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South Carolina Wrongful Death Attorney
There are few things more tragic than losing a loved one in an accident. If their death was caused by another person, it can be even more difficult to come to grips with what happened. In some cases, you may be able to achieve a measure of justice through a wrongful death lawsuit.
If a family member died because of the negligent, reckless, or intentional actions of another person, you can file a wrongful death lawsuit against the at-fault party. Through this special type of personal injury claim, you can recover financial compensation for your losses, including funeral and burial expenses, loss of companionship, and loss of parental guidance and support. Generally, surviving spouses, children, and other close family members may be able to file a South Carolina wrongful death lawsuit.
At Derrick Law Office, we represent injury victims and their loved ones in a range of personal injury matters. For each case, our goal is to help our clients recover maximum compensation as quickly as possible. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation with a South Carolina wrongful death lawyer, give our law firm a call.
When Can a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Be Filed?
An individual can file a wrongful death lawsuit when their loved one dies as a result of a negligent, intentional, or reckless act. Generally, if the person who died (decedent) could have filed their own personal injury lawsuit against the wrongdoer if they had lived, then their close family members can bring a wrongful death for the same act or omission.
Wrongful death lawsuits can arise from any number of incidents. This may include:
Motor vehicle accidents are a frequent basis for wrongful death lawsuits. Sadly, fatal car accidents happen far too often in South Carolina. In 2020 alone, 1,066 people died in traffic accidents, including 187 pedestrians and 16 bicyclists.
Most wrongful death lawsuits are based on a theory of negligence, or carelessness. A person is considered negligent when they fail to use the level of care that a reasonable person would use in a similar situation. Speeding, failure to yield, and not fixing a known hazard on your property are all examples of negligence.
In some cases, wrongful death lawsuits center around intentional or reckless conduct. For example, if a nursing home worker subjects a patient to physical abuse or withholds necessary medicine, that is an intentional act. Drunk driving accidents are considered reckless.
No matter what legal theory is used, you will have to prove that the death occurred and that another person caused the death. You will also have to demonstrate that you suffered financial losses as a result of the wrongful death.
It can be difficult to know whether you have a valid wrongful death claim, particularly when you are grieving the loss of your loved one. An experienced South Carolina wrongful death attorney can explain your rights during a free initial consultation, and help you decide how you want to proceed.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in South Carolina?
There are some limits on a person’s ability to file a wrongful death lawsuit. South Carolina law requires these claims to be filed by the administrator or executor of the decedent’s estate. If the person died with a will, then an administrator or executor will probably have been named. Otherwise, a court will appoint an administrator or executor.
A wrongful death lawsuit is filed on behalf of the decedent’s surviving family. This may include the surviving spouse, children, any surviving parents or siblings, and/or heirs named in the will. Typically, the surviving spouse and children have the primary claim in a wrongful death action. If the decedent did not have a spouse or children, then parents and more distantly related individuals may proceed with the action.
If you have any questions about your ability to file a wrongful death lawsuit, you should reach out to a South Carolina wrongful death attorney. There is a strict time limitation – known as the statute of limitations – for these types of claims. Consulting with a lawyer early in the process can help you understand your rights.
Compensation in a South Carolina Wrongful Death Claim
In any personal injury claim, the victim (plaintiff) may be able to recover financial compensation (known as damages). In a wrongful death claim, the damages are slightly different than in a typical personal injury case where the victim is bringing the suit on their own behalf.
Depending on the facts of your claim, you may be able to recover compensation for a range of losses, including:
- Medical costs
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Loss of financial contribution and benefits from the decedent
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of prospective inheritance
- Loss of support services
- Loss of guardianship and parental guidance
- Loss of companionship
For example, if a young father dies in a car accident, his surviving spouse and children may be able to recover compensation for the money that he would have earned if he had lived, the support that he would have provided, and other losses. While financial compensation won’t make their family whole again, it can help to provide financial stability while the family grieves.
The losses described above are considered compensatory damages because they compensate victims for their tangible and intangible losses. In most cases, a wrongful death case will only result in compensatory damages. However, if the wrongdoer (defendant) acted recklessly or intentionally, then punitive damages may be appropriate.
Punitive damages do not compensate a victim for their losses. Instead, they penalize a defendant for their wrongful conduct. For example, if a drunk driver caused a fatal crash, then a Greenville car accident attorney may seek punitive damages in a wrongful death lawsuit.
Wrongful Death Attorney FAQ
Is There a Cap on Wrongful Death Damages in South Carolina?
There is no specific limit on how much money a family can recover in a wrongful death action. However, there are some exceptions to this general rule. First, there is a $350,000 limit on non-economic damages for medical malpractice lawsuits. Second, there is a cap of the greater of 3 times actual damages or $500,000 on punitive damages in South Carolina.
These limits can be confusing, particularly if you aren’t sure whether they apply in your case. A Simpsonville wrongful death lawyer can help you understand your rights – and will fight to help you get maximum compensation for your losses. Reach out to the Derrick Law Office today to schedule a free consultation.
How Much Are Wrongful Death Lawsuits Worth?
It depends. Wrongful death settlements or verdicts at trial typically include compensation for funeral and burial expenses, medical bills and expenses related to the injury or illness that caused the death, lost financial support, loss of the deceased person’s care and companionship, loss of experience, knowledge and judgment, and pain and suffering. The value of any wrongful death claim depends on the specific facts of the case, including things like the number of dependents that they had, their salary at the time of death, and the size of their medical bills. For example, if a 40-something mother who earned a high salary as a surgeon was killed in a car accident, the value of her wrongful death claim would likely be higher than a case where a 95-year-old retiree was killed in a similar crash.
The best way to get an understanding of the value of a wrongful death claim is by talking to an experienced attorney. Your lawyer will give you an estimate of how much the case is worth and will fight to get you maximum compensation for your losses. Contact the Derrick Law Firm to talk to a Simpsonville wrongful death lawyer.
Who Gets the Money in a Wrongful Death Settlement?
In South Carolina, a wrongful death lawsuit is brought on behalf of the deceased person’s estate. If the decedent made a will, then the executor named in this document will bring the lawsuit for the estate. Otherwise, the court will likely appoint someone to file the wrongful death claim.
Any damages (compensation) recovered through a wrongful death lawsuit will be distributed to the deceased person’s surviving family members. This may include the decedent’s surviving spouse and children, parents (if there is no surviving spouse and children), or heirs (if there are no parents, spouse, or children). Reach out to the Derrick Law Firm to talk to a Simpsonville wrongful death lawyer about filing a claim for the loss of your loved one.
How Long Do I Have to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in South Carolina?
The statute of limitations for a wrongful death claim in South Carolina is 3 years. This means that you must file a lawsuit within 3 years of the date of your loved one’s wrongful death. If you don’t file a lawsuit within this time period, then any case you file will likely be tossed out of court.
3 years may seem like a long period of time, but these cases are often complex. The sooner that you consult with a wrongful death attorney, the stronger your claim will likely be. In Simpsonville, call the Derrick Law Office to schedule a free consultation with a member of our legal team.
How Our Law Firm Can Help
If your loved one died in a car accident, a slip and fall, or any other type of accident, you may not know what to do. We understand how difficult this time is for families. Our goal is to help you understand your rights and to give you peace of mind in knowing that your case is being handled appropriately.
The Derrick Law Office is committed to helping injury victims and their families get the money that they deserve for their losses. We offer free initial consultations, and never charge a fee unless we recover money for you. To learn more or to schedule an appointment with a South Carolina wrongful death lawyer, give us a call at 864-531-7765 or fill out our online contact form.