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Guide to Wrongful Death Claims in North Carolina


In this blog, we’ll explore critical sections of North Carolina law related to wrongful death lawsuits. Keep reading to learn about wrongful death claims: what they are, who can sue, and what damages are recoverable.

What Is Wrongful Death Defined As?

North Carolina Statutes section 28A-18-2 defines wrongful death as “a wrongful act, neglect, or default of another.” When wrongful death occurs, the person who represents the deceased’s estate may file a civil claim seeking damages. North Carolina law also specifies that a wrongful death claim may be brought to court, even if the actions that caused the death meet one or more of North Carolina’s legal definitions of a felony.

There are a wide variety of circumstances that can lead to a wrongful death lawsuit, including a car or plane accident, criminal behavior, and being exposed to hazardous conditions at work. Medical malpractice may also lead to a wrongful death suit. However, many states have separate statutes that address injuries and death resulting from medical malpractice.

Statute of Limitations

North Carolina’s statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death lawsuit is two years from the date of the decedent’s death. If the claim is not filed within this period, the court will possibly refuse to hear it altogether.

Since the running of the statute of limitations can be affected by individual-specific facts or events, it is crucial to speak to a wrongful death attorney to determine exactly how the statute of limitations applies to your particular case.

How to Prove Wrongful Death in North Carolina

In a wrongful death claim, the plaintiff will need to prove two things to receive damages. These are:

  1. Prove that the other party is the cause-in-fact of the victim’s demise

Here, the plaintiff must provide adequate evidence that the defendant is liable for the victim’s death.

  1. Prove proximate cause

The second requirement for a wrongful death lawsuit focuses on establishing proximate cause. The plaintiff must prove that the victim’s death was a foreseeable result of the negligent party’s (defendant) action. Thus, the defendant should be held responsible.

Recoverable Damages

Damages in a North Carolina wrongful death suit can be pursued for several losses. These include:

  • Medical expenses: hospitalization, surgery, pharmacy, and rehabilitation or hospice care resulting from the final injury or illness
  • Pain and suffering before death
  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Lost income
  • Loss of the deceased person’s services, care, protection and assistance

Additionally, punitive damages may be awarded in some North Carolina wrongful death suits. Unlike other damages, punitive damages are used to “send a message” and to punish the conduct that caused the death when a defendant’s actions were the result of malice or willful conduct.

In Your Time of Need, Daggett Shuler Can Help.

Although filing a wrongful death claim can’t bring a loved one back, acknowledging that someone else was responsible for their death can help in the mourning process and rebuilding financially.

To learn more about North Carolina’s wrongful death laws, speak with a skilled personal injury attorney at Daggett Shuler today. Our attorneys will work hard to make sure you get the wrongful death benefits you need to take care of your family, children, and loved ones.

Call us at 336-724-1234 or click here for a FREE case evaluation today.

You Can Depend on Daggett Shuler.


I would like to take time to thank the staff at Daggett Shuler Attorneys at Law. To Megan Youngblood for helping me get my disability started; thank you so much for everything!

Olivia Winston