How Does a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Work in North Carolina?

If a loved one dies in an accident, your family may be able to sue the person responsible for their death. North Carolina law is very strict when it comes to who can sue for wrongful death. There are also laws that dictate how long your Charlotte wrongful death attorney has to file suit.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in North Carolina?

In North Carolina, the only person who can file a wrongful death lawsuit is the personal representative of the decedent’s estate. 

The personal representative is typically the executor named in the decedent’s will. If there is no will, the court would most likely appoint a close relative of the deceased to serve as personal representative. The personal representative is often the spouse, surviving child, or surviving parent of the deceased. 

Who Receives the Money From a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

Any money recovered in a wrongful death lawsuit is distributed based on North Carolina’s intestate succession law, even if the deceased had an estate plan. Damages are split between the surviving spouse and children split damages according to North Carolina Gen. Stat. §29-14. If there is no surviving spouse, children, or grandchildren, damages may pass to parents, siblings, and other relatives.  

What Are the Most Common Causes of Wrongful Death?

In North Carolina, a wrongful death lawsuit may be filed when somebody dies as the result of someone else’s actions. Usually, these cases involve negligence. However, you can also sue for wrongful death if your loved one died due to a person’s intentional behavior.

Some of the more common events that can cause wrongful death include:

  • Motor vehicle accident
  • House fire
  • Medical malpractice
  • Slip and fall
  • Dangerous drugs
  • Defective products

car accidents are a leading cause of wrongful death

What Damages Can Your Wrongful Death Attorney Demand? 

According to North Carolina Gen. Stat. §28A-18-2, the family of an accident victim who passed away may be entitled to significant damages. Some of the damages you may recover include:

  • Compensation for the value of the life of the decedent
  • Lost earnings and benefits
  • Loss of companionship, comfort, and care
  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Medical expenses related to the accident
  • Any pain and suffering your loved one experienced
  • Punitive damages 

Generally, the courts do not award punitive damages in wrongful death cases. However, if the defendant’s behavior was egregious, there is a chance you may recover them.

How Does the Court Decide Who is Entitled to Compensation?

Technically, it is the executor of the decedent’s estate that files the actual wrongful death lawsuit. However, the majority of the damages will be paid to family members.

Some of the factors that may affect the damages received by the family include:

  • The relationship of the survivor to the deceased
  • The financial impact of the victim’s death
  • The pain and suffering experienced by the decedent
  • The age and earning capacity of your loved one
  • The number of rightful heirs to the victim’s estate
  • The amount of money owed for outstanding medical bills

How Long Do You Have to File a Wrongful Death Claim in North Carolina? 

The statute of limitations for wrongful death in North Carolina is two years. The two years start on the date of your loved one’s death.

If the lawsuit isn’t filed in time, the estate and the family will be barred from suing the defendant going forward. Either the judge will dismiss the claim when they see the date of death or the defendant will file a motion to dismiss. 

A Charlotte Wrongful Death Attorney Can Explain Your Options

The loss of a loved one is devastating. In the case of wrongful death, it can be particularly traumatic. What can be even more frustrating is learning that you can’t file a wrongful death lawsuit.

If you think your family has a potential claim for wrongful death, you should speak with a seasoned personal injury attorney in Charlotte. They can answer any questions you may have and give you an idea of what your claim may be worth. 

Contact our office at 704.706.2689 so you can schedule your free, initial consultation.