A wrongful death claim can be made anytime a person dies as a result of another’s negligence. Although various types of incidents can cause a death, there are some speciﬁc issues that are involved with this type of claim. At the Greenville law ﬁrm of Bobby Jones Law, we want to make sure that your family is compensated for all their losses, both emotional and ﬁnancial. Our ﬁrm understands that this is a diﬃcult and emotional time. We want to protect your rights and ensure your family does not have to endure any additional hardship. We have successfully helped many families who have lost loved ones and provided them with ﬁnancial security.
How an Experienced Wrongful Death Attorney Can Help
Losing a loved one to someone else’s negligence is life-altering, and finding your way toward healing is an arduous journey. While no amount of compensation can ever bring your loved one back to you, obtaining the compensation to which you are entitled can help you and your family face the path forward with greater confidence and can help you find the strength to keep going. One of the most important first steps you can take in this difficult situation is reaching out to an experienced wrongful death attorney like those who proudly serve Greenville, South Carolina, at Bobby Jones Law, LLC. Our dedicated wrongful death attorneys have the experience, legal skills, and resources you are looking for.
Bobby Jones is a formidable wrongful death attorney who has more than a decade of impressive experience helping the family members of loved ones lost to the negligence of others recover their legal damages. He has the insight and focus to do the extensive investigating required to build the strong cases necessary to successfully fight for justice in each unique wrongful death case. His track record of millions of dollars in settlements throughout his career speaks to his unfailing commitment to his clients’ best interests. To learn more, please don’t hesitate to contact us online or call us to schedule a free and confidential consultation. today
Bobby is a skilled negotiator who has a wealth of experience settling cases like yours. However, he’s also prepared to go to trial if the need should arise. If the insurance company refuses to negotiate fairly or is not interested in doing so, Bobby is an experienced litigator who is not afraid to move forward to trial. Mr. Jones is prepared to do what it takes to protect your rights and aggressively advocate for the compensation you are entitled to.
An essential element of every wrongful death case is having the resources necessary to keep it moving forward. Whether this means hiring highly skilled experts who will examine and report on the evidence in your case or conducting extensive investigative work to build your strongest case, Bobby is well prepared to do what it takes to obtain your case’s optimal outcome.
What to Do if You Believe You Have a Wrongful Death Claim
If you believe your loved one may have died due to someone else’s negligence, there are several important steps you should take.
Understand What Wrongful Death Is
In South Carolina, wrongful death refers to a death caused by someone else’s wrongful or negligent act, and the executor or administrator of the decedent’s estate must bring the claim.
Know the Leading Causes of Wrongful Death Claims
Nearly any kind of accident can ultimately prove fatal, but some types of accidents are more closely associated with wrongful death claims than others are, including:
- Traffic accidents
- Pedestrian accidents
- Accidents on the job
- Nursing home negligence and abuse
- Slip and fall accidents and other premises liability accidents
- Injuries caused by medical malpractice
It’s important to note that the accident does not have to cause the death of your loved one immediately for it to qualify as a wrongful death case. If the injuries sustained in the accident ultimately prove fatal, this element of your case is likely satisfied. Finally, acting quickly in your wrongful death case is paramount – preserving as much evidence as possible can play a crucial role in your ability to receive just compensation, which makes consulting with an experienced wrongful death attorney sooner rather than later in your best interest.
Know the Statute of Limitations
There is a time limit related to how long you have to bring your wrongful death case, and it is called the statute of limitations. In the matter of wrongful death claims in South Carolina, the statute of limitations is three years from the date of your loved one’s death (not from the date that your loved one was fatally injured).
How Wrongful Death Cases Work
While every wrongful death case is unique to the circumstances involved and too many separate variables, they all follow the same basic steps and must adhere to the same fundamental laws. If your loved one loses his or her life to someone else’s negligence, the executor of his or her estate (who is either named in his or her will or is appointed by the state – in the absence of a will) will engage in all the following:
- Consult with an experienced wrongful death attorney
- File the wrongful death case against the at-fault party (usually via his or her insurance company)
- Construct a strong case built on all available evidence in the case (and the input of expert witnesses as applicable)
- Attempt to negotiate a just settlement with the insurance company that address the full range of covered damages
- Move forward to trial if the insurance company refuses to negotiate in good faith
- Allow his or her dedicated wrongful death attorney to skillfully advocate for rightful compensation and justice in the name of the decedent
What to Expect When You Meet with an Attorney
Once you reach out to an accomplished wrongful death attorney, you can expect him or her to engage in a serious discussion with you about your case, including a series of questions like the following:
- How and when did your loved one die?
- Did time elapse between your loved one’s fatal accident and his or her death?
- What makes you believe your loved one died as a result of someone else’s negligence?
- Do you have evidence that supports your belief?
- Are there any eyewitnesses to the other party’s negligence?
A thorough wrongful death attorney will attempt to obtain all the information he or she can from you as early in the process as possible – in an effort to build your strongest case with all the evidence that remains available. Evidence – and memories – have a way of degrading over time, and your attorney will want to ascertain precisely what is currently available and how to go about gathering whatever evidence may be out there. In other words, time is of the essence, and whatever information and evidence you can bring to your consultation with your resourceful wrongful death attorney is beneficial.
What Can My Family Recover?
Recovery for wrongful death is created by state statute. The purpose is to compensate the decedent’s survivors for the financial loss they have sustained due to a family member’s death. That is, loss suﬀered by the relatives due to the loss of earnings of the deceased that the relatives would have received from the deceased if they lived. This includes money that the deceased would spend or give to his or her family for housing, food, clothes, health care, education, recreation, entertainment, and gifts. In addition, there is recovery for the value of the services, society, and comfort that they would have given to the family had they lived, including work around the home; provision of physical comforts, services, and companionship.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
South Carolina law recognizes that the individuals most frequently harmed by a wrongful death are those closest to the deceased and depended on the deceased for ﬁnancial support. Accordingly, South Carolina law authorizes the following people to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit:
- The deceased’s spouse
- The deceased’s minor children
- The deceased’s adult children who were dependent on the deceased for ﬁnancial support
- The deceased’s parents
The Survival Action
In addition to a claim under the Wrongful Death Act, there is a separate claim known as a Survival Action. In this claim, there can be recovery for damages which the deceased could have sued for in his lifetime, this includes pain and suﬀering of the deceased prior to death, the cost of medical, nursing, and hospital care, the gross loss of the deceased’s earning power from the date of injury until death, and loss of earning power personal maintenance expenses from the time of death through the remainder of the deceased’s estimated life expectancy. Recovery is not permitted for loss of the enjoyment of life or shortening of life expectancy.
Who is Entitled to Make a Survival Claim?
Survival Action is an action belonging to the decedent’s estate for damages suﬀered by the decedent prior to his death or suﬀered by his estate. Therefore, the action is brought by a representative (administrator) of the estate. Damages recovered under a Survival Action belong to the estate, and may be subject to estate and inheritance taxes and the claims of decedent’s creditors, and pass according to the terms of the decedent’s will, or according to the intestate laws if he died intestate (without a will).
What do You Need to Prove?
A wrongful death claim is known as a “derivative” claim, meaning that you step into the deceased’s shoes and bring whatever lawsuit they could have brought had they lived. For example, if a defective product caused the loss of your loved one, they would have been able to bring a product liability lawsuit had they lived. Or, if someone’s negligence killed the deceased, then they could have been able to pursue a negligence lawsuit had they lived.
As the person bringing a wrongful death lawsuit, you will need to prove whatever the deceased would have needed to prove. For example, you might need to show that a product or piece of equipment was dangerous because it had a defect. This defect might be a manufacturing defect or a design defect. Or you might show that the product was defective because the manufacturer didn’t supply suﬃcient instructions or safety warnings. Once you establish that the product was defective and caused your loved one’s death, the manufacturer is strictly liable for the injuries.
Many wrongful death lawsuits are also brought for “negligence,” which is the legal term for carelessness. On construction job sites, many people are responsible for making the site reasonably safe. If they fail to exercise that reasonable care, and your loved one died as a result, then you can bring your wrongful death claim based on negligence. You’ll need to prove the following four elements:
Duty: The defendant owed your loved one a duty to exercise reasonable care
Breach: The defendant didn’t exercise reasonable care (a breach)
Damages: Your loved one died.
Causation: The defendant’s breach of reasonable care caused the death.
For example, a surgeon may injure a patient during surgery and fail to recognize the injury. If the surgery ends up killing your loved one, then you might be able to sue the doctor and the hospital for not identifying the injury they caused.
Grieving family members are not required to know who to sue. You weren’t at the accident scene and have no way of knowing the details of what caused your loved one’s death. In the aftermath of your loved one’s death, your sole focus should be on your family’s physical and emotional well-being. Leave the fact-ﬁnding to the personal injury lawyers at Bobby Jones Law, who can visit the scene and interview witnesses to identify the party responsible for your loved one’s death.
Damages for wrongful death require the plaintiﬀ to prove the expected lifespan of the deceased, future earnings, estimated cost to maintain the decedent, and any amount that would have been given to his or her beneﬁciaries. Economists or actuaries tend to be used to analyze and calculate any damages.
What Types of Accidents Lead to a Wrongful Death in South Carolina?
Traﬃc accidents represent the largest contributor to cases of wrongful death throughout South Carolina. Other accidents, incidents, and conditions in the Upstate that could cause a wrongful death include:
- Dangerous property conditions, such as slippery ﬂoors that cause someone to fall, and unmonitored swimming pools where someone could drown.
- Defective products that are unreasonably dangerous when used as intended by ordinary consumers, and which cause fatal injuries.
- Medical malpractice, which is medical negligence on the part of a health care provider that may include a misdiagnosis, a surgical error, birth injury, medication error, or lack of adequate follow-up after a medical procedure that leads to a preventable death.
- Nursing home negligence, where a loved one may have sustained a fall or infection that leads to a preventable death.
- Construction site accidents in which construction workers sustain fatal injuries, including electrocutions, falls from heights, and equipment malfunction
Planning for a Funeral After a Wrongful Death
Handling the logistics of a funeral and burial (or cremation) can be emotionally and logistically challenging experience, no matter the circumstance. When the family believes that an individual or organization caused the death, the process can become even more fraught and confusing.
The National Funeral Directors Association in 2012 estimated that the average funeral cost exceeded $7,755, not including additional expenses, such as gravestones, funeral plots, etc. Including those costs, that brings the average funeral to approximately $10,000. By contrast, the average cremation costs less than half of that amount. To cover the expenses, the family can seek compensation from the party that directly or indirectly caused the death. However, loved ones should take care to identify and control costs, to document every part of the process, and save receipts and paperwork. The funeral director should provide a complete catalog of potential expenses, including cemetery fees, casket costs, transportation costs, and other miscellaneous fees.
The Logistics of Planning
Work with loved ones and friends to coordinate the funeral and burial planning. First, identify a locally convenient funeral home that shares the family’s values and has a strong reputation. Ask for help to transport the body of the loved one to the funeral home, and then coordinate to develop plans for the funeral service. The funeral director should help the family identify where and how to obtain ﬂowers, a casket, and other necessities. In addition, the family will need to coordinate cemetery planning at this stage. The funeral director and representative of the cemetery can work with the family to accommodate requests, ﬁnd a burial spot and organize the process. In addition, the family will have to handle critical money-related, insurance, and legal matters, including locating the last will and testament, handling the probate process, publishing death notices, and ﬁling for insurance and other beneﬁts, including wrongful death claims. The family may also need to round up participants to prepare eulogies and serve as pallbearers.
How do civil wrongful death cases differ from criminal cases?
This is an excellent question and one that confuses many people. The fact is that someone can be criminally responsible for your loved one’s death, and the criminal case against him or her will be brought by the state, which seeks a conviction and criminal punishment. This does not alter the fact, however, that the same person can also be civilly responsible for your loved one’s death, and you can pursue just compensation from him or her in a civil case that seeks financial compensation for the damages you’ve suffered. While not every person charged with wrongful death also faces criminal charges, they are not mutually exclusive. It’s important to note that the standard of proof is considerably higher in the criminal case than it is in the civil wrongful death case.
What must I prove to bring a wrongful death case?
In South Carolina, you need to prove several important points in order to bring a wrongful death case, including:
- Someone died, and his or her death was caused by the negligence of someone else. This negligence or recklessness is a key factor in your claim, and it must be the direct cause of your loved one’s death.
- The person who died must have surviving family members. In South Carolina, wrongful death cases are filed on behalf of the decedent’s surviving family members, including his or her spouse, children, parents, or siblings.
- The surviving immediate family members suffered actual monetary losses, such as the financial contributions the loved one made to the household and to supporting the survivors. Additionally, the survivors can recover on the value of the services, society and comfort that the decedent would have provided had he or she lived. This can include things like work performed at home, the provision of physical and emotional comfort, and companionship in general.
How long do I have to file my case?
You have three years from the date of your loved one’s wrongful death to file your wrongful death case.
Are the damages recovered in a wrongful death claim taxed?
Because damages recovered in wrongful death claims are considered compensation for physical injuries, you won’t have to pay income tax on them. If, however, the amount brings your loved one’s estate over the exemption amount, estate taxes may apply. Further, if you are awarded punitive damages, these may be subject to income tax. An important caveat is that if you sign a nondisclosure clause, the IRS may take the position that you bargained for the compensation and that it is, therefore, taxable. In other words, it’s complicated, and proceeding without the skilled guidance of a dedicated wrongful death attorney is not advised.
Getting Organized and Getting Assistance
Solicit friends and loved ones to help with the funeral and burial, as well as with other critical logistics. For instance, if the decedent lived alone, the family will need to shut oﬀ the electricity and cable, collect mail, prevent looting, care for any pets at home, etc. Work with this support team to develop a checklist and action plan, and be sure to document all of the costs and expenses, so that the liable party in your wrongful death claim can pay an appropriate reimbursement.
In addition to seeking medical and funeral costs, the family can seek compensation for the decedent’s lost income and retirement beneﬁts as well as other beneﬁts that would have accrued, pain and suﬀering, and loss of companionship and consortium. Finally, family members can seek punitive damages, which the court awards in cases in which a person or company behaved in a grossly reckless, careless, or negligent fashion.
Reach out to a Practiced Greenville Wrongful Death Attorney Today
To learn more about how the distinguished wrongful death attorneys at Bobby Jones Law, LLC, in Greenville, South Carolina, can help you, please don’t wait to contact or call us at 864-432-1514 to schedule a free case evaluation today.