Losing a loved one is difficult enough, losing them due to the negligence of another person can be even worse. Wrongful death suits are taken when a person dies or is killed by another person’s actions and criminal action is either not taken or attempted. These cases are meant to ensure that the loved ones of the deceased are financially compensated.
How is “Wrongful Death” defined in South Carolina?
Wrongful death is defined by South Carolina Code of Laws section 15-51-10 as a death that has occurred by the “wrongful act, neglect, or default” of another person. For the death to be eligible for a wrongful death suit, the cause must have been one that would have been able to be filed as a personal injury claim had the individual survived. Also, these cases would by usual means be a criminal trial, but no criminal action was taken or attempted.
Basically a wrongful death suit is a personal injury case in which the person who would have been injured is unable to make a claim because they have died from those injuries. In these cases, the claim must be brought by another person.
Who Can File for a Wrongful Death in South Carolina?
In the state of South Carolina, the individual who is the executor or administrator of the victim’s estate will be responsible for bringing forth a claim of wrongful death. The executor is usually named in the deceased party’s will. If the individual named is unable or unwilling to serve as executor, the court can name a new executor or administrator.
The executor is not necessarily taking the claim to court for themselves, but instead acting on behalf of the deceased person. The individuals who are eligible to recover damages are:
- The spouse and children of the deceased;
- Parents of the deceased, if there is no spouse or children;
- In the event, there is no spouse, children, or parents, the court of the deceased will be eligible.
Parents are eligible to recover damages, even if their child was an adult at the time of death; however, if the parent abandoned the child before the age of eighteen, they will not be considered eligible, even if the child was an adult before the time of death.
What Damages Can One Receive from A South Carolina Wrongful Death Lawsuit
Monetary damage is the only way that liability is shown in the event of a wrongful death case. This is one thing that separates a wrongful death case from a normal criminal case. In the event of a criminal case, such as homicide, liability would be expressed by imprisonment, fines, or other penalties.
If damages are awarded in a wrongful death claim, they would include compensation for the following:
- Burial and funeral costs;
- Medical expenses and other costs in relation to the deceased individual’s illness or injury that led to their death;
- Any lost wages or benefits;
- Any financial losses or property damage related to the death;
- Loss of the individual’s experience, judgement, and knowledge due to their death;
- Pain, suffering, and mental anguish suffered by the surviving members of the family.
If the death was caused by intentional or reckless actions, the court might decide to include exemplary damages also. Exemplary damages are more commonly known as “punitive damages”. Damages that come from the wrongful death case are meant to reward the victim’s family with money to cover losses due to the death, but punitive damages an additional punishment on the individual who is responsible for the death.
What Time Limits Are Involved in a South Carolina Wrongful Death Cases
The claim for wrongful death must be filed within the legal time limit. This limit is known as the “statute of limitations”. An individual will have three years from the date that the deceased individual died, as to comply with South Carolina’s statute of limitations. Any claim presented after this point will not be heard in court. Therefore, it is important to find representation and make your claim as soon as possible.
How to Find an Attorney with Experience a Wrongful Death Claims
There are many lawyers who practice personal injury and accident law that have never dealt with a wrongful death case. One thing to find out is if the attorney has experience with wrongful death cases. If the attorney makes big promises about what they will win for you, you should immediately be cautious about proceeding with that lawyer. Wrongful death cases are usual long and difficult and it is hard to know the outcome. Make sure you are comfortable with the lawyer, because you will probably be spending a lot of time with them and their staff. Although this process is challenging, having an attorney with experience and compassion will help to make it seem a lot less painful.
Ask for referrals from friends, coworkers, or family members who have had dealt with similar issues. Use the internet to research the lawyer you choose. Search for blogs and forum pages that reference them and the individual’s experience with them. Know that a quality lawyer will fight for you and your loved ones.
As the loved one of the deceased, you are entitled to receive compensation for losses you have incurred from the death of your family member. Don’t waste any time looking for a skilled lawyer to help get your case filed and prepare you for court. Remember the statute of limitations in South Carolina is three years for a wrongful death claim. You do not want to miss this window and cost yourself and loved ones more than they have already lost. Contact our dedicated wrongful death attorneys in Greenville today. We can help you with your claim!
Dan Pruitt is a Personal Injury Attorney who practices in Greenville, SC. He graduated from University of Georgia, and has been practicing law for 25 years. Dan Pruitt believes in fighting for the injured. Learn more about his experience by clicking here.