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Calculating damages in wrongful death cases

The primary goal of most lawsuits is restitution - that is, to put the injured party back in the position they would have been in had it not been for the negligence or wrongful acts of the defendant. In a breach of contract case, the goal would be to reimburse the plaintiff for all the money they lost due to the breach.

The picture is murkier in a personal injury lawsuit. It is impossible to go back in time and restore an injured person's life to the way it was before the injury. Instead, North Carolina law provides ways for the injured to recover compensation for economic damages like their medical expenses and lost wages, along with less tangible noneconomic damages like pain and suffering.

But what can a lawsuit do after a fatal accident? A lawsuit can't bring back a loved one who is gone before their time.

Wrongful death law

North Carolina law answers this question with a law providing for claims of wrongful death. This is a subcategory of personal injury lawsuits in which the surviving family members of a deceased person seek compensation for their losses from the party that was responsible for the death.
Under state law, available forms of damages in wrongful death cases include:

  • medical expenses related to the fatal accident
  • funeral expenses
  • lost income
  • lost companionship and services

Sensitive subject

Wrongful death law is a sensitive subject. Many people think of these cases as assigning a monetary value to a person's life, and this strikes them as distasteful. No amount of money can bring back a loved one who died before their time.

However, when a family member dies unexpectedly, the rest of the family can face financial ruin. Not only must they pay for funeral expenses and other costs, but they are now left without their loved one's income. This loss carries on well into the future. The loss of their loved one's companionship will continue to affect them for the rest of their lives, as well.

Without compensation, these damages will harm the family's finances and health for the rest of their lives. When these damages are the result of another party's negligence or wrongful acts, these survivors deserve compensation.


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