When it comes to personal injury matters, death is the worst consequence you can suffer due to someone else’s negligent actions. Losing a loved one under any circumstance is a heartbreaking experience, but it is even more painful if the death was caused by another person’s negligence.
If a loved one dies due to the misconduct of another individual, such as the surviving family members of the deceased, you can file a wrongful death lawsuit. Of course, no amount of money can replace a human life, but losing a family member unexpectedly can cause significant financial disparity. A successful wrongful death suit can provide financial compensation for your loss and hold negligent parties liable for their actions.
Wrongful death cases are complex and often require the knowledge of a wrongful death attorney who understands personal injury laws. The legal team at Lesemann & Associates is exceptionally experienced and ready to offer you the most aggressive representation to ensure you receive adequate compensation for your loss.
What is a Wrongful Death Claim?
A wrongful death claim is a cause of action that can be brought to a civil court when an entity or a person wrongfully causes another person’s death. According to South Carolina laws, wrongful death occurs as a result of negligence, wrongful actions, or the default of another person.
In South Carolina, the liable party is accountable for the same damages and losses the deceased would have been entitled to recover in a personal injury suit had they survived. To file a valid wrongful death lawsuit, the following elements must be present:
- Intent to cause the deceased victim harm or a person is killed due to someone else’s negligence
- Financial damages for the surviving members
- Selection of a personal administrator for the decedent’s estate
Keep in mind that you must file a wrongful death claim within three years of the accident or malpractice in South Carolina. If you fail to make a claim before three years have passed, the statute of limitations allows a court to dismiss the legitimacy of your claim.
What Are the Causes of Wrongful Death?
When any negligent act causes a personal injury but is severe enough to kill someone it is considered wrongful death. The most common identifiable causes of wrongful death in Charleston are:
- Slip and fall accidents
- Automobile accidents
- Medical malpractices
- Truck accidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Pedestrian accidents
- Bicycle accidents
- Criminal act
- Nursing home neglect
- Product liability
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in South Carolina?
In most states, the surviving family members of the deceased can file a wrongful death claim, but not in South Carolina. Under South Carolina law, the claim must be filed by or in the name of an executor or administrator of the decedent’s estate. If the decedent had an estate plan in place, it will identify an administrator or executor who will file a claim on behalf of the decedent’s loved ones.
However, if the deceased victim does not have an existing estate plan, the court will appoint an executor. Wrongful death claims are governed by the South Carolina Code of Statute Section 15-15-20. According to this law, some close relatives can seek compensation, and the awarding of damages observes the following order.
- Surviving spouse and any children of the decedent
- If there is no surviving spouse or children, then the decedent’s living parents will be awarded compensation.
- If there is no spouse, parents, or children, compensation will be granted to the deceased’s heirs.
Wrongful Death Damages
Under South Carolina law, a wrongful death claim addresses damages that the living family members experience after the death of their loved one. Monetary loss is the primary measure of injury for a wrongful death suit.
Most laws stipulate that the compensation provided for wrongful death shall be fair for the financial damages caused by the death of a loved one. If someone who shares in the deceased victim’s estate is responsible for the decedent’s medical or funeral expenses, they may also be compensated. These damages may include:
- Loss of support or companionship
- Medical expenses for the decedent’s fatal injuries
- Lost prospect of inheritance
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Mental anguish resulting from the deceased’s death
- Loss of guidance, care, and protection
- Lost wages and benefits
Wrongful death compensation is essential as it provides financial security for the surviving members. Various parties can settle wrongful death compensation depending on the circumstances surrounding your case.
In some cases, the at-fault party’s insurer (either a medical malpractice insurance or auto insurance company) can pay for a wrongful death settlement. Other times, an employer or business may be held financially liable.
How Long Does Someone Have to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in South Carolina?
In South Carolina, you have three years from the date of the victim’s death to initiate a wrongful death claim. But if your loved one died in a county or state medical facility, then your time of limitation is two years. If you fail to file your claim within the designated period, the court will likely dismiss your claim altogether.
The statute of limitations varies from one state to another. You should consult a skilled Charleston wrongful death attorney as soon as possible.
How Can a Lawyer Help When Filing a Wrongful Death Claim?
Wrongful death laws are complex and filled with strict procedural requirements and stringiest deadlines. While some people would want to navigate the process on their own, hiring a qualified lawyer who understands wrongful death cases can help maximize your settlement.
Need legal Assistance?
Get in touch with the legal team at Lesemann & Associates for help. We have extensive knowledge and experience handling complex personal injury cases and can help you establish liability for your case and pursue adequate compensation. Contact us today to discuss your case confidentially with our lead attorney, Ellis Lesemann.
Wrongful Death FAQ
What Qualifies as a Wrongful Death Claim in South Carolina?
A wrongful death claim is filed to seek compensation for death arising from another person's or entity's negligence. According to South Carolina laws, if a party is found to be at fault in a situation, they are obligated to cover the same losses and damages that the deceased person would have been entitled to claim for in a personal injury case if they were still alive. In simpler terms, the responsible party must compensate for the damages as if the person who passed away was pursuing a personal injury lawsuit themselves. The plaintiff must prove the validity of their lawsuit by demonstrating that the following elements existed:
- Intention to injure the deceased or the death occurred due to negligence
- Monetary damages for the surviving dependents
- Selection of the deceased estate's administrator
Parties filing a wrongful death claim must do so within three years of the malpractice or accident to ensure they comply with the state's statute of limitations.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in South Carolina?
Many states allow family members of the deceased to file a wrongful death claim. In South Carolina, however, only an executor or administrator of the deceased's estate can file a lawsuit for a wrongful death claim. If the deceased had an estate plan, it should identify an executor to file the claim on behalf of family members. Without an estate plan, the court will appoint an administrator or executor.
Although the administrator files the claim, the recovered damages will be given to the individuals recognized as "statutory beneficiaries." These individuals include:
- Surviving spouse: The surviving husband or wife of the deceased person.
- Children: The deceased person's surviving children, including adopted children and stepchildren.
- Parents: The surviving parents of the deceased person if the deceased person does not have surviving children or a surviving spouse.
- Heirs: If there are no surviving spouses, children, or parents, the compensation will be received by the deceased's heirs identified in the will.
How is Compensation Determined in a Wrongful Death Case?
In South Carolina, the amount of loss in a wrongful death case is determined by the financial damages experienced by the surviving members as a result of the death of their loved one. Here are the various damages the court awards:
- Loss of companionship or support
- Mental suffering due to the deceased's death
- Burial and funeral expenses
- Lost salaries and other benefits
- Loss of care and guidance
Can You Pursue a Wrongful Death Claim if the Deceased Did Not Have a Will?
Yes. South Carolina law recognizes an executor or estate administrator as the rightful person to file a claim for wrongful death. If the deceased had no will, the court appoints an administrator or executor to file the claim on behalf of the deceased's family.
What Evidence is Needed to Prove a Wrongful Death Claim in South Carolina?
The following is required to prove a wrongful death claim:
- Death: The plaintiff must prove that the injured individual lost their life.
- Wrongful act: The party filing the claim must demonstrate that the wrongful death resulted from another person's wrongful action, like negligence or recklessness.
- Causation: You must prove that the defendant's negligence caused the death of your loved one. The court will rely on various records, such as medical reports, when verifying this evidence.
- Damages: Parties to receive the compensation must show the financial damage they'll experience due to the wrongful death.