Jacksonville Wrongful Death Attorney
The wrongful death lawyers at Riddle & Brantley, want to help your family
We understand that the death of a loved one is the most difficult experience you will ever go through. We not only have the legal skill that will make all the difference in your case – we genuinely care about our clients. Our firm aggressively and passionately represents wrongful death plaintiffs in Jacksonville, North Carolina. Find out how our personal injury lawyers can help your family. Contact us today to request a free case evaluation.
What Is Wrongful Death?
North Carolina legislation defines “wrongful death” as a death someone else’s wrongful act, neglect, or default caused. An easy way of looking at wrongful death claims is that it is a personal injury claim that the decedent could have brought had the incident not been fatal. The plaintiff in a wrongful death claim must prove relatively the same elements:
- The defendant owed the deceased person a duty of care.
- The defendant breached this duty of care.
- The breach was the proximate cause of the death.
- The plaintiff suffered damages from the death, such as financial and personal losses.
Proving a wrongful death case takes showing evidence of the defendant’s negligence, recklessness, or intent to harm. It is possible to bring a wrongful death claim against a driver, doctor, employer, product manufacturer, property owner, and a criminal in North Carolina. Contact our lawyers for more information about your specific claim.
3 Wrongful Death Laws to Know
Wrongful death claims are all about the client’s ability to navigate state laws and prove a case against an allegedly responsible defendant. An attorney can be of significant assistance with both tasks. Our lawyers have over 160 years of combined legal experience. They know North Carolina’s wrongful death laws inside and out. Three of the most important laws to know are:
Statute of limitations
- You must file your claim with the civil courts within two years of the date of your loved one’s death. Otherwise, you generally give up your right to seek compensation.
Who can file?
- North Carolina courts only permit certain people to file wrongful death claims. Only a personal representative of the decedent’s estate may bring the claim. The decedent’s will or estate may name this person, or the probate courts will appoint one. A spouse, parent, or adult child might be the representative. We help our clients set up the estate with the clerk of court.
- A family can file for the damages the decedent suffered from the time of the accident to the date of death, as well as for those the family experienced. These can include loss of the loved one’s companionship and society, as well as medical bills and funeral/burial expenses.
In the event of a particularly negligent, malicious, or criminal defendant, the family may also receive punitive damages to punish the transgressor. Compensation will go first to the decedent’s estate, then toward attorney’s fees and court costs, and finally to the surviving beneficiaries. Working with one of our attorneys can help you maximize your recovery.
Steps to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
Courts hear wrongful death lawsuits as civil cases. If you are eligible to file for wrongful death, you will first need to file documents to commence the lawsuit. You can expect to file a complaint or petition against the defendant. This document will contain notice that you are suing the defendant, as well as grounds for the case. Along with the complaint or petition, you will also file a summons specifying in which court the lawsuit will occur.
Following the initial filings, you will also need to complete service of process. This legal procedure is where you provide all relevant documents to the defendants. Once you have submitted all the proper forms, your case will likely head into settlement negotiations and, if necessary, court proceedings.
If the case also involves criminal matters, then you will still need to file a second, civil case to receive compensation. A criminal case will only focus on determining the events for the sake of administering imprisonment, fines, and other criminal penalties. However, not all wrongful death cases involve criminal matters.
Incorrect filing of lawsuit documents can delay the resolution of your wrongful death case. To ensure you meet all deadlines and legal procedures, reach out to the wrongful death attorneys of Riddle & Brantley for assistance in filing your case.
Who Can File for Wrongful Death?
North Carolina law establishes certain limits on who may file a wrongful death lawsuit. No matter the circumstances of the case, the person who has first right to file is the personal representative of the deceased’s estate. Often, the deceased has named the representative within his or her estate plan. The named individual may agree to serve as the personal representative, so long as the court approves.
However, as the case may be in many wrongful death claims, the deceased may not have had an estate plan prior to his or her death. If this occurs, then the court will appoint a personal representative. Likewise, the court will also appoint a new representative if the named individual cannot or will not serve the position for any reason. When the court appoints a representative, common choices are:
- surviving spouses,
- or adult children of the deceased.
Regardless of who the representative is, he or she will file the claim on behalf of both the estate and surviving family members. All affected parties are eligible for receiving compensation in a successful wrongful death claim.
If you are not the personal representative of the deceased’s estate, then you may not file a wrongful death claim. As such, you should confirm your eligibility to file before pursuing any paperwork. At Riddle & Brantley, we can help you understand who the personal representative of the deceased’s estate is before starting your claim.
Why Clients Trust Riddle & Brantley
Riddle & Brantley, isn’t your average personal injury firm. We’ve proven time and time again that our clients always come first. Find out for yourself why clients trust us with even the most high-stakes cases – read our testimonials. Our lawyers make clients’ problems their problems. They dedicate personal and professional attention for the duration of each case. We truly go above and beyond for our clients.
If you believe you might have grounds for a wrongful death claim, contact us right away. Immediate legal action can mean the preservation of key evidence for your case. It can also inform you of your rights and options moving forward. We’ll make sure you don’t miss any important deadlines or filing requirements. Start with a free wrongful death consultation. Contact our local office today for your free case evaluation.