Losing a loved one in an accident is traumatic enough. Having to decipher legal statutes and determine whether you have the right to bring a claim against the negligent party can be overwhelming. Thankfully, the law in South Carolina has spelled out what rights the deceased’s family and loved ones have. And, retaining a skilled South Carolina wrongful death attorney right away can help protect your rights.
What Is a Wrongful Death Suit?
A wrongful death occurs when a person is killed or dies as a result of the misconduct or negligence of another person. This can also include murder. Surviving family members are allowed to bring an action for the wrongful death of their loved one. A civil lawsuit for wrongful death can be filed no matter whether the person was found guilty of murder, simply acted negligently (such as not paying attention while driving), or not convicted of any crime at all.
Bringing a Wrongful Death Action in South Carolina Courts
A wrongful death action is one that will compensate survivors and beneficiaries of the deceased. Plaintiff(s) are required to show the defendant’s behavior was the proximate cause of their loved one’s death. In this setting, there does not have to be malice aforethought or any intention of the Defendant to kill or injure the decedent. Mere negligence is enough.
In South Carolina, wrongful deaths are covered under S.C. Code Ann. §§ 15-51-10 through 60. The statute allows a deceased person’s spouse and children to bring a lawsuit. If the deceased has no spouse, children, or parents, then the lawsuit can be filed on behalf of his or her legal heirs. Legal heirs are defined as people who are legally entitled to inherit the deceased’s property.
What Types of Actions Can Qualify for Wrongful Death?
A wrongful death lawsuit can be filed in a number of situations, some of which include:
- Vehicle accidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Truck and van accidents
- Nursing home abuse
- Nursing home neglect
In South Carolina, it’s required that a wrongful death claim be filed by the administrator or executor of the person’s estate. If there is no estate plan or the named administrator does not want to bring the claim, the court can name an administrator or executor. The executor or administrator is actually pursuing the claim for the deceased person’s surviving family members.
If the deceased was a child, the parents can recover even if the child was over 18 at the time of his or her death. If the parents abandoned the child prior to their turning 18, they may not recover any compensation in a wrongful death action, even if the child was over 18 at the time of death.
Damages Awarded in Wrongful Death Cases in South Carolina
Damages awarded in a wrongful death claim can include the following:
- Funeral expenses and medical bills
- Lost wages, including future earnings
- Loss of companionship
- Pain and suffering
- Punitive damages in some cases
If you suffered the loss of a loved one due to someone else’s negligence, please contact the Elrod Pope Law Firm to discuss your rights and whether circumstances warrant a wrongful death claim. Contact us online or call our office at 803-599-3080 to schedule a consultation.
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.