A wrongful death case arises after an individual is killed by the carelessness or neglect of another person or corporation. Sadly, this occurs every day for reasons that can be and should be avoided.
South Carolina law allows you to sue the negligent or guilty party for causing the wrongful death. You can never put a price on human life. However, the justice system is intended to help you and your family with the financial burdens and consequences of your loss, especially if the deceased was the breadwinner of the family. The law also punishes the other party for wrongfully taking a life.
At Pracht Injury Lawyers, our goal is to assist you in understanding your choices in seeking out a wrongful death lawyer and in determining whether you have a case against the person who killed your family member. Pursuing a lawsuit is a major decision and should only be undertaken once you have regained your footing. However, please keep in mind there are laws in South Carolina and every other state that limit the time in which you can file a lawsuit.
Understanding a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
A wrongful death case in South Carolina has two basic components and is governed by South Carolina Code Section 15-51-10 through 15-51-60.
- Survival action. The first case is for medical and funeral expenses, and the pain and suffering the person felt before his/her death. This case belongs to the Estate. In South Carolina, this case is typically called the survival action.
- Wrongful death action. The second component of the case brought under South Carolina’s wrongful death statute is generally referred to as the wrongful death action. In South Carolina, in order to file a wrongful death action on behalf of a loved one, you must first be appointed Personal Representative over the deceased estate by the Probate Court. This case represents the “full value for the loss of the life of the decedent.”
Who Can Be Named the Personal Representative?
Under the South Carolina Probate Code, if the decedent died with a validly executed Will, then the person named in that document has priority to be appointed the Personal Representative. If the decedent died without a Will, then their Estate will be declared “intestate” and the following priority will apply:
- Surviving spouse
- Adult children
- Other relatives
Please note that any Personal Representative, regardless of priority, must be deemed fit by the Probate Court.
What Damages Are Available in South Carolina Wrongful Death Case?
As noted above, a wrongful death usually results in two distinct claims. The Estate is entitled to medical and funeral expenses. This is relatively straightforward, and bills are usually the only evidence that is required. The Estate is also entitled to pain and suffering from the time of accident until death. Defense lawyers always attempt to find evidence to shorten the time of suffering. As callous as it is, they will use autopsies and the facts to argue the person died “instantly” or was rendered unconscious such that they did not feel any pain or suffering.
The other claim, and usually the bigger sum, is the case for the value of the decedent’s life. South Carolina wrongful death claims recover the loss of the person. Therefore, we attempt to show the economic and non-economic aspects of a person’s life to gain maximum recovery.
In recovering economic damages, we look to earning and other financial loss value over a normal life expectancy. What this means is that an economist will take a person’s income and project it out over the normal life expectancy of a similar person. This gives you the total amount of money the person would have earned over the course of their life. A good attorney will retain a reputable economist who will take into account bonuses, benefits, and raises for someone who was working. An economist can also examine the value of losing the household services of a loved one by calculating the value of services they provided to the household.
The economist will then reduce this amount by what is known as “present value.” Present value is simply a calculation where a lifetime of earnings is worth today. Obviously, the two biggest factors in determining this number are the annual salary of the person and the age of the person.
The non-economic aspect is a difficult story to tell in a South Carolina wrongful death lawsuit. It is tough because the loss of someone special is never easy to re-tell. We will dedicate all of our resources into telling your story in a personal and dignified way that makes a jury understand that your loved one was more than a mere statistic.
How Long Do You Have to Think About Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
The deadline someone has to file a lawsuit is known as the statute of limitations. In South Carolina, the usual deadline is three years from the date of the incident causing the death. However, depending on the at-fault party, the timeline could be much shorter.
We highly suggest that you call our office immediately to speak with a South Carolina wrongful death attorney.
Contact a Wrongful Death Lawyer to Protect Your Right to Compensation
Your first step in pursuing a wrongful death case should be either to retain a qualified wrongful death attorney. As stated, you will need to be appointed the Personal Representative of the Estate before we can file a claim or lawsuit.
Wrongful death actions are civil lawsuits that do not bring any criminal charges against the defendants, even when a separate criminal case occurs simultaneously. Our office cannot pursue or attempt to enhance the criminal charges against a wrongdoer to improve our civil case.
Our office in Anderson, South Carolina, Pracht Injury Lawyers is ready to serve you. Our firm has handled cases in Greenville, Columbia, Greenwood, Abbeville, Orangeburg, Clemson, Seneca, Laurens, Spartanburg, Aiken, Newberry, Easley, Charleston, and throughout South Carolina. Contact us today.