Get the Facts on Survivor Claims From a South Carolina Wrongful Death Lawyer
Survivors are often overwhelmed with questions after the loss of a loved one. On our FAQ page, we have compiled a list of the most common questions and answers about filing wrongful death lawsuits in South Carolina, including proving your case and estimating settlement amounts.
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How long do I have to file a wrongful death case in South Carolina?
Since a wrongful death claim is essentially a personal injury claim that results in death, one must file a wrongful death claim in South Carolina in the same timeframe as they would a personal injury claim. Pursuant to S.C. Code Ann. § 15-3-530(5), the statute of limitations in filing a personal injury claim and, thus, a wrongful death claim in South Carolina is three years from the time they knew they had a cause of action, or by reasonable diligence should have known they had a cause of action, to file suit for a personal injury claim. In most circumstances, the time would be three years from the death of the individual.
What is a wrongful death case worth in South Carolina?
As with any type of personal injury claim, there is no calculated formula for determining what a wrongful death case is worth in South Carolina. However, it is helpful to understand the types of damages one is entitled to when pursuing a wrongful death claim:
- Economic Damages: This can include funeral or burial expenses, any medical bills that might be related to the deceased’s death, any property damage that might be related to the death, any lost wages or earnings (usually necessary to calculate the deceased’s lost future earnings), any lost future earning capacity, and any other financial damages that may be lost as a result of the deceased’s death.
- Non-economic Damages: The beneficiaries of the estate are allowed to recover for their pain and suffering, mental anguish, loss of the deceased person’s experience, knowledge, and judgment, and loss of the deceased person’s care, companionship, and protection.
- Punitive Damages: Punitive damages are rare in South Carolina but are intended to punish the defendant for their actions or to deter any future wrongdoing. To recover punitive damages in South Carolina, S.C. Code Ann. § 15-32-510 provides that one must prove by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant was “willful, wanton, or reckless” in their actions that caused the defendant’s death. If proven, punitive damages may be awarded equal to the greater of three times actual damages (economic plus non-economic) or $500,00.00.
- Survival Action: A survival action is a different claim than a wrongful death action but both can be filed simultaneously. Pursuant to S.C. Code Ann. § 15-5-90, a survival action is essentially a cause of action that survives the deceased and allows recovery for his or her pain and suffering during the course of the accident or injury that caused the death. In order to recover, one must be able to prove that the deceased was conscious to experience pain and attempt to prove how long it took for the deceased to die.
Who can file a wrongful death case in South Carolina?
Pursuant to S.C. Code Ann. §15-51-20, the personal representative or administrator of the deceased’s estate can bring the wrongful death suit on the deceased’s behalf. The executor or administrator is usually the person named as the personal representative of the estate in the deceased’s will or trust. If no such person is designated by will or other estate plan, the court will appoint someone to serve as executor; usually the closest to kin.
The personal representative of the estate is essentially stepping into the shoes of the deceased and bringing suit on his or her behalf. However, the personal representative is pursing the claim on behalf of the surviving family members who are the estate’s beneficiaries. The surviving family members who can recover in a wrongful death suit in South Carolina include the surviving spouse and children of the deceased; the surviving parents of the deceased, if no spouse of children exist; and the heirs at law of the deceased, if there are no parents, spouse, or children exist.
What is a “wrongful death?”
A wrongful death is essentially a personal injury case that results in death the injured victim is no longer living to bring suit for herself. S.C. Code Ann. §15-51-10 defines a “wrongful death” as one that is caused by “the wrongful act, neglect, or default” of another. A wrongful death can be filed against an individual or corporation that may be negligent in causing another person’s death.