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How North Carolina determines damages in wrongful death cases

When a loved one dies in an accident because of the negligence of another person, surviving family members often choose to file a lawsuit to seek compensation from the party determined to have been negligent. Under North Carolina's laws, the action must be brought within two years of the date of death.

Compensation or damages for wrongful deaths are awarded by courts on the basis of certain criteria as mentioned in state statutes. The compensation can be provided for medical costs in treating the person from the time of the alleged negligent incident or event until the person died. Loved ones can also seek damages for the loved one's pain and suffering before death. They can seek reasonable compensation for the costs incurred in all funeral arrangements and ceremonies.

Compensation can also include the calculated monetary value of the person who died based on income at the time of death, loss of companionship to survivors and the value of the services, care and assistance the deceased provided to survivors. Additional damages can be awarded if a jury finds that such an award is justified.

If and when survivors are successful and receive compensation or damages, the money is usually first be used to settle all legal expenses incurred in bringing the wrongful death action, including attorney fees. In addition, the compensation amount cannot be used to settle debts before the following are paid first: expenses incurred in arranging and paying for the loved one's medical treatment before death and the costs of the person's funeral. Once those expenses have been paid, the compensation must be distributed per North Carolina's laws among the survivors of the accident victim.

Source:, "§ 28A-18-2 Death by wrongful act of another; recovery not assets," Accessed on Jan. 29, 2015

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