Wrongful Death Suits in South Carolina
At first glance, these two recent cases don’t seem to have much in common:
- After her 32-year-old son was killed in a hit-and-run accident, a Greenville woman filed a lawsuit against the alleged perpetrator in the incident.
- Relatives of two victims who died after being pulled into a 10-foot metal pipe during severe flooding filed a suit against the city of Greenville.
What makes them similar? They are both wrongful death lawsuits.
What a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Is
If someone is killed due to another’s action or inaction, a wrongful death suit may be brought on their behalf against the person or entity legally responsible for their death.
These are civil suits, not criminal. The burden of proof in a wrongful death case is lower than in a criminal case. For a successful wrongful death suit, it must meet the standard of “preponderance of evidence” rather than the more stringent “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard we’re more familiar with from movies and T.V.
The cause of death can be negligence, as in the two cases above. In one case, the mother believes that the hit-and-run driver’s negligence led to her son’s death. In the other, the relatives claim that negligence on the part of city of Greenville was the reason the two victims drowned in the flood. Other examples of negligence may include medical malpractice or fatal slip and fall accidents.
Or the cause of death may be intentional. One of the most famous wrongful death lawsuits was the suit against O.J. Simpson for the deaths of Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman. Though Simpson was found not guilty in the criminal case against him for murder, he lost the civil suit and had to pay out several millions of dollars in damages.
Who May Bring a Wrongful Death Lawsuit, and For What
Only certain individuals may bring a wrongful death suit on behalf of the deceased. In some states, the deceased’s spouse, children, or parents may bring the suit. In the state of South Carolina, wrongful death claims must be brought by (or in the name of) the executor or administrator of the estate.
Any compensation awarded goes to the spouse and children, the parents, or other heirs of the deceased. Damages awarded may cover funeral and burial costs, loss of income, medical costs if medical care was given prior to death, and more. The law also allows for “exemplary damages,” also known as punitive damages, intended to punish the wrongdoer.
When Does It Make Sense to Make a Wrongful Death Claim?
You can only bring a wrongful death claim if there is clearly someone at fault for the death. A tragic accident that occurred due to no one’s negligence or actions is not an instance where a wrongful death suit can be brought.
Finally, you must bring the action within a specified amount of time, the statute of limitations, which in South Carolina is typically three years from the time of death. There are exceptions.
If you have questions about wrongful death, and whether you have a strong case for wrongful death, contact The Carolina Law Group today.
Call The Carolina Law Group
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