lifetime’s worth of experiences will now be unable to be shared with their deceased parent.

Loss of Society

The state of North Carolina allows for the plaintiff in a wrongful death case to make an additional claim for “loss of society.” Loss of society is a broad concept that falls under non-economic damages and applies to the deceased’s inability to socialize, engage in community activities, and provide a stable presence for their loved ones, including friends and children.

While a loss of consortium is primarily reserved for the spouse, a loss of society can demonstrate how the victim’s death has impacted their community, their social circle, and their friends.

It is often forgotten that one death can impact many people. The immediate impact that someone’s untimely death can have on their immediate family, spouse, and children is extreme. However, if that person was well-known or well-liked, that circle is considerably wider. Friends and coworkers mourn, as do churchgoers and community leaders. A loss of society amplifies this impact and provides possible compensation that includes the victim’s substantial impact on the people they knew, if one exists.

Proving a Loss of Society

To prove a loss of society, you must rely wholeheartedly on witness testimony from family, friends, coworkers, psychiatrists, and community leaders. Consistent testimony helps the judge and/or jury understand your loved one’s connection to their community and how significant their absence will be. A loss of society seeks to compensate the beneficiaries for the sudden loss of the deceased’s social life and standing in the local community. This compensation can include:

  • Emotional Impact: Being isolated from the community as a result of your loved one’s wrongful death can have a lasting emotional toll on you. You may lose the opportunity to participate in many events or social interactions that your loved one would have been involved in. This has an effect on your quality of life.
  • A Decline in Relationships: The death of your loved one may have strained relationships between you and others. The sudden loss of someone who mattered a great deal to all of you may be too much to handle, and your relationships may now be declining as a result.
  • Community Impact: If the deceased was actively involved in their local community, their sudden death can have a negative impact on community activities or volunteer work, which, in turn, can have a seriously negative impact on the wider community.

Both a loss of consortium and a loss of society can greatly impact the amount of compensation awarded to you as a result of the wrongful death claim. The more people who are negatively affected by the victim’s death, the more you may be awarded to help compensate for the deceased’s unfortunate absence from their lives.

Statute of Limitations

You’ll want to search for a lawyer and act on a wrongful death claim as soon as you can. Otherwise, you may run out of time to do so. Under North Carolina state law, the statute of limitations for a wrongful death claim is two years from the date of the death in question. If you wait too long to file your claim, you may lose the opportunity to receive compensation.

Before pursuing a wrongful death claim, you should consult with an experienced wrongful death attorney to understand your options and to establish a timeline that can ensure you are working within the statute of limitations.

Proving Liability

It can be difficult to prove who exactly is at fault in a wrongful death case. Negligent behavior is sometimes obvious, but it can also be hard to prove without direct evidence. In order to prove that a wrongful death has taken place, the plaintiff has to explicitly show that certain criteria led directly to the wrongful death in question. Those criteria include:

  • The defendant exhibited negligent behavior. For example, if the death resulted from a car accident, the defendant could have been negligent by engaging in distracted driving.
  • The defendant’s negligent behavior led directly to the victim’s injuries and/or death. In the case of the car accident, distracted driving must have led to the accident, as well as the injuries and resulting death.
  • The outcome of the event was obvious, and the defendant’s actions were the sole cause of the death. In other words, the death would not have happened if the defendant’s actions had been different.

In order to prove these criteria, you will need evidence. That evidence can include anything from photographs and witness statements to medical records and police reports. Anything that reinforces your claim and helps to prove that a wrongful death has taken place is helpful to your case in the long run. An experienced wrongful death lawyer can help you build your case, gather evidence, and obtain testimony from professionals who can substantiate your claims.

Settlement vs. Trial

Many wrongful death cases do not go to trial. Most of the time, both parties end up agreeing to a settlement outside of court. A settlement spares both parties the public reliving of the incident and the stress of having the entire situation broadcast in a public courtroom. The negligent party will likely be represented by an insurance company that may be unwilling to pay out anything at first.

The more evidence that you have in your favor, the higher the likelihood of the negligent party and their insurance company backing down and offering you a settlement that covers your damages. Your wrongful death lawyer can take care of these negotiations on your behalf.

Work With an Experienced Wrongful Death Lawyer

The wrongful death of a loved one can be traumatizing, painful, and unfair. However, you can achieve some sense of justice by fighting for compensation in civil court. Butler, Quinn & Hochman, PLLC, understands what you are going through, and we are prepared to stand by you in these vulnerable times. Contact us to schedule a consultation today.

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