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Proving Wrongful Death in a Civil Case in South Carolina


If you believe you may have a wrongful death claim, it would be wise to speak to an attorney about your possible case.  For more information as to what must be proven in wrongful death cases, see the discussion below.

What Is Wrongful Death?

If a person’s death is caused by the negligence of another person or entity, the surviving family members can bring a civil suit called a wrongful death suit in court seeking compensation from the party responsible for the death.  The suit itself is brought by the deceased person’s estate, but it is brought on behalf of the surviving family members or heirs.  This process is different from what happens in a criminal case, in which a prosecutor or district attorney may try to hold a person criminally responsible for what happened.  Criminal proceedings don’t end with compensation to the family, but a civil suit for wrongful death might.  The person bringing the suit is the plaintiff, while the person against whom the suit is brought is the defendant.

What Must the Plaintiff Prove in a Wrongful Death Case?

The plaintiff in a wrongful death case must generally prove three things in order to be successful and to receive compensation for the decedent’s death.  First, the plaintiff must prove that there was a duty of care.  This means that the plaintiff must prove that the defendant had some kind of obligation to the decedent or to society at large, like an obligation to obey traffic laws in a car accident case.  Second, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant breached that duty and did not fulfill it.  Finally, it is not enough that the defendant failed to do something he or she was obligated to do; the plaintiff must prove causation, or that it was the defendant’s breach of duty that caused the decedent’s death.

To What Standard Must the Plaintiff Prove These Things?

Just like in a criminal case in which the prosecution must prove that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, there is a standard in place that the plaintiff must reach in order to be successful.  The burden of proof is just a question of how convincing the plaintiff must be in order to succeed on his or her claim.  It’s not a measure of the quantity of evidence presented.  In South Carolina, the burden of proof in wrongful death cases is by a preponderance of the evidence, which simply means more likely than not.  That’s the standard that a plaintiff must reach in order to be successful on his or her claim.

How Do I Pursue a Wrongful Death Case?

You will need an attorney to assist you in pursuing a wrongful death claim.  However, not just any attorney will do, even though many attorneys may be willing to take your case.  You will want an attorney who has specific experience with wrongful death claims to handle your case.  You can contact an experienced Columbia wrongful death attorney at The Stanley Law Group.  Call 803-799-4700 and set up a consultation today.

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