Dealing with the loss of a loved one is an incredibly difficult and painful undertaking. This pain may be greater when combined with the financial consequences of the loss, especially if the untimely death was caused by someone else’s wrongful behavior.
In these types of situations, many surviving family members wonder about their legal options for recourse against the responsible party. South Carolina provides the opportunity for these individuals to pursue damages through a wrongful death lawsuit. Wrongful death suits must be brought by the personal representative of the deceased’s estate, but the compensation will benefit many of the deceased’s aggrieved family members, provided that the action is filed on time.
To discuss your opportunity to recover compensation from the person or entity that caused your loved one’s death, reach out to the seasoned South Carolina wrongful death attorneys at Burriss Ridgeway Injury Lawyers. By calling our offices at (803) 451-4000 today, you can get a free initial assessment of your case.
What Is a Wrongful Death in South Carolina?
Surviving family members of a person who suffers an untimely death can recover compensation through a lawsuit against the person or entity that was responsible for causing the death in question. This type of action is known as a wrongful death lawsuit.
To be grounds for a wrongful death lawsuit, the death must have been caused by a “wrongful act.” Under South Carolina law, a wrongful act could also be a neglectful failure to act in addition to an affirmative action. Generally, wrongful acts must either constitute negligence or recklessness if not intentionally harmful.
An easier way to think about the concept of a wrongful act is as if the deceased had survived the act. If the wrongful act caused injury but not death, the victim of the wrongful act would likely have a valid personal injury claim against the at-fault party.
For instance, if a drunk driver caused an accident that injured the driver of another car, the injured party could file a personal injury lawsuit against the drunk driver for causing the accident. If, however, the other driver succumbed to their injuries, their death would give rise to a wrongful death action.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in South Carolina?
Each state has different rules about how a wrongful death lawsuit is properly brought (and by whom). While multiple parties may have the right to file the wrongful death suit in other states, South Carolina only permits the action to be filed by the personal representative of the deceased’s estate. The personal representative (also called the “executor”) may also be a family member of the deceased and a beneficiary of the lawsuit but is not required to be.
Generally, the executor of the estate will be named in the deceased’s will. However, there are many circumstances where this is not the case. If the victim deceased did not specifically name an executor in their will or died without a will, a court may appoint an executor. The same applies where the person named as executor in the will did not survive the deceased, is incapable of serving as executor, or does not want the responsibility of the role. Discuss any questions about the process of appointing an executor with your South Carolina wrongful death lawyer.
Who Can Recover from a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in South Carolina?
When a wrongful death lawsuit is successful, the monetary compensation awarded in damages goes to the deceased’s estate, where it is then distributed to the beneficiaries. However, there are significant differences between beneficiaries in terms of how the damages are distributed. Distributions are made according to South Carolina’s intestacy laws, which ordinarily apply when a person dies without a will.
Potential beneficiaries are broken down into tiers in South Carolina. If the deceased left a surviving spouse and children, the spouse receives half of the damages, and the other half is split between each surviving child equally. If the deceased left a spouse but no children, the spouse receives the entirety of the damages.
Only when a person suffers a wrongful death without any surviving spouse or children will other family members recover damages from a wrongful death lawsuit. If the deceased’s parents survive, they receive the damages. If no parent survives either, the damages are split evenly amongst siblings. Finally, if no siblings survive, the compensation is distributed to the next closest living relative, which could be grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, or cousins.
How Long Do You Have to Sue on Behalf of a Deceased Relative in South Carolina?
Every type of civil claim in South Carolina is governed by the state’s statute of limitations. The statute of limitations is a law that places a time limit on how long a case can be filed. For wrongful death lawsuits in South Carolina, this statutory window exists for three years from the date of the death in question.
It can take a substantial amount of time to prepare a wrongful death lawsuit. The process involves identifying beneficiaries, determining who was responsible, and calculating how much to claim in damages, amongst other steps. The planning process, combined with the added stress of grief, causes many valid wrongful death suits to expire in South Carolina every year.
Avoid taking on the full burden of trying your case alone while grappling with your loss by reaching out to a dedicated South Carolina wrongful death attorney. We urge you to take this critical step as soon as possible to prevent against your claim lapsing after too much time has passed.
Burriss Ridgeway Injury Lawyers Can Help You Sue for a Wrongful Death in South Carolina
To find out more about your opportunity to pursue legal action through a wrongful death lawsuit today, contact the dedicated South Carolina wrongful death attorneys at Burriss Ridgeway Injury Lawyers for a free initial assessment by calling (803) 451-4000.