Hawk Law Group | March 24, 2023 | Wrongful Death
Nothing is more painful than losing a loved one, especially when the death was preventable. Your family member would still be with you if it had not been for someone else’s negligence or intentional acts. Is there a way to hold the at-fault party accountable for their actions?
Criminal Charges vs. Wrongful Death Actions
When someone causes the death of another person, they could face criminal charges. For example, if a person kills someone in a DUI accident or shoots someone could face murder charges. A criminal court decides whether the person is guilty and what punishment to issue for a conviction.
A wrongful death action is a civil claim. South Carolina Code of Laws §15-51-10 defines the civil action for wrongful death. It states that a party can be held financially liable for damages if they cause a person’s death because of negligence, default, or a wrongful act, if that act would have allowed the deceased party to file a claim for damages had they survived.
The civil case is separate from any criminal charges the person might face for the death of your loved one. However, a civil lawsuit can proceed even if the state does not charge the person with a crime or the person is found innocent.
Proving Liability for an Aiken Wrongful Death Action
Some wrongful death cases might involve strict liability, but most cases are based on negligence and intentional torts. Negligence is the failure to act with reasonable care. Intentional torts are acts taken with the intent of causing someone injury or harm.
Proving negligence in a wrongful death case requires you to prove the following:
- The alleged at-fault person owed your family member a legal duty of care;
- The person breached the duty of care through their actions or omissions;
- The person’s conduct was the proximate and direct cause of your family member’s death; and,
- The accident and death resulted in damages.
There must be sufficient evidence proving each legal element to convince a jury that the person caused your loved one’s death by a preponderance of the evidence. That means there is a greater than 50% chance your evidence proves your allegations are true. The level of proof in a civil case does not require proving the allegations beyond a reasonable doubt.
What Types of Accidents and Personal Injury Result in Wrongful Death Actions in Aiken, SC?
Wrongful death lawsuits can be filed for a death resulting from:
- Car accidents
- Motorcycle crashes
- Slip and fall accidents
- Truck accidents
- Pedestrian accidents
- Nursing home abuse
- Bicycle accidents
- Construction accidents
- Child injuries
- Premises liability claims
- Medical malpractice
- Product liability claims
- Workplace accidents
Other incidents could give rise to a wrongful death claim. The best way to know if you qualify to file a wrongful death action after losing a family member is to seek legal advice from an Aiken wrongful death lawyer.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Aiken, SC?
Many states allow surviving family members to file a wrongful death lawsuit. However, South Carolina requires the personal representative for the probate estate to pursue a wrongful death claim.
Even though the state files the wrongful death lawsuit, the person’s heirs benefit from the wrongful death action. The funds are distributed to the heirs according to the person’s Will and South Carolina probate laws.
What Damages Are Paid for a Wrongful Death Action in South Carolina?
- Loss of income between the injury date and date of death
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Medical bills from the accident date through the date of death
- Loss of future financial support and benefits
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of protection, care, and companionship
- Loss of the benefit of the person’s guidance, support, experience, and judgment
Punitive damages are awarded in a small number of personal injury cases in South Carolina. The damages are awarded to punish an at-fault party for willful misconduct, wantonness, entire want of care, oppression, malice, and fraud. Even though the damages punish the at-fault party, the money is paid to the victims.
What Are the Deadlines for Filing Wrongful Death Claims in Aiken, SC?
The statute of limitations for most South Carolina wrongful death lawsuits is three years from the date of death. That date may not be the date of the original injury or accident.
Circumstances could change the deadline for filing a wrongful death claim. Prompt legal advice from an experienced wrongful death attorney in Aiken can help you avoid losing your legal right to file a claim after a family member’s death.
Contact the Wrongful Death Lawyers In the Central Savannah River Area at Hawk Law Group for Legal Assistance Today
For more information, please contact the wrongful death lawyers at Hawk Law Group at our nearest location to schedule a free consultation today.
We serve throughout the Central Savannah River Area and its surrounding areas:
We also serve in Edgefield County, SC.