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Wrongful Death Lawyers Serving North Carolina

Losing a loved one is always devastating, but when your family member passes away due to the negligence or reckless conduct of someone else, it is especially tragic. If your loved one died as the result of another party’s bad actions, our firm’s Raleigh wrongful death lawyers can help. Call an injury attorney in Raleigh today to learn more and discuss the first steps you should take.

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who can sue for wrongful death in North Carolina?

What Is a Wrongful Death Claim?

Wrongful death is defined under North Carolina Code § 28A-18-2 as a death caused by a wrongful act that, had the victim lived, he or she would have had a personal injury claim against the responsible party.

The purpose of a wrongful death action is not to simply seek compensation for the loss of your loved one’s life. No amount of monetary damages can make up for the loss you have suffered.

A wrongful death action can, however, hold the responsible party accountable, deter similar harmful conduct in the future, and obtain necessary funds to pay medical bills, funeral expenses, and help make up for lost wages and benefits provided by your deceased loved one.

Seeking justice for your loved one can help ease your grief during such a difficult time. One of our experienced wrongful death attorneys in Raleigh can examine the facts of your case and walk you through the process of deciding whether filing a wrongful death claim is the right course of action for your family. We have provided some answers to frequently asked questions about wrongful death.

Common Types of Wrongful Death Cases

Wrongful death claims can stem from almost any situation in which a person is killed due, at least in part, to someone else’s negligent or dangerous behavior. Companies, hospitals, employers and individual persons may all be held responsible for causing a person’s death.

Some of the most common types of wrongful death claims we handle include but are not limited to:

How Can a Raleigh Wrongful Death Lawyer Help?

Wrongful death cases can be quite complex, since they can involve criminal investigations, professional misconduct, government regulation violations, a history of negligent conduct and potentially numerous other victims.

To know when to file your case, you will likely need to consult a Raleigh wrongful death lawyer who has experience reviewing medical records, working with police investigators, interviewing and deposing witnesses, and dealing with both individual and class-action claims.

While no legal measures can bring back your loved one, our compassionate wrongful death attorneys can fight to get justice on his or her behalf. Consulting a personal injury attorney who handles wrongful death claims is the first step you can take toward holding the negligent party accountable.

Raleigh Wrongful Death FAQs

In North Carolina, wrongful death claims must be brought by the personal representative of the deceased’s estate. North Carolina General Statutes (N.C.G.S.) Chapter 28A, Article 1, Section 1 defines a personal representative as an executor or administrator.

An executor is someone named in a decedent’s will to administer the estate after his or her death. Usually (but not always), the executor is a family member. An administrator, meanwhile, is someone named by the probate court to handle the estate if the decedent died without a will; typically an heir can apply to be appointed as administrator to bring a wrongful death claim.

Damages for wrongful death are recoverable by the estate and distributed to heirs of the estate, which are typically surviving family members.

The statute of limitations for wrongful death claims is set by N.C.G.S. 1-53(4). If your loved one was killed by the negligence or wrongdoing of another, you have 2 years to bring a claim.

Under North Carolina law, the clock on your wrongful death claim doesn’t start ticking until the date your loved one passes away. This is important to keep in mind if your relative survived his or her injuries initially before tragically succumbing to them later.

You should contact a Raleigh wrongful death lawyer as soon as possible if your loved one died as a result of someone else’s negligence. Our attorneys will investigate promptly, thoroughly collect all relevant evidence, and file a wrongful death claim on your behalf before the statute of limitations expires.

The spouse of someone who dies due to negligence can sue for wrongful death provided he or she is the decedent’s personal representative.

Regardless of whether the surviving spouse is named as the personal representative, spouses are heirs of the estate. Therefore, the spouse is entitled to compensation should the wrongful death claim succeed.

An adult child can sue for the wrongful death of a parent if he or she is named the personal representative of the parent’s estate.

Minor children cannot bring wrongful death claims on their own. However, this does not mean they are not entitled to compensation. While only the personal representative can file suit, any biological or adopted children of the deceased (adults and minors) will be entitled to a share of the proceeds from a settlement or trial award.

The recovered amount is distributed to surviving family members after expenses of the estate and attorney fees. Distribution is governed according to the North Carolina Intestate Succession Act. Even if the decedent has a will that specifies a different allocation of assets, proceeds from a wrongful death lawsuit will be distributed as follows:

  • Surviving spouse: If the decedent had a spouse and no children at the time of death, the entirety of the settlement or award goes to the spouse.
  • Surviving spouse and children: If the decedent had a spouse and one child at the time of death, the spouse and the child are each entitled to half of the proceeds. If there is a spouse and two or more surviving children, the spouse receives one-third of the proceeds while the remaining two-thirds are divided among the children.
  • Surviving children and no spouse: Proceeds from the wrongful death claim are distributed among surviving children and the lineal descendants of any deceased children (i.e., grandchildren and so on of the deceased).

If the decedent did not have a spouse or children, the proceeds from the wrongful death claim are distributed among other family members. Depending on the circumstances, this may include parents, siblings, and others.

Proceeds from a wrongful death settlement or award are not treated as assets for the payment of debts. However, creditors can make claims for payment of burial expenses and the cost of medical care up to $4,500 (capped at 50% of the recovered amount after attorneys’ fees are deducted).

The following elements must be proved for a wrongful death claim to succeed:

  1. The defendant owed your loved one a duty of care. (A duty of care is a legal obligation to avoid harming someone else.)
  2. The defendant was negligent (i.e., the duty of care was breached).
  3. Your loved one was killed as a result of the defendant’s negligence.
  4. The wrongful death resulted in damages to which the plaintiff would have been entitled had he or she survived.

A Raleigh wrongful death attorney will collect evidence on your behalf to prove each of these elements. It is crucial to work with a law firm well-versed in handling wrongful death claims to maximize the likelihood of success in your case.

Meet the Whitley Law Firm team.

If you suspect that negligence was a factor in your loved one’s death, you should seek legal counsel as soon as possible. Anyone in the family can speak to a lawyer, but only the personal representative can actually bring the wrongful death claim. In some cases, it may be necessary for surviving relatives to talk among themselves and determine the best course of action.

Once you hire a wrongful death attorney, the following steps will typically take place:

  1. Your lawyer will investigate the incident that led to your loved one’s death to determine liability and causation.
  2. Damages are assessed.
  3. A claim is made against the defendant(s) and/or the insurer(s).
  4. Parties enter into settlement negotiations.
  5. If a settlement is reached, the personal representative supervises the distribution of the proceeds.

If a settlement cannot be reached, our wrongful death lawyers will file a lawsuit with the appropriate court. What comes next typically includes preparing for trial, resuming or continuing settlement negotiations, and (if necessary) presenting your case in court.

Many different parties may be at fault for the wrongful death of a loved one. This includes:

  • Motorists
  • Businesses and corporations
  • Property owners
  • Government entities
  • Medical professionals
  • And more

Usually, however, compensation for wrongful death is paid by one or more insurance companies for the defendant(s). Damages in a wrongful death claim can be substantial, potentially exceeding the available insurance coverage. It is important to account for all liable parties to ensure that you and your family can recover the maximum compensation you deserve.

The success of a wrongful death claim rests on multiple factors. These include:

  • The strength and availability of the evidence
  • The credibility of any witnesses to the incident that led to the wrongful death
  • Your ability to prove the nature and extent of the damages you and your family have suffered

Unfortunately, families also have to reckon with the likelihood that the defense will try to argue that the victim’s negligence was a factor in his or her death. North Carolina is one of only a few states still using a contributory negligence standard in personal injury and wrongful death claims.

If the other side can prove that the victim contributed in any way to the accident that resulted in their death, surviving family members may be barred from recovering compensation. This standard can make it extremely difficult for families to obtain compensation for wrongful death. However, it is not impossible to overcome the contributory negligence defense if you have an experienced and knowledgeable attorney on your side.

Client Review

By: Miriam S.

Title: Thank you so much!

I really would like to thank everyone at Whitley Law Firm for all their effort. I could not have chosen a more thorough and nicer people to work on my case. I am so pleased with the out come and truly grateful to all. Thank you so much!

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