Defense lawyers and insurance adjusters are frequently faced with evaluating medical damages presented by plaintiffs counsels and claimants. We often examine alleged damages arising out of personal injuries. Less fortunate are the cases involving injuries that culminate in a fatality. One can imagine a situation where the pre-death life-saving efforts were drastic and expensive.
In such instances, what are the medical bills that the decedent’s heirs are left to tend to and for which a responsible party is liable?
North Carolina’s Wrongful Death Statute (N.C.G.S. 28A-18-2) affords some level of protection which can prove helpful to all parties when trying to adjust and resolve claims for medical bills in a wrongful death claim.
The law caps recovery for reasonable hospital and medical expenses incident to the injury resulting in death at $4,500 (in some instances, less)
Of course, there are a host of other damages available for wrongful death that otherwise expose potentially responsible parties beyond the expenses for care, treatment and hospitalization incident to the injury resulting in death, such as pain and suffering and funeral expenses. In addition, a spouse of the decedent may remain exposed to financial liability pursuant to the doctrine of necessaries.
There may be an interesting argument about whether the medical bills in excess of $4,500 are admissible in light of North Carolina’s Rule of Evidence 414 which generally limits into evidence the medical bills actually paid and actually owed.
However, the $4,500 cap on medical expenses recoverable in a wrongful death action may result in a substantial reduction of medical bills and liens and may prove helpful to all parties when trying to resolve wrongful death claims.