Losing a close family member to someone else’s negligence is a tragedy, and a wrongful death claim can never change this fact. A successful wrongful death claim can, however, provide you with the compensation your family needs to move beyond your grief and carry on with your lives.
Contact Charleston wrongful death attorney Trey Harrell if you find yourself in this especially challenging situation. He and his team are standing by to help.
What Is Wrongful Death in South Carolina?
Wrongful death refers to a death that’s caused by someone else’s negligence, recklessness, or deliberate action.
If the person who loses their life – the decedent – can have brought a personal injury claim if they’d survived their injuries, an administrator of the decedent’s estate can bring a wrongful death claim on behalf of the decedent’s loved ones in its place.
If the decedent does not name an executor in their will – or does not have a will – the court will assign one. Those who are in line to recover on the damages addressed in the wrongful death claim include the following – in the following order:
- The decedent’s surviving spouse and children
- The decedent’s surviving parents
- The decedent’s heirs according to the state’s laws of inheritance
Proving Wrongful Death
How do plaintiffs prove wrongful death? The strength of your claim will hinge on the available evidence and how well it supports your position, including:
- Evidence from the scene of the accident, including any available photos and videos taken by bystanders
- Eyewitness testimony
- Any accident reports
- The testimony of expert witnesses
- Accident recreation models
Your dedicated wrongful death attorney will put together your strongest claim in support of a positive finding regarding the wrongdoer’s fault in the matter.
Wrongful Death Charges vs. Criminal Charges
It is important to differentiate between wrongful death charges, which are civil charges, and criminal charges, such as murder and manslaughter.
Criminal charges refer to offenses that are against the state or another governmental body, and a conviction can lead to a sentence of time behind bars.
A civil charge, on the other hand, refers to a dispute regarding wrongful conduct between two private citizens, which can lead to compensation for the damages experienced but not to jail time.
Wrongful death claims are civil cases in which the survivors of the decedent seek compensation for their financial and emotional losses from the party whose negligence caused the decedent’s death.
Wrongful death claims and criminal charges are not mutually exclusive, and a defendant can face both such charges for the same action. In other words, the fact that the defendant is facing criminal charges does not bar you from also bringing a wrongful death claim against them.
It’s important to note here that the burden of proof when it comes to your civil charge is considerably less strict than the burden of proof that applies to criminal charges. For your wrongful death claim, you must demonstrate that the preponderance of the evidence – or more than 50 percent – supports your claim.
In a criminal case, on the other hand, the prosecution must prove that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, which means there is no other reasonable explanation.
The Elements of a Wrongful Death Suit
To prove wrongful death and bring a successful wrongful death suit in the State of South Carolina, the following wrongful death elements must be present:
- The at-fault party owed the decedent a duty of care. A prime example of this duty of care is the responsibility motorists have for one another’s safety.
- The at-fault party breached – or failed to live up to – the duty of care they owed. For example, a motorist’s impairment can be cited as a breached duty of care.
- This breached duty of care caused the fatal accident in question.
- The decedent suffered losses – or damages – that are covered by the law.
Wrongful Death and Covered Losses
In South Carolina wrongful death lawsuits, a wide range of losses can be addressed, including all the following:
- The decedent’s funeral and burial costs
- The decedent’s accident-related medical expenses experienced before succumbing to their fatal injuries
- The loss of financial support and additional benefits experienced by the survivors
- The survivor’s loss of the decedent’s experience, judgment, and knowledge
- The survivor’s loss of the decedent’s protection and companionship
- The pain and suffering experienced by the survivors
In situations when the at-fault party’s negligence is especially egregious, the court may also impose punitive damages, which aren’t designed to compensate the survivors but are meant to punish the wrongdoer.
An Experienced South Carolina Wrongful Death Attorney Is on Your Side
If you’ve lost someone you love to another person’s negligence – or worse – the path forward is challenging. At Trey Harrell Auto Accident and Personal Injury Attorney, we serve Charleston, SC as an experienced legal team in wrongful death cases. We understand how difficult your position is and we offer the commitment, drive, and legal skills to help.
Obtaining fair compensation is critical to your family’s recovery. Begin your case today by contacting us online or dialing 843-701-8029 for more information today.
Wrongful Death Case FAQs
Do I have a wrongful death case?
The surest means of determining whether or not you have a valid wrongful death case is by reaching out and consulting with an experienced wrongful death attorney.
How long do I have to bring a wrongful death case?
In South Carolina, the statute of limitations – or the time limit imposed in relation to bringing wrongful death claims – is three years from the date of your loved one’s death. As such, the date on which this time limit begins can be later than the accident date if time elapsed before your loved one succumbed to their injuries.
Do I have to hire a wrongful death attorney?
The most important step you can take when it comes to protecting your rights – in pursuit of your rightful compensation – is working closely with an experienced wrongful death attorney.