Aiken Wrongful Death Lawyer
Wrongful Death Lawyer in South Carolina - Jeff Morris
Jeff Morris Law Firm - Wrongful Death Attorney in Aiken
Losing a loved one is a devastating experience, particularly when it happens unexpectedly. When the person’s death is due to negligence, an intentional act or neglect, the grief the family endures is compounded by anger and a sense of helplessness. It is difficult to believe this happened to someone they loved.
One way for the family to find closure is to file a lawsuit for wrongful death. It is a way to provide the justice the deceased deserves and the family’s loss of someone they loved. It is critical for family members to understand what a wrongful death claim is, who can file it and the financial damages that are recoverable.
What Is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
The South Carolina Code of Laws defines wrongful death as one that occurs due to neglect, default or a wrongful act. Falls and traffic accidents commonly lead to fatal injuries in the United States, according to the CDC. However, intentional harm frequently occurs. Other common causes are medical malpractice, workplace incidents, aviation accidents and defective products.
A representative usually files a claim on behalf of a close family member. The claim represents what would have been a valid personal injury claim had the deceased survived. To place a claim in a civil court, the family must supply the same proof that is needed if the decedent lived.
In addition to the emotional toll the unexpected death of a loved one can cause, it also can lead to financial hardship. Financial hardship compounds the emotional suffering and grief the family feels. This results from the high end-of-life costs and burial expenses to the loss of the deceased’s monetary support. A wrongful death lawsuit recovers such damages.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
The following surviving family members can file a wrongful death lawsuit in South Carolina:
- The surviving spouse of the deceased can file.
- The children of the decedent can file a wrongful death lawsuit.
- If no surviving spouse or children exist, the parents of the deceased can file a wrongful death lawsuit.
- Heirs at law (those who are entitled to an inheritance) can file if there is no child or spouse.
What Damages Are Recoverable in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
The following are losses a family suffers due to a negligent or intentional act leading to wrongful death:
- Funeral and burial expenses are recoverable.
- A wrongful death claim includes the financial support the decedent would have earned, future wages, bonuses and retirement benefits.
- The medical bills that resulted from the decedent’s fatal injuries are covered in a wrongful death lawsuit.
- Other losses relative to the accident or intentional act, including property damage, can be part of the lawsuit.
- Compensation for the loss of the decedent’s knowledge and judgment is permitted.
- Loss of the deceased person’s care, emotional support, protection and judgment is recoverable.
- The family members can receive compensation for the loss of an expected inheritance.
- The lawsuit can recover damages for the mental anguish and the pain and suffering the family members experience.
- A spouse enduring the loss of affection due to the death of their loved one can receive compensation.
Punitive Damages in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
If the behavior that led to the wrongful death was egregious, reckless, or deliberate, exemplary or punitive damages are allowed. Such damages differ from others in that they are not meant to compensate the family for their loss. Instead, they are intended to punish the wrongdoer and help prevent future accidents or acts of this kind.
Sometimes the wrongful death is due to an intentional act. A famous example includes the deaths of Nicole Brown and Ronald Goldman, whose families placed a civil court claim against O.J. Simpson. The facts in the criminal case are allowable as evidence in a wrongful death lawsuit. This is a critical element since the evidence in a criminal case is higher than that of a civil one.
Deadline for Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
The time given to file a wrongful death claim is called the statute of limitation. In South Carolina, this deadline is three years from the date of the person’s demise. If the case is not filed within this period, it will not be able to proceed. Your injury attorney will ensure that all documents are filed properly and in a timely manner.
Common Reasons for a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
There are common types of accidents linked to wrongful death lawsuits:
- Traffic accidents: This category includes car, truck and motorcycle accidents. They are often due to speeding, running a red light or distracted or drunk driving. In all cases, the person’s demise would not have occurred except for another’s reckless or negligent behavior.
- Defective products: Approximately 21,000 deaths occur annually due to a defective product, according to the United States Consumer Products Safety Commission.
- Work-related deaths: Most work-related deaths are covered under workers’ compensation. However, in some cases, the death is due to the negligence of a third party. A wrongful death claim is allowable in these instances in addition to collecting workers’ compensation benefits.
- Medical malpractice: When a person’s demise is caused by a doctor’s misdiagnosis, inadequate hospital care, mistakes made during surgical procedures or medication errors, a claim for wrongful death can be filed.
- Motorcycle accidents: An accident caused by a negligent driver, a defective part, road defects due to lack of maintenance or an aggressive driver can all lead to wrongful death.
- Pedestrian accidents: Although most pedestrian accidents result from negligent driver behavior, poor crosswalk maintenance or inadequate lighting in intersections can lead to a wrongful death lawsuit.
The Difference Between a Survivor Action and a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
A survivor action is a lawsuit filed on behalf of a decedent for injuries he or she suffered prior to death. This interval can be days or hours before the person’s demise. It is essentially a personal injury lawsuit and must follow the parameters for this type of legal action. The claim is one the decedent likely would have filed themselves had they lived.
How Morris Law Can Help
My staff and I consider the death of a loved one due to an intentional act or negligence as a tragic situation for the family members. That is why we provide not just legal acumen but also a compassionate hand in a wrongful death case. If you have suffered the death of a family member, reach out to us at (843) 232-0944 in Myrtle Beach and Surfside Beach as well as surrounding areas in South Carolina. You can also reach us at our Aiken Office at (803) 470-4444.