The loss of a loved one is tragic, no matter what the circumstances are surrounding his or her death. Legal recourse may be one of the last things on your mind at the moment; however, it’s important to know what your rights are if your loved one died due to someone else’s negligence or intentional wrongdoing. The law in South Carolina provides two remedies and causes of actions: wrongful death and survival actions. Essentially, these are two different types of claims that develop out of the same scenario.
What is a Wrongful Death Claim?
South Carolina recognizes wrongful death claims under the wrongful death statute, Section 15-51-10 through 60. This statute allows a deceased person’s children or spouse to file a lawsuit against the defendant. If the deceased has no spouse, children, or parents, then the lawsuit is for the benefit of the plaintiff’s heirs.
Wrongful death claims in South Carolina often are filed as a result of a motor vehicle, truck, or motorcycle accident, medical malpractice, or even neglect in a nursing home. To bring a wrongful death claim, the person must be the personal representative of the estate.
Damages that are recoverable in wrongful death actions are designed to compensate the family for current and future financial and emotional-distress related costs. Damages may include:
- Medical bills and funeral costs
- Lost benefits
- Pain and suffering, mental anguish
- Punitive damages in cases involving reckless or deliberate conduct
If there are any monies recovered through a wrongful death action, the award is divided between the deceased’s spouse, children, or other heirs. The amount each party receives mirrors the shares they would’ve been awarded if the plaintiff died without a will.
Survival Actions in South Carolina
The biggest difference between wrongful death claims and survival actions is whom the lawsuit benefits. Wrongful death claims are designed to compensate the family for the loss of a loved one, while survival actions are designed to compensate the deceased for damages sustained between the time of injury and the person’s death. If a person was severely injured in a car accident, and lived for two weeks afterward, a survival action allows for recovery of pain and suffering and other damages sustained during those two weeks.
A survival action is filed on behalf of the deceased person rather than his or her family. Apart from funeral expenses, damages that can be awarded in a survival action include:
- Medical expenses
- Emotional distress
- Pain and suffering
Like a wrongful death lawsuit, a survival action is filed by the personal representative for the decedent’s estate. In most cases, a survival action is filed simultaneously with a wrongful death claim.
Retaining a South Carolina Personal Injury Lawyer
If your loved one was killed as the result of someone else’s wrongdoing, you need a skilled, yet compassionate, wrongful death attorney in South Carolina. At the Elrod Pope Law Firm, our attorneys have years of experience handling wrongful death claims while remaining sensitive to each family’s emotional loss. Please contact our office to schedule a consultation and let us get you compensation for your loved one’s untimely death.
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.