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Wrongful Death vs. Manslaughter

November 22, 2017

If you’ve turned on any electronic device or read a recent news publication, you are aware of the innocent lives taken in Las Vegas Nevada, Sutherland Spring,s Texas, and recently Rancho Tehama, California.  These random acts of violence are inflicted on innocent victims at the hands  of complete strangers.  The result is the devastation of families, communities, and ultimately our freedom.  How does the United States Legal System react to such incidents?

It is obviously against the law to kill another person in U.S.  Manslaughter is a criminal offense that results in a form of punishment. The punishment varies depending on the state, or locality, of the crime.  The emphasis of criminal law is the punishment of the accused.

We rarely read, or hear, about the law that governs the civil side of manslaughter. Some of us remember O.J. Simpson for his involvement in the murder of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ron Goldman.  A criminal jury found Mr. Simpson not guilty in the double slaying, however a civil court jury ordered Mr. Simpson to pay $25 million in punitive damages for both wrongful deaths.

“Wrongful death” is a type of claim, that can be brought when a person wrongfully causes someone’s death. It allows a lawsuit to be filed even though the person who was harmed is no longer alive. Under North Carolina law, a wrongful death claim exists when the death of a person is caused by a wrongful act, neglect or fault of another, such that if the injured person had lived, he or she would have had the right to sue for his or her own personal injuries.

The basic purpose of the Wrongful Death Act is to keep the family of the deceased person in the same financial position that they would have been had the victim not died.  The goal may be to provide financial security, preserve the family home, or ensure the college education of the children.

In a wrongful death lawsuit, compensation may be sought for:

  1. Expenses for care, treatment and hospitalization incurred prior to death
  2. Compensation for the pain and suffering incurred by the deceased
  3. Funeral expenses
  4. Net income of the deceased
  5. Services, protection, care, and assistance for the family, and or survivors.

In some cases, a wrongful death lawsuit can help bring closure to the family. The lawsuit can punish a seriously negligent defendant, change behavior, and establish new laws and standards so that a needless tragedy will not be repeated. In these cases, the survivors can take comfort that their loved one did not die in vain.

In North Carolina you must file a wrongful death lawsuit no later than two years after the victim’s death.  If your family has lost a loved one at the hands of another’s negligence, please contact Slaughter Law for a free consultation. We have over 25 years of litigation experience and pride ourselves on our compassionate, sensitive staff.

Contact our attorney personally, Troy Slaughter by email at, or call us at 910.763.1157.