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Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in North Carolina?

If a person loses their life due to the careless, negligent, or intentional actions of another individual or entity in North Carolina, it may be necessary for surviving family members or the estate of the deceased to file a wrongful death lawsuit in civil court. Here, we want to review who is actually allowed to file a wrongful death claim in this state, as well as the types of compensation that may be available in these situations.

Who Can File a North Carolina Wrongful Death Claim?

It is important to look very carefully at the North Carolina law related to wrongful death claims (N.C. Gen. Stat. § 28A-18-2 (2021). In many states, surviving family members are the individuals responsible for filing wrongful death claims in court. However, North Carolina law makes it clear that the personal representative of the deceased individual’s estate is the person responsible for filing these claims.

Often referred to as the executor, the personal representative will typically be named in the deceased’s will, if they had one. If there is no personal representative named or if the person named cannot serve, the court will appoint another individual to serve in this capacity. It is not uncommon for surviving family members, including spouses, parents, or adult children, to serve as a personal representative for the purposes of filing a wrongful death claim.

Types of Compensation Available to Family Members

There are various types of compensation that may be available to the estate and family members of the deceased. Generally, attorneys for surviving family members and the estate will work to recover both economic and non-economic losses in these situations. This includes:

  • Medical expenses caused by the injuries that led to the death
  • Pain and suffering experienced by the deceased after the injury but before their death
  • Reasonable funeral and burial costs
  • The loss of the deceased’s income and benefits
  • The loss of services, care, protection, and assistance provided by the deceased
  • The loss of society, comfort, guidance, and companionship of the deceased

There is no set amount of money provided to family members and to estates in these situations. Rather, every wrongful death claim in North Carolina will be thoroughly examined by trusted medical, financial, and economic experts who can help adequately calculate total expected losses.

Even though no amount of money can make up for the loss of life, we still encourage family members and the estate of the deceased to pursue these claims in civil court. Often, a wrongful death lawsuit is the only way to hold at-fault parties accountable because not every wrongful death revolves around a criminal action that can be prosecuted. However, even if the at-fault party is facing criminal charges, they can still face a wrongful death lawsuit.

How Quickly Does a Wrongful Death Claim Have to be Filed?

It is crucial for family members and the personal representative of the estate to file these claims as soon as possible. The North Carolina wrongful death statute of limitations is two years from the date of death. If a lawsuit is filed after this two-year timeframe, it will likely be dismissed by the court, leaving family members and the estate unable to recover any compensation for their losses.

Contact our Raleigh wrongful death lawyers today.