Losing a loved one, especially when it's the result of a preventable accident or illness caused by another person's action or inaction, is an experience none of us want to endure. All emotions aside, however, wrongful death cases can take a financial toll. On behalf of the estate (typically), survivors (usually family members) can often file a wrongful death lawsuit in South Carolina. Though these claims are never what a person wants to do, they are often necessary and practical for the mere financial part of it.
At Hopkins Law Firm, our wrongful death lawyers in Charleston, Myrtle Beach, and Pawleys Island understand what you are going through and will persevere to obtain the best possible legal outcome. Contact us today at (843) 314-4202 to schedule a free consultation. In the meantime, here's an overview of what a wrongful death claim in South Carolina may involve.
What is Wrongful Death?
Wrongful death is a legal term used in South Carolina to describe what is usually one of two claims that surviving family members can bring when there is a fatal accident. The lion's share of cases our lawyers handle are from medical malpractice, motor vehicle accident, or defective product.
Our South Carolina Wrongful Death Lawyers
The South Carolina wrongful death lawyers at Hopkins Law Firm have a history - a long history - of maximizing the trial and settlement value of these cases, helping surviving family members recover from both the emotional and economic loss they have suffered. Our law firm is proud of the millions in financial compensation our clients have won at trial or the settlement table in death claims.
How Does a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Work?
A wrongful death civil case is a legal action brought under the South Carolina wrongful death statute. The case is brought on behalf of the survivors (e.g., surviving spouse, children, parents, etc.) of a decedent on their own behalf for the loss of their loved one.
The estate of the victim also has another independent claim under South Carolina law called a survival action. In South Carolina, unlike some other jurisdictions, a survival action is made by the personal representative of the estate on behalf of the victim's estate for the recovery of damages for injury to a fatally injured person. This includes medical bills, funeral expenses, and most importantly, non-economic damages for pain and suffering felt by the victim.
When people are killed by the wrongful act of another person, their close relatives should have the legal right to seek compensation for both the economic loss caused to them by the death as well as the emotional distress of losing someone they love.
Our South Carolina wrongful death lawyers seek compensation on behalf of the victim's family for medical malpractice, motorcycle, car, and truck accident claims, and deaths caused by defective products.
In a wrongful death claim, a plaintiff can seek compensation for things like:
- lost income
- medical expenses prior to the death
- funeral and burial expenses
- pain and suffering
- lost companionship
- lost prospect of inheritance.
While there is a cap on wrongful death claims in South Carolina, there is no cap on economic damages in a wrongful death case. If the victim was providing for his or her family, there is a loss of future earning capacity – what the victim would have earned in compensation if the defendant did not negligently kill the victim.
Our law firm handles a lot of cases where the victim was providing for a spouse and children. This can drive up the trial and settlement value of a wrongful death case.
While the specific laws vary between states to establish a wrongful death claim, a plaintiff generally needs to show the cause of death by satisfying four elements.
- The plaintiff owed a duty of care to the deceased person (also referred to as the decedent).
- They breached this duty of care (either negligently or intentionally).
- This breach caused the decedent's wrongful death.
- The plaintiff suffered losses as a result.
After establishing these elements, it then turns on the question of who can file the wrongful death claim in South Carolina.
Is There a Statute of Limitations on a South Carolina Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Chapter 51 and Section 15-3-530 of the South Carolina Code of Laws contain the definitions and rules for wrongful death claims in the state. According to these laws, the personal representative of the deceased must file a wrongful death claim within 3 years of the decedent's death to have a valid legal claim.
Like any law, however, there are exceptions.
Depending on the circumstances of your case, you may have more or less time to file your wrongful death lawsuit. If you are filing against the government, for example, you may face shorter, stricter deadlines and mountains of paperwork.
On the other hand, medical malpractice cases sometimes extend the statute of limitations for up to 3 years. If you find out that a medical provider caused the decedent's death, you have 3 years from the time of your discovery to file suit, but you cannot seek legal action if it has been more than 6 years from the decedent's treatment.
For example, consider a plaintiff who lost a loved one during a routine surgery. If they discover, years later, that the surgeon had a pattern of botching surgeries or intentionally causing injury, they may be able to bring about a case more than 3 years after their loved one passed.
Understanding the exceptions to limitations can be difficult, but we can help.
What Constitutes a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in South Carolina
When someone dies as a result of the negligence or misconduct of another person, the family of the deceased person may file a wrongful death claim against the person at fault. A wrongful death lawsuit is a civil lawsuit brought against an individual, company, or government agency.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in South Carolina?
Many states allow a wrongful death claim to be made by the surviving family and beneficiaries of the person who died. However, South Carolina requires wrongful death claims to be filed by whoever is named the executor of the deceased party's estate. Executors are often names in wills. However, someone who dies without a will in place will likely have an executor named by the courts on their behalf.
While the executor of the state is required to initiate a wrongful death lawsuit, any resulting settlement will be paid to the family members the deceased party left behind. The specific people who receive the damages depends on how many family members the deceased had. People who can recover wrongful death damages include:
- The spouse and children of the deceased
- The parents of the deceased if they were childless and unmarried
- Heirs of the deceased if there are no living parents, children, or spouse
Common Causes of Wrongful Death Claims in Charleston, Myrtle Beach, and Pawleys Island
Wrongful death claims often arise in the context of the following.
- Car accidents, especially those involving drunk drivers. If the case involves intoxication, the lawsuit may also name the person who served the driver alcohol as a defendant
- Other auto accidents or related-auto accidents, including those involving commercial trucks, semi-trucks, motorcycles, boats, pedestrians, and bicyclists
- Medical malpractice, when a practitioner fails to provide an acceptable level of care that leads to a misdiagnosis, surgical mistake, prescription error, birth injury, or any other harm
- Dangerous Products
- Premise liability accidents, e.g., a slip and fall or another accident occurring on someone else's property
Finding the Right Wrongful Death Lawyer
Our lawyers have handled scores of wrongful death cases, helping families navigate the difficult legal issues that almost invariably occur with what is often the sudden, unexpected accidental death of a parent, spouse, or child. Many of you are looking are searching for a "wrongful death lawyer near me" because you think it would be easier for the lawyer's office to be close to you. Our lawyers would argue you would be better served finding the best wrongful death lawyer in South Carolina to maximize the settlement amount or jury compensation payout for your lawsuit.
As attorneys experienced with the handling of wrongful death and survivor's claims, we are committed to handling all the legal aspects for you and your family. We can handle the legal issues in the wrongful death claim against those responsible, so the family can concentrate on the difficult emotional issues that come with losing a loved one.
If you have lost a loved one in a fatal South Carolina car accident or by medical malpractice and would like to speak to a South Carolina wrongful death lawyer, call one of our Charleston, Myrtle Beach, and Pawleys Island attorneys at (843) 314-4202 for a free, no-obligation consultation. You can also get a free Internet consultation.