What If the Claimant Dies During a Personal Injury Claim?

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Your loved one may have been seriously injured in an accident, but they continued to live. A personal injury claim may have begun on their behalf.

However, personal injury cases can take a considerable amount of time to resolve. Your loved one may have died from their accident-related injuries.

There is a new set of challenges that arises when a personal injury claimant dies during their case, although your family could be due additional compensation if you win. Our wrongful death lawyers at Horton & Mendez Injury Attorneys represent families across North Carolina in cases like this. If your family member was gravely injured and passed away after an initial claim was filed, we can help your case continue moving forward.

Personal Injury Cases Endure Even When the Victim Dies

When someone harmed an accident victim through their careless actions, the claim does not become extinguished if the victim dies. If that were the case, the person who caused the accident hardly has consequences for their own actions, solely because the victim suffered the most serious consequence of all.

An accident victim may have initially filed the action as a personal injury claim. They sought compensation for themselves for what they endured as the result of negligent conduct. As soon as someone is forced to endure the consequences of someone else’s wrongful actions, the damages that they incurred will remain, no matter what.

The Legal Claim Changes When the Plaintiff Dies

The nature and character of the personal injury claim would change when the plaintiff dies. Now, the claim would be split into two different actions:

  • A wrongful death claim that is filed by the family
  • A survival action that belongs to the estate

Both of these claims are usually tried together since there is one set of facts. When the claim is settled, or a jury hands down a ruling in the case, the damages for both would be determined at the same time.

How Survival Claims Work in North Carolina

North Carolina law allows the estate to file a survival claim that would provide compensation for what the deceased person endured between the time of their injury and their death. Any damages that would have been compensable as part of the personal injury process could still be paid for now, notwithstanding the fact that the accident victim died.

A survival claim could compensate the estate for:

  • Medical bills
  • Lost wages
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of enjoyment of life

Damages in a Wrongful Death Case

If the accident victim has died, the family has suffered their own personal injury. The family misses a vital piece of the family structure, as the deceased person provided benefits in various ways.

These may include:

  • The support and guidance that they provided to family members
  • The financial support that they provided the family through the wages they earned
  • The close, loving relationship that they had with family members
  • The physical relationship they had with the spouse

In addition, the family also suffers grief and trauma when they have suddenly lost a loved one.

The profound grief in the wake of a deadly accident could last for many years.

When the accident victim dies in the middle of the personal injury claim, there may be other complicating legal issues. For example, in a wrongful death case, you must prove that the death was, in fact, wrongful. The cause of death will be vital to the consideration of the claim.

For example, if the deceased person died from a heart attack, there may be challenges tying their death to the accident itself. The insurance company could certainly challenge the fact that there was a wrongful death.

Even if the family is not able to pursue a wrongful death claim, the grounds for the survival claim would remain. Even if the death was unrelated to the accident, it does not change the fact that the accident victim still suffered damages prior to the time that they died.

There may be some cases where it is easier for the family to tie their loved one’s death to their personal injury. Still, you can expect a legal battle when you try to convert the case to a wrongful death claim.

You Still Need to Prove a Wrongful Death

A family still has the same burden of proof that the deceased person would have had if their personal injury claim would have moved forward. In the end, the standard for a wrongful death claim is the same one that must be proven in any personal injury case.

You need to show that the defendant acted wrongfully in causing your loved one’s death. Here, wrongful conduct could be an action that is negligent, reckless, or intentional.

Before your family could qualify for any financial compensation, you would need to prove that the defendant was responsible for the death of your loved one. Hopefully, your loved one already had an attorney who was handling their personal injury case for them. In that event, the attorney can then shift to representing the family.

The only things that would change would be the names of the lawsuits and the damages that you are seeking. The combination of the wrongful death and survival actions usually leads to higher compensation for the lawsuit. Your lawyer then must calculate the damages that you have suffered as a family to add to the existing lawsuit.

Contact a Wilmington Wrongful Death Attorney Today

If you or a loved one was seriously injured in an accident, the attorneys at Horton & Mendez Injury Attorneys are here to make your family’s life easier. We understand that this experience is perhaps the most difficult one that you could endure as a family.

We aim to provide compassionate and comprehensive service to you while we fight on your behalf. You can schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys by calling us today at 910-405-7751 or sending us a message online. You do not pay us anything for our time unless we win for your family.

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