Your Guide to North Carolina Wrongful Death Lawsuits (Five Things You Should Know)

The loss of a loved one in an accident is one of the most devastating, heart-breaking experiences that any person can ever be forced to endure. No legal claim could ever truly make things right. At the same time, grieving families deserve justice, accountability, closure, and financial support. 

A wrongful death claim against the responsible party (or parties) is the best option. At Green Mistretta Law, PLLC, we handle wrongful death lawsuits throughout North Carolina. Here, our Raleigh wrongful death attorneys highlight five things that you should know about the process. 

  1. A Wrongful Death is Defined as One Caused By “Wrongful Acts, Default, or Neglect”

A wrongful death lawsuit is a civil cause of action in North Carolina. Under state law (N.C. Gen. Stat. § 28A-18-2), a death becomes a wrongful death subject to civil legal action if it happened because of “a wrongful act, neglect, or default of another.” These types of cases can arise in several different specific circumstances, including car crashes, pedestrian collisions, commercial truck accidents, fall accidents, negligent security by businesses, and medical malpractice. It is important to emphasize that these are fault-based cases. No matter the circumstances, the plaintiffs—grieving loved ones of the victim—must be prepared to present evidence that proves liability. 

2.  North Carolina has a Two Year Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death Claims

Under North Carolina law (N.C. Gen. Stat. § 1-53), the statute of limitations for wrongful death claims is two years from the date of the person’s death. There are very few exceptions to the wrongful death statute of limitations. In effect, this means that any wrongful death lawsuit must be filed in court within two years. It does not necessarily have to be fully resolved within two years. If a grieving family waits too long to file a claim, they may not be able to take legal action at all. Do not fall behind in the process: Consult with a North Carolina wrongful death lawyer as soon as possible. 

3.  Not Everyone is Eligible to Bring a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

The loss of an innocent person impacts so many people. Unfortunately, not everyone who had a close relationship with the victim has rights under North Carolina’s wrongful death statute. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 28A-18-2 states that only certain individuals are allowed to file a wrongful death claim. Indeed, the claim needs to be filed by the personal representative of the victim’s estate. Generally, this means that the wrongful death claim is initiated by the executor named in the victim’s will or the estate administrator as appointed by a probate court. The personal representative is often someone who was close to the victim, such as a surviving spouse, parent, or adult child.  

4.  Economic and Non-Economic Damages Can Be Sought through a Wrongful Death Claim

Economic and non-economic damages can be sought through a wrongful death claim in North Carolina. While no amount of compensation will truly be enough for such a devastating loss, families need justice and the maximum financial support. Wrongful death compensation may include the following: 

  • Economic damages, such as medical expenses, lost wages, future earnings, and funeral and burial costs.
  • Non-economic damages, such as loss of love, loss of consortium, and loss of companionship.

5.  Your Family May Also Have a Survival Action Claim 

In addition to a wrongful death claim, your family may also have a survival action claim. At times confused with a wrongful death lawsuit, a survival action claim is a separate cause of action that allows the victim’s estate to pursue compensation for the damages sustained by the decedent between the moment of the accident and the moment of his or her passing. 

For example, imagine a person being hit and severely injured by a drunk driver in Raleigh. A week later, the victim passed away due to their injuries. Through a survival action claim, their estate can seek relief for the harm they sustained during the week between the accident and their passing, including for the pain and suffering that the decedent endured. 

Get Help From Our North Carolina Wrongful Death Attorneys Today
At Green Mistretta Law, PLLC, our North Carolina wrongful death lawyers are compassionate, knowledgeable, and experienced advocates for grieving families. If you have any specific questions about wrongful death lawsuits, we are here as a legal resource. Contact our legal team today for a free, confidential, and no-obligation consultation. With an office in Wake Forest, we handle wrongful death claims in Raleigh, Wake County, Durham County, and throughout the wider region.