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By Attorney, Roy McDonald

Should I Pursue a Wrongful Death Claim?

If you believe someone is responsible for the death of a loved one and are thinking about pursuing a wrongful death claim, there are a few things you should know.

What is a Wrongful Death?

Pursuant to Section 28A-18-2(a) of the North Carolina General Statutes, a wrongful death is a death caused “by a wrongful act, neglect, or default of another.”

What are Examples of a Wrongful Death?

Examples of a wrongful death include, but are not limited to, a death caused:

  • By an automobile collision.
  • By a drunk driver.
  • During the commission of a crime.
  • By the accidental discharge of a firearm.
  • By a property owner’s failure to correct a known safety issue.
  • By a defective product.
  • By a health care provider’s malpractice.

Who Can Make a Wrongful Death Claim?

A wrongful death claim is made by the personal representative designated to wrap up the decedent’s final affairs.  This person is likely named in the decedent’s will as the decedent’s executor or executrix.  If the decedent did not have a will, the Clerk of Superior Court will appoint a person to be the decedent’s administrator or administratrix.  In either case, an estate must be opened with the Clerk of Superior Court and a personal representative must be designated to make a wrongful death claim.

What Damages can be Sought in a Wrongful Death Claim?

Pursuant to Section 28A-18-29(b) of the North Carolina General Statutes, the following types of damages may be sought in a wrongful death claim:

  • Medical expenses.
  • Pain and suffering.
  • Funeral expenses.
  • Loss to the decedent’s family, including:
    • Loss of the income the decedent would have earned.
    • Loss of the services, protection, care, and assistance the decedent would have provided.
    • Loss of the society, companionship, comfort, guidance, kindly offices, and advice the decedent would have provided.
  • Punitive damages.

Who is Entitled to Compensation for a Wrongful Death?

Damages collected in a wrongful death claim are distributed to the decedent’s heirs in accordance with the North Carolina Intestate Succession Act.  In other words, in the same manner and proportion as the decedent’s assets would be distributed if the decedent died without a will.

What is the Statute of Limitations Applicable to North Carolina Wrongful Death Claims?

Typically, the personal representative of the decedent’s estate has two years from the date of death to file a lawsuit alleging a wrongful death claim.

This article is not intended to give, and should not be relied upon for, legal advice in any circumstance or fact situation.  No action should be taken in reliance upon the information contained in this article without obtaining the advice of an attorney.

If you need help or have other questions about wrongful death, please contact our office online to speak to a wrongful death attorney or call us at (336) 249-2101.