Can the Victim’s Family Sue for Vehicular Homicide in South Carolina?

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There are few things as terrible as losing a loved one but losing them to vehicular homicide is a tragedy that victims can be compensated for. While an at-fault driver will likely be charged with a crime following a vehicular homicide, a victim’s family members can also sue in civil court.

Fortunately, surviving family members can recover compensation for their loss in a wrongful death lawsuit. Many requirements and restrictions are placed on family members seeking compensation. For instance, only the executor of a deceased’s estate can file a lawsuit for wrongful death. However, they do so on behalf of surviving family members, who will recover damages in the order set by South Carolina law.

If your loved one was the victim of vehicular homicide, Our South Carolina car accident attorneys can help you get the justice you deserve. Call Burriss Ridgeway Injury Lawyers at (803) 451-4000 for a free case review.

Can a Victim's Family Sue for Vehicular Homicide in South Carolina?

There are many types of acts that can cause a fatal car accident. Some car accident deaths are the result of negligent drivers. However, other vehicular homicides occur when a driver breaks traffic law. For example, if a driver caused a crash because they ran a red light or were driving drunk, the at-fault driver can be charged with vehicular homicide.

Although South Carolina defines wrongful death and vehicular homicide differently, the law allows certain family members of a car accident victim to recover damages, regardless of whether the death was negligently caused or was a vehicular homicide. Our South Carolina personal injury attorneys can help you file a lawsuit against the driver responsible for your loss.

Defining Wrongful Death in South Carolina

According to S.C. Code Ann. § 15-51-10, a person is liable for wrongful death if their negligence or wrongful acts cause the death of another person. This definition includes all acts that lead to someone’s death, including vehicular homicide. If the driver is not charged with vehicular homicide, they can still be sued in civil court by filing a wrongful death lawsuit.

Essentially, a wrongful death claim gives family members the right to recover damages for vehicular homicide if the deceased would have had a personal injury claim had they survived. However, suppose the at-fault driver has been charged with vehicular homicide. In that case, your civil case might need to wait for the driver’s criminal proceedings to conclude before pursuing compensation in a wrongful death claim. Fortunately, our South Carolina attorneys for vehicular homicide can typically use a driver’s conviction or guilty plea as evidence in your civil lawsuit.

Defining Vehicular Homicide in South Carolina

Vehicular homicide is defined differently from wrongful death since it is also a crime, but the conduct that caused vehicular homicide would still fall under the definition of wrongful death.

According to S.C. Code Ann. § 56-5-2910, a person is guilty of vehicular homicide if they recklessly disregarded the safety of others and caused the death of another person. In South Carolina, vehicular homicide is a felony, with penalties that include fines and imprisonment for up to ten years. South Carolina recognizes several types of acts that could be the basis for a vehicular homicide charge after a car accident:

  • Reckless or grossly negligent driving
  • Speeding
  • Texting while driving
  • Drunk driving
  • Road rage
  • Illegal street racing

Most jurisdictions have restitution programs for surviving family members of a vehicular homicide victim. However, recovering compensation through these programs can be extremely challenging and will likely not be anywhere close to the amount you deserve. Fortunately, you can pursue the full range of damages you have suffered in a civil lawsuit. Our Columbia car accident lawyers can review your case to help determine the best path forward to compensation.

Who Can Sue for Vehicular Homicide in South Carolina?

Although certain family members will receive a monetary award from a wrongful death lawsuit, they are not the parties that will file the lawsuit itself. In South Carolina, the executor or administrator of a deceased’s estate must file a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the surviving family members.

The executor of an estate could be named in the deceased’s will and is usually a close family member or friend. However, if no executor was chosen in the deceased’s will, the court will appoint someone as the administrator, typically a family member, like the deceased’s spouse.

S.C. Code Ann. § 15-51-20 determines the order in which compensation is to be paid to the surviving family members of a vehicular homicide victim. The deceased’s spouse and children are the first listed beneficiaries, followed by any surviving parents if there is no spouse or children. If the deceased was not married and did not have children or surviving parents, compensation will be distributed to the deceased’s surviving heirs. This can include siblings, aunts, uncles, and grandparents.

Our Sumter, SC car accident lawyers can help you determine if you are owed compensation for the wrongful death of your family member.

Who Can File a Survival Claim for Vehicular Homicide in South Carolina?

South Carolina law also allows the deceased’s executor to file a survival claim in addition to their wrongful death lawsuit. Survival actions are intended to compensate surviving victims for damages their loved one incurred after their accident but before they passed.  These damages include medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering their family member experienced before they died.

However, compensation from a survival action will go to the deceased’s estate instead of directly to the surviving family members. Because of this, the damages from a survival action could go to the heirs to the deceased’s will or estate, which could differ from the family members defined by South Carolina law. Also, the deceased’s creditors might be able to claim compensation from a survival action award if they had debt when they passed. Our South Carolina attorneys for vehicular homicide can explain the differences between survival actions and wrongful death claims and what compensation you could be entitled to.

Our South Carolina Attorneys for Vehicular Homicide Can Help

If you lost a family member to vehicular homicide, our Lexington, SC car accident lawyers can help you and your family recover compensation for your incredible loss. For a free case evaluation, call Burriss Ridgeway Injury Lawyers today at (803) 451-4000.

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