If the negligence or intentioanal misconduct of another has led to the death of a loved one, this is recognized as a wrongful death accident.
As the family member of someone who has died as the result of an accident caused by the reckless actions of another person, you have the right to hold the negligent party responsible for what they have done. If you have suffered the loss of a loved one due to possible negligence by another any where in South Carolina, you should consult with a wrongful death lawyer or personal injury lawyer that has experience in handling wrongful death cases. Beaufort County SC Wrongful Death Attorneys at Lowcountry Injury Law understand that a wrongful death case is very difficult for the decedent's loved ones, and we will use our knowledge of wrongful death law to settle the case as efficiently and quickly as possible.
Type of events that may result in a wrongful death:
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Truck accidents
- Defective product accidents
- Drunk driver accidents
- Construction site accidents
- Traumatic brain injury
- Toxic chemical exposure
As the survivor of your loved one, you may be able to recover damages in a wrongful death claim. Your experienced Beaufort SC wrongful death lawyer is vital to make certain that the beneficiaries of the deceased receive the proper compensation for their losses. In a South Carolina wrongful death case, compensation may be awarded which is intended to aid the family of the victim.
Elements of Damages in Wrongful Death Lawsuits
- Costs related to medical and funeral services
- Lost benefits
- Lost financial support
- Lost love, companionship and advice
- Punitive damages (if intentional or criminal negligence is found)
- Reimbursement for any property damage that has taken place
- Reimbursement for lost services normally provided to you by the decedent
In a South Carolina wrongful death case the question of damages is not directed toward the value of the human life that was lost, but rather the damages sustained by the beneficiaries as a result of the death. Zorn v. Crawford, 252 S.C. 127 (1969). The general elements of damages recoverable are: (1) pecuniary loss, (2) mental shock and suffering, (3) wounded feelings, (4) grief and sorrow, (5) loss of companionship, and (6) deprivation of the use and comfort of the intestate's society, including the loss of his experience, knowledge, and judgment in managing of the affairs of himself and of his beneficiaries. Smith v. Wells, 258 S.C. 316 (1972).
Recoverable damages for loss of a child
In the case of a minor, where the beneficiaries of the decedent’s estate (usually his/her parents) were not financially dependent upon the minor and cannot show a pecuniary loss arising from his or her death, the intangible elements suffered from the loss of their child are nevertheless substantial and recoverable. Losses to parents for the untimely death of a child "are intangibles, the value of which cannot be determined by any fixed yardstick." Lucht v.Youngblood, 266 S.C. 127, 137 (1976). The "loss to the beneficiaries must be estimated by the jury in the exercise of their sound judgment under all the facts and circumstances of the case." Id.
Under South Carolina law, in a wrongful death claim for the loss of a child, there is a presumption that the surviving parents suffered certain intangible damages. Self v. Goodrich, 300 S.C. 349 (Ct App 1989) (trial court improperly concluded that mother of newborn infant was not entitled to nonpecuniary damages with respect to the alleged wrongful death of child as there was presumption that mother suffered mental shock and suffering, wounded feelings, grief and sorrow, loss of companionship and deprivation and use and comfort of child's society, sufficient to take question of damages to jury.)
South Carolina juries tend to award substantial damages to parents who have suffered the loss of a child. Below are examples of South Carolina jury verdicts awarded to parents for the loss of a child, where there was no evidence of a pecuniary loss:
In 1996, a $3 million verdict awarded to the parents for the wrongful death of their 12 year-old son was affirmed as not being so excessive as to shock the conscience of the court, even where there was no evidence of pecuniary loss to the parents. Knoke v. South Carolina Parks, Recreation, and Tourism, 324 S.C. 136 (1996) (S.Ct. 1996) (held verdict was not excessive and was necessary to compensate the child's parents for intangible damages which cannot be determined by any fixed measure).
A $3.75 million verdict was affirmed in 2004 for the wrongful death of single female who had reached the age of majority who no longer resided with her parents and for whom she did not provide financial support. Clark v. S.C. Dept. of Public Safety, 362 S.C. 377 (S.Ct. 2004) (court stated that “pecuniary loss is only one of six elements to be considered in awarding damages in a wrongful death action.”),
Recoverable damage under the South Carolina survival statute
Pursuant to South Carolina Code Ann. §15-5-90, a beneficiary of a decedent’s estate may also recover damages where the decedent sustained and endured conscious pain, suffering, and mental anguish from the time of the negligence that caused the death, up until the time of death; the loss of the opportunity to enjoy life; and damages for funeral and burial expenses which were incurred.
Statute of Limitations
In South Carolina the statute of limitations (the length of time in which a person may file a lawsuit) regarding a wrongful death is usually three years from the time of death, with a few exceptions (one exception is if death was caused by negligence occurring in a state or county sponsored medical facility, in which case the statute of limitations is two years). In addition to acting within the time restraints in your case, the areas of law which are involved in wrongful death litigation can be extremely complicated, making it very important to contact an experienced personal injury and wrongful death attorney as quickly as possible to ensure that you are able assert your claim, and if necessary, to file a suit against the negligent party with confidence.
The two most important things you must do if you suspect a wrongful death is to speak with a qualified lawyer as soon after the incident as possible, and avoid signing any documents or agreeing to any settlement without legal representation.
Each wrongful death case is unique and involves numerous elements that must be thoroughly examined. Our law offices, in Beaufort and Hilton Head, have the capability to undertake an investigation into all wrongful death cases that we represent. If we take your case we will handle every aspect of your wrongful death case including all communication to other parties involved. With our legal advice and representation, we may be able to recover the maximum monetary compensation available for your wrongful death case.
If your loved one has been the victim of a wrongful death in South Carolina, for a free consultation and case evaluation, contact us, or click Accident Questionnaire Form to disscuss your wrongful death case with a Beaufort SC personal injury/wrongful death attorney. Your case will be case will be handled with compassion and competence by an attorney that appreciates that you want the case managed so that you have time to cope with the grief of the loss of your loved one.