According to a wrongful death attorney in Greenville, a “wrongful death” is one caused by one of the following from another party: criminal violation, negligence, or default. According to the Insurance Information Institute for Highway Safety, 1,001 people died in auto accidents in South Carolina in 2019.
A wrongful death claim permits the remaining family to seek compensation for the loss of a loved one. However, only a small number of people are eligible to file a wrongful death claim. The administrator or executor of the deceased person’s estate must bring a wrongful death action.
If the deceased had a will, the executor or administrator may have already been appointed. A court may appoint one if none is available. Once elected, the executor or administrator can sue for damages in a wrongful death action.
What Is the Difference Between a Wrongful Death Case and a Homicide Case?
In a wrongful death case in Greenville, the defendant’s guilt is only expressed in terms of monetary compensation, which the court requires the defendant to pay to the decedent’s survivors, as in all personal injury cases.
This is a significant distinction between a wrongful death case and a criminal homicide case, where a conviction can result in jail for life, probation, and other penalties.
A local prosecutor can file criminal charges, such as motor vehicle homicide in the case of a fatal car accident caused by a reckless driver. Much of the evidence from the criminal case can be used in the wrongful death lawsuit.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Suit in South Carolina?
Any wrongful death lawsuit must be initiated “in the name of the executor or administrator” of the deceased’s estate, according to South Carolina’s wrongful death law. In other words, if an executor is designated in the deceased’s will, that individual is likely to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
However, it’s vital to note that the executor is only demanding compensation on behalf of a limited number of people. A wrongful death lawsuit can be filed on behalf of the following beneficiaries, irrespective of who the executor or administrator of the estate is.
These beneficiaries are:
- The deceased’s wife or husband
- The deceased’s child or children
- The deceased’s parent or parents
- The deceased’s heirs
What Types of Damages Apply in a South Carolina Wrongful Death Case?
If a wrongful death lawsuit is successful, the judge will compel the defendant to pay “damages” to the survivors of the deceased person, as explained above. Compensation can be given in South Carolina for a variety of losses, including:
- Expenses for the funeral and burial
- Medical expenditures and costs incurred as a result of the deceased’s final illness or injury
- Lost financial assistance and benefits
- Loss of the deceased person’s expertise, wisdom, and judgment
- The remaining family members’ pain and suffering
The court could also impose punitive damages if the behavior that contributed to the death was intentional or reckless.
Punitive damages, unlike other types of damages, are not intended to recompense the family or estate for losses made as a result of the death. Rather, these damages are meant to penalize guilty parties while also serving as a warning to others who might participate in similar activities in the future.
Proving a Wrongful Death Case:
In South Carolina, wrongful death claims are filed by the executor or administrator of a deceased person’s estate. They appeal on behalf of the deceased’s executors, which could include a surviving spouse, children, or parents.
The person initiating the lawsuit must demonstrate that:
- The defendant has breached the deceased individual duty of reasonable care
- The defendant violated the decedent’s duty of care through wrongful conduct, an act of negligence, or failure
- The defendant’s death might not have happened if the defendant’s actions had not been taken
A wrongful death lawsuit is a civil action, so the standard of proof is lower than in criminal prosecution. In a criminal proceeding, the prosecution must prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The plaintiff in a wrongful death lawsuit simply needs to demonstrate the defendant’s liability with clear and convincing evidence.
The contrast between a criminal charge and a wrongful death lawsuit is significant. A jury’s “not guilty” judgment in a wrongful death lawsuit does not prevent the claimant from pursuing a wrongful death claim. The lower standard of evidence enables claimants to seek restitution even if the defendant was not convicted.
What Is the Time Limit for Filing a Wrongful Death Claim?
A claim must be brought before the legal time limit, which is defined by a law known as a “statute of limitations.” Wrongful death lawsuits in South Carolina must be brought within three years after the date of the person’s death. If the case is not submitted within that three-year term, the court will very certainly decline to consider it.
Our Greenville personal injury attorneys keep your best interests in mind. We understand that filing a wrongful death case in South Carolina will not bring your loved one back. Fighting for justice and holding the party responsible for your loved one’s death accountable can help honor the memory of the person you care about. You can contact us for a free consultation and case review.