What happens in fatal car wrecks? Like most other states, North Carolina has a wrongful death statute. Under this law, an experienced attorney can provide a family compensation for their loss.
Direct economic losses in wrongful death cases are compensable. These items include funeral and burial expenses, medical bills, air-rescue costs and so on. Many victims do not die right away, and so direct economic losses can also include rehabilitative care, nursing home care, and other such expenses.
These costs are high but may be minuscule when compared to the pecuniary loss the family suffers, not only in terms of future lost income but also in terms of the loss of household services. The surviving spouse and the next of kin – anyone who could have inherited property from the deceased – are eligible for compensation. In calculating the “pecuniary injury,” a jury may consider:
- The amount of goods, money, and services the decedent generally contributed in the past,
- The amount of goods, money, and services the decedent customarily would likely have contributed in the future,
- The decedent’s age, sex, and overall health, of the decedent,
- The decedent’s overall habits and occupational abilities,
- The relationship between the decedent and the plaintiff(s), and
- The plaintiff(s)’ grief, sorrow and mental suffering.
An attorney often partners with an expert witness to help the jury determine the decedent’s future income potential and the value of the decedent’s future household services. In addition to simple mathematical calculation, the jury must determine the decedent’s likely career path, including the possibility of promotions.
Some other states openly bar damages for pain and suffering, under the theory that such a claim belonged to the deceased person and no one else. Illinois includes this component in the calculations because the family feels the emotional loss of their loved one and should be compensated for that loss by the negligent defendant. Depending on the circumstances, punitive damages may also be available. For example, in a car accident, a jury may find that the defendant exhibited a reckless indifference for the safety of others when she drove through a stoplight at full speed during rush hour.
No amount of money can truly compensate a family for such a devastating loss, but fair compensation can assuage the grief. For a free consultation with experienced North Carolina car accident attorneys, contact our law firm.