How to Determine if You Have a Wrongful Death Claim in South Carolina

March 15, 2024 – Paul Hammack

How to Determine if You Have a Wrongful Death Claim in South Carolina

When you lose a loved one due to someone else’s negligence, the pain is not only emotional but also fraught with questions about justice and rights. Imagine a scenario where a family, already devastated by loss, finds themselves navigating the complex and often daunting process of filing a wrongful death claim. This could be due to a medical error, as in the heartbreaking case of a person who lost their mother without the chance to say goodbye, compounded by the challenge of seeking accountability from miles away.

Such stories underscore the importance of understanding your legal options in South Carolina. In this blog post, a Greenville wrongful death attorney shares how to determine if you have a wrongful death claim and the legal steps involved in pursuing justice for your loved one.

If you have any questions, the compassionate team at Hammack Law Firm is here to help. We welcome you to reach out to us at (864) 326-3333(864) 326-3333 for a free case review. We will personally connect with you to make sure you’re taken care of from the beginning to the end, honoring the memory of your loved one.

What is a Wrongful Death Claim?

In South Carolina, a wrongful death claim allows the family of a deceased person to seek compensation if their death was caused by the “wrongful act, neglect, or default of another” (South Carolina Code § 15-51-10). This means the death would not have happened without the other party’s negligence, recklessness, or wrongdoing.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?

South Carolina law dictates that only the deceased person’s personal representative can file a wrongful death claim. This is typically the individual named as the executor or administrator of the estate, which could be a spouse, adult child, or parent.

Examples of Recoverable Damages

Wrongful death lawsuits aim to recover damages suffered by the family due to the loss. These damages can be both economic and non-economic and may include:

  • Medical bills related to the deceased’s final treatment
  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Lost income the deceased would have provided
  • Loss of benefits, including retirement and savings
  • Loss of services the deceased provided, such as childcare
  • Loss of companionship, guidance, and support
  • Other emotional distress experienced by family members

Proving a Wrongful Death Claim

To win a wrongful death case, your Greenville wrongful death attorney must establish four key elements of negligence:

  1. Duty: The at-fault party had a legal obligation to act in a specific way to ensure the safety of your loved one
  2. Breach of Duty: The at-fault party failed to uphold their duty, putting your loved one at risk
  3. Causation: The at-fault party’s actions directly caused the accident that led to your loved one’s death
  4. Damages: Your family suffered financial and emotional losses due to your loved one’s death

Time Limits for Filing a Claim

South Carolina has a statute of limitations of three years from the date of your loved one’s passing to file a wrongful death lawsuit (S.C. Ann. § 15-3-530). Missing this deadline could significantly hinder your ability to seek compensation.

Steps in the Legal Process

After losing your loved one due to another’s negligence, navigating the legal system can feel overwhelming. Here’s a general overview of what you can expect when you hire an attorney to handle your wrongful death claim in South Carolina:

1. Initial Consultation and Case Evaluation

  • Discuss the details of your loved one’s passing with your Greenville wrongful death attorney
  • Your attorney will evaluate the potential legal merits of your case and answer your questions
  • This meeting is typically free and confidential

2. Investigation and Evidence Gathering

  • Your attorney will investigate the circumstances surrounding your loved one’s death
  • This may involve gathering evidence like police reports, medical records, witness testimonies, and accident scene photos

3. Identifying the Liable Party

  • Your attorney will work to determine who is legally responsible for your loved one’s death
  • This could be an individual, company, or government entity

4. Calculating Damages

  • Your attorney will calculate the economic and non-economic losses your family suffered
  • This includes expenses like medical bills and lost income, as well as emotional distress

5. Settlement Negotiations

  • Often, your attorney will attempt to negotiate a fair settlement with the at-fault party’s insurance company
  • This can save time and avoid the complexities of a trial

6. Trial Preparation (if necessary)

  • If a settlement cannot be reached, your attorney will prepare for trial
  • This involves gathering additional evidence, interviewing witnesses, and developing legal arguments

7. Trial and Representation

  • If necessary, your attorney will represent you in court and present your case to a judge or jury

Throughout this process, your Greenville wrongful death lawyer will:

  • Keep you informed of the case’s progress and answer your questions promptly
  • Provide legal guidance and advocate for your best interests
  • Handle all communication and negotiations with the other party and their insurance company
  • Respect your decisions and ensure you feel comfortable throughout the process

Remember, this is just a general overview, and every case is unique. Your attorney will tailor their approach to your specific situation and keep you informed every step of the way.

Common Misconceptions About Wrongful Death Claims

Dealing with the aftermath of a loved one’s tragic loss is challenging, and misconceptions about wrongful death claims can add unnecessary confusion to an already difficult process. It’s crucial to dispel these myths to empower you with accurate information. Below are some common misconceptions about wrongful death claims.

Misconception 1: Anyone Related to the Deceased Can File a Claim

Wrongful death laws vary by state, but in South Carolina, only the personal representative (executor) of the deceased’s estate can file a wrongful death claim. This representative is often named in the will. If there’s no will, the court may appoint a close family member such as a spouse or adult child to serve in this capacity.

Misconception 2: Wrongful Death Claims Are Only About Financial Compensation

While financial compensation is a significant aspect of wrongful death claims, these claims also serve to hold the responsible party accountable for their actions. Beyond economic damages like lost income and medical expenses, claims can cover non-economic damages such as loss of companionship and emotional distress, acknowledging the broader impact of the loss.

Misconception 3: Wrongful Death Claims Can Only Be Filed in Cases of Intentional Harm

Wrongful death claims can arise from a variety of situations, not just those involving intentional harm. They can be filed in cases of negligence, such as medical malpractice or car accidents, where the defendant did not necessarily intend to cause harm but failed to act with due care, leading to a fatal outcome.

Misconception 4: Wrongful Death Claims and Criminal Cases Are the Same

Wrongful death claims are civil lawsuits, distinct from criminal cases. While a criminal case seeks to penalize the wrongdoer with fines or imprisonment, a wrongful death claim aims for financial compensation for the deceased’s survivors. It’s possible for a situation to give rise to both a criminal case and a wrongful death claim, but the outcomes of one do not directly affect the other.

Misconception 5: Filing a Wrongful Death Claim Is Always a Lengthy and Expensive Process

While wrongful death claims can be complex, the process varies widely depending on the specifics of the case. Many claims are settled out of court, which can be quicker and less costly than going to trial. An experienced wrongful death attorney can navigate the legal system efficiently, often on a contingency fee basis, meaning legal fees are only due if compensation is awarded.
If you’re considering pursuing a claim, consulting with a knowledgeable wrongful death attorney can provide personalized advice and support tailored to your unique situation.

Seeking Justice After the Loss of a Loved One Due to Another’s Negligence? We Can Help

During this incredibly difficult time, the Hammack Law Firm team understands the immense emotional and financial burdens families face after losing a loved one through negligence. We offer free consultations to answer any questions you may have about your legal rights and explore potential options for seeking justice and compensation. Our compassionate attorneys are dedicated to guiding you through each step with understanding and respect.
If you’ve been searching online for “wrongful death lawyers near me,” contact us instead by calling (864) 326-3333(864) 326-3333 or fill out our online form to schedule your free consultation with experienced Greenville wrongful death lawyers. Join us at Hammack Law Firm, where our experience and dedication are your strongest allies in seeking justice.

About Us:

Our lead attorney, Paul Hammack, brings over two decades of experience to the table, offering a depth of understanding and a commitment to excellence that sets us apart. His prior experience of litigating on behalf of insurance companies—now the very entities he sues—provides our clients with a distinct strategic advantage. This insider knowledge of industry tactics ensures that we approach each case with a dual perspective, insurance prioritizing your interests above all.

Together with attorney Jamie Ackermann, who contributes another 30 years of litigation experience, our team offers a combined expertise of approximately 55 years, ensuring your case receives the insightful and dedicated attention it deserves.

At Hammack Law Firm, we offer a free case evaluation and operate on the principle of no recovery, no fee. If you’re facing the loss of a loved one, our compassionate team is here to offer support and relentless advocacy for justice and fair compensation. With a track record of significant settlements, choosing Hammack Law Firm means opting for a partner who invested in seeking justice on behalf of your loved one.
At Hammack Law Firm, our team is trained and experienced to win!

Copyright © 2024. Hammack Law Firm. All rights reserved.

The information in this blog post (“post”) is provided for general informational purposes only and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information in this post should be construed as legal advice from the individual author or the law firm, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting based on any information included in or accessible through this post without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s state, country, or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.

Hammack Law Firm
223 W Stone Avenue
Greenville, SC 29609
(864) 326-3333(864) 326-3333

Questions or Schedule An Appointment? Call Us:

(864) 326-3333

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