Wrongful death lawsuits in North Carolina exist so that families can hold others financially responsible for the death of a loved one. The law allows a lawsuit to be filed against a person whose wrongful or negligent actions resulted in the death of another person.
Who can file suit?
North Carolina law is clear that wrongful death lawsuits can only be brought by the legal representative of the dead person’s estate. This means that an official personal representative must be appointed to manage the person’s estate as part of a formal process. Simply naming someone as an executor in your will is not enough.
How is compensation distributed?
Though the personal representative files the suit, he or she is not necessarily the one who will receive any of the proceeds. The North Carolina Wrongful Death Statute says that any money recovered in a claim will first be paid back to the estate to reimburse any expenses that had been advanced. After that, attorney’s fees must be paid as well as burial expenses and reasonable medical bills not to exceed $4,500.
After that, the remainder of the money will be distributed to the recently deceased person’s beneficiaries in accordance with the North Carolina Intestate Succession Act. This means that in wrongful death lawsuits, damages are distributed as if the person had died without a will, even if in reality he or she had a will.
How does the Intestate Succession Act divide property?
North Carolina’s Intestate Succession Act can get confusing, so we won’t go into details about every possible scenario. If a person dies and leaves behind a spouse with no children or parents, the spouse receives the full amount of the wrongful death award. When children and parents are in the picture, the distribution differs depending on the numbers of beneficiaries involved. For example, if you die without a will and leave behind a spouse and two or more children, your spouse will take the first $60,000 in personal property plus one-third of the remainder. The remaining two-thirds will be divided equally among the children.
If you have questions about this or any other aspect of filing a North Carolina wrongful death lawsuit, don’t hesitate to contact our experienced attorneys who have handled other such difficult cases before.
Here's a YouTube video where one of our experienced attorneys discusses the wrongful death claims process: