This page will explain North Dakota wrongful death lawsuits and their settlement value. We will explain how the North Dakota wrongful death statute works and who is eligible to bring a wrongful death lawsuit and get settlement compensation. We also explain the second cause of action in death cases, a survival action which provides a second path of compensation for the victim’s family
North Dakota Wrongful Death Law
Like all states, North Dakota has statutory laws that govern wrongful death claims. Wrongful death claims are civil actions that are filed when one party’s negligence, misconduct, or criminal action results in the death of another. Understanding North Dakota’s wrongful death laws can help survivors make informed decisions when seeking justice.
North Dakota statute § 32-21-01,creates a claim for wrongful death in any situation where
the death of a person shall be caused by a wrongful act, neglect, or default, and the act, neglect, or default is such as would have entitled the party injured, if death had not ensued.
The person’s death could be caused by negligence, recklessness or even be intentional. However, the key to a wrongful death claim is that the victim must have had a viable personal injury claim had they survived the accident.
For example, if your loved one’s cause of death was a car crash caused by another driver, they would have likely had a personal injury claim had they not passed away from their injuries. You can think of wrongful death claims as a personal injury action you take on behalf of your loved one in order to protect their rights – and yours – after their death.
Who is Eligible to File a Wrongful Death Case in North Dakota?
Only certain members of the decedent’s immediate family have standing to bring a wrongful death lawsuit in North Dakota. The following people have the right to file a claim, starting with the spouse of the deceased:
- Surviving spouse of the decedent
- Surviving children of the decedent
- Surviving parent of the decedent
- Surviving grandparent the decedent
- Personal representative of the decedent’s estate
If the person eligible to file a wrongful death action does not do so within 30 days after the request of the person next in order, that next person will be eligible to file the wrongful death claim.
Damages Available in North Dakota Wrongful Death Cases
In North Dakota wrongful death cases, damages can be awarded to the plaintiff(s) to compensate for a variety of losses, including:
- funeral expenses
- medical expenses incurred before death (caused by the negligence)
- estate administration expenses
- lost income and benefits, including amounts the deceased reasonably would have been expected to earn had he or she lived, and
- loss of the deceased’s services and companionship
Under North Dakota law, damages are intended to compensate the deceased’s surviving spouse, children, and/or parents for their losses related to the death.
Statute of Limitations in North Dakota Wrongful Death Cases
North Dakota has a “statute of limitations” law that sets a legal deadline for how long plaintiffs can wait before filing wrongful death lawsuits. In North Dakota, a wrongful death lawsuit must be filed within 2-years of the date of death. If the case is not filed within that two-year time period, it will be legally barred.
North Dakota Wrongful Death Verdicts and Settlements
Below are North Dakota settlement amounts and jury payouts in wrongful death lawsuits.
$1,127,000,000 Verdict (North Dakota 2019): Three 20-something women were struck head-on. Two of the women died. The sole survivor sustained a traumatic brain injury. The two decedents’ families and the surviving woman alleged that the at-fault driver’s negligence caused the fatal collision. They claimed he failed to stay in his travel lane and negligently drove while intoxicated. The defense admitted liability. A Burleigh County jury awarded a $1.127 billion verdict. The two decedents’ families each received over $333 million, while the surviving woman received over $470 million.
$850,000 Settlement (North Dakota 2014): A woman presented to the hospital with left flank pain. Her medical history comprised Stage III chronic kidney disease and right kidney agenesis. She was admitted with chronic kidney disease and acute cystitis. The hospital staff administered Dilaudid. They administered a dose while she was asleep. The woman became unresponsive. The hospital staff attempted to resuscitate her. They were unsuccessful. The woman died from Dilaudid toxicity. Her surviving spouse alleged that the hospital staff’s negligence caused her death. They claimed they negligently administered Dilaudid and inadequately monitored her. This case settled for $850,000.
$1,500,000 Verdict (North Dakota 2014): A 67-year-old woman underwent bypass surgery. Following the procedure, she suffered severe blood loss. The woman died shortly after. Her family alleged that the heart surgeon and cardiologist’s negligence caused her death. The defense denied liability. They disputed whether she suffered irregular bleeding. They also argued that the family’s decision to move her to a different hospital rather than the ICU caused her death. A jury found the family 37.5 percent liable and the defense 62.5 percent liable. They awarded $1,500,000.
$1,300,000 Verdict (North Dakota 2007): A 49-year-old man underwent an aortic valve replacement. Following the procedure, he suffered a fatal heart attack. The man’s family alleged that the physician’s negligence caused his death. They claimed he negligently performed the surgery, incorrectly placed the aortic valve, and used a small aortic valve. The defense denied negligence. Following mediation, the man’s family received $1,300,000.
$925,000 Verdict (North Dakota 2003): A pedestrian was struck by a truck on a highway’s shoulder lane. He died from his injuries. The man’s family alleged that the truck driver’s negligence caused his death. They claimed he negligently operated his vehicle in icy conditions, excessively sped, and failed to maintain a proper lookout. The defense denied liability. This case settled for $925,000.
$850,000 Settlement (North Dakota 2002): A man died after undergoing surgery. His family alleged that the physician’s negligence caused his death. They claimed he failed to timely diagnose his condition, order diagnostic tests, administer appropriate medications, and provide an appropriate standard of care. The defense denied negligence. They argued that the man’s death was unrelated to their care. This case settled for $850,000.
$985,458 Verdict (North Dakota 1994): A passenger died in a collision. Their parents alleged that the at-fault driver’s negligence caused their death. They settled with the at-fault driver’s parents for $175,000. A jury awarded $810,458. The deceased’s family’s net award was $985,458.
$100,000 Settlement (North Dakota 1993): A 47-year-old man suffered chest pain, shortness of breath, diaphoresis, and arm numbness. He presented to the VA emergency room. Eight hours later, the man died from a heart attack. His family alleged that the VA staff’s failure to properly treat him caused his death. This case settled for $100,000.