It is horrific having to lose a loved one at a young age or due to preventable circumstances; however, there is legal recourse one can take to help alleviate some of the financial burdens. This can be accomplished through wrongful death lawsuits.
What is a Wrongful Death?
Wrongful death acts in South Carolina are governed by S.C. Code §§ 15-51-10 et seq. Wrongful death is defined as the “wrongful act, neglect, or default” of another that results in the death of the victim. In order to file a wrongful death claim, the act that killed the victim must belong to a family of legal actions that could be filed if the victim was still alive (e.g., example, medical malpractice, products liability, etc.).
However, not everyone can file a wrongful death claim on the behalf of a dead victim. The executor of the decedent’s estate or the following surviving family members are allowed to file wrongful death claims:
- Surviving spouse
- Surviving children
- Surviving parents
- Other legal heirs if there is no surviving spouse, children, or parents.
In effect, the above parties are filing a legal claim on behalf of the deceased victim. This means the surviving party or the estate’s executor can also reach settlement on behalf of the deceased. It just needs to be approved by the court.
Available Damages in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
As for the types of damages available in a wrongful death claim, this in part depends on the underlying actions being filed in the case. Depending on the underlying claim, a surviving spouse, child or parent may be able to win damages for medical malpractice claims, products liability, negligence, strict liability, and other legal arguments. However, the damages that are explicitly provided for under wrongful death actions include the following:
- Medical bills and expenses
- Lost future wages
- Property damage
- Funeral expenses
- Loss of companionship
- Loss of consortium
- Emotional distress
- Pain and suffering
However, just as in other types of lawsuits, there are strict time limits that apply to wrongful death claims. These are known as statute of limitations. In South Carolina, the statute of limitations for a wrongful death claim is within three years of the date of the person’s death.
Because wrongful death actions often involve other underlying legal arguments and the relatively short statute of limitations, it important you reach out to an experienced attorney that can help you recover the maximum amount of recovery. While nothing will replace the loss of your loved one, it will help alleviate the financial burden families are often left with in the aftermath of a loss.