When faced with the tragedy of losing a loved one due to someone else’s actions, you might seek justice through a wrongful death lawsuit.
Understanding the NC wrongful death statute is crucial as it outlines the specifics of these lawsuits, such as which surviving family members can present a claim and what damages you can recover. In a wrongful death lawsuit, compensation addresses a mix of the surviving family’s losses and the deceased’s final damages.
The Wrongful Death Statute in NC Explained
The statute for wrongful death in NC provides legal recourse for families and loved ones of deceased individuals who’ve died due to another party’s recklessness or misconduct. The law primarily intends to compensate the estate and beneficiaries for their losses.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in NC?
Only the estate’s personal representative can file the lawsuit in North Carolina. This individual is often the executor or administrator of the deceased’s estate. The court typically appoints a personal representative if the deceased did not have a will or the named executor cannot serve. That means the probate court must open the estate before you can file a wrongful death lawsuit.
Although the personal representative or estate administrator is the only party authorized to file the lawsuit, it doesn’t mean they automatically receive NC wrongful death settlements. The deceased’s surviving family members, if any, are the typical beneficiaries in a lawsuit.
The deceased usually names a representative in their will. If they didn’t, the court will appoint a qualified person. Examples of potentially eligible individuals include:
- The surviving spouse,
- The deceased’s next of kin,
- Someone the deceased left assets to in the will,
- Someone who qualifies as a beneficiary under intestate laws if there is no will,
- Creditors who have outstanding debts, and
- Someone from the applicable county the court deems has “good character.”
Once the court appoints the individual, they can file a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of grieving family members.
Who Is Eligible to Receive Compensation Under the NC Wrongful Death Statute?
North Carolina follows intestate laws regarding wrongful death lawsuit settlements and awards. Proceeds in a wrongful death lawsuit can be distributed in the following order:
- The surviving spouse,
- The deceased’s children,
- Any grandchildren of the deceased,
- The deceased’s surviving parents, and
- The deceased’s siblings.
Rules regarding the distribution of proceeds in a wrongful death lawsuit can be complicated. Not all surviving family members are entitled to receive compensation. Speak with an experienced North Carolina wrongful death lawsuit to learn more about potential beneficiaries in your family’s case.
Damages Recoverable in a NC Wrongful Death Lawsuit
Wrongful death settlements aim to compensate for the losses incurred due to the victim’s death. Here are the typical damages you can recover:
- Medical and funeral expenses. These damages cover the costs related to medical treatments the deceased received due to the injury leading to death and funeral expenses.
- Lost income and benefits. This compensation deals with the deceased’s potential earnings and benefits they would have contributed to their family had they lived.
- Pain and suffering. This is compensation for the physical pain and emotional suffering the deceased consciously endured before their death.
- Loss of consortium, companionship, and guidance. This money compensates family members for the emotional pain and loss of the deceased’s relationship, presence, advice, and support.
- Net income to the estate. This loss relates to the income the deceased would have added to their estate if they had lived an average lifespan.
In cases where the wrongful act was particularly egregious or malicious, the court might award punitive damages. These damages aim to punish the offender and deter similar actions in the future.
Contact a North Carolina Wrongful Death Lawyer
Losing a loved one is a devastating experience that no family should endure. While no amount of money can replace the void left behind, the NC wrongful death statute provides a pathway for families to seek justice and some semblance of financial relief. If you’re considering pursuing a wrongful death lawsuit in North Carolina, contact the Law Offices of Naomi Ellis, PLLC.
We understand how traumatic losing a family member is and the desire not to deal with a complicated legal claim. Let us handle all the challenges of a wrongful death lawsuit in NC so you can grieve. We will ensure your family’s rights are protected and fight for the justice your family member deserves.