Out-of-Reach Water Results in $18 Million Jury Award
The term, wrongful death can lead people to envision causes of death that involve anything from severe negligence to violent crimes. Certainly, extreme situations can bring about fatalities for which another individual bears liability; however, each Gastonia wrongful death attorney at our firm regularly sees how seemingly minor acts of negligence can result in the needless loss of a loved one.
It Took One Small Motion to Overturn a Charter Bus
In March 2015, the Insurance Journal reported that a North Carolina jury awarded $18 million to the estate of a man who was crushed in a charter bus accident. No major events caused the bus to overturn. While the proximate causes of the accident are not detailed in the article, the suit alleged that the event happened when the driver reached for water while driving.
Two chaperones accompanied six students on a bus ride to a university open house. The six students suffered no injuries; however, the accident caused the death of one of the chaperones and severely injured his wife, as well.
The Nature of a Fatality Can Play a Role in the Jury Award
When the wrongful death suit was brought against the bus company, it asked for a $52 million award for a fatality that the bus company assessed at a value of no more than $1 million. Clearly, juries sometimes look beyond the facts of a case when determining an award. On the one hand, the apparent cause of the accident was a minor act. There is no mention of drunk driving or driver inexperience — he simply reached for some water.
In this case, the jury seemed to look at how the victim perished. He was crushed by 40,000 pounds of steel. While the jury reduced the requested award significantly, it appears they determined that such a violent death deserves much more than $1 million in compensation.
Wrongful Death Lawsuits are Not the Only Option
The actual trial took less than one week from opening arguments to jury award, but the award decision came about two years after the actual accident. Considering the backlog of cases awaiting attention from North Carolina civil courts, this is not an unusual timeframe for getting a wrongful death lawsuit onto the court dockets.
While this claim clearly benefitted by waiting for a jury award, there are a number of ways to settle wrongful death claims more quickly, such as filing insurance claims or negotiating out of court. When families needlessly lose loved ones, their grief can get in the way of making sound decisions pertaining to legal issues. It is important to engage experienced and compassionate attorneys who can explain the likely outcome of each legal process and guide them toward the right decision.
We hope that none of our clients will ever need to go through this situation, but by calling us at 800-948-0577 or using our convenient online contact form, we will work hard to provide you with the full support needed to get through a very difficult time.