Who Can Sue for Wrongful Death in North Carolina?
A wrongful death attorney can review your case and assess your rights if you lost a loved one in an accident. One of the most important considerations in any wrongful death claim is who can file a lawsuit.
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 the lawsuit is filed properly.
Whitley Law Firm can help if a member of your family died as a result of another party’s negligence. Call (919) 785-5000 today to speak to a wrongful death attorney. It won’t cost anything to see if we can help.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Many different people can be affected by the wrongful death of a single person. However, in North Carolina, there is only one person who can pursue a wrongful death action. The person who can file suit in North Carolina for a wrongful death case is the decedent’s personal representative, or, in other words, the person named as executor of the decedent’s estate or the person who was granted letters of administration if the decedent died without a will.
The North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts identifies the following individuals as “qualified” to serve as a personal representative. Letters of administration are granted by the courts 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”
What Does the Personal Representative Do?
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 is resolved successfully, the personal representative will also be responsible for ensuring that the proceeds of a settlement or jury award are 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.
Read More: Who Gets the Money in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in NC?
When Must a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Be Filed?
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 claims is 2 years from the date the decedent dies.
Personal representatives need to be keenly aware of this deadline. If a lawsuit is not filed within 2 years, the opportunity to recover compensation for wrongful death will be lost.
If you have been named the personal representative of a deceased loved one’s estate, it is important to consult a wrongful death attorney as soon as possible. This helps to ensure that your legal rights are fully protected, as well as allowing enough time for your claim to be investigated.
Do I Need a Wrongful Death Attorney?
Generally, it is in your best interest to have an experienced lawyer handle a wrongful death claim on your behalf. The loss of a loved one is a traumatic and stressful experience. 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 all of the available evidence, and discuss your legal options. It may be possible to obtain fair compensation without filing a lawsuit. However, if a settlement cannot be reached, your attorney can file the lawsuit on your behalf and take the matter to trial if necessary.
Contact a Wrongful Death Attorney Today
Losing someone you love is devastating. This is especially true if the loss occurred unexpectedly and as a result of the negligence or wrongdoing of another.
The Whitley Law Firm handles 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 the Whitley Law Firm for FREE today. Our wrongful death attorneys serve clients throughout North Carolina from offices in Raleigh, Kinston, and New Bern.