Charleston Wrongful Death Lawyer

Losing a family member due to another person’s carelessness is as frustrating as it is devastating. In South Carolina, those impacted the most by the loss of their loved one have the right to seek financial compensation through the civil legal system, where the burden of proof is significantly less than for criminal charges. With the help of the legal team at Trey Harrell Auto Accident and Personal Injury Attorney, you can focus on healing while your experienced Charleston wrongful death lawyer builds a claim on your behalf.

What Types of Cases Does Our Charleston Wrongful Death Lawyer Handle?

Any incident that causes the loss of a life resulting from a wrongful or negligent act is a wrongful death. Any personal injury accident can potentially result in a wrongful death claim. The most common types of cases handled by a Charleston wrongful death attorney include:

  • Auto accidents: These include collisions involving passenger vehicles, commercial trucks, motorcycles, bicyclists and pedestrians, where someone’s negligent driving resulted in an accident.
  • Medical malpractice: Doctors, nurses, healthcare staff and medical facilities owe patients a duty of care. Failure to uphold a reasonable standard of care, leading to someone’s death, can make them liable for damages.
  • Slip and fall accidents: According to the concept of premises liability, property owners are legally responsible for maintaining safe conditions for visitors. When someone loses their life in a fall because the owner failed to uphold their responsibility, the court may award damages to the deceased’s family.
  • Workplace accidents: Accidents happen at work every day, especially in dangerous conditions like construction. When someone dies due to negligence on the job, a Charleston wrongful death lawyer can help the surviving family hold the at-fault party accountable.
  • Product liability: Manufacturers are responsible for ensuring their products are safe for consumers. If they distribute a defective product, causing the death of a customer, they are legally liable.

Sometimes the incidents leading to wrongful death result from an intent to harm, such as assault or battery. In these cases, the defendant may face criminal charges. In this scenario, you may still file a civil claim against them.

Who Can Bring a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in South Carolina?

According to South Carolina law, only the executor or administrator of your loved one’s estate can file a wrongful death claim in civil court. Typically, the executor of an estate is a family member named in the deceased’s will. If they had no estate plan before their passing, the court could name an administrator. The administrator is responsible for pursuing the claim, but the court requires a fair distribution of any damages recovered.

Paying out settlements for a wrongful death claim

When the deceased person’s representative wins a settlement or award, the family members who can recover damages include the surviving spouse and children. In the absence of a spouse or child, the deceased person’s parents will receive damages. With no surviving parents, children or spouse, the heirs of the deceased’s estate will recover the damages.

What Damages Can You Recover From a Wrongful Death Claim?

The term “damages” refers to the compensatory losses the plaintiff sustained as a result of their loved one’s death. This includes all economic and non-economic losses. In rare cases, the court may award punitive damages.

Economic damages

One of the most valuable advantages of having a Charleston wrongful death attorney handle your claim is their experience identifying and valuing the economic and non-economic losses associated with most wrongful death cases. Economic losses specifically refer to how the death of your loved one impacted you and your family financially.

Examples include:

  • The costs of funeral and burial expenses
  • The future income the deceased would have provided your household had they survived
  • The loss of inheritance belonging to surviving heirs
  • The loss of benefits, such as health insurance and retirement funds, contributed by your loved one
  • The cost of any medical expenses incurred before their death

In auto accident cases, the executor can also request the cost of repairing or replacing damaged property.

Non-economic damages

The non-economic damages associated with a wrongful death claim include how the accident and your losses impacted you psychologically. Recoverable non-economic damages include:

  • The physical pain and suffering your loved one endured before death
  • The loss of companionship, comfort, nurturing and guidance the deceased provided
  • The loss of consortium, which the court may award to a surviving spouse
  • The emotional distress and mental anguish associated with your loss

Valuing these damages is more complex than calculating economic losses. An experienced attorney will use their knowledge of legal precedent and access to valuable experts, such as mental health specialists, to help prove these losses and assign a monetary value to your pain and suffering.

Punitive damages

The court may award punitive damages in cases involving gross negligence or malicious intention. The purpose of punitive damages is to punish the defendant for their actions. For example, suppose you lost a loved one in a car accident caused by someone driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol and speeding. That situation may warrant an order for punitive damages because the defendant displayed a complete disregard for the safety of others. These damages are often substantially more than the value of compensatory losses.

Why Hire Our Charleston Wrongful Death Lawyer?

Hiring our Charleston law firm comes with many advantages for your wrongful death claim. While every case has unique circumstances, there are some aspects your attorney can handle for every claim:

  • Representing the client in conversations and negotiations with the insurance company and the defendant’s team
  • Investigating the incident to find evidence of negligence or malicious intent
  • Identifying and valuing all recoverable losses from the incident and the loved one’s death to ensure a fair settlement or award
  • Ensuring the protection of your right to compensation
  • Acting as a compassionate source of legal information and objective professionalism

Working with an experienced personal injury attorney in Charleston moves the heaviest burdens of the legal process from you to your legal representative and gives you an advantage when arguing your case.

FAQs About Wrongful Death Cases

What is the difference between a wrongful death claim and a survival action?

Surviving families bring a wrongful death claim to seek compensation for their losses, including emotional and financial damages. A survival action seeks damages incurred by the deceased during the time between the negligent act and their death.

How long does a wrongful death case take?

Every case is unique. Some may end quickly in a settlement, lasting only a few months. However, a more complex case could take several years to conclude. A Charleston wrongful death attorney can help you better understand how the details of your case may impact the process.

Is there a cap on wrongful death in South Carolina?

Only wrongful death cases involving medical malpractice have a cap on the compensatory damages you can receive. It is $350,000 against one medical provider and $1.05 million in total if the cause involves multiple defendants. Additionally, punitive damages cannot amount to more than $500,000, or three times the value of compensatory damages.

How do insurance companies defend against wrongful death actions?

Insurance companies may dispute the fact that their policyholder was negligent in the first place, either claiming that they were not negligent, or that their accident did not cause the death. They may also use other defenses, such as blaming the accident victim for what happened or saying that they assumed the risk.

How are wrongful death settlements divided out?

If the decedent did not have children, the surviving spouse would receive the entire settlement. If there were children, the spouse would receive half of the settlement, and the children would divide the other half. If there were children, but no spouse, the children would equally divide the settlement. If there was no spouse or children, then the parents would receive the entire settlement.

Do you pay taxes on a wrongful death settlement?

The IRS only taxes money that they consider to be a source of income. They do not believe that wrongful death settlements are considered as income, even though they may partially cover lost wages that the deceased person may have earned over the course of their lifetime. You do not need to pay South Carolina taxes either.

Contact a Charleston Wrongful Death Lawyer Now

There is no time too soon to seek legal advice after losing a loved one due to someone else’s negligence or malicious intention. Attorney Trey Harrell and his team understand how important it is for families to get the justice they deserve and recover compensation for their financial and emotional losses.

Contact our office at Trey Harrell Auto Accident and Personal Injury Attorney to schedule your free consultation and speak to a compassionate Charleston wrongful death attorney today.

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