Your Guide to North Carolina’s Wrongful Death Law
There is nothing more difficult than losing a loved one to an accident. It is an even more difficult burden when you find out that the fatal accident could have been prevented had only the right safety precautions been followed.
In North Carolina, grieving family members have the right to pursue justice, compensation, and a level of closure through a wrongful death claim. These are complex legal cases. Here, our Raleigh wrongful death lawyers provide a comprehensive guide to the wrongful death laws in North Carolina.
Defining a Wrongful Death: Wrongful Act, Neglect, or Default
Wrongful death claims are fault-based legal cases. Under North Carolina wrongful death law (NC GS § 28A-18-2), a surviving family member of the victim can hold another party liable for an accident if the death occurred due to a “wrongful act, neglect or default.” What constitutes a wrongful act, default, or neglect is highly dependent on the situation. The specific facts always matter.
As an example, imagine that a person was killed in a multi-vehicle collision in Wake County, North Carolina. Could a successful wrongful death claim be filed? It depends on how and why the crash occurred. If the fatal collision was caused by a distracted driver who was texting on a cell phone, then that is a wrongful/negligent act. That driver could be held legally responsible for the death.
Ultimately, all fatal accidents in North Carolina require a comprehensive investigation. Surviving family members need access to all of the relevant documentation, information, and other evidence so that they can hold the at-fault parties legally accountable and seek justice for their family and their loved ones.
Not Everyone Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in North Carolina
Unfortunately, North Carolina law does not allow everyone who had a close relationship with the deceased to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Instead, a wrongful death claim in the state must be initiated by a personal representative of the victim’s estate.
The personal representative—often the executor named in the will or the estate administrator named by the probate court—is responsible for bringing the claim. The wrongful death claim itself is filed on behalf of the closest surviving family members. Typically, the order of priority is as follows:
● The surviving spouse
● The surviving children, including adult children
● The surviving parents
● The deceased’s closest heir
There is a Two-Year Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death Lawsuits
Parties do not have an unlimited amount of time to file a wrongful death lawsuit in North Carolina. Indeed, there is a two-year statute of limitations for these civil legal cases. With very limited exceptions, a wrongful death lawsuit must be filed in the proper court within two years of the death of a victim.
After that point in time, the legal claim will likely be time-barred as a matter of state law—meaning it can no longer be filed. Do not wait to get started with the wrongful death claims process after a fatal accident: Consult with a Raleigh, NC wrongful death lawyer at Green Mistretta Law.
Financial Compensation Can Be Sought for Economic and Non-Economic Damages
There is nothing that could truly set things right after a fatal accident. The best that the law can do is to provide a formal wrongful death claims process through which the surviving family members can pursue justice, accountability, and financial support. In North Carolina, a wrongful death settlement or wrongful death verdict can include compensation for economic and non-economic damages:
● Economic Damages: Economic damages are the direct financial losses that are borne by the surviving family members. Some notable examples of economic damages in a North Carolina wrongful death claim include:
○ Out-of-pocket medical bills
○ Funeral & burial costs
○ Loss of financial support from the victim
● Non-Economic Damages: In a wrongful death claim, the non-economic damages are invariably more severe than the economic damages. It is imperative that non-economic damages are properly compensated. Non-economic damages include:
○ Loss of love
○ Loss of spousal relations
○ Loss of companionship
○ Loss of guidance
Contact Our North Carolina Wrongful Death Lawyers for Legal Guidance and Support
At Green Mistretta Law, PLLC, we are compassionate, reliable, and justice-focused advocates for grieving families. If you lost a close loved one in an accident that should have never happened, our wrongful death lawyers are here to help.
Call a Raleigh wrongful death attorney at Green Mistretta Law, PLLC today to set up a free, completely confidential review of your case. From our law office in Wake Forest, we provide wrongful death representation in the Triangle and throughout the state of North Carolina.