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Wrongful Death What It Is and What the North Carolina Law Says about It

Wrongful Death What It Is and What the North Carolina Law Says about It

The recent $4.5-million verdict in a wrongful death case of a young mother from Columbus, OH that went in the favor of the plaintiff has once again rammed home the power of truth and justice. The tragic case has been instructive in a number of ways.

But first, what is wrongful death?

Wrongful death refers to the death caused by someone’s deliberate or unintentional actions, in this case, the reckless driving of a truck driver who slammed into the Honda Accord of Nicole Thomas, leaving her dead on the spot due to severe injuries to her head and neck.

It could also be caused due to medical malpractice or an accident on business premises. Under the wrongful death law, the party representing the decedent is awarded compensation to somewhat make up for the loss suffered by the survivors, even though one can’t put a price on grief.

Here is what you need to know about where the law stands regarding wrongful death in NC.

Who can file a wrongful death claim?

A wrongful death lawsuit is a civil claim filed by a “personal representative” of the decedent in order to seek monetary compensation for their loss. This representative is the one who is in charge of managing the decedent’s estate. In case there is no one appointed by the deceased in charge of their estate, this role can be taken on by any of the family members or friends of the decedent.

You may need legal counsel in order to determine whom to appoint the decedent’s personal representative in order to file a claim.

In case there is no estate, the court may decide whom to appoint the representative.

When is the right time to file a claim?

As per North Carolina law, a wrongful death claim has to be filed within two years of the decedent’s passing away. Waiting longer than that may result in the court not entertaining your claim at all.

Fortunately in North Carolina, the law treats all negligence which caused a death as same, meaning there is no particular level of negligence that the accused has to be found engaging in in order to be considered at fault.

What can you sue for?

You can sue for wrongful death in North Carolina to claim any of the following damages:

• Medical expenses

The amount of money spent on looking after the victim prior to their death, their hospitalization, surgery, or any other costs arising out of their accident can be claimed for. So can be the pain and suffering of the decedent before their death and as a direct result of the accident.

• Funeral-related expenses

“Reasonable” expenses related to the funeral and burial of the deceased can be claimed.

• Income lost in wages

When an earning member of a family dies a “wrongful’ death, it’s fair to assume that his family suffers financially due to the lost wages. The personal representative of the decedent can sue to claim the income the decedent would have earned up to their retirement, and also for the financial hardships arising from it for the family.

• Emotional suffering

To have lost a companion, or for children to have lost their parent, is irreparable damage.

For the most part these damages are compensatory in nature, but they can also be punitive when the jury wants to set an example over someone’s negligent conduct. A verdict of $4.5 million in the dead Columbus woman’s case is certainly of the punitive kind. However, this does not mean that all those who meet such a sad fate have hefty amounts awarded to their survivors.


The death of a loved one can shatter lives, sometimes forever. The pain and grief may stay on, and little can make up for the loss of parental support, love, and advice suffered by young children. If you know anyone who has been through this tragedy lately, ask them to get in touch with a wrongful death attorney at our firm. We may be able to help them claim some of their peace of mind as well as win them their right dues.


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