How does a Wrongful Death Claim Work?

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If your close relative died because of someone else’s mistake, negligence, or intentional act, you might be thinking about filing a wrongful death claim. A wrongful death claim allows family members of the decedent to seek compensation for the financial and non-financial losses associated with their loved one’s passing. Certain family members can file a claim or lawsuit against the liable party, such as a negligent driver who caused a car accident.

The goal of bringing the claim or suit is to get compensation through a settlement or trial. Certain deadlines and procedures govern wrongful death cases under state law. A wrongful death lawyer can explain everything you need to know and help you navigate the entire process. 

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Case in South Carolina?

South Carolina law limits who may file a wrongful death action. You might be distraught because of the death of a dear friend, but only immediate relatives and spouses are eligible to take legal action for someone’s wrongful death. So, the first thing you need to determine is whether you fall into one of the categories of people who South Carolina law allows to file a wrongful death case.

Here are the people, in order, who are allowed to file and receive compensation from wrongful death cases in our state, according to S.C. Code § 15-51-20:

  1. If the decedent left a surviving spouse, child, or children, these individuals will stand first in line to get compensation from the wrongful death action.
  2. If the decedent did not have a living spouse or child, the parent or parents of the deceased individual can receive compensation in the wrongful death case.
  3. If the deceased person did not have a surviving spouse, child, or parent, then and only then can other surviving heirs be beneficiaries of the wrongful death claim. 

If you’re not sure if you may fall into one of these categories, a wrongful death lawyer can clarify your eligibility.

South Carolina’s Wrongful Death Statute

After determining whether you are eligible to participate in or receive compensation from a wrongful death case in South Carolina, you will need to determine if you can hold the defendant responsible for the wrongful death of the decedent. 

In S.C. Code § 15-51-10, the requirements of a wrongful death claim in our state include:

  • A person died because of the acts of another person;
  • That conduct was wrongful or neglectful; and
  • If the injured person had lived, they could have filed a personal injury lawsuit against the defendant.

We will need to evaluate several of these concepts a little more in-depth.

Elements of Negligence and Liability in a Wrongful Death Case

Essentially, if your loved one passed away because of someone else’s negligence, the defendant could be liable for a wrongful death. A lawyer can help you prove that the defendant’s actions were negligent. 

There are four elements of negligence including:

  • Duty of care. The alleged at-fault party had a legal duty toward the injured person. Many wrongful death cases arise out of car accidents. Everyone who drives a car, truck, or another motor vehicle on public roads has a duty to drive safely and obey traffic laws.
  • The defendant violated their duty of care. When a person’s conduct does not measure up to the legal standard of care, their actions are negligent. Let’s say that the defendant was taking selfies while driving and crashed into a pedestrian as a result. This failure to drive safely and maintain a careful lookout was careless and breached the duty of care. 
  • The negligence caused the collision. The careless conduct of the driver in taking their eyes off of the road caused the accident that injured the pedestrian.
  • The accident must cause quantifiable losses. Physical injuries count as measurable damages. In this example, then, the pedestrian may have suffered devastating injuries that later proved to be fatal. 

When we can prove all of these factors, we can move forward with a wrongful death case against the liable party.

South Carolina’s Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death Cases

A wrongful death lawsuit must get filed within three years, according to S.C. Ann. § 15-3-530. If you wait too long, you will lose your legal right to hold the liable party accountable for the untimely death of your loved one. If a municipality was to blame for the accident, you have even less time to take legal action. 

Only filing a lawsuit will protect you from missing the deadline. A lawyer can help you ensure that your case is on track and handle the legal process for you.

Contact a Wrongful Death Attorney to Get Help With Your Case

You may want to contact a wrongful death lawyer at Schiller & Hamilton right away about pursuing a wrongful death action. In addition to meeting the statute of limitations, acting promptly can ensure that we have time to collect crucial, time-sensitive evidence. You can contact us here for a free initial consultation about your case.

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