What damages can I claim in a wrongful death lawsuit in NC?

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The Charlotte Observer recently investigated the deaths of several jail inmates in North Carolina whose medical conditions had been neglected by the jail health services, and whose families had brought wrongful death lawsuits. A number of deaths in three NC counties all occurred in jails served by the same health care provider, which was the target of several jail death lawsuits over the past ten years.


When do you have grounds for bringing a wrongful death lawsuit in North Carolina? North Carolina Statutes section 28A-18-2 defines a wrongful death as one caused “by a wrongful act, neglect, or default of another.” A wrongful death lawsuit is similar to a personal injury case in which the injured person isn’t available to bring his or her own claim. Such a claim is a civil case, which means it must be filed by the personal representative—usually a surviving spouse, parent, or adult child of the deceased person directly, or a representative appointed by a court. In such cases, liability is expressed solely in terms of money damages. In the words of the stepsister of one of the jail death victims, “Money doesn’t bring justice to what happened to him, and why it happened.” Financial damages are only symbols of righting a wrong.


Losses that can be pursued for damages in North Carolina wrongful death cases can include, according to nolo.com:

  • Medical expenses, including hospitalization, surgery, pharmacy, and rehabilitation or hospice care for the deceased person resulting from the final injury or illness
  • Pain and suffering the deceased endured before death
  • Reasonable funeral and burial expenses
  • Lost income
  • Loss of the deceased person’s services, protection, care, and assistance, and
  • Loss of society, companionship, comfort, guidance, and advice.


Punitive damages may also be awarded in some North Carolina wrongful death cases for the purpose of punishing the defendant’s conduct that caused the death, particularly when the defendant’s actions were due “malice or willful or wanton conduct.”


Plaintiffs should note that damages awarded in North Carolina wrongful death cases are applied first to reimbursing the estate for the cost of pursuing the legal action, then attorney’s fees and costs, and funeral, burial, and medical bills. The beneficiaries of the estate receive the remaining amounts.


Richard Manger, principal of Manger Law Firm, has extensive experience in litigation and settlements, with a focus on personal injury and workers’ compensation law. We are proud of the strong relationships of loyalty and trust we develop with our clients. We go above and beyond to achieve the best possible outcome in your case. You can contact Richard Manger via email at ram@mangerlaw.com, or by calling (336) 882-2000.

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