How to File a Wrongful Death Claim

If your close relative died because of someone else’s negligence or wrongful act, you might want to file a claim for compensation for your losses. Your family has suffered personal and financial losses from the untimely death. 

A South Carolina wrongful death attorney can explain how to file a wrongful death claim. You do not have to go through this process by yourself. The lawyer can do the heavy lifting for you so that you can be present for your family and deal with your own grief. 

Parties Who Can File a Wrongful Death Case

You might think that the next of kin or other close relatives would be the ones to file a wrongful death suit, but that is not the case in South Carolina. In our state, the executor or administrator of the decedent’s estate is the only one who can file a wrongful death claim.

The executor is usually the person named in the deceased person’s will. If your loved one died without leaving a will or a living trust, the court can appoint someone to administer the estate and file the wrongful death claim. 

What Counts as a Wrongful Death

South Carolina law defines wrongful death as a death resulting from someone else’s wrongful act, neglect, or default. If the deceased person could have filed a personal injury lawsuit if they had survived their wounds, then the estate qualifies to file a wrongful death lawsuit.

Fatalities from motor vehicle accidents are some of the more common situations that lead to the filing of wrongful death claims. Also, when a person dies from criminal activity like an assault, that scenario can be the basis for a wrongful death case. When a person dies from medical malpractice or some other type of negligence, rather than an intentional act like a crime, the estate has grounds for a wrongful death lawsuit.

Can You File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit for Homicide?

Yes. The criminal case will be totally separate from the wrongful death lawsuit. They will likely run on different timelines. 

Even if the person accused of the homicide does not get convicted, you could still win the wrongful death lawsuit. What you have to prove to win a civil wrongful death case is much less than what the prosecutor has to prove to get a conviction.

Damages You Could Recover in South Carolina in a Wrongful Death Case

After proving that the person’s demise was a wrongful death, the estate can pursue a claim or lawsuit for several different types of losses caused by the death. For example: 

  • Out-of-pocket expenses caused by the wrongful death, including the final medical expenses and the costs of the funeral and burial.
  • Loss of the decedent’s income and benefits. 
  • Loss of services the decedent provided for the family, like yardwork, household tasks, and raising the children.
  • Loss of companionship and guidance.
  • Emotional distress and grief. 

In rare cases, the estate can prove that the defendant’s actions were intentional, outrageous, or extremely reckless. In those situations, the court could award punitive damages, also called exemplary damages. 

Wrongful death claims can be tricky, which is why you would want to work with a South Carolina personal injury attorney. We offer a free consultation with no obligation. Reach out to our office today for help with your case.