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What must you prove in a wrongful death case?

If you lose a loved one due to someone’s negligence or wrongdoing, you likely can recover damages from the person at fault via a wrongful death suit. Keep in mind that in North Carolina, only the personal representative of the decedent’s estate can bring a wrongful death action. However, (s)he brings that action on behalf of the decedent’s estate and heirs; i.e, close family members. Consequently, if the decedent was your spouse, child, parent, etc., you likely can recover your damages.

FindLaw explains that the plaintiff in a wrongful death suit must prove the following in order to prevail:

  • That the decedent died
  • That (s)he died due to the defendant’s negligence or wrongdoing
  • That the defendant knew or should have known that his or her actions would harm the decedent
  • That the defendant’s actions represented the proximate cause of the decedent’s death
  • That the decedent’s estate and heirs suffered compensable damages as the result of the decedent’s death

Damage types

Wrongful death damages come in both economic and noneconomic forms. Your economic damages include such things as the following:

  • The decedent's medical and funeral expenses
  • Your loss of the future goods and services that (s)he would have provided you had (s)he lived his or her full life expectancy
  • Your loss of his or her reasonably expected future earnings
  • Your loss of his or her reasonably expected future benefits such as medical insurance, pension plans, etc.
  • Your loss of your reasonably expected inheritance had (s)he not died wrongfully and prematurely

Your noneconomic damages include your anguish, pain and suffering caused by the decedent's death; your loss of his or her care, nurturing, protection, guidance, advice, etc.; and your loss of his or her consortium if (s)he was your spouse.

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