Losing a loved one in an accident that was caused by someone else’s negligence is a serious blow that can be difficult to overcome. Not only is there the devastating grief to endure, which can feel insurmountable, but there is also the difficult financial component if the person you lost contributed to your family’s income (or was the sole breadwinner), for example. Wrongful death claims are an important element of personal injury law that addresses the immense damages associated with losing a loved one to someone else’s negligence (or worse). If you find yourself facing such a loss, an experienced South Carolina wrongful death attorney can help.
Who Files the Wrongful Death Claim?
In the state of South Carolina, only the executor or administrator of the decedent’s estate can file the wrongful death claim, but this isn’t as complicated as it sounds. Consider the following:
- The decedent is the person who lost their life to the at-fault party’s negligence.
- The executor or administrator of their estate is simply the person that the decedent named in their will to carry out their wishes.
- The decedent’s estate is another way of saying their assets and properties.
- If the decedent has no will or names no executor in it, the court will appoint one.
The legal terms involved have a way of overwhelming grieving relatives, but once translated to everyday language, the basics are fairly straightforward. On the other hand, wrongful death claims tend to be quite complicated, and you are well-advised to have an experienced South Carolina wrongful death attorney on your side.
Recovering on Associated Damages
While only the executor or administrator of your loved one’s estate can file a wrongful death claim, the damages awarded are distributed to the following relatives (in the following order):
- To their surviving spouse and their children
- To their surviving parent(s), if there is no spouse or children
- Barring the above, to their surviving heirs
Parents could recover on their child’s wrongful death even if they were an adult when they died. However, if the child was abandoned by the parents before they turned 18, the parents are barred from receiving wrongful death damages.
Common Causes of Wrongful Death Claims
Every wrongful death claim is singular to its own set of involved circumstances, but some of the most common causes behind wrongful death claims include:
- Traffic accidents, including car, truck, bus, RV and motorhome, rideshare, motorcycle, scooter, bicycle, and pedestrian accidents
- DUI-related accidents
- Train accidents
- Nursing home abuse
- Medical malpractice
- Accidents on the job
The Statute of Limitations
The time for bringing a wrongful death claim is not unlimited. There is a statute of limitations in place that prohibits you from bringing such a claim if more than three years have passed since the date your loved one died, which can be a different date than the accident itself (which ultimately proved fatal). Because the grief of losing a loved one to someone else’s negligence can prove overwhelming, focusing on bringing a wrongful death claim may feel completely out of your reach. While the process of bringing a successful wrongful death claim can be arduous and lengthy, an experienced South Carolina wrongful death attorney will construct your claim (in accordance with all available evidence). At the same time, you attend to the important task of healing. You are, however, well-advised to consult with a dedicated wrongful death attorney sooner rather than later.
Proving Your Wrongful Death Claim
To bring a successful wrongful death claim, specific elements must be present.
Duty of Care
The negligent party in the claim must have owed your loved one a duty of care. For example, every motorist owes everyone else on the road the duty of care of driving safely and adhering to the rules of the road. Another prime example is that commercial property owners and managers owe a duty of care that amounts to maintaining their premises in the reasonably safe condition that is necessary to allow their guests safe passage.
Breach of That Duty
For the claim of wrongful death to hold, the negligent party must have breached their duty to your loved one. Let’s consider the examples above. If the driver who caused your relative to be fatally wounded was drunk or dangerously distracted behind the wheel, that is a breach of the driver’s duty of care. If the commercial property owner mentioned failed to fix a broken stair that was known to them and that ultimately left your loved one fatally wounded in a slip and fall accident, it also amounts to a breach of the owner’s duty of care.
The negligent party’s breach of their duty of care had to have directly caused your loved one to suffer the fatal injuries involved. It isn’t enough that the negligent driver was drunk, for example. The fact of their inebriation had to have caused the accident that left your relative fatally wounded.
The injuries your loved one suffered had to have caused actual damages, which means that their death caused those who are in line to recover on the wrongful death claim actual losses, such as lost household income and more.
The Associated Damages
The law recognizes the immense damage that a family can suffer when a loved one’s life is cut short by someone else’s negligence, and wrongful death claims are the mechanism it has in place to address this issue. The damages that can be sought in wrongful death claims in South Carolina include:
- Funeral and burial costs
- Medical costs incurred in the interim between injury and death
- The victim’s pain and suffering
- The victim’s lost wages and benefits
- Loss of the victim’s experience, judgment, and knowledge
- Loss of the victim’s companionship, care, and protection
- The pain and suffering endured by the surviving family members
Turn to an Experienced South Carolina Wrongful Death Attorney for the Help You Need
The trusted wrongful death attorneys at McCravy Law in South Carolina have the experience, compassion, and legal insight to help you and your family obtain the compensation to which you are entitled and that you need to make the long journey toward healing. For more information, please don’t hesitate to contact or call us at 864-388-9100 today.