The death of a loved one is profoundly devastating. When such loss occurs as the result of the preventable negligence or carelessness of another, the trauma to the family left behind is immeasurable. We understand that no amount of money can ever make up for suffering a catastrophic injury or losing a loved one to wrongful death. However, we also know that pursuing justice and obtaining compensation can help ease people’s financial stresses during these difficult times, allowing them to focus on their emotional and physical recovery.
Holding the negligent parties accountable could be the key to finding justice and starting the recovery process for injured people and surviving families.
In South Carolina, a wrongful death lawsuit can be brought by a surviving spouse, parent, child or other dependent against negligent drivers, property owners, healthcare workers, manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies, someone who harassed or inflicted emotional trauma on a person who committed suicide, or even an employer that contracted services from an unqualified vendor which led to the passing of your loved one.
As knowledgeable and compassionate wrongful death lawyers in Columbia, SC, Chappell Smith & Arden, P.A. is committed to helping those who have lost a loved one due to the reckless or careless actions of another. We can help you seek justice for your loved one by filing a wrongful death lawsuit on their behalf. Since 1993, we’ve helped countless clients secure the compensation they deserve through successful representation, mediation, negotiation and litigation.
Our Clients Love Us
“Chappell Smith & Arden made my case absolutely painless. They were professional, diligent, compassionate and extremely attentive. Mark Chappell and his team went above and way beyond to make sure I was compensated for someone else’s wrongdoing.”
“They are absolutely AMAZING! It’s very rare to not only ﬁnd great customer service, but genuine people who care about their clients. They truly go above and beyond to help, even after they’ve helped with your claim.”
“Chappell Smith & Arden were our attorneys for our car accident case. They were very reassuring and patient with us during a long and stressful negotiation with the drivers Insurance company and were highly successful in arranging a deserved ﬁnancial settlement. We recommend Chappell Smith & Arden for whatever legal representation is needed.”
“Chappell Smith represented me in a workers comp case they did a wonderful job. Kind courteous and they actually care about their clients. They understand the stress these cases bring, especially for someone like me that suffers from PTSD. They actually take time and listen and are genuine when they ask if they can help you.”
“One of the “BEST” Law Firms. They treat you like family. They are always available when you need them. They work hard to get what you need and deserve. If you are looking for excellent representation, look no further. Chappell, Smith and Arden are here for YOU!”
How To Prove Fault and Win Your Wrongful Death Case
When filing a wrongful death lawsuit, you must first prove that your loved one’s death was the direct or indirect result of the careless, reckless or negligent actions of the defendant named in the lawsuit. This is not always easy to prove, even when the evidence appears to be clear. Often, large pharmaceutical companies, insurance providers, manufacturers and healthcare agencies have large legal teams ready to defend against such claims.
Duty owed and duty breached
As the plaintiff in a wrongful death lawsuit, you must prove that the defendant had a duty to the victim and that they breached (or failed to uphold) this duty. An example of a breach of duty is the relationship between a doctor and a patient. The doctor has a duty to provide the patient with a quality standard of care. A breach of duty occurs when medical professionals fail to provide quality medical care that results in the patient’s passing.
Causation and damages
In addition to the breach of duty, wrongful death plaintiffs must also prove that the responsible party’s negligence caused the victim’s passing. You must also establish that the passing resulted in damages to you and surviving family members. Again, this is not always easy to prove, especially in claims against large corporations or healthcare agencies, such as hospitals and nursing homes.
Holding Negligent Parties Accountable
$150 million Bridge collapse
$56 million Military class action
$14.5 million Insurance bad faith
$5 million Forklift accident
$3.5 million Head-on-collision
$1.3 million Multiple vehicle wreck
This list is not a description or characterization of the quality of the ﬁrm’s representation and is in no way a guarantee of a speciﬁc result for your case. Every case is diﬀerent, and our South Carolina injury lawyers and the court will evaluate each case on its own merit.
Wrongful Death Frequently Asked Questions
Those facing the prospect of a wrongful death case typically have many questions, concerns and uncertainties. In order to help you achieve the justice that your family deserves and prepare for your case, our firm has answered the most commonly asked questions that we encounter.
What qualifies as wrongful death?
A “wrongful death” is defined as a death that arises as the result of another party’s negligence or misconduct. This encompasses not only areas of medical malpractice but also criminal behavior, accidents, manufacturing defects and a number of other areas. If a party is legally at fault for someone’s death, it may qualify as wrongful.
South Carolina’s wrongful death statute is found in Section 15-51-10 of the state’s Code of Laws:
Whenever the death of a person shall be caused by the wrongful act, neglect or default of another and the act, neglect or default is such as would, if death had not ensued, have entitled the party injured to maintain an action and recover damages in respect thereof, the person who would have been liable, if death had not ensued, shall be liable to an action for damages, notwithstanding the death of the person injured, although the death shall have been caused under such circumstances as make the killing in law a felony. In the event of the death of the wrongdoer, such cause of action shall survive against his personal representative.
Wrongful deaths often occur due to:
- Vehicle accidents. Fatal crashes involving cars, trucks and motorcycles are a common cause of preventable death on South Carolina roads. Common causes of these traffic fatalities include distracted or drunk driving, falling asleep at the wheel, reckless or aggressive driving, road rage and running a red light.
- Nursing home abuse. Physical abuse and neglect can result in the premature death of a loved one who should have been compassionately cared for at a nursing home or long-term care facility.
- Workplace accidents. Unsafe working conditions can cause serious injuries and deaths in the workplace or while doing a task in the course and scope of employment (such as driving to a job site). Some of the most deadly workplaces in America are construction sites, warehouses, manufacturing facilities, farms and sites where airplanes and commercial vehicles are operated.
- Premises liability. Private and public property owners in South Carolina must follow certain basic safety precautions to prevent harm from happening to guests and visitors. If a person who is a licensee or invitee on the property is killed due to a dangerous hazard that shouldn’t have been there or that they should have been warned about, the property owner may be held liable for wrongful death damages.
- Defective products. If you lost a loved one due to a product that was defectively designed, manufactured or improperly marketed in a way that concealed non-obvious hazards, the company (or companies) responsible for the defect may be held liable for wrongful death damages under South Carolina product liability laws.
- Medical malpractice. The goal of healthcare is to provide treatment and care for diagnosed injuries and illnesses—and to “do no harm.” However, doctors, nurses and healthcare professionals are human beings, meaning mistakes, errors and negligence can occur. If your loved one died due to medical negligence, then you may be able to file a wrongful death malpractice claim with help from an experienced attorney and expert witnesses to prove that the standard of care wasn’t upheld.
- Intentional acts. The criminal system serves to punish offenders for violent and illegal behavior such as assault, domestic violence, drunk driving, murder and homicide. Penalties for such crimes include fines, jail time and other repercussions. Unfortunately, these penalties do nothing to compensate the victims for their losses. A civil wrongful death claim can help the families of people killed by an intentional act secure justice and compensation for their loss.
What is considered wrongful death malpractice?
Wrongful death malpractice is a specific type of wrongful death that occurs within the medical field. “Malpractice” refers to a doctor’s or other medical care provider’s behavior that is determined to be negligent or intentionally harmful. This may include failing to diagnose a condition that a group of equally skilled peers could have diagnosed which later causes mortality in the patient, as well as issues of carelessness during treatment.
For example, patients who pass away as a result of having instruments left inside them after surgery, preventable injuries sustained during treatment or doctor negligence are just a few of the many cases that could constitute wrongful death malpractice.
What does a wrongful death attorney do?
A wrongful death attorney provides expert legal counsel and represents the family of the victim in the wrongful death case. These legal professionals guide grieving families through the process of filing a lawsuit and can assist with establishing critical aspects of the case, such as the defendant’s duty of care and subsequent breach of that duty that resulted in the loved one passing away. An attorney can assist with establishing causation and securing both compensatory and punitive damages against the party responsible.
Who is entitled to wrongful death benefits?
Only the personal representative of the deceased’s estate can file a wrongful death lawsuit. Ordinarily, the personal representative is named in the deceased’s last will and testament. If the deceased did not have a will, however, a personal representative can be selected by the court.
The personal representative files the wrongful death claim on behalf of the surviving family members, which can include the deceased’s spouse and children or the parents of the victim if there is no living spouse or children. If the deceased has no living parent, spouse or children, the settlement would be distributed according to South Carolina heir laws.
What damages are awarded in a wrongful death lawsuit?
Compensation can be awarded in a wrongful death suit to cover the funeral expenses and medical bills incurred as a result of the illness or injury that led to the passing. Compensation can also be awarded for lost wages and employment benefits, as well as property damage. In some cases, the plaintiff can claim damages to cover intangible losses such as mental anguish, loss of companionship, spousal, parental or child care, and even for the experience or knowledge the person contributed to their family.
Depending on the case, you may also seek punitive damages from the liable party if gross recklessness or negligence led to the wrongful death of your loved one. Punitive damages serve to punish and deter if the defendant’s intentional or malicious actions caused the injury or death. The damages you’re entitled to depend on the details of your case.
Is there a cap or limit on wrongful death damages?
Yes, but only in a couple of scenarios.
The first cap is on punitive damages. South Carolina caps punitive damages at $500,000 or 3 times the value of “actual” damages (including medical expenses, funeral and burial expenses, lost wages and employment benefits), whichever amount is higher.
The second limit placed on wrongful death damages only applies to medical malpractice cases. In South Carolina, the amount of compensation you can seek for non-economic damages (like emotional distress, pain and suffering and loss of companionship) in a medical malpractice wrongful death claim is capped at $350,000 against a single health care provider. If your case involves multiple providers, you can be awarded up to $1.05 million in total non-economic damages, as long as each provider pays no more than $350,000.
What is the wrongful death statute of limitations?
In most cases, you have 3 years to file a wrongful death lawsuit in South Carolina against non-governmental individuals or organizations. This deadline is known as the “statute of limitations,” and the clock usually starts ticking from the date of the person’s death. If your claim is not filed within this 3-year deadline, the court most likely will deny your case outright, and you won’t ever get your day in court.
If you’re seeking to sue a defendant affiliated with the government, you only have 2 years to file a wrongful death claim. This reduced time limit might apply if, for example, you wish to sue a public hospital for malpractice or if your loved one was involved in a fatal accident with a government vehicle.
There are only a few rarely-applied exceptions to the wrongful death statute of limitations (such as if the negligence wasn’t discovered until months or years after the act was committed). The deadline is typically strictly enforced. What’s more, in the case of medical malpractice, no wrongful death claim can be filed more than 6 years after the malpractice happened.
It’s important to consult with an attorney well before this strict legal deadline in order to allow for ample time to build a strong case.
How long does a wrongful death or catastrophic injury lawsuit take?
Simply put, there is no set amount of time to conclude a wrongful death or catastrophic injury lawsuit, although a case must be filed by the deadline set by the applicable statute of limitations, which is 3 years in most cases. Many factors play a role in the length of time it takes to move the case to conclusion, including processes such as:
- Conducting investigations
- Collecting evidence and information
- Interviewing witnesses and experts
- Communication with the opposing party
- Settlement negotiations
Often, insurance companies will try their best to settle quickly, but these initial settlement offers are usually inadequate. It’s best to work with a qualified wrongful death or catastrophic injury attorney to make the process as quick and seamless as possible while working toward a fair recovery.
How hard is it to prove wrongful death in South Carolina?
In order to prove there was a wrongful death, you must first establish the other party was negligent, reckless or intentionally harmful. Negligence is proven by showing that:
- The at-fault party (defendant) owed your loved one a duty of care,
- The defendant breached this duty of care,
- The breach caused your loved one injuries resulting in death, and
- The death has brought the family emotional and financial hardships.
Proving negligence can be challenging, but our experienced wrongful death attorneys will investigate your case to determine how to demonstrate the other party’s negligence.
What is considered a catastrophic injury in South Carolina?
Catastrophic injuries leave a lasting impact on your life. These injuries affect a person’s quality of life, often resulting in permanent disabilities. A catastrophic injury often requires extensive medical treatment and rehabilitation. In the most unfortunate cases, a catastrophic injury can lead to wrongful death.
Catastrophic injuries can vary, but they typically encompass severe physical injuries, traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) and spinal cord injuries. Some of the most common causes of catastrophic injuries include:
- Railroad accidents
- Medical mistakes
- Slip and fall incidents
Our Attorneys Are Here to Help You
Founded in 1993, the mission of Chappell Smith & Arden, P.A. is to help injured clients get the justice they deserve. Our exceptional, experienced attorneys are licensed to practice in several areas, including all federal and state courts in South Carolina, all state courts in North Carolina, and federal district and appeals courts across the nation. We are also qualiﬁed to serve clients in the Supreme Court of the United States.
Columbia Wrongful Death Lawyers Advocating for Victims’ Families
When a loved one dies due to another’s negligence, the heartbreak can be devastating. To get the justice you and your family deserve, you need an experienced and compassionate wrongful death attorney by your side. While courtroom litigation and mediation won’t erase your tragedy, taking legal action can help you pursue justice for your loved one’s wrongful death and assist you in making a financial recovery so that you can focus on getting through this already difficult time.
The wrongful death attorneys at Chappell Smith & Arden, P.A. can help you pursue your claim in an area near you. We’ve served hundreds of clients by bringing claims against healthcare workers, automobile manufacturers and producers, pharmaceutical and drug companies, and others responsible for wrongful death. We have also served clients whose loved ones committed suicide after excessive bullying or harassment. Our firm’s cases have further included action against employers who contracted services from an unqualified vendor, resulting in the wrongful death of an employee.
We take pride in maintaining a high client satisfaction rating. We have a 10/10 rating on Avvo, and many of our wrongful death attorneys are well-ranked by Super Lawyers. Backed by our team, you can take confidence in the days ahead and work toward healing. Let us handle your legal care with experience and professionalism as you focus on moving forward from this tragedy.