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.