What Is The Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations in North Carolina?

North Carolina Wrongful Death StatuteIf a person passes away due to injuries sustained in an accident that was caused by someone else’s negligence, their family may have the right to bring what’s known as a wrongful death action.

No amount of money can replace the family member you lost, but it can at least help offset some of the expenses related to burial costs and the loss of support and companionship of the deceased.

Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations in North Carolina

The time limit for pursuing a wrongful death claim is strict in North Carolina. If you miss the deadline, or statute of limitations, your claim could be barred. This means you would receive no compensation and be prohibited from continuing to pursue a wrongful death claim.

The rules surrounding the statute of limitations can be confusing, which is why it’s important to have a North Carolina wrongful death attorney on your side who can handle the complexities of these types of claims.

An example would be someone who was injured by a defective product. Normally, someone has up to six years to file a lawsuit against the product manufacturer.

However, if someone dies five years after the accident, the estate is required to bring the wrongful death claim within a year of the day the person died and seven years from the date of the accident. If the deceased died at the scene, the estate only has two years from the date of the accident.

If that is not confusing enough, there may also be exceptions to the statute of limitations in some cases. One of these involves a minor child of a deceased parent. The statute of limitations may be tolled until the minor is 18 years old.  Other exceptions including a major illness that keeps someone from handling their own affairs if they are mentally incapacitated.

There are times where the statute of limitations is even ambiguous. Perhaps there was medical malpractice, but it was ongoing through long-term treatment, which makes it difficult to determine when the medical malpractice actually started.

Survival Action versus Wrongful Death

In addition to a wrongful death lawsuit, there is something called a survival action. The wrongful death claim is brought by immediate family members to recover some of the financial losses they endured when their family member died.

With a survival action, the estate steps into the shoes of the deceased. They can recover damages the deceased suffered before passing away. This can include loss of earnings, pain and suffering, and more.

Types of Damages Recoverable in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

North Carolina Statutes §12A-12-2 talks about the types of damages that can be recoverable in a wrongful death lawsuit. Some of these include:

  • Medical expenses that are related with the decedent’s injuries that led to his or her death;
  • Funeral and burial costs incurred on behalf of the decedent;
  • Compensation for the deceased’s pain and suffering;
  • Loss to the decedent’s family due to their loved one’s untimely death; and
  • Punitive damages in some instances.

The compensation for “loss to the decedent’s family” can include:

  • The amount of net income he or she would’ve earned;
  • The monetary value of the loss of protection, loss of services, and assistance the decedent would have provided; and
  • The value of the decedent’s companionship, advice, comfort, etc.

If there is an award for damages, the money is distributed based on the North Carolina Intestate Succession Act. This is the law that governs how an estate is divided up in cases where the person did not have a will.

Who Can Bring a North Carolina Wrongful Death Action?

North Carolina only allows wrongful death claims to be filed by the decedent’s personal representative. This will either be an administrator (the term used when someone dies without a valid will in place) or the Executor the decedent named in their will.

Determining Liability in a Wrongful Death Claim

In order to receive compensation in a wrongful death action, you have to establish negligence. Claims can result from a variety of scenarios, not just an automobile accident. Wrongful death claims can also arise from negligence on the part of a medical provider, resulting in medical malpractice, or the manufacturer of a defective product who knew or should have known its product was defective.

Proving liability can be a struggle in North Carolina since it follows the theory of negligence known as contributory negligence. Very few states still abide by this rule, and North Carolina is still one of them.

This horribly unfair law states that if you are even one percent at fault for your injuries, you are barred from recovering anything. In a wrongful death case, that could mean the family is left without any type of compensation to cover burial expenses, the loss of income, etc.

Contact a North Carolina Wrongful Death Attorney

If your loved one passed away, it’s important to speak with a North Carolina wrongful death attorney as soon as possible. At Dawson & Albritton, P.A. we have over a decade of experience handling wrongful death actions. Contact our office today at 252-752-2485 to schedule a consultation.

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