Experiencing the death of a loved one well before death from natural causes would occur is a traumatic occurrence, and one that may result in feelings of depression, despair, and even anger. At the law offices of Peake & Fowler, our South Carolina wrongful death attorneys have helped clients like you understand what steps can be taken from a legal perspective to secure compensation for the death of a loved one. If you have lost a family member in an accident in South Carolina that you believe was caused by someone else, you may be able to bring forth a wrongful death lawsuit for damages. Here’s what you should know:
Cause of Action for a Wrongful Death Suit
To have a legal basis for bringing forth a wrongful death suit in South Carolina, you must establish that the death was caused by the “wrongful act, neglect, or default of another,” and that had the accident/injury not resulted in death, the decedent would have been able to bring forth a suit for personal injury against the at-fault party. In this way, personal injury suits and wrongful death actions are very similar; what differs is who brings forth the action. As such, a wrongful death lawsuit may be appropriate following fatal acts of medical malpractice, motor vehicle accidents, premises liability accidents (such as slip and falls or pool incidents), pedestrian crashes, bicycle accidents, nursing home accidents, and more.
Filing a Wrongful Death Action in South Carolina
Only certain parties related to a decedent maintain the right to bring forth a wrongful death action in South Carolina. As found in South Carolina Code Section 15-51-20, only the executor or administrator of an estate may bring forth a claim. However, claims are filed to recover damages for beneficiaries, who may include:
- Parent(s) if no spouse or children exist; or
- Heirs of the decedent if none of the above parties exist.
Types of Damages Recoverable
It can be difficult for parties who are grieving the loss of a loved one to know whether bringing forth a wrongful death action is the right decision, and may base their choice in part on the types of damages recoverable. That being said, if the plaintiff in a wrongful death action can prove the liability of the defendant (by proving duty of care, breach of duty of care, and causation) and can prove damage and sources of recovering damages (i.e. insurance policies) exist, then plaintiffs are able to recover the full extent of losses. This includes:
- Medical expenses the deceased incurred prior to death;
- Lost wages and loss of earning capacity;
- Funeral and burial benefits;
- Loss of care and companionship;
- Pain and suffering of survivors; and
- All other economic or noneconomic losses.
How Much Time Has Passed?
Many clients meet with our lawyers and ask whether or not they can bring forth a claim for wrongful death. Before we can provide them with personalized legal advice, we always ask how much time has passed since the date of death. This is because South Carolina law prevents claimants from bringing forth a wrongful death action after more than three years from the date of death has passed. As such, if more than three years have elapsed since your loved one died, it is unlikely that you will be able to bring forth a wrongful death suit.
Contact Peake & Fowler Today
Filing a wrongful death lawsuit on your own is a complicated and challenging process, and puts your chances of recovering your maximum compensation amount in jeopardy. To improve your chances of recovering the full amount of damages to which you are entitled, contact our law offices today. Our South Carolina wrongful death attorneys are here to advocate for you, and we offer consultations free of charge.