Wrongful death claims are some of the most emotionally challenging and legally complicated civil claims. Losing a loved one to someone else’s negligence is devastating, and no amount of compensation can alter this fact. Obtaining the compensation to which you are entitled, however, can provide you and your family with the means necessary to find your way on the path toward healing. If you’ve lost a family member to someone else’s negligence, don’t put off consulting with an experienced South Carolina wrongful death attorney.
While no two wrongful death claims are ever alike, many are predicated on one of the following common causes:
- Car accidents and other forms of traffic crashes
- Product liability claims that are based on dangerously defective consumer goods
- Premises liability claims, such as slip and falls that are caused by the negligence of commercial property owners or managers
- Nursing home negligence and abuse
- Medical malpractice
Wrongful death claims generally arise when the victim – who could have brought a personal injury claim, a nursing home abuse or neglect claim, or a medical malpractice claim if he or she has survived – succumbs to his or her injuries. In such cases, family members step in and recover on their lost loved one’s behalf.
In South Carolina, those survivors of the decedent (the person who lost his or her life to someone else’s negligence) who are eligible to file wrongful death claims include the following:
- The decedent’s surviving spouse
- The decedent’s surviving children
- The decedent’s surviving parents
If there is no surviving spouse, child, or parent, a legal heir of the decedent (in accordance with state law) can bring the claim. Those legal damages that are recovered in wrongful death claims – which amounts to compensation for the losses you’ve suffered – are divided between the survivors in relation to the shares each would have been entitled to if the decedent had died without a will and as if the assets had been part of the decedent’s personal estate.
The losses (or legal damages) that are addressed in wrongful death claims are those incurred by the decedent (prior to succumbing to his or her injuries, such as medical expenses and the pain and suffering he or she endured – in addition to his or her funeral and burial costs) and those incurred by his or her survivors, such as the following:
- Loss of financial support and benefits (such as those that would have flowed from his or her ongoing employment had he or she survived, and that can extend to lost earning potential)
- Loss of services around the home
- Loss of love, guidance, and companionship
- The emotional pain and suffering endured
In exceptional cases in which the at-fault party’s actions were especially egregious, punitive damages may be available. Rather than compensating the survivors, punitive damages are intended to punish the at-fault party and deter others from engaging in similarly reckless practices.
Like other states, South Carolina has a statute of limitations – or a time limit for bringing a lawsuit – for wrongful death actions. This time constraint is generally three years from the date of your loved one’s passing (not from the date that he or she was fatally injured). The tumultuous nature of wrongful death claims – and the emotional upheaval involved – can make these three years slip away more quickly than you likely could have ever imagined, which makes working with a dedicated wrongful death attorney from the outset in your best interests.
In order to bring a wrongful death claim in South Carolina, there are several elements that must be present.
The at-fault party must have owed your loved one a duty of care. This means that he or she had some responsibility for your lost relative’s safety and well-being to begin with. Prime examples of this duty of care include the significant responsibility that every motorist bears for everyone else on the road and the duty of maintaining their premises in a reasonably safe condition that commercial property owners owe their customers, clients, and other invited guests.
The at-fault party’s negligent actions (or failure to act) must have breached (or ignored) the duty of care that he or she owed your loved one. Examples include motorists who are distracted, drunk, drowsy, or aggressive and who, as a result, fail to live up to their responsibility to safety. Further, when a property owner fails to maintain his or her premises with the same vigilance that other reasonable property owners employ in similar situations, he or she breaches the duty of care owed.
Finally, the at-fault party’s negligence or intentional act must have caused the incident that killed your loved one.
In addition to these critical elements, you must be able to demonstrate that you suffered actual legal damages (as discussed above) – and the extent of those damages.
Wrongful death claims are civil cases that seek compensation for the losses incurred by the decedent’s survivors. This does not mean, however, that the at-fault party is not criminally responsible for causing your relative’s death. While a survivor of the decedent files a wrongful death action, the state brings any criminal charges, and the two are not mutually exclusive. The person or entity who caused your relative to lose his or her life can face both a wrongful death action and a criminal case that can lead to legal penalties such as a jail sentence and steep fines.
The compassionate South Carolina truck accident attorneys at McCravy Law are proud to employ the full force of their considerable experience and skill in their focused efforts to help clients like you. To learn more, please don’t delay contacting or calling us at 864-388-9100 today.