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Charlotte Wrongful Death Claims: Where Auto Accidents & Wrongful Death Claims Intersect

Jun 10, 2017 Brown Moore Wrongful Death

Wrongful death claims and auto accidents intersect in many ways. For example, if you drive drunk or under the influence, and as a result, you kill someone you can be sued for wrongful death.

Drunk or drugged driving is the most common criminal offense in the United States to date. In civil court in North Carolina, an impaired driver who kills someone can be sued for compensatory and punitive damages. In North Carolina, if compensatory and punitive damages are awarded, the defendant’s insurance company (and not the defendant) will typically pay for the compensatory and punitive damages.

Wrongful Death versus Survival Acts

It is important to note that there are two separate types of actions when it comes to wrongful death: the circumstances surrounding wrongful death are governed by both the statute describing survival of actions (§ 28A-18-1) and death by the wrongful act of another (§ 28A-18-2). Both statutes provide distinct forms of relief to parties.

North Carolina’s survival statute, § 28A-18-1, states that, upon the death of any person, all demands whatsoever, and rights to prosecute or defend any action or special proceeding, existing in favor of or against such person … shall survive to and against the personal representative or collector of the person’s estate. However, the following rights of action in favor of a decedent do not survive:

  • Causes of action for libel and slander (except slander of a title)
  • Causes of action for false imprisonment and
  • Causes of action where the relief sought could not be enjoyed or granting it would be nugatory after death

In other words, regardless of the cause of the decedent’s death, the personal representative steps into the shoes of the decedent to maintain any and all causes of action the decedent could have pursued while alive. Therefore, if someone gets injured in a car accident and dies one year later due to other causes, the personal representative of his estate has a survival claim for the injuries the decedent suffered in the car accident one year prior.

Conversely, the wrongful death statute, § 28A-18-2, states that when the death of a person is caused by a wrongful act, neglect, or default of another, and that person would have been able to pursue a personal injury suit, but for death, damages may be sought by the personal representative or collector of the decedent.

In other words, with a wrongful death claim, damages are sought for the death of the decedent. These lawsuits can be filed against a variety of actors, including but not limited to, companies, employees, government agencies, individuals, and more. Thus, for example, a wrongful death claim might not only be filed against a drunk driver, but also the drunk driver’s employer (if the drunk driver was on the job at the time of the accident); or a wrongful death claim might be brought against the manufacturer and car dealership responsible for selling your family a car with a faulty ignition switch which led to a fatal crash. Those who can file wrongful death claims often include immediate family members, life partners, financial dependents, putative spouses, others who suffer from the loss financially, and sometimes even parents.

However, it is important to keep in mind that in North Carolina, wrongful death lawsuits must be filed within two years of the date of death.

Wrongful Death Isn’t Limited to Auto Accidents

Wrongful death actions are by no means limited to auto accidents (even though there are many wrongful death claims filed each year due to and in conjunction with drunken driving accidents). For example, in February of this year, a North Carolina Federal jury determined that a nursing home committed medical negligence causing the deaths of three patients as part of a wrongful death lawsuit. The jury determined that the nursing home recklessly disregarded the deceased residents’ rights and awarded their families more than $5 million in compensatory and punitive damages.

This case involved Blue Ridge HealthCare Center, Care Virginia Management LLC, and Care One LLC in North Carolina. The complaint filed against the home detailed that the home’s medical staff purposely turned off the alarms on patients’ ventilators which forced patients to have to remove their own ventilators or tracheostomy tubes on a frequent basis without any assistance from the home’s medical staff. The families of the deceased also accused the home of administering medication without proper monitoring and allowing patients to develop and suffer from infections and sustain falls due to substandard care.

Just within the last year, wrongful death lawsuits have also been brought against gun companies by families who have lost their children and other family members in deadly shooting incidents, claiming that these companies made and sold products that were unfit for civilian use, thus causing the death of their loved ones. Some of the more traditional and common wrongful death claims filed each year are linked to medical malpractice and product liability claims.

Charlotte Wrongful Death Lawyers

If you have lost a family member due to a fatal accident, you have lost a part of yourself. You no longer have their companionship and affection, and you are left with medical bills, lost wages, and mental and emotional suffering. Our North Carolina auto accident and wrongful death attorneys have represented many clients and their families who have been victims of these types of accidents. By filing a legal claim, you can be the voice for your loved one.

The Charlotte wrongful death lawyers at the law firm of Brown Moore & Associates, PLLC, have significant experience representing clients in lawsuits after the loss of a family member. Contact us today to find out how we can help you and your family.