When one party’s negligent or reckless behavior results in another person’s injuries, the law refers to it as a personal injury tort. If the reckless or careless behavior results in an individual’s death, the tort becomes a wrongful death.
At Shealey Law Firm, we understand that no amount of compensation can undo the loss of a loved one. However, we know that it can help ease the financial burden his or her unexpected death may have created for you. More importantly, it can ensure that the law holds the at-fault party accountable.
If you believe you have a wrongful death action, entrust your case to the compassionate Columbia wrongful death attorney at our law office.
South Carolina’s Wrongful Death Law
State laws regarding wrongful death vary in terms of filing timelines, potential claimants and what, exactly, constitutes a wrongful death. However, regardless of how varied state laws are, they all have the same objective in common: to ensure bereaved loved ones receive the compensation they need following the unexpected death of a loved one.
A Columbia wrongful death lawyer can inform you of your rights under the law. Before you consult with an attorney, though, consider a few key aspects of South Carolina’s wrongful death law.
Legal definition of wrongful death
Section 15-51-10 of South Carolina’s legal code legally defines what constitutes a wrongful death. Per the code, wrongful death occurs when one person’s negligence, default or wrongful act causes the death of another individual and when said wrongful act, had it not resulted in death, would have entitled the victim to recover compensation for a personal injury.
Statute of limitations
The statute of limitations refers to the timeframe in which a person must file a legal action for said action to be valid. In South Carolina, you have three years from the date of your loved one’s death to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
Types of Fatal Accidents
From car accidents to drownings, fatalities can happen in hundreds of different ways. Of the various types of fatal accidents you or a loved one may experience, some are more likely than others. The most common types of deadly accidents are as follows:
- Motor vehicle crashes (accidents involving cars, trucks, motorcycles, rideshare services, etc.)
- Boating accidents
- Pedestrian and bicycle accidents
- Accidents involving unsafe premises or products
- Medical malpractice or negligence and/or prescription medication errors
- Nursing home abuse, neglect or errors
Our skilled Columbia wrongful death attorneys have experience with all types of wrongful death cases, including fatal instances of civil rights violations.
Who Can File for Wrongful Death in South Carolina?
When a wrongful death occurs, there is the potential for several different people to want to file claims for compensation. To limit the number of potentially competing lawsuits, South Carolina restricts who may file a claim for wrongful death. The state is one of the stricter ones in that it allows only a representative of the deceased’s estate to file a wrongful death lawsuit. This “representative” is either the estate administrator or estate executor.
The state limits the ability to file to these persons as it considers such a lawsuit to come from the deceased person’s estate. If the deceased did not name an administrator or executor before passing, the courts may appoint one.
Who can benefit from a wrongful death claim?
Though only a representative of the deceased’s estate may file a wrongful death claim, he or she files it on behalf of the decedent’s surviving family members. This means surviving family members stand to recover compensation for their losses. Persons who may recoup compensation for the wrongful death include:
- Surviving spouse
- Surviving children
- Surviving siblings or parents
- Any heirs named in the will
Typically, a surviving spouse and children have primary claim to any award or settlement awarded in a wrongful death lawsuit. However, if the decedent did not have any surviving children or a spouse, the courts may award compensation to surviving parents or siblings. If there are no surviving parents or siblings, family heirs are next in line. After that, the courts may divide the award among non-family heirs.
If you are a close family member of a victim of wrongful death, consult with a Columbia wrongful death lawyer regarding your rights.
Damages Available in Wrongful Death Claims
The purpose of a wrongful death lawsuit is to ensure the surviving family members have the financial support necessary to maintain the quality of life they enjoyed while their loved one was still alive.
To help families accomplish this goal, the courts allow them to recover various types of damages, such as the following:
- Medical bills
- Loss of financial contribution
- Loss of contributions to future inheritance
- Loss of benefits
- Loss of future retirement contributions
- End-of-life expenses
- Funeral and burial costs
These types of damages can cause considerable financial strain and stress, especially during times of emotional distress. Sufficient compensation can help ease your stress and help you and your family get closer to normalcy again.
Wrongful Death FAQs
Do you have a valid wrongful death claim?
The only way to know for sure if you have a viable wrongful death lawsuit is to consult with an experienced wrongful death lawyer in Columbia. The right attorney can assess the facts, inform you of your rights and let you know whether you have a valid case.
How quickly do wrongful death claims settle?
Unfortunately, the timeline for wrongful death suits varies considerably. In cases with ample and straightforward evidence, parties may reach a settlement in just a few months. On the other hand, in disputed cases, settlements may take months or years to reach.
Who can file a wrongful death claim?
Only a representative of the deceased’s estate may file a wrongful death claim. However, surviving family members and heirs may receive compensation.
How We Can Help
Wrongful death lawsuits are extremely delicate and complex. Because there is a lot at stake, you should not attempt to pursue one on your own. Rather, let a compassionate and skilled wrongful death lawyer guide and support you through the process.
For the help you need during this difficult time in your life, contact our Columbia wrongful death attorneys. Schedule your free initial consultation today.