How Is Wrongful Death Defined In NC?

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Any death feels tragic, but unfortunately, some deaths didn’t need to happen because of neglect, a crime, or oversight.

In North Carolina, if someone dies because of another person or entity’s legal fault and wrongdoing — regardless of its intentional or unintentional action — the executor of the deceased’s estate may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit for compensation.

How is Wrongful Death Defined in NC?

In North Carolina, the law defines wrongful death as caused “by a wrongful act, neglect, or default of another” person or entity.

The actions that can be considered causing a wrongful death are similar to what a person could file a personal injury lawsuit for if they had survived and only been injured.

Some wrongful death actions include:

  • A negligence-based incident (such as a car accident or airplane accident)
  • Death by occupational hazard,
  • Medical malpractice, or
  • An intentional act, such as a crime.

If the plaintiff wins in a wrongful death case, the defendant must pay damages to the deceased person’s survivors or estate.

In the case of murder or vehicular homicide, in a criminal court, the defendant must be proved guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt,” which is a very high bar. However, in a civil lawsuit, the defendant’s liability must be shown only “by a preponderance of the evidence,” which means they more than likely contributed to the death, which is easier to prove in most cases.

Who Can File A Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

North Carolina law states that only the personal representative of the deceased person’s estate, also known as the executor, can file a wrongful death case in court. If the person who died had a will, they likely named an executor there, but if there is no executor, the court will appoint a person to oversee the estate. Usually, this person will be a surviving spouse, parent, adult child, or adult sibling.

What Should I Do If I Think My Loved One Died As A Result Of A Wrongful Death?

If you think your loved one died due to a wrongful or negligent act, call Hyland, Padilla, & Fowler. Wrongful death cases have a statute of limitations of two years, so you must act quickly.

We offer free consultations to clients because we believe that you and your family deserve the best representation to seek damages from your loved one’s death during this trying time. We have vast experience navigating the legal system in North Carolina and working on wrongful death cases to help families get through trying times.

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