Losing a loved one comes with many undue emotional and financial hardships. Families who are grieving a recent death should be aware that they have legal options to recover from those responsible for causing the death.
A wrongful death lawsuit is a claim against a party whose negligent, reckless, or intentional conduct caused a death. The claim is brought on behalf of the deceased’s beneficiaries, which are typically a surviving spouse or children. The decedent’s estate may also pursue a survival action, which functions similarly to a wrongful death lawsuit but with different benefits. These claims must be filed within three years of the death in question.
To help you get started on your path to justice for the death of a loved one, Burriss Ridgeway Injury Lawyers offer free case evaluations for anyone who is considering filing a wrongful death lawsuit or survival action. Our dedicated South Carolina wrongful death attorneys can answer any questions that you may have and will provide the effective and discrete representation that your case requires. To hear more, call us at (803) 451-4000.
In South Carolina, the family members of a person who dies as a result of someone else’s actions (or failure to act) can pursue a civil lawsuit against those responsible. The specific law allows for claims where a person’s death was caused by the wrongful act or neglect of another. This type of lawsuit is called a wrongful death lawsuit. If successful, these suits can help to compensate the families after they have suffered such a difficult loss.
Proving a wrongful death has occurred is a lot like proving a personal injury. A personal injury lawsuit requires a showing that the defendant’s negligent, reckless, or intentional behavior ultimately caused the victim’s injuries. A wrongful death lawsuit has the same requirements, except that you must show that the conduct caused the victim’s death. Another key difference is that the damages for a wrongful death lawsuit are calculated based on the harms the decedent’s beneficiaries suffered because of their loss, and are distributed directly to the beneficiaries.
Separate from a wrongful death lawsuit, a survival action is another path by which the loved ones of a wrongful death victim may obtain justice. We would not call it an “alternative” path, however, because South Carolina allows both a wrongful death lawsuit and a survival action to coexist based on the same circumstances.
Proving a survival action requires all of the same evidence as a wrongful death lawsuit. However, a survival action is even more like a personal injury lawsuit, because the damages are based on the harms that the decedent suffered prior to their death, such as pain and suffering and medical expenses. The damages that are ultimately awarded go to the decedent’s estate, where they will be distributed according to the decedent’s will if they had one. If not, the compensation will go through intestacy with the rest of their assets.
It can be easy to confuse a civil suit against a person or entity that caused a wrongful death with the criminal case against them. However, the two are very different, and it is important for families and loved ones to know how.
First, the prosecution’s goal in a criminal case is to secure a conviction, which may include fines in addition to jail time. However, neither the grieving family nor the estate of the deceased will see a dime from those fines. If you want financial compensation from those responsible for causing your loved one’s untimely death, a civil suit is your best option.
Second, a criminal case puts a higher burden on the prosecution than a wrongful death lawsuit puts on the plaintiff. In order to secure a guilty verdict for criminal charges, the prosecution must prove their case “beyond a reasonable doubt.” This is a much higher hurdle than the burden for civil wrongful death suits, which is “a preponderance of the evidence,” or substantially more likely than not. Therefore, even if the responsible party is found not guilty in their criminal trial, the beneficiaries in a wrongful death may still succeed in their claim.
Third, the defendant in a wrongful death lawsuit may be responsible for causing the death even if they did not commit an actual crime. Even if there are no criminal charges brought against the responsible party, you should still consult a South Carolina wrongful death attorney about your civil suit options.
In South Carolina, the executor of the deceased’s estate is in charge of filing the wrongful death lawsuit. The executor may be identified in the deceased’s will, but if not, or if the named executor does not want the role, the court will appoint one. A beneficiary of the wrongful death lawsuit may serve as the executor.
Prior to filing the lawsuit, the executor, together with a South Carolina wrongful death lawyer, is responsible for identifying and notifying all potential beneficiaries to a wrongful death lawsuit. Not everyone can be named as a beneficiary to the suit. South Carolina always recognizes any surviving spouse and children of the deceased as beneficiaries.
If the deceased did not leave behind a spouse or children, the parents may be beneficiaries. If none of these parties survive the decedent’s death, other parties may be named, such as siblings, grandparents, and grandchildren. Talk to your South Carolina wrongful death lawyer about whether you can be named as a beneficiary in a lawsuit for the death of your loved one.
When you are dealing with such a sensitive and personal issue, you deserve legal care from the South Carolina wrongful death lawyers who understand it. Call Burriss Ridgeway Injury Lawyers today at (803) 451-4000.
Our Caring Attorneys in Columbia, SC are here to help.