Wrongful deaths are usually unexpected, leaving family members in a whirlwind of grief, anger, and stress. Unfortunately, North Carolina's statute of limitations on a wrongful death claim is unforgiving. Here are some important things to keep in mind.
1. The Statute of Limitations on a Wrongful Death Claim Is Two Years.
Generally speaking, the executor or administrator of a decedent's estate has two years from the date of death to file suit. This is shorter than the typical three year statute of limitations that applies in other negligence suits.
2. In Order To File Suit, You Have To First Set Up An Estate.
In many cases, setting up an estate is a straight-forward process and will not take long. However, if the decedent has a Will that was written in another state, certain provisions of the Will may not be enforceable in North Carolina, and there may be problems that can slow down the process. Likewise, if there is no Will, no surviving spouse, and many children, a number of people will need to sign renunciation forms in order for an Estate administrator to be appointed.
For more information on setting up your loved one's estate, visit http://www.howardlawpllc.com/north-carolina-estate-administration-information/
3. It Takes Time To Obtain Medical Records.
If medical malpractice is the cause of the decedent's death, you will need to collect the decedent's medical records from the treatment that lead to the decedent's death. You will also need to obtain a copy of the decedent's autopsy report. (Find out how to request an autopsy report here: http://www.howardlawpllc.com/request-an-autopsy-report/)
Before a hospital will release these records to you, you will likely need to set up an Estate and have an Administrator or Executor appointed. The Administrator or Executor will need to sign a release authorizing the medical provider to release the records.
Once a medical record request is submitted, it can take several weeks to be processed.
4. Your Wrongful Death Claim May Require Expert Review.
In North Carolina, all medical malpractice claims, including wrongful death claims arising from medical negligence, need to be reviewed by a qualified medical expert before they can be filed. An experienced attorney will need to research and locate an appropriate expert, and then the expert will need time to review the medical records and form an opinion on whether the standard of care has been breached.
In addition, if you believe that a defective product or medical device was to blame for your loved one's death, your attorney will need time to research the product, determine whether other complaints have been made about the product, and consult with appropriate experts.
5. Don't Wait Until The Last Minute to Consult With An Attorney.
An experienced wrongful death attorney will simplify and ease the process for you. However, most law firms will not agree to take a wrongful death case on unless there is time for an adequate investigation to occur. So, if you wait until close to the expiration of the statute of limitations to contact an attorney, you may have trouble finding one.
For a free case consultation with an experienced wrongful death attorney, call 919-719-3908.