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

columbia car accident attorney

Losing a family member too soon is awful, but losing a loved one to vehicular homicide can add to an already terrible tragedy. The victim’s surviving family members might not be aware that the culpable driver can be held liable in civil as well as criminal court.

Fortunately, family members of victims killed by vehicular homicide can recover compensation for their losses. While most drivers will be charged for vehicular homicide, there is no requirement that a driver is charged before a civil lawsuit can be filed against them. Surviving family members can recover compensation through a wrongful death claim. However, only the executor of a deceased’s estate is permitted to file a claim on behalf of surviving family members.

If you lost a family member to vehicular homicide, our South Carolina car accident attorneys 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.

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

Most people know that criminal charges are usually filed against drivers responsible for vehicular homicide. However, some family members who have suffered the loss of a loved one to vehicular homicide might not realize that they can also recover damages for their loss through a civil lawsuit. Our Lexington car accident lawyers help you understand how to hold a driver responsible for vehicular homicide in civil court.

Vehicular Homicide in South Carolina

According to S.C. Code Ann. § 56-5-2910, a driver is guilty of vehicular homicide if their reckless disregard for the safety of others caused the death of another person. Vehicular homicide is a felony in South Carolina, and the criminal penalties can include fines and imprisonment for up to ten years. There are numerous ways that drivers might recklessly cause the death of another person in a South Carolina car accident:

  • Reckless or grossly negligent driving
  • Driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • Speeding
  • Texting while driving
  • Road rage
  • Illegal street racing

While restitution can be ordered in a criminal prosecution for vehicular homicide from a responsible driver, it can be challenging to recover compensation from the restitution programs of the state. However, a civil lawsuit can provide a better path to recovering compensation. In South Carolina, the death of another person by vehicular homicide is considered a wrongful death, and certain family members are entitled to recover damages for the loss of their loved one.

Wrongful Death in South Carolina

According to S.C. Code Ann. § 15-51-10, a wrongful death occurs when another person’s negligence or wrongful acts cause the death. This would include cases of vehicular homicide, even if charges were not filed against the driver that caused the wrongful death. Suppose the deceased would have had a claim for personal injuries had they survived the vehicular homicide. In that case, surviving family members can pursue claims in a wrongful death action. Our Columbia car accident lawyers can help you understand the finer points of wrongful death law and what compensation could be available for your loss.

Who Can File a Lawsuit for a South Carolina Vehicular Homicide?

Who can file a wrongful death claim following the loss of a loved one to vehicular homicide can be confusing for surviving family members in South Carolina. This is because, unlike other states, South Carolina requires the executor or administrator of a deceased’s estate to file a wrongful death lawsuit instead of family members filing a claim themselves.

In some cases, the executor of an estate will be named by the deceased in their will. Typically, this is a close family member or friend. However, the court will appoint someone as the administrator of a deceased’s estate if one was not selected beforehand. While the deceased’s personal representative is the only individual with the right to file a wrongful death claim, they still do so on behalf of certain surviving family members.

If compensation is recovered in a wrongful death action, S.C. Code Ann. § 15-51-20 provides the order in which compensation will be paid to a deceased’s surviving family members. Compensation will first be distributed to the deceased’s spouse and children. If there is no spouse or children, compensation will go to the deceased’s surviving parents. If the deceased had no surviving parents, spouse, or children, compensation would go to the deceased’s surviving heirs. Our South Carolina personal injury attorneys can help you determine if you are entitled to recover compensation for the loss of your family member.

What is a Survival Claim for Vehicular Homicide in South Carolina?

In addition, the deceased’s executor may also file what is known as a survival claim along with their wrongful death lawsuit. Survival actions are meant to compensate surviving victims for the medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering that their loved one experienced after their accident before they passed. Put simply, a survival claim can be filed if the deceased survived for a time after the accident that caused vehicular homicide.

The main difference between survival claims and wrongful death ones is that compensation from a survival claim goes to the deceased’s estate instead of going directly to the surviving family members. This means that a deceased’s heirs to their will or estate are entitled to damages for the survival claim, which could differ from the family members defined by statute. This can have a significant impact since a deceased’s creditors might be able to claim some or all of the compensation awarded in a survival claim. Our Columbia personal injury lawyers can help you understand the differences between survival claims and wrongful death actions and the potential compensation available.

Our South Carolina Attorneys for Vehicular Homicide Can Help

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


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