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Victor C. Mitchener, Attorney

Joseph H. Downer, Attorney

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What is burden of proof when you pursue a wrongful death claim?

On Behalf of | May 1, 2024 | Wrongful Death

It can be devastating when someone you love passes away due to the negligence or misconduct of another party. A wrongful death claim may be necessary for compensation, although nothing will replace your loved one.

However, navigating the process can be complex, especially when it comes to proving the case in court.

Burden of proof

In North Carolina, the burden of proof rests with the party bringing the wrongful death claim. The plaintiff, or the person filing the lawsuit on behalf of the deceased, must provide sufficient evidence to convince the court that the death resulted from the defendant’s actions or negligence.


The plaintiff must demonstrate four key elements: duty, breach of duty, causation and damages. Duty refers to the legal obligation of the defendant to exercise reasonable care toward the deceased. Breach of duty occurs when the defendant fails to fulfill this obligation, either through action or inaction.

Causation involves showing that the defendant’s breach of duty directly led to the death of the victim. Finally, damages refer to the losses suffered by the surviving family members as a result of the death.


Proving these elements requires thorough investigation. Evidence may include eyewitness testimony, expert opinions, medical records and other documentation that support the plaintiff’s claims. Additionally, a clear timeline of events leading up to the death can refute any potential defenses raised by the defendant.

Preponderance of evidence

In North Carolina, the preponderance of evidence standard typically governs wrongful death claims. The plaintiff must show it is more likely than not that the defendant’s actions or negligence caused the death. This standard is less strict than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard in criminal cases. It still requires a convincing presentation of evidence.

By understanding the burden of proof and gathering evidence, surviving family members can seek some justice and compensation.