What You Need to Know
You may be facing a difficult situation in which a loved one recently died due to someone else’s negligence, recklessness, or deliberate intent to harm. Our list of frequently asked questions (FAQs) is intended to provide you with answers to a number of basic questions involving wrongful death claims in South Carolina.
In our state, we also have available a related legal action called a survival action. This is to help a person who has been injured, but who does not die immediately, to recover damages for the time period between the accident and death. This list of FAQs does not address survival actions.
What is the legal definition of wrongful death?
A wrongful death is one that is caused by the carelessness—meaning negligence—or misconduct of another person or organization. This includes the failure to act if such action would have prevented a death. A wrongful death could be caused by a car wreck; a workplace accident; a defective consumer product; or medical malpractice, among other causes.
A wrongful death case is not a murder case. A wrongful death case is tried in civil court, as opposed to a murder case, which is tried in criminal court. The burdens of proof are very different. However, a defendant who has been tried for murder can also be sued in a wrongful death case. The most famous example of this situation is when a wrongful death case was brought against OJ Simpson for the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman.
How does the state of South Carolina define wrongful death?
A wrongful death is one that is caused by “the wrongful act, neglect or default of another.” The person who committed the wrongful act, neglect, or default, if their actions had not caused death but only injury, could have been liable for damages in a personal injury claim filed against them.
Essentially, a wrongful death claim is a personal injury case in which the injured party cannot bring a case because the injury brought about their death. That means someone else must bring the case for them. The person or persons bringing the case can seek damages of various kinds.
Can a family member bring a wrongful death suit?
In South Carolina, a wrongful death claim must be brought by whoever administers the deceased’s estate. If the deceased has no estate plan or will, then the court can appoint an administrator or executor. However, any claim that is filed is brought on behalf of family members. Damages can be recovered by the following family members in a South Carolina wrongful death case:
- The spouse and/or children of the deceased
- The parents of the deceased, if there is no spouse or child/children, even if the deceased was an adult, unless the parents abandoned their now-deceased child before the child turned 18
- Other legal heirs of the deceased, if there are no parents, spouse, or child/children.
What kinds of wrongful death claims can be brought?
Many kinds of situations can bring about a wrongful death. In our state, any fatal accident can be the reason for a wrongful death suit if negligence or other factors are involved, including all kinds of vehicular accidents, nursing home abuse or neglect, and medical malpractice.
In general, who can be sued for wrongful death?
Who can be sued depends on the kind of case you are bringing. For example, in a car accident case involving a drunk driver, the defendants in the wrongful death claim could be:
- The DUI driver
- The person who served the impaired driver
- The owner of the business where the alcohol was served.
Additionally, if there were defective road conditions, a vehicular defect, or if the DUI driver was on the job at the time of the accident, the claim might also include some of the following parties:
- The driver’s employer
- The maker of the automobile
- The maker or installer of a defective automotive part
- The designer of the faulty road
- The person who failed to post warnings of negative road conditions.
These lists are meant as examples only. Each case is different.
In some cases, the government or certain persons are considered immune from wrongful death suits, meaning the law prevents them from being sued. It is best to consult with an attorney if you have any concerns about whether you are allowed to bring a wrongful death case against a specific party.
What are the likely damages in a wrongful death suit?
The kinds of compensation you can sue for in a South Carolina wrongful death suit include:
- Expenses for the deceased’s funeral and burial/cremation
- Bills resulting from the deceased’s final medical care that are related to the illness or injury
- Lost wages and benefits as a result of the death
- Any property damages or other financial losses due to the death
- The loss of the deceased’s love and companionship
- The loss of the deceased’s judgment, experience, guidance, and services
- Any pain, suffering, and mental distress experienced by the surviving family.
In certain cases, the court may also award punitive damages if the actions that caused the death are considered deliberate or reckless. Punitive damages, also known as exemplary damages, are intended to punish the person at fault and serve as a warning to others.
What are the time limits in bringing a wrongful death case?
The statute of limitations for bringing a wrongful death case in South Carolina is within three years of the deceased’s date of death. It is crucial that you bring your case before the time limit is up, because the court will not hear a case that is brought after three years.
What’s my next step?
A wrongful death claim allows the survivors to ease their financial troubles as well as seek justice from wrongdoers. Unfortunately, bills continue to roll in regardless of one’s grief and loss; you may have lost the main breadwinner in your family, making your situation even more difficult. And monetary considerations, important as they may be, pale next to the love and support that children, spouses, and others may now be without—forever. A wrongful death’s effects are felt for a lifetime.
Seeking truth. Securing justice.
The initiation of a wrongful death suit can be due to a number of causes. Whatever the reason for your claim, you may have confidence in the Louthian Law Firm, as we have been pursuing wrongful death and other personal injury lawsuits in South Carolina since 1959. At the Louthian Law Firm, we are committed to providing personalized service to you while aggressively pursuing your claim. We promise to work hard to protect your rights and obtain for you the best possible outcome. For a free evaluation of your South Carolina wrongful death case, call our lawyers today at (803) 454-1200. If you prefer, you can use our online contact form.