If you’re reading this article, it probably means you lost a loved one in an accident in North Carolina. First and foremost, we are very sorry for your loss and wish you did not have to undertake the hassle of taking legal action against the at-fault party. Our experienced NC personal injury attorneys are here to help and will try to take some of the burden off your shoulders if you decide to be represented by our North Carolina wrongful death law firm. Let’s begin…
The Wrongful Death Claims Process
A wrongful death lawsuit filed in a North Carolina court must be brought by a personal representative of the victim. The personal representative can be the executor of the victim’s estate. If the person killed by negligence of a third party had a will, there will likely be a provision indicating who the executor shall be.
If the victim of an accidental death did not have a will, or fails to name an executor in the will, then any family member who is a beneficiary can qualify as the personal representative. If no family member comes forward then a non-family member can qualify.
Who Can Be the Personal Representatives in a North Carolina Wrongful Death Suit?
If the victim of the wrongful conduct appointed an executor or administrator in their will, then that person is automatically considered the personal representative. If the victim did not leave a written will, the court has the power to appoint a personal representative. Usually, the personal representative is a close friend or relative of the surviving family members who would be beneficiaries in a wrongful death suit.
What is the Role of the Personal Representative?
According to North Carolina statute § 28A-13-3(a)(23):
The personal representative has the responsibility of distributing the proceeds of any wrongful death settlement or jury verdict and must “take into consideration and to make a fair allocation to those claimants for funeral, burial, hospital and medical expenses which would have been payable from damages which might have been recovered had a wrongful death action gone to judgment in favor of the plaintiff.”
What if the victim was a minor?
If the victim was younger than 18 years of age, the administration will be granted first to the custodial parent. If no parent applies within thirty days, then the process described above for adult victims is used to determine a personal representative.
Types of Damages You May Be Able to Pursue
Beneficiaries of the victim can pursue the following types of damages in a North Carolina wrongful death case:
- Reasonably expected loss of income from the victim
- Reasonably expected loss of services, protection, care, and assistance the decedent provided to his or her beneficiaries (i.e. spouse, children, parents, etc.)
- Medical expenses
- Reasonable funeral expenses
- Intangible costs such a sorrow, mental anguish, and loss of solace
Establishing Negligence – A Key to Virtually Any Wrongful Death Case
To obtain the damages mentioned above through a North Carolina wrongful death case, we must prove negligence on the part of the at-fault individual or company.
Negligence is defined as the "failure to use ordinary care." Basically, this means that the at-fault person or company acted in a way that was different from the way an ordinary person or company would act. It also means that the at-fault person or company failed to act when they had a responsibility to do so, and their lack of action caused the death of your loved one.
A common example is when a loved one was killed in a serious car crash. In order to establish negligence, we may need to show that the at-fault driver failed to follow established rules of the road such as speeding, texting while driving, running a red light or stop sign, or veering into oncoming traffic.
North Carolina wrongful death suits also involve negligent conduct related to faulty products, industrial accidents, railroads, medical malpractice, electrocution, boats/jet skis, unsafe premises and dangerous drugs/medical devices.