Who Gets the Money in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in South Carolina?
Filing a wrongful death lawsuit in South Carolina could help the surviving family members receive the justice they deserve, along with a monetary judgment that will ensure they will not suffer financial ruin. The vital question family members may ask is, Who gets the money in a wrongful death lawsuit in South Carolina?
When Can a Claimant File a Wrongful Death Claim in South Carolina?
A wrongful death lawsuit might be filed in South Carolina when your loved one died because of the unlawful act or omission of another person. Wrongful death lawsuits can arise from things like:
- Auto accidents,
- Pedestrian accidents,
- Bicycle accidents,
- Truck accidents,
- Motorcycle accidents,
- Workplace accidents,
- Defective products,
- Assault or homicide,
- Nursing home accidents or abuse,
- Medical malpractice, and
- Slip and fall incidents.
Other circumstances may lead to wrongful death as well. It’s always best to consult with a personal injury attorney to determine whether you have a claim.
Who May File a Wrongful Death Claim in South Carolina?
The personal representative of the estate of the person who died has the legal authority to file a South Carolina wrongful death claim. The personal representative may be named in the will of the deceased or the court may appoint them if the person died without a will. The appointed personal representative is usually a relative of the deceased.
How Are Wrongful Death Proceeds Divided?
The personal representative files the claim on behalf of the wrongful death victim's family members. Section 15-51-20 of the South Carolina Code of Laws permits only certain individuals to benefit from a wrongful death suit:
- The surviving spouse and children;
- The parents if the decedent left behind no spouse or children; or
- The heirs of the deceased if they have no spouse, children, or parents.
It is essential to understand that children born out of wedlock have the same rights in a South Carolina wrongful death lawsuit as children born of a marriage. The family members who are entitled to benefit from the wrongful death lawsuit will divide the proceeds of the judgment.
Who Gets the Money in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Section 15-51-40 of the South Carolina Code of Laws dictates how the money is divided among beneficiaries after a wrongful death lawsuit. It gives each beneficiary the same share they would be granted by South Carolina’s laws of intestate succession—the laws that determine how an estate will be divided if the person died without a will.
In a wrongful death lawsuit filed in South Carolina on behalf of the victim's surviving spouse and children, the spouse would receive half of the money, and the other half would go to the victim's children equally. The victim's spouse would receive the entire award if the victim died without any children. If the victim had no spouse, the award would be divided equally among the children.
The victim's parents would receive the judgment award if the person died without a spouse or children. However, a parent can be excluded from recovering wrongful death damages if evidence shows that they did not reasonably provide support for their child during the time they were a minor.
If the person has no living spouse, children, or parents, then those who would be in line to inherit under the intestate succession laws will receive the proceeds. These individuals are likely to include grandchildren, siblings, or nieces and nephews. An attorney can help you determine who may be eligible to recover damages from a wrongful death suit.
What Damages Could the Beneficiaries of a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Receive?
Section 15-51-40 of the South Carolina Code of Laws allows for a jury to award damages as it finds are just to the people who will benefit from the lawsuit. The damage award could include exemplary or punitive damages if the person who committed the wrongful act leading to death caused the death willfully, recklessly, or maliciously.
The beneficiaries of a South Carolina wrongful death claim could receive damages based on losses such as:
- Loss of financial support,
- Loss of parental support,
- Loss of affection,
- Medical costs, and
- Final expenses, such as funeral and burial costs.
These damages compensate the family for the losses they have personally suffered as a result of their loved one’s death.
Additionally, the estate may be able to bring a separate survival action to recover damages suffered by the decedent before their death, such as lost wages and conscious pain and suffering. The proceeds from a survival action go to the estate and will be distributed based on the decedent’s will or, if they have no will, the intestate succession laws.
The Peace Law Firm provides free consultations for anyone who might have a wrongful death claim. Contact John Peace and The Peace Law Firm today at 864-298-0500 for compassionate representation. Our attorneys are dedicated to helping people injured by another.
Remember, the time to file a wrongful death claim in South Carolina is only three years. Act quickly to preserve your valuable rights and protect your future while you pursue justice for your loved one.