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Shapiro & Appleton

What Are Non-Economic Damages In A North Carolina Wrongful Death Case?

Sadly, following a terrible accident many families must endure the pain of not only heartbreak, but of financial loss. Between hospital bills, funeral expenses and the loss of an income, a sudden death can inflict major financial hardships on North Carolina families, making it difficult to go through the grieving process. However, in cases where the loved one’s death was caused by another person’s negligence or wrongful actions, it is possible to receive financial compensation from the responsible party.

In North Carolina, damages in a wrongful death case are divided into two large categories: economic and non-economic. Economic damages include specific and identifiable expenses, things like hospital bills, funeral expenses and loss of income. Non-economic damages include more intangible things, such as pain and suffering, loss of companionship and emotional distress.

Non-economic damages

Oftentimes economic damages are easier to identify and show to a judge or jury than non-economic losses. That’s because economic damages usually come with bills or invoices. In the case of non-economic loss, emotional distress and pain and suffering are much more difficult to quantify. It can be tricky for juries to assign value to these claims, meaning it’s important to hire an experienced North Carolina wrongful death attorney who understands how best to present your case for non-economic loss.

Cap on damages

Unfortunately, North Carolina law has set a $500,000 cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases. This means that the total amount of non-economic damages awarded to any plaintiff against all defendants is limited to $500,000. North Carolina General Statutes Section 90-21.19 says that after 2014 this limit will rise every three years based on changes in the consumer price index, ensuring that the limit keeps pace with inflation.

Though the cap on damages is currently in place, many have raised questions about the constitutionality of the limit, leading to court challenges. Other states have recently found such limits illegal, whether North Carolina’s judiciary will do the same remains to be seen. 

Here's a YouTube video where one of our attorneys discusses the wrongful death claims process:

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