Can I Bring a Wrongful Death Claim?
If you’ve lost a loved one as a result of a fatal accident, you may be able to bring a wrongful death claim. If the accident resulted from the reckless, negligent, or intentional conduct of another, they can be held liable for the damage.
How Does a Wrongful Death Claim Work?
Essentially, if the accident that caused the individual’s death is the type that could have given the individual standing to bring a personal injury claim if they’d lived, then a wrongful death claim is justified. One way of thinking about wrongful death claims is that they’re essentially personal injury lawsuits where the plaintiff isn’t available to file for themselves.
Under South Carolina law, wrongful death claims may be brought by the executor of the decedent’s estate—or, in other words, whoever is tasked with executing their will. If the decedent had a will, it will generally specify an executor. However, if there is no will, the court can appoint one.
Who Does it Help?
Wrongful death suits are for the benefit of the deceased’s family. Generally, the proceeds of a successful claim will be allocated to the decedent’s spouse, children, and/or parents. If the decedent did not have a spouse, children, or parents, then the proceeds will be distributed to the decedent’s heirs, as determined by the South Carolina intestate succession statutes.
What Does a Wrongful Death Claim Cover?
A wrongful death claim can cover expenses incurred as a result of the accident, such as medical bills, lost wages, and funeral costs. It also compensates for the damage the family will suffer as a result of their loss—for instance, lost future earnings, pain and suffering, and loss of companionship and support. Punitive damages are also available under South Carolina law, when the conduct leading to the death was willful, intentional, or malicious.
How is this Different from a Survival Action?
There is some overlap between wrongful death claims and survival actions. In fact, in South Carolina, they’re often brought concurrently. The main difference is that survival actions are brought on behalf of the decedent, for the benefit of the decedent, whereas wrongful death claims are brought for the benefit of the decedent’s family. Survival actions apply when there is a gap of time between the accident and the decedent’s death—for instance, if after being injured in a car crash the decedent required a period of hospitalization and treatment before passing away—in this case, the survival action would cover the medical expenses between the accident and death. While survival actions can cover funeral costs, they do not cover any other expenses following death, which is why additionally bringing a wrongful death claim is often beneficial.
Contact a South Carolina Personal Injury Lawyer
If you’ve lost a loved one due to a tragic accident, or someone else’s malice or negligence, it’s important to talk to an experienced Columbia personal injury attorney as soon as possible. The attorneys at Stanley Law Group will assess your unique circumstances to help determine if moving forward with a wrongful death and/or survival action is the best way to seek justice and financial retribution for your loss. Call 803-799-4700 to schedule your complimentary consultation.