Who Can Bring a Wrongful Death Claim in South Carolina and How?

Death Claim
Death Claim

With a law degree under his belt, Mark Scott understood very early that law communication was a relatively neglected area. He decided to help people by “translating” the language and offering information and advice in a clear, useful, and actionable manner. For this reason, instead of finding him in court, you will most likely find his name online, where he is very active and thriving as a legal columnist. His part of making the world a better place is to make the law a less convoluted maze. He aims to make it easier for people to understand when and how to seek legal counsel, how to proceed in a significant number of legal matters, and to find the proper resources so they can stand up for their rights. 

Who Can Bring a Wrongful Death Claim in South Carolina and How? 

Wrongful death claims in South Carolina often involve structured payments. Structured payments are one method of protecting funds for the use of children or surviving spouses. South Carolina requires that only an executor or administrator of the estate must sue for wrongful death cases. That is another protective measure. If no executor or administrator exists, the court will appoint one. 

Understanding the Wrongful Death Claim Process in South Carolina 

South Carolina has some unusual provisions in its requirements for a wrongful death settlement. An executor or administrator must initiate any wrongful death claims on behalf of the victim’s estate. Any funds awarded go to the estate, which is divided according to the will of the deceased and probate law. 

South Carolina defines wrongful death as a “wrongful act, neglect, or default” caused by another person. The definition makes wrongful death claims similar to personal injury cases. The “default” aspect includes the same type of injuries that apply to personal injury cases. Many injuries can cause or contribute to a finding of wrongful death. These include: 

  • Intentional injuries 
  • Negligence-based injuries 

What Is the Difference Between Wrongful Death and Homicide? 

Wrongful death cases are civil lawsuits, typically filed by family members of the deceased. These cases are separate from any criminal charges that might be filed. Being found guilty of causing a wrongful death in a civil lawsuit does not result in criminal penalties like prison sentences. 

In criminal cases, the accused is only convicted when found guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Jury trials also require unanimous verdicts of guilt from every juror. The bar for conviction is high because of the risks of false imprisonment or even state-authorized execution.  

A defendant’s liability in a wrongful death lawsuit is determined by a “preponderance of the evidence.” That means that it only has to be proven that the defendant is more likely guilty than not. Guilt does not have to reach the same level of near certainty required in a criminal case. South Carolina specifically allows wrongful death lawsuits in addition to criminal charges. 

Who Receives the Money in Wrongful Death Awards in South Carolina? 

The money goes to the victim’s estate, and their will or probate law determines the division of property among the survivors and heirs. If there is no will, which often happens in wrongful death cases, the money is first used to pay the victim’s legal financial obligations.  

Any remaining funds are divided among the victim’s spouse and surviving children. If there are none, the money is awarded to the parents. If the parents are deceased, the money gets divided among other heirs like a brother, sister, uncle, grandparents, cousins, etc. 

What Damages Are Awarded in Wrongful Death Claims? 

The common damages awarded in wrongful death claims include the following: 

  • Funeral and burial expenses 
  • Medical bills and any costs related to the injury or illness that caused the death 
  • Any lost wages and expenses related to the injury 
  • Loss of the victim’s knowledge, earning power, and judgment 
  • Loss of the victim’s care, companionship, and protection 
  • Pain and suffering of family members 

If the act or acts that caused wrongful death were particularly heinous, exemplary damages might be awarded in South Carolina. These damages are awarded as a punishment for the perpetrator, with the hope of preventing similar acts in the future. 

Time Limit for Filing Wrongful Death Lawsuits in South Carolina 

The statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death lawsuit in South Carolina is three years after the date of the death. In South Carolina, potential financial recipients must convince the executor or administrator to file.  

It is critical to consult a wrongful death lawyer based in Greenville, SC, to understand your options and whether filing a wrongful death lawsuit makes sense. The victim could have substantial debts that would eat up any financial award.