Charleston Wrongful Death Attorney
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 Accident and 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.
What Exactly is a Wrongful Death?
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.
Wrongful Death Suicides from Bullying
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.
Proving Wrongful Death in South Carolina
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:
- The defendant (the person or entity you believe is responsible for the death) had a duty of care. For example, a school must maintain a safe environment for students and address potential physical and emotional harm caused by bullying. A person driving a car down the street must drive safely, so they don’t endanger others on the road. A surgeon has a duty to do their job up to current medical standards and avoid causing the patient further harm.
- The defendant breached or failed in this duty of care. A school failed to protect a bullied student. A motorist failed to drive safely. A surgeon failed to do their job up to the current standard of care.
- This breach of duty caused the deceased to be injured.
- The decedent’s death was caused by these injuries from the breach of duty of care.
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.
Who Can Sue for Wrongful Death in South Carolina?
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 decedent’s spouse and children will receive damages first.
- The deceased person’s parents would receive compensation if the decedent had no spouse or children.
- If no living parents, spouse, or children exist for the deceased, any other heirs will receive damages.
What Damages are Available in a Wrongful Death Case?
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:
- Lost income. Your lawyer will develop an estimate of the potential earnings the deceased might have made if they had survived.
- Medical bills. Many people who are injured in accidents receive extensive medical care in an effort to save their life. If they pass anyway, the family may get a large bill they can’t afford to pay. Your attorney will need to see your medical treatment bills, including ambulance bills.
- Pain and suffering. As with a personal injury case, you can ask for the damages the deceased might have received for their pain and suffering due to their injuries, if they had survived.
- Funeral expenses. Any costs associated with the funeral or final arrangements should be included.
- Punitive damages. These aren’t for any bill or cost you received due to your loved one’s death. Instead, they’re meant to punish the defendant for particularly reckless behavior. For this reason, punitive damages aren’t common, but they occur in some cases where the defendant’s actions are considered especially heinous, such as driving drunk and killing multiple people.
How Long Do You Have to File a Wrongful Death Suit?
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.
What Kind of Situations May Result in a Wrongful Death?
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:
- Car, truck, or motorcycle accidents. This is one of the most common reasons for wrongful death cases. In some instances, the defendant may have been charged with a related crime in criminal court, such as vehicular manslaughter, but it’s still possible to pursue a wrongful death claim if they were not charged or convicted in criminal court.
- Boating accidents or drownings.
- Plane or train crashes.
- Medical malpractice. You may have a wrongful death claim if you believe your loved one died because of a doctor’s error.
- Defective drugs or medical devices. Sometimes people think a doctor is to blame for the decedent’s passing, but we find a defective medical device like a pacemaker or IVC blood clot filter was the cause. Or, they may have been prescribed a drug with potentially fatal interactions or side effects that weren’t disclosed. If someone you love died suddenly after starting a new medication or starting to use a new medical device, it’s worth requesting their medical records and having a lawyer take a look.
- Abuse or neglect in a nursing home, rehabilitation center, or other in-patient healthcare facility. This can range from failing to treat a patient having a health crisis to leaving the patient unattended until they develop bedsores that lead to a fatal infection.
- Workplace accidents, especially on construction sites or in factories or other facilities where heavy machinery is used. Many of these cases are covered by workers’ comp insurance, but in some situations, you may have a wrongful death claim against a third party who caused an accident on the job site. If the deceased was driving for work and died in a car accident, you might have a workers’ comp claim and a third-party claim.
- Defective product cases. These may overlap with other cases, like car crashes or workplace accidents. For example, a defective car component could cause a person to become trapped in their car if it catches fire, or a defective parking brake on a piece of heavy machinery on a job site could cause a person’s death. Alternatively, a defective product may lead to a person’s death in a house fire, explosion, or through an illness.
Auger & Auger Wrongful Death Lawyers
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!