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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Surviving Spouses’ Rights in North Carolina Wrongful Death

When a married person dies as a result of the carelessness of others (called a “wrongful death,”), the surviving spouse should be aware of his or her legal options.

The family of a person who dies a “wrongful death” has a right to recover damages from the responsible parties, whether an individual or a company. Under the NC Wrongful Death Statute, the family may recover compensation for such things as

  • The medical bills related to the death
  • The funeral expenses
  • The pain and suffering of the decedent at leading to his death
  • The value of the decedent’s lifetime net income
  • The value of the services the decedent would have provided to his family
  • Loss of companionship, comfort, guidance and advice of the decedent
  • Punitive damages where the cause of death warrants it (e.g., drunk driver).

North Carolina also has a statute that sets forth guidelines for the allocation of recovered damages between spouses and other family members in a wrongful death claim. Following payment of attorney fees and expenses, funeral expenses, and medical expenses up to $4,500.00, any remaining recovery proceeds must be disbursed between a spouse and other family members as follows:

  • Where there are no children or surviving parents, the spouse is entitled to all net proceeds;
  • Where there is one child, the spouse is entitled to the first $60,000 and the remainder is divided equally between the spouse and the child;
  • When there are two or more children, the spouse is entitled to the first $60,000 and one third of the remaining compensation. The children would then divide the remaining two thirds equally among them.
  • Where there are no children, but the deceased parents are alive, then the spouse is entitled to the first $100,000 and one half the remainder. The other half would be disbursed to the decedent’s surviving parents.

If a married couple was in the middle of a separation or divorce at the time of the wrongful death, it can substantially impact the amount of damages that might be recoverable. Clients and attorneys should also work together to minimize the effect of problems in the marriage on the settlement value of a wrongful death claim, including the decision whether to have a different family member pursue the claim on behalf of the family.

If someone else is responsible for the death of your loved one, it’s time to take action by contacting Hefferon & Hefferon P.A. We are highly experienced in wrongful death claims and litigation, and will make sure not only that every detail is covered, but that you thoroughly understand what is happening as it happens in the case. Call Hefferon & Hefferon, PA. Today.

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