What Damages Can I Recover In A South Carolina Wrongful Death Case

wrongful death

Death is inevitable. But losing a loved one over someone else’s negligence or careless actions is hard to accept, especially for those left behind. Applicable statutes for wrongful death vary from state to state. In South Carolina, the deceased’s family members may be eligible to claim economic and non-economic damages.

Find out more about the damages that may be received in case of a wrongful death in Palmetto State.

What Qualifies As A Wrongful Death?   

Circumstances that lead to wrongful death claims vary. In South Carolina, wrongful death covers incidents caused by another person’s wrongful act or neglect. The state further identifies these instances as similar to a personal injury lawsuit—the glaring difference is that the victim has, of course, died in a wrongful death lawsuit.

Since the victim can no longer take the case to court, a representative can file a lawsuit against an individual or an institution instead. These death-causing incidents may include the following:

  • Driving under the influence (DUI)
  • Medical malpractice
  • Defective products and medical devices 
  • Criminal acts or homicide 
  • Nursing home abuse and negligence

The list above isn’t exhaustive. Seek a consultation with a lawyer familiar with the wrongful death statutes in South Carolina if you want to know more about other circumstances that may be covered.

Who Can File A Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

In some states, only the surviving family members have the right to claim damages for wrongful death. Recovering wrongful death damages in South Carolina are often initiated by the deceased’s executor on behalf of the surviving family members. If the person doesn’t have a will, the court will appoint an administrator.

While responsible for filing a claim and pursuing a case, the administrator or executor won’t receive compensation. All settlements will have to go to the members of the surviving family.

What Types Of Damages May Be Covered By A Wrongful Death Claim?  

If negligence was successfully established, a South Carolina court might ask the defendant to award members of the surviving family with the following types of damages:

  • Funeral and burial costs
  • Medical expenses incurred by the deceased person related to the incident
  • Lost financial support, wages, and benefits
  • Property damages related to the death
  • Absence of the departed person’s companionship, care, and protection
  • Family members’ anguish, pain, and suffering

In circumstances where reckless acts are established and cause an individual’s death, a South Carolina court may consider providing compensation for exemplary or punitive damages. Punitive damages are reserved for incidents where the defendant was proven reckless, willful, or malicious.

The purpose of imposing exemplary damages is to prevent the defendant from repeating the same mistake. For example, a defendant who drinks and drives then causes serious car crash injuries that later become fatal may be asked to pay punitive damages in exceptional cases.

funeral death

Who Are Eligible To Receive Wrongful Death Settlements?   

According to South Carolina Code section 15-51-40, settlements in a wrongful death lawsuit must be divided among the surviving family members:

  • The deceased’s spouse gets half the amount of damages. If no children are involved, the surviving husband or wife is entitled to the total amount.
  • The children will divide the other half equally among themselves. If the children don’t have both parents, they get all the settlement. Children below legal age are eligible to receive their share once they become adults.
  • If the deceased doesn’t have a surviving spouse or children, the court will equally award the settlement to the parents. However, if the probate court finds out that the parents didn’t support the departed individual in their growing years, the court can limit the share or deny their entitlement.
  • Without a spouse, children, or parents, the settlement may be awarded to the deceased’s heirs.

Statute Of Limitation For Wrongful Death Claims In South Carolina

The statute of limitations, or the regulation which dictates the time in which a plaintiff must file a case, also varies from state to state. Wrongful death claims in South Carolina must be lodged before the courts within three years following the person’s death. A complaint filed beyond this legal time limit won’t be honored by the court.

Wrongful death is considered a civil case, even if it’s related to a criminal act, for instance, in homicide cases. However, it’s distinct from the criminal case that may have been filed by the surviving family previously.

Final Thoughts

A wrongful death claim is a legal remedy crucial to relatives suffering from losing their loved one. For a successful lawsuit, always seek the help of seasoned legal counsel.

While filing a case won’t bring back the deceased’s life, it may help ease the financial burden and mental anguish associated with the death. The awarding of damages shows that their loved one didn’t die a completely senseless death.