Losing a loved one is incredibly difficult. The grief can be even more overwhelming if the death was caused by the careless or negligent actions of another individual, entity, or business. In these circumstances, family members and the estate of the deceased could choose to pursue two different legal actions under North Carolina law: a wrongful death lawsuit and a survival action. Each of these legal actions addresses different types of losses that we want to discuss here.
What is a Wrongful Death Claim in North Carolina?
Wrongful death claims arise in a variety of ways in North Carolina. According to NC law, a wrongful death is one that is caused “by a wrongful act, neglect, or default of another” individual or entity (N.C. Gen. Stat. § 28A-18-2 (2021). Typically, these claims are valid so long as the deceased would have been able to file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault party had they lived.
Wrongful death claims in North Carolina are filed by the personal representative or the executor of the deceased’s state on behalf of the surviving family members. In most situations, surviving spouses, parents, or adult children are common choices for personal representatives. There are various types of compensation available to plaintiffs in these situations for a successful claim, including:
Pain and other emotional suffering sustained by family members as a result of the death
Current loss and future loss of income or benefits the deceased would have provided
Funeral and burial expenses
Coverage of the loss of the deceased’s services, protection, care, and assistance
Loss of society, comfort, guidance, and companionship
What is a Survival Action in North Carolina?
Survival actions are slightly different from wrongful death claims in that they are filed by the victim’s estate if there was a period of time between when the deceased was injured and when they passed away as a result of their injuries. The damages pursued in a survival action are the same ones that the deceased could have pursued had they survived and been able to file a lawsuit against the alleged negligent party. For a survival action in North Carolina, damages can include:
Medical expenses from between when the injury occurred and when the loss of life happened
Lost income from the time when the victim was injured to the time they passed away
Pain and suffering the victim endured
Recap of the Difference Between These Two
Both wrongful death claims and survival actions in North Carolina arise in the same ways. Individuals lose their lives due to the careless or negligent actions of others on a regular basis throughout this state. This can include deaths caused by vehicle accidents, intentional acts of violence, premises liability incidents, medical malpractice, defective products, and more.
Often, we will see that wrongful death claims and survival actions are filed at the same time in North Carolina. The wrongful death claim deals specifically with the losses sustained to the family members and the estate of the deceased caused by the death. Survival actions deal with the damages of the deceased from the time frame from when they were injured to when they passed away, if there was any gap at all.
We strongly encourage family members of those who have lost their lives to work with a skilled Raleigh wrongful death attorney in North Carolina who can handle every aspect of these claims. Wrongful death and survival action cases can become incredibly challenging, but an attorney can use their resources to fully investigate the incident and help bring closure to these difficult situations.