Wrongful Death Attorneys in South Carolina
First and foremost, we're sorry for your loss.
The loss of a loved one is unimaginable.
When it happens because of the negligent or intentional acts of another, the loss can be even more devastating for the family of the victim.
You are dealing with emotional
This can cause additional grief during a time when you are trying to process your loss.
The Peace Law Firm is here to help clients hold those responsible for the loss accountable for their actions.
With an experienced South Carolina wrongful death attorney in your corner, you can seek fair financial compensation for your family with a wrongful death lawsuit.
What is Wrongful Death?
South Carolina law defines wrongful death as the loss of life caused by the wrongful act, neglect, or default of another. This wrongful act or omission must be something that, if the victim had lived, they would have been able to file a personal injury lawsuit against the party responsible and collect compensation for the harm caused.
Almost all accidents that result in a fatality qualify for a wrongful death lawsuit. Some of the most common causes of a wrongful death claim include the following:
- Car accidents,
- Commercial trucking accidents,
- Bicycle accidents,
- Pedestrian accidents,
- Defective products,
- Medical malpractice,
- Nursing home abuse or neglect,
- Premises liability/slip & falls,
- Murder, and
- Workplace accidents
An experienced wrongful death attorney can review the facts of your claim and explain your legal options. The Peace Law Firm knows what it takes for a successful wrongful death lawsuit.
Family Compensation for Wrongful Death Claims
Wrongful death suits are typically based on unexpected deaths. They usually occur because of an accident or intentional act of violence.
Most people do not consider the financial ramifications that a wrongful death will inflict on a family. But, for many, especially if the loss is of the primary earner, the financial consequences can be severe.
No amount of money can ever bring your loved one back. But compensation from a wrongful death lawsuit can help your family manage financially while you grieve.
Damages from a wrongful death claim intend to cover the physical and emotional loss to the victim's family.
Compensation for wrongful death can include:
- Money for final medical expenses;
- Funeral and burial costs;
- Loss of future income and benefits;
- Loss of retirement earnings;
- Property damage;
- Pain and suffering;
- Emotional distress and mental anguish;
- Loss of the victim’s experience, knowledge, and judgment; and
- Loss of the victim’s care, companionship, and protection.
In the most egregious cases of wrongful death, where the actions of those responsible were particularly deliberate or reckless, the court may award exemplary damages.
These punitive damages serve as additional punishment for those responsible and as a deterrent to others who may consider similar actions. There are currently no caps on compensatory or exemplary damages for wrongful death in South Carolina.
South Carolina Wrongful Death Law
In South Carolina, the administrator or executor of the victim’s estate must file the wrongful death claim. In many wrongful death cases, the victim does not have an estate plan in place.
For these cases, the court will often appoint an executor to handle the estate and the wrongful death claim. The executor brings the claim on behalf of the victim’s surviving family members.
Under South Carolina law, surviving family members that can collect compensation for a wrongful death include the victim’s spouse and children. If no spouse or child exists, surviving parents may pursue a claim. Finally, heirs at law of the victim can seek compensation if no spouse, child, or surviving parents exist.
Parents can collect wrongful death damages even if their child was a legal adult at the time of the fatal accident. However, a parent that abandoned the child as a minor is not allowed to reappear and collect damages after the child’s death.
The family of a wrongful death victim only has a certain period of time to file a claim. This time limit is the statute of limitations.
South Carolina law dictates that victims must file the claim within three years of the date of the person’s death. If victims file after that date, the court can throw the case out. This will bar the family from collecting any compensation for the wrongful death.
How Do You Prove a Wrongful Death Claim?
Proving a wrongful death claim requires demonstrating several elements and satisfying your burden of proof.
Section 15-51-10 of the South Carolina Code of Laws says a wrongful death must be caused by the wrongful act, neglect, or default of another.
These actions fall under two categories—negligence and intentional torts—which have different legal ramifications.
Negligence is a legal theory that requires proof of four distinct factors. Generally, negligence means someone behaves in a way that a reasonable person would not and their behavior causes an injury to another.
For wrongful death, a common example of negligence is someone speeding and then causing a fatal car accident.
The first element of negligence is duty. A legal duty requires someone to monitor and change their behavior in accordance with a certain standard of care.
Duties can be established by law or contract, and people who have them are obliged to adhere to them. An example of a legal duty is that anyone operating a car has the duty of care to drive as a reasonable person would, following all traffic rules and driving in a safe manner.
Logically, the next step in negligence is a breach of the established legal duty. Someone can breach a duty of care in many different ways, by their action, inaction, or default.
In a car accident, someone operating a car breaches their duty of care by ignoring traffic laws and driving recklessly.
You need to show some sort of injury to prove negligence. This injury can be physical injuries or monetary damages. For wrongful death, damages are measured by the losses the victim’s family members have suffered as a result of their death.
Causation is as simple as it sounds: Did the person you are suing actually cause the wrongful death?
The court will only hear a negligence claim if you can show the actions or omissions of the specific person you are suing caused the victim’s death. This element may be difficult to prove in the case that the victim also shared blame.
Under South Carolina law, a plaintiff cannot get money damages if they are determined to be 51% or more responsible for the accident. Additionally, if the victim was partially responsible for the injury, it will subsequently reduce the amount of money the family can recover.
Unlike negligence, which usually covers a non-malicious lack of reasonable care, intentional torts are more violent and deliberate acts.
To clear up any confusion, a tort is just a legal term for an act that brings harm to another that can be brought up in a civil lawsuit.
Intentional torts are torts that are predicated on the guilty person intentionally performing some kind of conduct. For wrongful death actions, an intentional tort would have to be sufficiently severe to cause the victim’s loss of life, such as, intentional murder or battery that results in death.
A South Carolina wrongful death attorney can help you identify the cause of your loved one’s death and gather evidence to support your claim.
What Is the Burden of Proof?
After you determine what kind of act it was that caused the death, be it negligent, intentional, or otherwise, you must meet the burden of proof to actually prove your claim.
A wrongful death claim is a civil law claim, and thus has the burden of a preponderance of the evidence.
This is a more lenient burden of proof than a criminal case and requires you to establish only that there is a greater than 50% chance your claim is valid. Therefore, you can sue someone for wrongful death even if they weren’t charged with a crime or were acquitted.
What Kinds of Evidence Can Be Used?
To meet this burden of proof, you will need to collect evidence. Your attorney will help you with this. It is difficult enough to gather evidence by yourself in normal circumstances, much less when dealing with the loss of a loved one.
If either proving negligence or an intentional tort, here are some various types of evidence that may be applicable in your wrongful death claim:
- Witness statements,
- Expert testimony,
- Accident reconstruction reports,
- Medical reports,
- Medical tests,
- Police officer reports,
- Photographs and videos,
- Forensic evidence, and a
- Death certificate.
Armed with this evidence, you can be confident in your chances of success. The more evidence you have on hand before you contact an attorney, the better your wrongful death case will fare.
The Peace Law Firm’s South Carolina Wrongful Death Lawyers Can Help
A South Carolina wrongful death attorney can provide many legal services to the loved ones of a victim lost to wrongful death. A lawyer will follow the correct legal procedures and file paperwork promptly with the court to sustain your claims.
An attorney will open their own investigation into the case. They will collect evidence and witness statements that corroborate your claims of wrongful death and prove the fault of those responsible for the loss.
A lawyer also handles all communication and negotiation with insurance companies and attorneys so you don’t have to. Your lawyer can argue over the settlement so you can grieve in peace and focus on your family.
If you can’t reach a full and fair settlement for the wrongful death of your loved one, a lawyer can take your case to trial. This includes all preparation and pretrial motions, examination, and cross-examination of witnesses. The goal is to make the best possible arguments for why your family deserves compensation for your loss.
Let the aggressive and knowledgeable attorneys at Peace Law Firm handle the responsibility of your wrongful death case and advocate on your family’s behalf.
Top Wrongful Death Attorneys in South Carolina
The Peace Law Firm prides itself on providing compassionate advocacy. We give expert representation to clients of wrongful death lawsuits. You should not have to manage your grief and fight the insurers at the same time; let our office help.