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Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

According to G.S. § 28A-18-2, a personal representative of the decedent’s estate can file a wrongful death lawsuit. They do so for the benefit of other parties, such as the decedent’s spouse, parents, and children. Usually, the decedent’s will names a representative. If not, however, the court will assign one.

North Carolina has established specific rules for who can initiate legal proceedings in a wrongful death case. It is crucial to abide by these rules to ensure that a lawsuit gets filed properly. Whitley Law Firm can help if a member of your family passed away as a result of another party’s negligence. Call (919) 785-5000 today to begin your free case review.

Who Is the Personal Representative in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

One person’s death can affect many people. However, in North Carolina, there is only one person who can pursue a wrongful death action.

The North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts identifies the following individuals as “qualified” to serve as a personal representative. The courts may grant letters of administration to qualified persons, in the following order:

  • The surviving spouse
  • Anyone who is left property in the decedent’s will
  • Anyone entitled to property under North Carolina’s law of intestate succession
  • Surviving next of kin
  • A creditor “to whom the decedent became obligated prior to death”
  • “Any person of good character residing in the county”

You could be your loved one’s personal representative without even knowing it. If so, a lawyer can evaluate your situation and explain whether you can pursue legal action.

What Are the Personal Representative’s Responsibilities in a Wrongful Death Case?

The personal representative effectively takes the place of the plaintiff in a wrongful death action. The responsibilities of a personal representative in a wrongful death matter include choosing the attorney to handle the case, determining when it is time to file a lawsuit, reviewing potential settlement offers, and more.

If the case resolves successfully, the personal representative must also ensure that the proceeds of a settlement or judgment get distributed properly. It is important to note that the personal representative is not entitled to the recovery from the wrongful death claim; that money is for the heirs of the decedent. Of course, if the representative is also an heir, they can receive funds.

Recoverable Damages in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

If you are representing a loved one’s estate, please accept our sympathies for your loss. It may be difficult to think about pursuing compensation, as money is a poor substitute for your loved one’s life. Yet, financial recovery can benefit the decedent’s estate and make certain obligations more manageable.

Our wrongful death attorneys will work with you to identify economic and non-economic damages appropriate for compensation. They may include:

  • Accrued medical expenses associated with treatment prior to death, such as hospital stays, surgery, and ambulance costs
  • Funeral and burial or cremation costs
  • Pain and suffering leading up to the death
  • Loss of immediate income and future earnings
  • Unexpected expenses due to the decedent’s absence, such as childcare, transportation, and household services
  • Loss of relationship and guidance
  • Loss of consortium

You could also pursue the cost of anything you spent out of pocket. For instance, if you had to take an expensive flight to visit your loved one before their passing, we could possibly include those costs in your case’s value.

The Statute of Limitations to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Like all civil matters, wrongful death lawsuits are subject to a time limit known as the statute of limitations. In North Carolina, the statute of limitations for wrongful death lawsuits is generally two years from the date of the decedent’s death.

Personal representatives need to be keenly aware of this deadline. If a lawsuit is not filed within two years, they could lose the right to seek damages through the court system.

If you were named the personal representative of a deceased loved one’s estate, it is important to consider partnering with a wrongful death attorney. They can protect your legal rights and, with proper notice, ensure your case gets filed within the appropriate period.

What Does a Wrongful Death Attorney Do?

Losing a loved one is never easy. For personal representatives, the stress is magnified by the challenges of managing the estate.

A wrongful death attorney can determine if you have a viable claim, collect the available evidence, and discuss your legal options. Most wrongful death cases settle through claims, so you might not have to file a lawsuit. However, if a lawsuit becomes necessary, your lawyer can handle those many obligations.

A Lawyer Can Prove Liability for Your Loved One’s Passing

In North Carolina, an individual or entity may face a wrongful death lawsuit in civil court while also facing criminal charges for the death. The two cases would be separate.

In a civil wrongful death case, our attorneys gather evidence to show how another party’s negligence led to your loved one’s death. Using medical records, eyewitness statements, and the accident report, we can establish:

  • Another party had a duty of care to prevent injuries from befalling others.
  • They violated this duty of care through their actions or omissions.
  • The negligent party caused your loved one’s passing.
  • You have damages resulting from the wrongful death.

Proving your case’s required elements sounds daunting, but it’s no problem for our wrongful death team. Our lawyers have more than 80 years of combined legal experience handling these matters. We look forward to managing your case and everything that comes with it.

What to Know About the Wrongful Death Team at Whitley Law Firm

Our founder, Attorney Bob E. Whitley, established his firm in 1974. For nearly 50 years, we’ve helped injured clients and grieving families recover damages.

We offer the Whitley Advantage to everyone who comes through our doors. This means that we serve you with compassion and care, by listening––really listening–– to your needs. We handle your case as though it involves one of our own family members.

When you entrust us with your case, our team offers:

  • Bilingual service
  • Appointments based on your needs, not ours
  • Response to phone calls and emails within 24 hours
  • Your attorney’s phone number and email address
  • Attorneys and dedicated staff who work for you, not the other way around
  • A team that fights for justice and won’t settle without fighting for every dime you deserve

We’re Proud of the Outcomes We’ve Secured for Wrongful Death Clients

To some people, our case results are just a collection of dollar values and nothing more. To us, however, they represent the blood, sweat, and tears we pour into each case. We go above and beyond to secure fair compensation for everyone we meet.

Our wrongful death attorneys recently handled a case representing the families of four teenagers killed in a devastating apartment fire. Through an investigation, we found that a dangerous condition in the apartment led to the fire. With our help, those families recovered $10 million for their losses.

Our other wrongful death case outcomes include:

  • Our client’s loved one was driving down a country road when a commercial truck collided with his car. We recovered a $3 million settlement for his family.
  • A 23-year-old man was rear-ended by a tractor-trailer truck, resulting in fatal injuries. We secured $1.4 million for his surviving beneficiaries.
  • Our client came to us after losing a loved one in an avoidable duplex fire. We found that the landlord failed to install smoke alarms. We secured $1 million through mediation.

These are just some of our successful case results. While we can’t promise a similar outcome to your case, we can promise this: we will do everything in our reach to secure a fair settlement.

How Much Does It Cost to Hire Our Wrongful Death Lawyers?

We offer each client a free case evaluation. During this conversation, we learn about their accident, injuries, and legal goals. If working together feels right for everyone, we move forward on a contingency-fee basis. We do not accept attorney’s fees unless we recover compensation for your losses. You don’t have to take a second job, dip into your savings, or make other sacrifices to afford legal help. We make getting a lawyer’s guidance straightforward.

Begin Your Free Wrongful Death Case Consultation Today

Losing someone you love is devastating. Matters only get more complicated if another party’s negligence played a role. Yet, in a time like this, you have more than legal options; you have Whitley Law Firm on your side.

We handle each case with whole-hearted care. We take the time to get to know you, your family, and the specifics of your situation. Then, we explore all of your legal options and fight for maximum compensation on your behalf.

It won’t cost anything to see if we can help. Contact Whitley Law Firm at (919) 785-5000. We can discuss who can file a wrongful death lawsuit and your options for doing so. Our firm represents grieving families throughout North Carolina.