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Victor C. Mitchener, Attorney

Joseph H. Downer, Attorney

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Coping with the tragic loss of a loved one after a car accident

On Behalf of | Dec 12, 2023 | Motor Vehicle Accidents, Wrongful Death

Losing a loved one after a horrific car accident is a harrowing experience. When the death is the result of another driver’s negligence or reckless behavior, the grief can be even more profound. The people they leave behind are often unsure about what to do next and how to cope with the financial burdens that come with such an unexpected loss. In North Carolina, the victim’s personal representative or collectors can file a wrongful death claim.

Why a wrongful death claim?

A wrongful death is a civil lawsuit that enables surviving loved ones to seek compensation for their loss and retrieve a sense of justice. The personal representative who files the claim can be a close family member or the named executor in the will. Because it is not a criminal suit, the burden of proof is much lower; thus, it will be easier to recover damages. Here are the types of damages the claimant can recover:

  • Medical expenses incurred from the accident
  • Burial expenses
  • Funeral expenses
  • Compensation for the pain and suffering the victim experienced before death
  • Income loss due to the death
  • Compensation for the care, protection, services and assistance provided by the deceased
  • Loss of companionship, comfort, guidance, and society from the deceased

It is a matter of holding the driver liable for their negligence or wrongful actions, not necessarily about punishing them. Although, one unique aspect of North Carolina’s wrongful death laws is the potential to sue for punitive damages.

Understanding punitive damages

Should the driver’s actions be deliberately harmful or display a blatant disregard for safety, the claimant may be able to obtain punitive damages. The court’s assignment of punitive damages serves to reprimand the driver and deter similar conduct in the future.

Though no lawsuit can truly compensate for the loss of a loved one, filing a wrongful death claim can offer some financial alleviation and hold the driver accountable for their actions.