A Jacksonville Wrongful Death Attorney Talks About Wrongful Death in North Carolina

Wrongful death is a claim by the estate of a deceased person against the individual/s who can be held liable for the death. If a loved one died because of someone else’s negligence, we can assist you in settling the estate and recovering damages for the loss of your loved one. Wrongful death claims require a skilled trial attorney with passion, empathy, and understanding, such as a Jacksonville wrongful death attorney at the Pope Law Firm.  When a family member is wrongfully killed, the family deserves answers about how the death occurred. The Pope Law Firm has successfully handled many wrongful death cases resulting from motor vehicle collisions, railroad crashes, construction site deaths, pool drownings, medical malpractice, and defective products.

How Do I Prove a Wrongful Death Claim in North Carolina?

Many clients find it easier to grasp the essence of a wrongful death claim as a personal injury claim that results in death rather than injuries. Wrongful death claims are commonly based on Negligence. Negligence means that the defendant acted in such as way that a reasonable person would not, e.g., running a red light.

The basis for a wrongful death claim is the same as any other personal injury lawsuit. You must show four elements to establish negligence. The four elements that the plaintiff must prove in a North Carolina wrongful death claim are:

  1. The defendant owed the claimant a duty to either act or refrain from acting in a specific way. The exact requirements of the duty often change depending on the circumstances of a claim,
  2. The defendant breached this duty of care,
  3. The breach caused the death; the defendant should have foreseen the likelihood that someone would be harmed or killed by their breach, and
  4. The death resulted in financial damages, both economically and non-economically, to those who depended on the deceased person. Therefore, any claimants must show that they are a legal beneficiary entitled to share in the recovery.

Who Can File a Claim for Wrongful Death in North Carolina?

In North Carolina, only the personal representative or the “executor” of the deceased person’s estate is allowed to file a wrongful death claim. If the deceased person had a will, it might designate a personal representative. If the deceased had no estate plan, and the named personal representative cannot or will not serve, the court will appoint another individual, usually a surviving spouse, parent, or adult child.

Time Limitations For Wrongful Death Lawsuits

Under North Carolina law, wrongful death lawsuits must be filed within a certain period of time, set by a law called a “statute of limitations.” Under the code section N.C. Gen. Stat. § 1-53 (2021), A wrongful death claim must be filed in a North Carolina court no later than two years from the date of the person’s death. If the lawsuit is not filed within this two-year time window, the court will almost certainly dismiss the claim.

Damages for North Carolina Wrongful Death Claims

The North Carolina Statute regarding these damages lists specifically:

  1. Medical expenses associated with the decedent’s injury.
  2. Compensation for physical pain and suffering.
  3. Funeral expenses incurred on behalf of the deceased.
  4. The loss to the decedent’s family resulting from the untimely death may include:
    • The monetary value of the loss of net income of the decedent.
    • The monetary value of the loss of services, protection care, and assistance of the decedent.
    • The monetary value of the loss of the decedent’s society, companionship, comfort, guidance, kindly offices, and advice.
    • Punitive damages if their death was caused in some reckless manner.

Damages that are recovered in wrongful death do not follow any provisions that the person may have made in their Will. Instead, they are proportioned according to the Intestate Succession Act, which is the method by which North Carolina divides an estate when the individual dies without a Will.

Many families are relieved to learn that the proceeds of a wrongful death action are not assets of the estate and are not subject to the claims of creditors with the exception of $4,500, which is allowed as an asset strictly for the purpose of covering funeral and medical expenses related to the decedent’s death.

The Pope Law Firm Can Help

In a wrongful death claim, the surviving family members have to not only cope with the devastating loss and have to care for the funeral arrangements, the well-meaning visitors, and all of the associated details. Your legal adversaries and the insurance companies will be hounding you to handle the details, and they won’t wait because they don’t care about your loss. Let us represent you against the insurance companies and any legal adversaries so that you can focus on the arrangements and find time to grieve appropriately. Contact us immediately, and we’ll handle these issues for you.

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