South Carolina law recognizes the challenges that people face when their loved one dies due to someone else’s negligence. After all, nobody should ever live through such a terrible situation. The law gives certain surviving family members the right to pursue damages from the party (or parties) who caused their loved one’s wrongful death.
In South Carolina, only executors or administrators of a deceased victim’s estate can file a wrongful death claim. If the victim had an estate plan, it will name the executor or administrator. If not, the court will appoint one.
The executor or administrator files the wrongful death claim on behalf of the deceased victim’s loved ones. These family members are eligible to recover damages in the claim. The awarding of damages goes, in order, to:
- Surviving spouse and any children of the deceased victim
- If no spouse or child, then to the victim’s surviving parents
- If no spouse, children or parents, then to the heirs of the deceased.
Even if a child was an adult at the time of his or her death, the parents can still claim damages in a wrongful death lawsuit in South Carolina. However, if a parent abandoned a child before the child’s 18th birthday, the parent would be barred from recovering damages, regardless of the child’s age at death.
What Damages Can You Recover in a South Carolina Wrongful Death Claim?
When the executor or administrator brings a wrongful death claim against a party, they are asking that party to pay compensation for the death, or “damages.” These funds represent the losses which loved ones have incurred as a result of the death. Recoverable damages in a wrongful death claim in South Carolina include:
- Funeral and burial costs
- Lost income which the deceased victim contributed to the household
- Loss of the victim’s care, companionship and protection
- Mental anguish suffered by surviving loved ones.
If the at-fault party acted with extreme negligence, exemplary damages could also be available. These are also called punitive damages. Unlike compensatory damages, these damages are not intended to compensate loved ones for their losses. Instead, they are aimed at punishing the negligent party for their actions and acting as a deterrent to that party and others. For example, in many fatal drunk driving accident cases, surviving family members seek punitive damages.
What Is a Survival Right of Action?
Another type of lawsuit that surviving family members may wish to file is a survival action. Like a wrongful death claim, only the executor or administrator can file this type of lawsuit. Unlike wrongful death claims, survival actions do not seek compensation for surviving loved ones. Instead, they demand compensation for harm which the victim suffered before death.
People in South Carolina can seek damages in a survival action which include:
- Costs of any medical treatment related to the injury or illness which caused the victim’s death
- Pain and suffering which the victim endured before death
- Other related out-of-pocket costs incurred by the victim before death
- Punitive damages (in exceptional cases).
In other words, survival actions can seek the same types of damages which are available in personal injury lawsuits. They are treated like personal injury claims that the victim could have filed if he or she had survived the accident. In a successful survival action, any recovered damages go to the victim’s estate.
What Is the South Carolina Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death Claims?
South Carolina, like all other states, places a time limit on when individuals can file wrongful death claims and survival actions. The state sets these limits so people don’t have to go a long period of time with a lawsuit hanging over their head. Time limits also help to prevent courts from becoming backlogged with cases that happened many years ago.
Executors and administrators must file wrongful death claims and survival actions within three years of the date of the loved one’s death. If you file a claim after this time period passes, your case will likely be dismissed, and you and your loved ones will be barred from recovering any wrongful death damages.
Note: The case does not need to be resolved through settlement or judgment by the three-year deadline. Instead, a person must simply file a claim within that time frame.
Three years is not a lot of time. Before you can file a wrongful death or survival claim, your attorney must take a number of critical steps on your behalf. Those steps include:
- Conducting a thorough investigation to determine negligence
- Gathering and studying medical documents to calculate damages
- Identifying all available sources of compensation
- Preparing the claim for compensation
- Filing all required paperwork in the proper venue.
An attorney needs time to complete these steps. So, if you wait too long to consult with an attorney about your case, you may face a time crunch that ultimately hurts your ability to recover just compensation. For this reason, it will serve your best interests to contact an experienced South Carolina wrongful death attorney as soon as you are ready to take legal action after your loved one’s death.
We Help Families in Rock Hill to Pursue Wrongful Death Damages
It’s never easy to lose a loved one. When the death was due to the suspected negligence of someone else, it’s even more difficult to move on. While compensation will never bring back your loved one, it can help you to deal with the financial burden of the loss.
If you have lost a loved one and believe someone else was at fault, contact McKinney, Tucker & Lemel, LLC. We serve clients in Rock Hill and throughout surrounding communities in South Carolina. We can determine who should be held liable for the death, and we can help you to file your claim in a timely and professional manner. We want to help. Contact us today for a free consultation or get in touch with us online so we can start discussing your case.