What type of compensation is available for a wrongful death case in South Carolina?
Losing a loved one is always devastating under any circumstances. But sometimes it may happen in such a way that you believe another person or entity was responsible. They may not have been intentionally trying to cause harm, but through their negligence, they may have caused the situation that led to your loved one’s death. For many people, this can add even more stress and frustration to the grieving process.
Additionally, practical concerns may add another layer of difficulty to an already painful situation. You may be struggling to get out of bed in the morning and find a way to go on with your life, and bill collectors keep calling. Unfortunately, sometimes a person’s death can leave their family in a precarious financial situation. Even if your spouse had life insurance, some policies barely cover the funeral costs, leaving little money to handle your living expenses. If your loved one was the primary earner in the family, this can complicate your life even more, especially if you have children to support.
These are just a few reasons why people sometimes have questions about compensation in a wrongful death case in South Carolina. If you’ve lost someone and believe another’s negligence may be to blame, the best thing you can do is speak with a South Carolina wrongful death attorney about your specific situation. But for now, we’ll take a look at some helpful things to know about wrongful death cases and compensation in the state of South Carolina:
Can I File A Wrongful Death Case And Receive Compensation In South Carolina?
First, you should understand that filing a wrongful death suit and receiving compensation is not necessarily done by the same person. A wrongful death suit in this state is filed on behalf of the decedent’s heirs, but can only be filed by the administrator or executor of the estate. This person is usually chosen when an individual writes their will. If the deceased person did not have a will when they passed, the probate court will appoint one – often the decedent’s spouse, an adult child, a parent, a sibling, or in some cases another relative. In the event that there is no will and a case has not been opened in probate court yet, one will need to be started in order for anyone to file a wrongful death case. You can ask the court to appoint you administrator or executor for the estate at this time. If you meet state requirements and the judge believes you are fit to serve as the executor, there’s a good chance you will be appointed.
If the wrongful death suit results in an award of damages, the money is first used to pay legal costs of bringing the case to court, including court fees and attorney’s fees. It will also go towards any outstanding medical or funeral bills for the deceased. After that, the remaining money goes to the surviving spouse and children. When there are none, surviving parents are next to receive the damages. If there are no surviving parents either, other heirs may receive the money.
How Long Do You Have To File A Wrongful Death Suit In South Carolina?
The statute of limitations for this kind of lawsuit is three years under South Carolina law, although there are a few exceptions in rare cases. Gathering evidence and preparing to file the suit may take some time, so it’s best to speak with a wrongful death lawyer sooner rather than later. Most wrongful death attorneys offer a free, no-obligation consultation, so you can learn your options and then decide what you want to do.
It’s important to note that in North Carolina, the statute of limitations on a wrongful death suit is only two years. So if your loved one’s death occurred while they were visiting over the state line, you will have much less time to file a wrongful death case.
What Kind of Compensation Is Available In A Wrongful Death Case In South Carolina?
There are three kinds of damages that you may seek in a wrongful death case:
- Economic damages. These are actual financial costs associated with the decedent’s death. They may include funeral or burial costs, medical bills from care related to the person’s death, property damage that coincided with the death (such as a totaled car in a car accident), lost earning potential, and any other financial ramifications of the decedent’s death. Your attorney will be able to calculate the deceased person’s potential future earning capacity for the purpose of determining lost earning potential.
- Non-economic damages. This part can be very difficult because no one wants to try to put a dollar amount on their relationship with a loved one. However, the only kind of damages you can seek in a wrongful death suit are financial ones. So it becomes necessary to think about your non-economic damages – pain and suffering, mental torment, and the loss of the deceased person’s knowledge, care, protection, guidance, companionship, and other benefits of spending time with a spouse or loved one.
- Punitive damages. These are not as common as the other two categories. Usually, they are awarded only if the attorney representing the heirs can demonstrate that the defendant’s actions were not only negligent, but also “willful, wanton, or reckless.” This is often more difficult than proving simple negligence, but in some cases, it can be done.
- Survival action. This is not actually a part of a wrongful death case, but in some situations, can be filed separately. A survival action attempts to recover compensation on behalf of the victim for their pain and suffering leading up to their death. If there is evidence that the deceased was conscious and suffering prior to their death, this may be an option.
What Will You Need To Prove Your Wrongful Death Case?
This depends on the specifics of the death and surrounding circumstances, and your attorney will talk it over with you in detail. With car accidents, your lawyer will usually start with the police report, interview witnesses, check any traffic cams or nearby video cameras, and go over the decedent’s medical records. Other types of accident investigations may proceed in a similar manner. For medical malpractice cases, your attorney will probably begin with your loved one’s medical records, and they may interview medical experts to get a better picture of the situation.
What If The Police Report On My Loved One’s Accident Was Inconclusive Or No One Was Charged?
This can be very frustrating for surviving family members. It’s hard to find out that your loved one is dead and the person or entity you believe to be responsible will not face any criminal charges for their actions. In fact, this is one reason people give for filing a wrongful death suit – they want to feel that the responsible party has faced some sort of consequence.
It is certainly helpful if the negligent party was charged and found guilty of a crime like vehicular manslaughter, or at least ticketed for a traffic violation, but this is not necessary to pursue a wrongful death claim. Criminal courts require a much higher burden of proof than civil ones, meaning that a jury has to find the defendant guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Prosecutors have limited time and budgets, and as a result, they have to focus on the cases they believe they have the best chance of winning. For this reason, a prosecutor might choose not to bring a case against someone if they don’t believe they have enough evidence to meet the burden of proof.
However, a wrongful death case is a civil suit, and the defendant only has to be found to be “more likely guilty than not” by a “preponderance of evidence.” So you may still be able to file a wrongful death suit and receive compensation, even if a criminal trial did not happen. Your attorney can advise you on whether there is enough available evidence that a wrongful death case is likely to be successful.
The other thing you should keep in mind is that law enforcement officers are frequently very busy and work with limited resources. Your law firm’s investigators may be able to look into your case, track down more witnesses, find more video you didn’t know existed, or otherwise uncover additional evidence of the negligent party’s actions.
If you have suffered the loss of a loved one due to someone else’s actions or negligence, you may be sad, exhausted, and possibly uncertain about what happens next, especially if your grief is complicated by financial strain. At Auger & Auger Accident and Injury Lawyers, our mission is to take as much of that worry as possible off your shoulders so you can be with your family during this tough time.
Following your free consultation, we will do what we can to keep you involved in the legal process as much or as little as you’d like. We’ll take care of preparing and filing the paperwork, talking to experts and witnesses, and negotiating with the insurance companies on your behalf. We have been helping wrongful death victims secure the compensation they deserve for more than 26 years, and we know what it takes to win your case.
You won’t owe us anything unless we win your case because we have a Zero Fee Guarantee – we only charge a fee after winning your case. Call us at (851) 971-1114 or contact us online for a free, no-obligation consultation with an experienced wrongful death attorney. Our legal team is always here to discuss your legal issues.