Wrongful Death Laws in South Carolina
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The unexpected loss of a family member can impact a family in many ways. In addition to dealing with the emotional aspect associated with the passing of a loved one, the surviving family members must also confront the economic aspect of the situation. For instance, the surviving family members must figure out how future bills and expenses will be paid for.
In these types of situations, a wrongful death cause of action may be available to help seek compensation on behalf of the deceased. Wrongful death lawsuits are a type of civil action brought against a person or entity who can be held liable for the death of another individual. Because wrongful death causes of action are established by individual state law, it is difficult to provide a one-size-fits-all description of a wrongful death claim.
If you have experienced the death of loved one, or if you would like to learn more about filing a wrongful death lawsuit, call Zinda Law Group at (800) 863-5312 for a 100% free case evaluation with our wrongful death attorneys.
What is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in South Carolina?
A wrongful death lawsuit is a civil claim brought by the surviving members of a deceased individual against another person or entity who can be held liable for the death. A wrongful death claim exists when a person dies due to the legal fault of another person. A wrongful death lawsuit, if successful, can provide financial compensation in the form of money damages to the party who brought the lawsuit.
Broadly speaking, any fatality caused by the wrongful acts of another may provide grounds for a wrongful death claim. The State of South Carolina defines wrongful death as one that is “caused by the wrongful act, neglect or default of another”. The South Carolina wrongful death statute also includes deaths caused by a wrongful act that would otherwise amount to a criminal felony under state law.
South Carolina’s wrongful death statute essentially treats a wrongful death claim as a personal injury claim that the decedent would have been able to bring if death had not occurred. This means that if the actions of the at-fault party would have entitled the decedent to pursue a personal injury claim, then the survivors of the deceased will be able to pursue a wrongful death claim in order to establish the defendant’s liability and seek damages.
It is important to keep in mind that although the circumstances of a case may prompt law enforcement and prosecutors to criminally charge a defendant, a civil wrongful death action may still be pursued in civil court. However, because the interaction of criminal and civil cases arising from the same occurrence may pose challenging legal issues, it is worth discussing your options with a wrongful death attorney.
Who May File a Wrongful Death Claim in South Carolina?
South Carolina law mandates that a wrongful death claim be filed by the executor or administrator of the decedent’s estate. An executor or administrator is a person designated by name in the decedent’s estate plan. Common choices include surviving spouses, adult siblings, or adult children of the deceased. If there is no named personal representative, or if the named personal representative is unable or unwilling to serve, the court may appoint a personal representative.
Although it is the executor or administrator who is responsible for filing a wrongful death claim to the court, he or she is actually pursuing the claim on behalf of the deceased person’s surviving family members. The surviving family members who can seek damages in a South Carolina wrongful death case include:
- the surviving spouse and children of the decedent;
- the surviving parents of the deceased person, if there is no spouse or child; and
- the heirs at law of the deceased person, if there are no parents, spouse, or children.
What Damages are Available in an South Carolina Wrongful Death Claim?
A successful wrongful death claim will lead to compensation in the form money damages. In South Carolina, the types of damages recoverable for a wrongful death claim may include the following:
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Medical expenses related to the injury or illness that caused death
- Lost wages and benefits
- Property damage related to the incident that caused death
- Loss of the deceased person’s care, companionship, and protection
- Pain, suffering, and mental anguish suffered by the surviving family members
Under certain circumstances, punitive damages may also be available. Unlike typical compensatory damages, which are intended to make a party whole, punitive damages are intended to punish acts which are particularly egregious or reckless. The South Carolina wrongful death statute states that such damages may be available “when the wrongful act, neglect, or default was the result of recklessness, willfulness, or malice.”
How Long Do I Have to File a Wrongful Death Claim in South Carolina?
South Carolina law mandates that a wrongful death claim be filed within three years of the date of the decedent’s death. This statute of limitations means that wrongful death claims filed more than three years after the date of the decedent’s death are effectively barred from being heard in court. However, some circumstances may pause or “toll” this three-year time period. If you find yourself near the filing deadline, it is worth discussing your case with an attorney who may be able to provide valuable information and guidance regarding South Carolina’s statute of limitations.
Understanding the details of a wrongful death claim can ultimately provide you and your family with valuable information in the event that you or a family member experience the loss of a loved one. In a moment where stress is likely to be at an all-time high, some solace can be found in knowing that there is a way to pursue compensation for your losses.
At Zinda Law Group, our attorneys have plenty of experience litigating and resolving wrongful death cases. Our team has the resources necessary to help build the strongest claim following the death of a loved one. Our attorneys are on stand-by, waiting to help grieving family members seek fair compensation for their losses.
If you would like to discuss the details of your case with an experienced wrongful death lawyer, or if you would like to learn more about filing a wrongful death claim, call Zinda Law Group at (800) 863-5312 to receive your free case evaluation.
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