Wrongful death cases present the highest stakes in personal injury claims. Not only is a human life irreplaceable, but the pain and suffering and financial hardships to be endured by their family must be compensated accordingly.
The Charleston wrongful death attorneys at Auger & Auger Personal Injury Lawyers are committed to taking on the burden of pursuing and winning claims that provide well-deserved comfort to the families who have lost so much.
A wrongful death results from the misconduct or negligence of another person, company, or even a government agency. Many claims follow an innocent verdict in a court trial that failed to establish guilt without a reasonable doubt. The Charleston wrongful death attorney would take the claim to civil court, where there is a lower standard of proof; i.e., the guilt is based upon the defendant’s responsibility by a preponderance of the evidence. However, it’s important to note that no one has to be charged with or convicted of a crime for you to file a wrongful death suit.
Examples of situations that might result in wrongful death claims would be auto or truck accidents, pedestrian and bicycle accidents, occupational hazards, or death during a supervised activity. More willfully violent acts such as murder or suicide due to abuse or harassment would also fall under the category of wrongful deaths. Pecuniary injuries are generally awarded for financial loss of support, services, the lost possibility of inheritance, and medical and funeral expenses. In Charleston, punitive damages are also awarded to deter a defendant from future maliciously harmful intentions.
Bullying is the catchphrase for one of the biggest concerns of today’s parents. From physical altercations to abusive messages and videos, the torture can become unbearable to our children. With the prevalent use of cell phones, the harsh words of classmates can impact them long after the closing bell of a school day. This is known as cyberbullying. One study finds that victims of cyberbullying are at higher risk of self-harm and suicidal behavior.
CNN also reported on a Center for Disease Control (CDC) study which supplied data from 1999 through 2015 showing that 1,309 children (ages 5 to 12) ended their lives at their own hands. Sadly, this equates to one child fatality every five days over a 17-year period. And, the numbers are climbing. In late 2017 an 11- year old Charleston female child died by suicide after her parents’ two months of complaints to the school went unheeded.
Unfortunately, there are many situations where the school may be negligent in failing to address bullying. In 2019, the mother of a 14-year-old who died by suicide sued a school in Horry County, SC, alleging that both students and faculty bullied her disabled son.
With wrongful deaths due to bullying, we work with family members to document the facts of the case. In cases involving schools, it’s important that we can demonstrate in court that school officials were made aware of the bullying yet chose to do nothing about it. For example, if you have copies of multiple emails you sent to your child’s school about their bullying, that might show a pattern of negligence on the school’s behalf. If you believe that bullying may have contributed to your child’s death by suicide, please contact us to learn your options for seeking compensation.
Under state laws, “wrongful” death is caused by the neglect or intentional acts of another party. It must meet the standard for negligence that would have been used if the person survived and filed a personal injury lawsuit. Essentially, you and your wrongful death attorney will need to show that:
Your lawyer will use a variety of methods to prove these four points. They will go over police reports, medical records, and autopsy results, analyzing the cause of death and how it relates to the defendant’s actions. Additionally, they may send an investigative team to interview witnesses or look for video or photo evidence of the incident.
Under South Carolina law, a wrongful death suit can only be filed by the executor of the deceased person’s estate. If your loved one prepared a will before they passed, the executor should be named in that document. When someone dies intestate (meaning they did not have a will), the probate court will name an executor to administer the estate. Usually, this is a relative like a spouse, sibling, parent, or adult child. If you are not the executor but feel a wrongful death suit would be appropriate, please encourage the executor to speak with a wrongful death attorney about a potential claim.
Although the executor is the only person who can file a wrongful death suit, any damages received from a successful case will go to the decedent’s heirs in the following order:
The purpose of a wrongful death claim is to provide for the deceased person’s family the way they would have if they’d lived. Many people purchase life insurance policies for this reason, but some policies may only pay as little as $10,000, and the funeral expenses alone may eat up most of that insurance. In some cases, the deceased may have been the primary earner for the family, and now their income is gone. Even larger insurance policies are rarely enough to provide for a family for more than a few years, if that long.
It can be difficult to think about money when you’re still grieving, but unfortunately, bill collectors never stop thinking about it. You may be forced to figure out how to continue paying living expenses like rent, gas, and groceries, as well as providing for your children’s needs. Although a wrongful death case will take time and won’t immediately improve your finances, if successful, it could help put you on a more solid financial footing in the future.
Your attorney will go over these potential damages with you:
South Carolina allows you to file a wrongful death claim three years after the date of death, but keep in mind that it will take your attorney some time to investigate your loved one’s death and prepare to file the claim. We recommend talking to a lawyer sooner rather than later. You’re not obligated to do anything, but an attorney can answer your questions and let you know all the available options. The sooner you have this information, the more time you will have to consider what you want to do. Then if you do decide to move forward with a lawsuit, your attorney will still have ample opportunity to gather evidence.
A complete list would be impossible, as wrongful deaths can occur in almost any situation where another person’s or entity’s negligence leads to a person’s death. But here are some of the more common ways wrongful deaths happen:
If you have lost a loved one following an accident, criminally violent act, or malicious misconduct — our Charleston wrongful death attorney will fight for justice to help alleviate the devastating financial impact on your life.
Call (843) 751-4690 for your free consultation today, with no fees due until recovery!