- Wrongful Death Claims
- July 23, 2014 | Author: Joseph A. Miller
- Law Firm: Joe Miller Law, Ltd. - Norfolk Office
When someone’s negligence or the negligence of a company causes the death of a loved one (wrongful death) it is devastating. The family members left behind are not only grieving for a loved one, but they are often left without their primary source of income, and they may be forced to handle extensive costs for funeral arrangements and medical expenses.
All of this can be extremely overwhelming, and while nothing can take away the pain of losing a loved one, filing a wrongful death lawsuit against the responsible party can help a family better cope with the financial burden laid on them in their time of grief.
In this article we will answer some of the most frequently asked questions regarding wrongful death claims.
How do I get a wrongful death claim started?
The first thing you will need is a certified copy of the death certificate. It can usually be obtained from the coroner’s office in the city or county where the death occurred. Someone must then take the certified copy to the Clerk of Court to qualify to be the personal representative/administrator of the estate of the deceased.
Whomever qualifies to be the administrator will be charged a small fee and should notify the Clerk that this is being done in order to move ahead with a wrongful death claim on behalf of the estate of the deceased.
It is important when applying to be the administrator that you check the appropriate boxes on the application form to indicate that you anticipate bringing a wrongful death claim on behalf of the estate.
This is not a complicated or difficult process. It is important to make an appointment before you go to the Courthouse as some court clerks require that you make an appointment with a specific clerk.
Who is entitled to bring a wrongful death claim?
Initially, it must be someone closely related to the deceased such as a spouse or parent; however, after a sufficient amount of time has passed and no one has applied to be administrator, anyone can go to the Clerk of Court and go through the process detailed above to become qualified to bring a wrongful death claim on behalf of the estate.
This does not mean that that person is entitled to the damages that are awarded for the wrongful death claim. We will go into more detail further down on who is entitled to the damages.
How long do I have to bring a wrongful death claim?
In Virginia and North Carolina you have 2 years from the date of death to bring a wrongful death claim.
There are additional provisions in North Carolina that can affect the statute of limitations (the cutoff date for filing a claim), but generally it is 2 years.
Who is entitled to the damages?
In North Carolina it depends on the size of the estate as well as the surviving family members.
For example, if there is a surviving spouse and one surviving child and the estate is over $30,000, the spouse will receive the first $30,000 and the child and the spouse will split the remainder.
If there is a surviving spouse and 2 or more children and the estate is more than $30,000, then the surviving spouse gets the first $30,000 and 1/3 of the remainder. Each of the children gets an equal share of the remainder.
If the estate is more than $50,000 and there are no children or grandchildren and if the deceased is survived by one or more parent, then the spouse takes the first $50,000 and then splits the remainder with the surviving parent(s).
If the deceased has no surviving children, grandchildren, or parents then the spouse gets the full amount.
If the deceased has a surviving child but no surviving spouse, the child gets the full amount.
If the deceased does not have a surviving spouse or any surviving children, but has a surviving grandchild, the grandchild gets the full amount.
If the deceased does not have a surviving spouse or any surviving children or grandchildren, then the parents of the deceased get the full amount.
In Virginia, the size of the estate does not matter. It is based on the relationship of each potential beneficiary to the deceased.
The surviving spouse, children and grandchildren share the damages. This does not mean that they will necessarily all get an equal share. If the parties cannot agree on how the money will be distributed, most courts will do what is in the best interest of the children.
If there is not a surviving spouse or any surviving children then the parents, siblings, and any other relative who was dependent on the deceased and was also a member of the same household as the deceased, will all share.
If you have lost a loved one because of the negligence of someone else or a company, you should not be left to handle the after effects on your own. Call Joe Miller law today at 888-694-1671 to get the support and guidance you need in such a situation. Let us hold the responsible parties accountable for their actions. Call today or visit us at www.JoeMillerInjuryLaw.com.