North Carolina Appellate Court Upholds Punitive Damages in Wrongful Death Pedestrian Accident Case

There are few things more stressful and life-altering than losing a loved one in a sudden and unexpected personal injury accident. This type of loss is referred to as a wrongful death claim under North Carolina law and there are many rules that apply to how a wrongful death claim must proceed. While you are coping with the sudden loss and grief, the competent Charlotte personal injury lawyers at Maurer Law are prepared to help you explore your legal rights and recover the compensation that you deserve. Although no amount of money will truly make you whole again, it can go a long way towards covering the financial impact of a sudden loss.

Recently, the North Carolina Court of Appeal heard an appeal in a case where the defendant appealed from an award of compensatory and punitive damages in an action where the plaintiff alleged that the defendant was responsible for his wife’s death. Punitive damages are a special category of damages that a jury can award if it finds that the defendant’s conduct is particularly egregious and reckless.

Before trial, the parties stipulated to a set of facts establishing that the defendant was negligent in causing the death of the plaintiff’s wife while driving. The defendant agreed that she lost control of her vehicle and swerved into the opposing lane of traffic and running directly into the decedent as she was walking along the shoulder of the road. The trial was split into two phases, which is called bifurcation. The first phase was to determine the amount of compensatory damages that the plaintiff should receive for his suffering and loss. The jury awarded $4.25 million.

The second phase was regarding punitive damages. During this phase, the jury heard evidence showing that the defendant was a student who consumed alcohol on the morning of the accident and whose blood alcohol level was above the legal limit at the time of the accident. The jury awarded $45,000 in punitive damages. The defendant filed a motion for a new trial and the lower court denied it.

On appeal, the plaintiff argued that the lower court allowed improper conduct during the trial and that the lower court erred in denying the motion for a new trial. After reviewing all of the evidence and addressing each of the plaintiff’s arguments, the appellate court concluded that the plaintiff received a fair trial. For example, the appellate court rejected challenges around the witnesses who were allowed to testify during the trial on compensatory damages, including witnesses who were not direct heirs of the decedent. The appellate court found that the testimony was directly relevant to determining the plaintiff’s loss of love, companionship, and support.

If you have lost a loved one in an unnecessary and avoidable accident, you may be able to bring a wrongful death claim to recover compensation for your injuries and damages. At Maurer Law, we are ready to provide you with the responsive and compassionate legal counsel that you deserve during this time. We offer a free consultation to discuss your situation so call us at 888-258-1087 or contact us online to get started.

Contact Information