What Are The Elements Of A Wrongful Death Claim?

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A wrongful death lawsuit is a cause of action filed on behalf of the survivors of an individual’s death. It seeks compensation for the losses to the survivors of the deceased individual.

Proving Wrongful Death in South Carolina

A wrongful death claim is available whenever the death of an individual is caused by the wrongful act, neglect, or omission of another party, and death would not have occurred except for that wrongful act, neglect, or omission. In effect, the survivors of the deceased party are allowed to bring a claim to recover their damages resulting from the loss of their loved one.

Who Can Sue Wrong Death in South Carolina?

Since wrongful death claims are limited to the survivors of the deceased individual, there is a limited group of those who may bring suit. They include:

  • Spouse or children of the deceased
  • If no spouse or children, then the decedent’s parents 
  • If no parents, then the decedent’s heirs

What Must I Prove?

To receive compensation in a wrongful death suit, you must allege and prove specific facts. These mandatory facts are the “elements” of the claim. For wrongful death, you must prove that:

  • Someone has died as a result of another’s wrongful, reckless, or negligent conduct
  • The deceased individual is survived by immediate family members such as spouse, children, parents, or siblings
  • Immediate family members have suffered a monetary loss as a result of the death

What Damages Can I Recover?

The survivors of a deceased person can recover a large variety of damages in a wrongful death suit, some immediate expenses, and some longer-term. Among these are:

  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Medical and hospital expenses – relating to the injury that caused the death
  • Property damage – if the property damages – such as to a vehicle in an accident – caused the death, it may be recoverable
  • Lost wages – the income the decedent would have earned to support the immediate family
  • Pain and suffering – that is, the pain and suffering experienced by the survivors as a result of the death
  • Loss of care and companionship – the benefits of the decedent’s care, companionship, and protection of the survivors
  • Punitive damages – damages which are intended to punish the wrongdoer rather than compensate the survivors, these might be available if the defendant’s contact was sufficiently reckless or even intentional

What Is a Survival Claim?

It should be noted that the executor or personal representative for the decedent’s estate can also bring a cause of action on behalf of the deceased person for the medical expenses and pain and suffering that the person experienced during the period between the injury and the death it caused. It is only available if the deceased person can be shown to have survived for some time after the original accident. The proceeds, in this case, go to the estate of the decedent rather than directly to the survivors. 

Contact a Greenville Wrongful Death Attorney Today

If you or a loved one is suffering due to the wrongful death of someone important to you, an experienced and knowledgeable wrongful death attorney can work with you for the best possible settlement of your claim.  Contact us today or call 864-432-1747 for a no-cost initial consultation and case evaluation. 

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Can anyone file a wrongful death action?

A. No, to file, you have to be closely related to the decedent. In other words, a wrongful death claim is really about compensating survivors for the losses they suffer based on the decedent’s death. If you weren’t dependent on the decedent in life, you wouldn’t be able to file this claim.

How long do I have to file a suit for wrongful death?

A. In South Carolina, you must file a wrongful death action against a governmental defendant within two years and a non-governmental defendant within three years. Governmental defendants could include parties such as a county hospital or its medical staff, whereas non-governmental defendants would include, for example, the at-fault driver in a car accident.

What does it cost to file a suit for wrongful death?

A. Generally, a wrongful death case will be handled on a contingency fee basis. This practice means that you and your lawyer will enter into a written agreement under which you will only pay fees in the event of a successful settlement or award in your case. These arrangements may call for you to pay expenses regardless. The percentage of the award or settlement paid to your attorney under the agreement may be net or gross of fees and may vary depending upon the stage of the dispute at which it occurs. 

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