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Who Has the Right to Sue for Wrongful Death in NC?

The unexpected death of a loved one may be a confusing and difficult time for the entire family. In the midst of all this, it can be very easy to overlook the financial realities that the loss of a loved one can bring. Even for those who were not directly dependent upon the deceased for support, funeral and medical expenses can be a burden. Moreover, the emotional toll of such an unexpected loss can be devastating. 

When the negligence of another person or entity results in a fatal accident or incident in North Carolina, the personal representative of the deceased is entitled to file a lawsuit on behalf of the estate of the deceased and his or her legal heirs. A personal representative is appointed by the court to act as a fiduciary representative of a deceased person and manage his or her affairs. This person is usually designated in the deceased’s will, but may also be drawn from his or her relatives in accordance with state law. Once resolved, the proceeds of the suit issue as follows: 

  • Repayment of estate expenses incurred through the lawsuit
  • Payment of attorney fees
  • Payment of burial expenses and up to $4,500 in medical expenses incurred as a result of the incident that lead to death 

The remainder is distributed to survivors in accord with North Carolina’s intestacy rules. This means that a surviving spouse receives the entire amount unless there are also surviving children or parents of the deceased. If there are surviving parents or children, they may also be entitled to a share depending on the amount recovered and other circumstances. Without professional guidance, it can be difficult for families to handle these complex matters — especially when emotions are running high after a death. An experienced wrongful death attorney can help families resolve these issues and obtain justice for the loss of a loved one.