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North Carolina Wrongful Death Laws

When someone dies because of another person's actions, it's usually a crime. But, even if it doesn't rise to the level of a crime -- or it does, but the person is acquitted -- the person who caused the death can still be held responsible under civil laws. There are a variety of circumstances that can lead to a wrongful death lawsuit. Some examples include: car or plane accidents, criminal behavior, and exposure to hazardous conditions at work. Medical malpractice can also lead to a wrongful death case; however, many states have separate statutes that address injuries - including death - that result from medical malpractice.

Under North Carolina laws, a wrongful death lawsuit can be filed whenever a person dies because of the wrongful act or neglect of another person or corporation that would have allowed the decedent to file a personal injury lawsuit had they lived. The personal representative of the decedent is the person who files a wrongful death claim against the responsible party and can use the estate's assets to pay for reasonable and necessary litigation expenses (not including attorneys' fees).

North Carolina Wrongful Death Laws: An Overview

When conducting legal research, it's important to read the primary source of information, which is normally the actual text of the statute that applies to your situation. But, it's also helpful to read an overview of the law. In the following table, you can find a brief overview of wrongful death law in North Carolina as well as links to applicable statutes.


North Carolina General Statutes, Chapter 28A, Section 28A-18-2 (Death by Wrongful Act of Another)

Statute of Limitations

The statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death lawsuit is two years from the date of the decedent's death.

Recoverable Damages

The following are damages that a person can recover in a wrongful death lawsuit:

  • Expenses for hospital stays, medical care, and treatment;
  • Compensation for the pain and suffering of the decedent;
  • Reasonable funeral expenses;
  • The present monetary value of the decedent*;
  • Punitive damages the decedent would have recovered had they survived; and/or
  • Nominal damages (when the jury finds it appropriate).

*"Present monetary value" includes compensation for the loss of the reasonably expected:

  • Net income of the decedent;
  • Protection, care, assistance, and services provided by the decedent; and
  • Companionship, comfort, guidance, and advice provided by the decedent.

Related Statute(s)

North Carolina General Statutes, Chapter 1. Civil Procedure

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

North Carolina Wrongful Death Laws: Related Resources

If you'd like additional information and resources related to this topic, please visit the links provided below.

Get Legal Help with Your Wrongful Death Claim in North Carolina

Although it can't bring a loved one back, getting acknowledgment that someone else was responsible for their death can help in the grieving process and in the financial rebuilding that takes place. To learn more about North Carolina wrongful death laws, speak with a skilled personal injury attorney near you today.

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