How to File A Wrongful Death Claim in North Carolina

The death of a loved one is one of the most difficult things that can happen in life, especially if it is unexpected and caused by the negligent actions of another. Although a loved one’s life can never be replaced, the often-devastating financial consequences caused by the passing of a family member and provider can be reduced. Compensation provided by a wrongful death suit can provide financial security for the survivors’ children or dependents. In some cases, seeking justice for a loved one can help you ease grief during such a difficult time. If you believe someone else is to blame for the passing of a family member, read on to learn about wrongful death claims in North Carolina — what they are, who can sue, and what damages are recoverable.

North Carolina Wrongful Death Claims

Wrongful death is defined under North Carolina Code § 28A-18-2 as a death caused by a wrongful act that, had the victim lived, they would have had a personal injury claim against the responsible party. When a wrongful death occurs, a claim is filed by a personal representative of the deceased victim’s estate on behalf of the surviving family. North Carolina law states that a wrongful death claim may be filed even if the actions that caused the death meet one or more of NC’s definitions of a felony. 

Common Types of Wrongful Death Cases

Wrongful death often occurs due to the oversight, carelessness, or intentional act of someone else. Most of the time, the deaths of victims could have been prevented with more caution and care. The following are among the most common types of wrongful death cases:

  • Workplace accidents
  • Car accidents
  • Defective products
  • Medical malpractice
  • Semi-truck accidents
  • Pedestrian accidents
  • Aviation accidents

What Must a Plaintiff Prove For A Successful Wrongful Death Case?

The personal representative of the estate or the surviving family will need to prove the various elements of a wrongful death claim before a defendant can be found guilty. In other words, the surviving family or their lawyer must show the court that the Defendant’s negligence caused the deceased’s death before any damages can be awarded. Specifically, Plaintiffs must prove the following three elements:

  • Duty of Care – The Plaintiff must be able to prove that the Defendant owed a duty of care to the deceased person.
  • Breach of Duty of Care – A Plaintiff must also prove to the court that the Defendant breached the duty of care that was owed to the victim. 
  • Causation – The Plaintiff must also show that Defendant’s particular action directly caused the wrongful death. 

What Is the Statute of Limitations?

For most North Carolina cases, a wrongful death lawsuit must be filed within two years of the victim’s death date. However, certain factors could allow the courts to extend the statute of limitations for a wrongful death case. It’s advised not to count on an extension, though.

Recoverable Damages in a Wrongful Death Claim

North Carolina law specifies the losses for which survivors can seek compensation in a wrongful death lawsuit. Six different damages may be possible to recover, including:

  • Medical expenses related to the accident that caused the victim’s death
  • The victim’s pain and suffering (if they did not die immediately)
  • Reasonable funeral expenses
  • Loss of the victim’s future income
  • Loss of the victim’s services, protection, and care
  • Loss of the victim’s companionship, comfort, guidance, and society

The courts may also allow punitive damages and the damages listed above in cases where the plaintiff can prove malice or willful conduct on the part of the Defendant. Punitive damages are designed to punish the behavior that led to the victim’s death and provide a warning against others who might consider acting in a similar negligent manner.

Dividing Wrongful Death Funds

When dealing with compensation from a wrongful death case, there are specific laws in North Carolina to divide compensation awarded in a wrongful death lawsuit. The North Carolina Intestate Succession Act identifies who would collect from a wrongful death settlement. Further, even if the deceased had a written will, the will does not change the parties who can collect in the wrongful death case. Meaning, even if the victim was estranged or out of touch with a surviving family member, and that family member was excluded from the decedent’s written will, the family member still has a right to a share of the compensation.

What Can A Wrongful Death Attorney Do?

Wrongful death cases can be quite complicated since they can involve criminal investigations, government regulation violations, and potentially other victims. Fortunately, you don’t have to navigate through the process on your own. An experienced wrongful death lawyer will:

  • Investigate the cause of your loved one’s death
  • Determine liability for the death
  • Identify possible insurance remedies for compensation
  • Identify who the personal representative is and who would be a beneficiary of the wrongful death award
  • File a wrongful death claim with the insurance company
  • Prepare and litigate a wrongful death lawsuit if necessary
  • Focus on your claim, so your family can focus on healing

Losing a loved one due to someone else’s negligent actions is extremely painful. Not only will the surviving family struggle emotionally, but they may struggle financially as well. Your family deserves justice, and hiring an experienced wrongful death attorney in North Carolina can help to ensure the negligent party is held responsible for their actions and you receive the justice and compensation you need.

Let the NC Wrongful Death Lawyers at Henson Fuerst Put Our Experience and Resources to Work for You

When a loved one dies, your entire world is turned upside down. The fact that their death could have been prevented makes the situation even worse. At Henson Fuerst, we know that no amount of compensation or legal action will be enough to make up for the loss of your loved one. If you believe someone else is to blame for the death of your family member, we want to help you fight for the compensation and justice that you and your family need. Contact Henson Fuerst today by calling 919-781-1107 or completing a free initial consultation form.