Greenville Wrongful Death Lawyer

When your loved one is diagnosed with a terminal illness, you at least have a measure of time to mentally prepare yourself. However, when they are taken from you unexpectedly due to another’s negligence or malicious act, the reaction is shock and deep distress. This sudden onslaught of emotions can make it difficult to make appropriate and timely decisions for moving forward.

Auger & Auger is a family firm, and we understand how painful it is to find yourself in this situation, especially with no one to turn to for advice when the aftermath is so devastating. Our Greenville wrongful death attorney is dedicated to fighting for your relief from the burden of medical bills, loss of household income, pain and suffering, loss of a spouse, and more. Having a legal expert to fight for compensation for the loss of your loved one is an invaluable asset at one of your life’s most challenging moments.

Proving Wrongful Death in Greenville

When a person dies as a result of misconduct or negligence, the emotional effects can be devastating. A criminal case might be the route to seeking justice — but this is not an option in every situation. There may be arbitration or mediation as a middle ground, with the next step being a civil lawsuit for which a lower standard of proof is allowed. Our Greenville wrongful death attorney will need to provide proof of the following:

● The victim did, in fact, lose their life;
● The death was caused by the negligence of another, or with an intent of harm;
● The family members are suffering financial difficulty as a result of the death; and,
● There is a personal representative of the estate.

There is a statute of limitations of 3 years from the date of death within the South Carolina Code of Law, Title 15, Death by Wrongful Act. If the family files suit within this time frame and the elements of proof are met, they should be compensated for funeral and burial expenses, any medical bills associated with the injury that led to death, lost wages and benefits, loss of the decedent’s experience, loss of the decedent’s care, pain and suffering, and mental anguish.

Your Greenville wrongful death attorney will need time to gather evidence and prepare to file a wrongful death suit, so the sooner you seek legal help, the better.

The Difference Between Civil and Criminal Cases

It’s not uncommon for family members to be disappointed in the results of a police investigation after a loved one’s death. We’ve met many people who were frustrated when a district attorney opted not to file criminal charges, or the police determined there was no evidence of a crime. We understand how upsetting it is to hear that the person you believe is responsible for a family member’s death will not face any consequences in the criminal court system.

Reaching a Guilty Verdict in Criminal Court

The burden of proof in a criminal trial is very high – the defendant must be found guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.” There are many situations where a prosecutor believes a person is guilty of some wrongdoing but is unable to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt, usually due to a lack of evidence. Because a large number of cases are referred to prosecutors, they have to concentrate on the ones they believe they can win.

Even when the prosecutor has enough evidence to pursue a trial, that is not a guarantee they will arrive at a guilty verdict. Sometimes the jury simply isn’t convinced in spite of the prosecutor’s best efforts at proving the case.

That’s if a trial occurs at all. In many criminal cases, the defense attorney and the prosecutor will work out a plea deal, where the defendant pleads guilty to a lesser charge and receives a reduced sentence or sometimes probation. If the judge approves of the deal, then there is no trial. The defendant simply serves their reduced sentence or follows the rules of their probation.

How is a Civil Case Different?

Civil cases do not result in jail time or a criminal record if the defendant is found guilty. Instead, the injured party receives a monetary settlement for their damages. When these cases go to trial, a jury is only tasked with determining if the defendant is “more likely than not guilty” based on a “preponderance of evidence.” What this means is that if the jury decides there is a 51 percent chance the defendant is guilty, they should find the defendant guilty. As a result, it is easier to win a civil trial than a criminal one.

Civil cases are similar to criminal cases in one way – the majority of cases do not go to trial. While many people charged with crimes agree to a plea deal, most civil cases are settled out of court. Typically this involves the responsible party’s insurance company agreeing to pay a certain amount of damages. In some cases, where the damages exceed the limits of the insurance policy, the responsible party may also agree to pay some of the damages. Usually, both parties benefit from avoiding a lengthy and stressful trial, and from achieving a certain resolution rather than wondering what will happen in court. However, if the other party or their insurance company won’t agree to a reasonable settlement, we are prepared to fight for your right to compensation in court.

Civil Suits Versus Criminal Trials

Returning to the example of car accidents, it is possible to charge a driver with a crime if they are responsible for another person’s death in a car accident. In the most serious cases, a driver could be charged with reckless vehicular homicide, but the prosecution would need to present convincing evidence that the death was caused by the defendant driving a vehicle “in reckless disregard of the safety of others.” This is a felony and if convicted, the defendant could receive up to ten years in prison. However, it is difficult to prove, and these charges are typically only filed in cases of very reckless behavior, like driving 100 MPH.

Other charges are possible depending on the circumstances of the accident. A driver who is found to be intoxicated at the time of the crash may be charged with vehicular homicide, or they may only be charged with felony DUI. Again, this is usually based on what the prosecutor believes they can prove in court.

There are also many situations where the driver responsible for the accident was not found to be intoxicated and their actions weren’t deemed egregious enough to warrant a vehicular homicide charge. In Greenville, this type of situation often results in the driver receiving a few traffic tickets and paying a fine. Some Greenville residents who lost loved ones in traffic accidents have proposed legislative changes to allow more options for criminal charges in accidents that cause a person’s death. In the meantime, it remains difficult to address most car accident deaths in criminal court, but a civil case may still provide another avenue for seeking justice.

Types of Wrongful Death Cases

We’ve used car accidents as an example here, but there are many other ways for wrongful deaths to occur. Here are some common types of wrongful death cases:

● Boating accidents
● Plane crashes
● Traffic accidents, including motorcycle and large truck accidents, and pedestrians or bicyclists hit by vehicles
● Medical Malpractice
● Workplace accidents, such as construction accidents
● Drownings
● Premises liability (may include unsafe or hazardous situations on the premises or a lack of security leading to a crime)
● Defective products

Even if your loved one’s death doesn’t fall into one of these categories, it’s possible that another party’s negligence played a role.

What If You’re Unsure If Your Loved One’s Death Was Wrongful?

One of the most common reasons that people delay speaking with an attorney about a family member’s passing is that they don’t realize the death was caused by another’s negligence, or they aren’t sure. Sometimes they have suspicions that their loved one’s death could have been avoided but don’t think there is any proof. Because the burden of proof is lower in a civil case, and we will fully investigate what happened, that may not be true.

Another common misconception is that a death isn’t “wrongful” if a coroner ruled it an accident. This is not necessarily true. For example, car accident deaths are usually ruled accidental (unless there is some evidence of homicide). However, many car accident deaths are caused by a driver’s negligence. It isn’t the coroner’s job to determine if an accidental death was caused by another person’s negligence, only to determine the manner of death.

If you even suspect that your family member’s passing could have been avoided, we recommend speaking with a Greenville wrongful death lawyer right away. We can look into the circumstances of the death and examine any evidence of negligence. Your call is confidential, and your consultation is free, so if we don’t find that there is a strong case for negligence, it won’t cost you anything. You will get the peace of mind of knowing that you looked into the situation. If we do find that there is significant evidence of negligence in the death, you will have the option of proceeding with a wrongful death suit.

Damages Available in a South Carolina Wrongful Death Case

There are a number of damages available in a wrongful death case, both economic and non-economic. Here are some possible damages you and your attorney may discuss:

Funeral costs and other final expenses. For some families, these can be financially devastating.
Medical costs. Another financial blow may come in the form of medical bills related to the accident or illness that took your loved one’s life. Often this kind of care is very expensive, as the medical staff may have made every effort to save the deceased person’s life.
Lost income. If your deceased spouse was the main earner in the family, you may be able to seek compensation for their lost income. It can be very difficult to put a dollar amount on your loss, but doing so will allow you to provide for yourself and your children while you work through your grief. Your lawyer can calculate how much income your spouse would likely have earned.
Property damage, usually involving the decedent’s vehicle.
Pain and suffering of the family members. This can include things like loss of consortium, companionship, advice, care, and other positive elements of a relationship.
Punitive damages. These are not applicable in every case but are occasionally awarded if the jury finds the defendant’s actions to be especially reckless or even intentional.

Damage Caps in South Carolina Wrongful Death Cases

There is a limit on punitive damages in wrongful death cases. You can collect $500,000 or three times the amount of other actual damages, whichever is greater. This limit applies only to punitive damages, not other damages in most cases.

The one exception is when wrongful death suits specifically involve medical malpractice. In these cases, non-economic damages (such as pain and suffering) are limited to $350,000 for a single medical provider (like a hospital or clinic). However, you can collect up to $1.5 million in these damages if you are able to successfully sue multiple medical practices. (Whether or not this is possible depends on the details of the case.) Economic damages are not capped.

Auger & Auger Wrongful Death Lawyers in Greenville

Our Greenville wrongful death attorney truly understands the emotional difficulty you are facing. You and your family are grieving a death while grappling with the knowledge that the death was preventable. This can make moving forward incredibly difficult. You can rest assured that the entire team of Auger & Auger Accident and Injury Lawyers will treat you with the sensitivity and care that you deserve.

We also know that you may be dealing with a loss of financial support, and we have no intention of compounding that difficulty. Our zero-fee guarantee means that we are paid from the proceeds after the case is won. Please reach out to us for a no-cost evaluation today because we are here for you!

Call today for your free consultation, with no fees due until recovery!