How Long Do I Have to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in North Carolina?

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A lawyer and a client together at a desk, taking notes for a wrongful death case.Wrongful death claims are complex and challenging to understand because of all their nuances. Strong knowledge of the statutes and laws surrounding these cases, as well as how to investigate, collect evidence, negotiate with aggressive insurance adjusters, and so much more, is necessary in order to achieve a successful outcome from a wrongful death claim.

This is why having an experienced wrongful death attorney on your side is so important.

In North Carolina, you only have two years from the date of death to file your case. This may seem like a long time, but the amount of detail and preparation that goes into these cases takes time.

What Is the Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations in North Carolina

The statutes of limitations vary among different states. There may be differences in time limits as well as the exceptions and start times.

North Carolina has a specific deadline for filing a wrongful death claim. Attempting to file a claim after this date will result in your case being dismissed.

Specific Time Limit for Filing a Claim

A wrongful death claim must be filed within two years of the victim’s death in North Carolina. Your right to seek compensation for the death of your family member will be lost after two years.

The two-year timeframe begins from the date of the victim’s death. Your best option is to contact a knowledgeable wrongful death attorney as soon as possible to make sure that you are able to prepare your case in time to file before the deadline.

North Carolina law has specific guidelines for when the two-year time period begins. Without understanding and following these guidelines, your case may not be accepted.

Aside from a few exceptions, your case will not be allowed to proceed if filed after the deadline.

What Is a Wrongful Death Claim?

A wrongful death claim is a claim against a person who can be held liable for a death. When someone is believed to be responsible for the death of someone else, a wrongful death lawsuit may be filed against them.

In North Carolina, wrongful death claims can be thought of as personal injury claims for the deceased. The goal of these lawsuits is to get both justice and financial compensation for the family that lost their loved one.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?

The personal representative of the deceased person’s estate is the only person who may file a wrongful death claim according to North Carolina law. This person is usually a close family member, such as a spouse, child, or parent, and is typically named in the deceased’s will.

If the victim does not have a will or personal representative, the court will appoint one at the family’s request. The wrongful death claim is filed on behalf of the victim’s estate, and the damages awarded from these claims are meant to compensate their family for the loss they have suffered.

This compensation may include:

  • Funeral expenses
  • Medical expenses
  • Loss of income from the victim
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of a valued member of the family

Why Is There a Statute of Limitations on Legal Claims?

The statute of limitations ensures efficiency and fairness in resolving legal disputes. This fundamental concept in the legal system sets a time limit for the initiation of legal actions against someone who is believed to be at fault for the victim’s damages.

With a legal deadline in place, there is predictability and clarity for everyone involved. The statute also prevents the defendant from being perpetually threatened by possible legal action.

In North Carolina, the statute of limitations for a wrongful death claim is two years from the date of death. The amount of time varies between different states as well as different types of cases. This time can range from only a few months to several years.

The statute of limitations does not determine innocence or guilt. The purpose of the statute is to provide a reasonable amount of time for a victim to initiate legal action.

Having a statute of limitations in place is helpful for everyone involved in the legal matter. By encouraging prompt action towards the pursuit of compensation, long delays are prevented that may have further complicated the process.

Promoting efficiency in the legal system keeps cases flowing through smoothly so they can be resolved in a timely fashion instead of accumulating old cases.

As time passes, cases become stale, and the integrity of the evidence may start eroding. Memories fade, especially among witnesses, and physical evidence can deteriorate or become lost.

The statute of limitations preserves the strength of the case, so the issue is resolved while memories and facts are still fresh.

The statute of limitations also provides a sense of closure for the defendants as they no longer have the threat of a lawsuit weighing on them. The same closure applies to the plaintiffs as they are able to move on with their lives without having to consider whether they should take legal action.

Are There Any Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations in North Carolina?

There are certain circumstances that warrant exceptions to the statute of limitations. The most common exceptions are for cases involving minors, fraud, or when the injury itself could not have reasonably been discovered.

The statute of limitations may seem strict, but North Carolina law does allow exceptions for specific situations. The deadline specified in the applicable statute may be either suspended or extended.

Exceptions for Minors and Incapacitated Persons

The statute of limitations for a wrongful death claim in North Carolina does not begin until a minor turns 18. An incapacitated person is given the opportunity to regain their capacity before the statute applies in their case.

A North Carolina wrongful death attorney will have knowledge and experience with all the different circumstances that allow for exceptions to the statute of limitations. Your attorney will advise you as to when the statute of limitations begins and ends, given your unique situation.

Discovery Rule and Fraudulent Concealment

Another common exception to the statute of limitations in North Carolina is known as the discovery rule. In cases involving a wrongful death, this exception usually applies when the cause of someone’s death is not immediately discovered.

The statute of limitations would begin when the cause of death was discovered in these circumstances.

There are also situations where someone attempted to fraudulently conceal the death or the cause of death. In these cases, the statute of limitations would begin when the concealed was revealed.

Your lawyer will help in these situations by ensuring that your legal right to an extension is protected. The specific requirements for exceptions are a complex matter that your lawyer should have experience with to make sure your case is filed in a timely manner.

The time constraints of any legal matter must always be taken seriously. It is essential to have a clear understanding and awareness of the statute of limitations that applies to your case.

You must take action within the timeframe specified in the statute of limitations in order to pursue a claim for damages.

When Does the Two-Year Countdown Start?

In the majority of cases, the time limit begins counting down on the date of the victim’s death. Calculating the time limit becomes complicated during certain situations.

For example, if the victim’s death was originally considered accidental but was later determined to have been caused by the negligent actions of someone else, the two-year time limit should begin when the true cause of death was discovered.

The defense may argue that the statute of limitations has been exceeded, but an experienced wrongful death attorney will know how to protect your rights.

Consulting a wrongful death lawyer as soon as possible will limit the challenges that you may face throughout your pursuit of compensation. You will be able to relax knowing that your rights are protected and that your case is being handled efficiently and effectively.

What Are the Consequences for Missing the Statute of Limitations Deadline in North Carolina?

There are severe consequences for missing the deadline stated in the statute of limitations in North Carolina. You may have to face the dismissal of your case and the loss of any potential compensation.

The court will dismiss your wrongful death case as a consequence of exceeding the two-year time limit. You will not be able to file your case again, and your claim will not be heard by the court.

Any potential compensation will, therefore, be lost. Your losses, such as expenses from the funeral and medical bills, as well as pain and suffering from the loss of your family member, will not be compensated.

Consult a Knowledgeable North Carolina Wrongful Death Law Firm: Tatum & Atkinson The Heavy Hitters

The risk of losing your right to seek compensation for the wrongful death of your loved one is why contacting an experienced lawyer right away is so critical. Call (800) LAW-0804 as soon as possible for your free consultation.

We understand the difficult nature of your situation, and we will treat you with respect and compassion while also fighting aggressively to ensure your rights are protected. Contact Tatum & Atkinson: The Heavy Hitters right away to make sure your case is filed in time.