When people in South Carolina lose a family member or loved one due to the negligence, recklessness, or intentionally malicious conduct of another, they may be able to pursue legal action to recover compensation from those responsible. Too often, however, these individuals do not realize that their time to act is limited.
Under South Carolina’s statute of limitations, wrongful death claims must be filed within three years of the date of the death. In limited situations, such as instances of medical malpractice, the statutory window may be extended as necessary, but if you miss the deadline that applies in your case, your case will be dismissed.
To get immediate and necessary help in evaluating your claim, schedule a free initial case evaluation with a South Carolina wrongful death attorney by calling Burriss Ridgeway Injury Lawyers at (803) 451-4000.
How Long Do You Have to File a Wrongful Death Claim in South Carolina?
Wrongful death claims do not exist forever. If you hope to take legal action after the death of a loved one, you must pay close attention to the deadline established by South Carolina’s statute of limitations.
Statutes of limitations are laws that exist in every state to create a window of time during which a case must be brought. These windows differ depending on the state and type of claim. In South Carolina, the statute of limitations for wrongful death claims generally runs for three years.
The clock on this three-year period starts when the cause of action accrues. In the case of most wrongful deaths, the cause of action accrues when the death occurs. Therefore, if you believe you may have a valid wrongful death claim, the claim must be filed no more than three years from the date of the death in question.
The statute of limitations applies to the actual filing of the initial complaint in the case, meaning that simply contacting a lawyer right before the three-year window expires will not be enough. You must act sooner to give your representation time to gather evidence, calculate damages, identify and notify beneficiaries, and prepare your filing documents.
South Carolina courts take the deadline imposed by the statute of limitations very seriously. If a wrongful death filing comes after the deadline, the other side will likely file a motion to dismiss the case, which the court will grant. In such an unfortunate situation, you may be left without the chance to make your case for recovery in court.
Exceptions to South Carolina’s Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death Claims
Some states provide exceptions to their statutes of limitations that may extend the window temporarily where certain circumstances call for more time to evaluate the case. South Carolina law features very few exceptions to the wrongful death statute of limitations, but one that all potential claimants should be aware of is the exception that applies in the case of wrongful deaths caused by medical malpractice.
Medical malpractice comes in many forms and may be difficult to identify at the time of death. In other words, if you suffer the loss of a loved one or family member as a result of a health care provider’s professional negligence, you may not even realize the cause of the death until well after.
Under the medical malpractice exception in South Carolina, however, the clock on the statutory period may not start until three years after the medical malpractice that caused the death was (or reasonably should have been) discovered. Not every medical malpractice wrongful death will benefit from the exception, which specifically applies only when the malpractice is not immediately clear.
In any case, the exception does not last forever. Wrongful death claims stemming from medical malpractice may not be filed later than six years after the death in question, even if the discovery occurs more than three years after the death.
Who is Responsible for Filing a Wrongful Death Claim on Time in South Carolina?
The process of filing a wrongful death claim is different in every state. While some states allow family members to take it upon themselves to file the action, South Carolina requires that the personal representative of the deceased’s estate file the action in court.
Personal representatives, also known as executors, are typically identified in the deceased’s will. However, there are a few instances where this could become complicated. The deceased may not have identified a personal representative in their will or may not have even had a will at all. The person named in the will may also not wish to serve as the personal representative or might not be capable of fulfilling these responsibilities.
In these situations, a South Carolina court may nominate someone to serve as personal representative. The personal representative could be a family member or loved one, but this is not a requirement. Personal representatives are also entirely permitted to seek the help of a Columbia wrongful death attorney in assisting them with their duties, including filing the paperwork to initiate a wrongful death claim in South Carolina.
Are There Other Time Requirements that Affect a Wrongful Death Claim in South Carolina?
You should also be aware that you may face an accelerated timeline to act if your claim is against a government entity. Depending on the particular agency and jurisdiction, many government bodies impose notice requirements for potential claims.
Providing notice to these entities is not the same as filing a complaint and must come before the claim is filed. If you believe you may have a claim for wrongful death against a government entity, it is important that you work with an experienced South Carolina personal injury lawyer who is already familiar with the various procedural requirements in your area.
Burriss Ridgeway Lawyers Can Help You File a Wrongful Death Claim in South Carolina
To give yourself the best chance of success in a legal claim after the death of a loved one, contact the seasoned Lexington personal injury attorneys at Burriss Ridgeway Injury Lawyers. Call us at (803) 451-4000 to get your free initial case evaluation.