The Role of a Personal Representative in a NC Wrongful Death Action
When families lose loved ones (decedents) due to negligent or wrongful acts, the common belief is that immediate family members have the right to pursue compensation in a wrongful death lawsuit. While family members may eventually receive compensation in this type of claim, these lawsuits are actually brought by a personal representative of the decedent. This is just one reason to retain Charlotte wrongful death lawyers who understand the complexities of these legal cases.
Personal Representatives Stand in for Decedents After Death
The North Carolina wrongful death statutes essentially base compensation decisions in part on the rights decedents would have if they had survived the act that caused their death. Since decedents cannot file their own claims, the law entrusts a personal representative to act as a sort of a stand-in for the decedent. In this role, the personal representative pursues the compensation. This individual can be can be a family member, a trusted friend or associate, or anyone designated in the decedent’s will.
Personal representatives in wrongful death cases are often the same individuals designated to handle estate issues on the part of the decedent. In fact, the law grants them the right to use assets from the estate to pay reasonable expenses (not including attorney fees) to pursue the wrongful death action.
What Personal Representatives Must Do in Wrongful Death Cases
In wrongful death cases, one of the main roles of personal representatives involves taking legal action to recover damages to the decedent prior to death, as well as damages after death. These include many items, such as the following:
- All medical care received
- Pain and suffering experienced by the victim
- Potential punitive damage, which would be most common in the event of a criminal act or even gross negligence
- Funeral expenses
- Losses associated with the death, including (but not limited to) the decedent’s income, services, companionship and guidance
Funds recovered in a wrongful death action are distributed by the same method that an Estate’s assets would be distributed if the deceased had no will. Even if the decedent in a wrongful death case had a will, funds are still distributed in the manner as designated by the law if the decedent did not have a will.
These are complicated tasks. They do not typically fall into the experience levels of most individuals. Considering that many personal representatives are also spouses or other family members who need time to deal with their grief, it is important that they obtain support from experienced legal counsel.
Compassionate Legal Support is Essential
Accepting the role of personal representative is a mixed blessing. On one hand, these people are honored to know that they have the full trust of another individual. On the other hand, they are called upon to meet important responsibilities during a time when they face their own overwhelming sense of loss. A compassionate wrongful death lawyer understands these conflicting feelings and knows how to guide personal representatives through a difficult process.