According to data released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there are more DUI auto accident fatalities in South Carolina than anywhere else in the United States. The data shows that 44% of all auto accident deaths involved at least one driver with a blood alcohol level above the legal limit. While this is a terrifying and devastating reality in and of itself, this data tends to implicate something even worse. Namely, there are more husbands, wives, children, sisters, brothers, and parents in South Carolina who have to endure the untimely loss of a loved one as a result of a DUI-related auto accident than anywhere else in the United States. This makes understanding South Carolina’s laws surrounding a wrongful death action that much more important to South Carolinians.
Should I File a Wrongful Death Claim?
The excruciating pain and the heartbreak one experiences when losing a loved one is something for which you can never be fully compensated. However, this pain and suffering, not to mention the out of pocket costs associated with losing a loved, are not a burden that the victim’s family should have to carry alone.
If you live in South Carolina and have lost a loved one following a DUI auto accident, you may be entitled to compensation from the responsible parties. Contact the experienced wrongful death and personal injury attorneys at Elrod Pope Law Firm to help you with you case. While you focus on healing from the untimely loss of your loved one, an experienced legal representative can ensure that your legal interests are protected in the long term.
A wrongful death action in South Carolina requires the following:
- Death was caused by the breach of South Carolina or federal law, the result of someone failing to exercise “reasonable care,” and failing to act in a manner that a reasonable person would under the circumstances.
- The circumstances are such that the death would have resulted in a personal injury action had the deceased survived.
The key difference between a personal injury and wrongful death action is that in a wrongful death action, the individual collecting compensation is the personal representative acting on behalf of the deceased person, rather than the injured party himself.
Who is Entitled to Recover for a Wrongful Death Claim in South Carolina?
As set forth by South Carolina Code Section 15-51-20:
“Every such action shall be for the benefit of the wife or husband and child or children of the person whose death shall have been so caused, and, if there be no such wife, husband, child or children, then for the benefit of the parent or parents, and if there be none such, then for the benefit of the heirs of the person whose death shall have been so caused. Every such action shall be brought by or in the name of the executor or administrator of such person.”
What this means is that the hierarchy of recovery is as follows:
- The surviving spouse
- The decedent’s children
- The decedent’s parents
- The next closest heir(s) as defined by statute
Consulting with an experienced personal injury attorney can help you ascertain whether you fit into one of these categories, including whether or not you are considered a legal heir of the decedent.
What Can Be Recovered in Damages for a Wrongful Death Action?
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Medical bills associated with any care or treatment rendered to the decedent before death
- Property damage
- Loss of income or earning capacity
- Damages that cannot be easily calculated, but that nevertheless entitle you to legal compensation including:
- Loss of the decedent’s experience, knowledge, mental and emotional contribution to the family, care, companionship;
- General pain and suffering; and/or,
- Punitive damages.
Consult with a South Carolina Wrongful Death Attorney
If you live in South Carolina and have lost a loved one following a DUI auto accident, call the attorneys at Elrod Pope Law Firm for a free consultation today. We understand that it can be difficult to know where to turn following the death of a loved one, but a legal representative who is experienced in wrongful death law can help you move forward by seeking the justice your loved one deserves while also fighting for any compensation you may be due because of your loss.
Thomas E. Pope is a Personal Injury, Wrongful Death, and Medical Malpractice Attorney who practices in Rock Hill, Lake Wylie, and Lancaster, SC. He graduated from the University of South Carolina School of Law, and has been practicing law for 31 years now. Thomas E. Pope believes in protecting the injured. Learn more about his experience here.