Understanding your rights under South Carolina law
Almost 1,100 people died in fatal wrecks in South Carolina in 2020. Let that sink in. That means an average of 3 people were killed on South Carolina streets, roads and interstates each and every day in the course of 1 year. This number is shocking—and yet, all of us can recall seeing those roadside memorials with flowers and crosses.
Many survivors ask what to do after they’ve lost a loved one. Understandably, losing someone you love in a fatal car crash can be devastating. In addition to the profound sense of grief and pain you may experience, the sudden and tragic loss of a loved one can also create financial uncertainties and hardships.
If you’ve lost a loved one in a car accident in South Carolina, you may have questions about how to deal with the financial stress in the aftermath of your loss. This article discusses wrongful death lawsuits following a fatal crash, including who can sue, what damages are available to survivors and the statute of limitations in South Carolina.
Causes of fatal car accidents in South Carolina
Car accidents are frequent occurrences in South Carolina. Just watch the local news and you’ll see what we mean. They happen throughout the state in all types of weather conditions.
Distracted drivers play a primary role in many fatal car accidents. For instance, if a driver is texting or talking on the phone, they’re also distracted. These scenarios commonly result in a deadly car wreck.
Fatal accidents can also happen when the driver is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Accidents like these are entirely preventable, so it’s understandable when survivors feel angry and frustrated following these tragedies.
Inclement weather and bad road conditions also frequently cause fatal single-vehicle accidents in South Carolina. When this is the case, a fatal car accident might not be the fault of another driver.
Regardless of the cause of your loved one’s car accident, our compassionate South Carolina wrongful death lawyers are here to help. We know this may be a difficult time, and we’ll do everything we can to protect your rights. Let us handle all the discussions, paperwork and negotiations with insurance companies so you can focus on processing your loss.
Who can file a wrongful death lawsuit in South Carolina?
A “wrongful death” is when another party’s negligent or reckless actions wrongfully result in death. Whether another party intended to act recklessly or not, those actions and/or behaviors resulted in death.
As your loved one’s survivor, you may be able to file a wrongful death claim. A wrongful death lawsuit is a civil case, not a criminal matter, so there’s no legal requirement to prove that the defendant intended to kill or harm your loved one.
In South Carolina, the deceased person’s representative may file a wrongful death lawsuit. The deceased victim’s spouse, children, parents or other financially dependent relation may file a wrongful death claim with the goal of recovering financial compensation.
An experienced wrongful death lawyer in South Carolina can help you and your family manage the steps needed to claim just compensation from an insurance company or other liable parties. An attorney can handle the time-consuming and confusing steps of filing a wrongful death claim to recover money to pay for hospital bills, medical bills, lost income and wages, pain and suffering and other items.
Wrongful death damage compensation for car accident fatalities
No amount of compensation can take away the pain of losing someone you love. However, financial compensation can relieve some of the life stresses you may face, including:
- Hospital and medical bills. This includes the medical expenses your loved one incurred prior to their passing, if they were transported to an emergency room.
- Lost wages. If your loved one worked and contributed to the family’s financial resources, you may be entitled to compensation for the loss of their future wages and benefits.
- Lost parental guidance and future inheritance. If the deceased had children, they may be entitled to compensation for the emotional distress related to their loss of a caregiver as well as their anticipated future inheritance.
- Funeral arrangements and burial expenses.
- Lost companionship. As a spouse or family member, you may be entitled to compensation for the loss of your loved one’s companionship.
- Pain and suffering. If your loved one suffered prior to their passing, this may be compensable. You may also be eligible for compensation for emotional distress and mental anguish for your loss.
- Punitive damages. If the at-fault party’s actions were especially egregious or reckless, the court may award punitive damages to punish them and deter future negligence. For example, fatal drunk driving cases commonly involve punitive damages.
Statute of limitations in wrongful death lawsuits
Under South Carolina law (S.C. Code § 15-3-530), a wrongful death lawsuit must be filed within 3 years of the date of your loved one’s death. If you don’t file a wrongful death claim within this time, it’s unlikely that the South Carolina courts will hear your case.
If the fatal accident involved a government vehicle, you may only have 2 years in which to file a wrongful death claim against the government.
For this reason and others, it’s in your best interests to talk with an experienced South Carolina car accident attorney as soon as possible. By taking early action, your attorney can help gather evidence, collect witness statements and do everything necessary to prevail on your behalf.
How to file a wrongful death lawsuit in South Carolina
Take these steps to file a wrongful death lawsuit in South Carolina:
- Find an experienced wrongful death lawyer in South Carolina.
- Request a case evaluation.
- Bring as many details to the discussion as possible, including police reports, medical records, witness contacts, photos, etc.
At Chappell Smith & Arden, P.A., we will explain what to expect going forward. In order to recover damages, we must demonstrate your losses. That’s why it is essential to collect expenses after the loss of your loved one.
It may be necessary for our team to discuss your case with experts in order to understand your future losses as well.
Wrongful death lawsuits: negotiation, settlement, trial
The insurer or insurers of the at-fault party may attempt to negotiate your lawsuit before entering the courtroom. For this reason, a vast majority of wrongful death cases settle out of court.
Before your case goes to trial, we will present the evidence to the at-fault party’s insurance company. If any of the drivers involved were under the influence of drugs or alcohol, drove recklessly, tailgated or otherwise exhibited behavior that caused the accident, our attorneys will fight for your legal rights, including compensation and expenses relating to your loved one’s serious injury, death, and/or property damage or loss.
Consult an experienced South Carolina car accident lawyer
If you or a loved one has been in a car accident that resulted in severe injury or death, the knowledgeable and compassionate injury and wrongful death attorneys at Chappell Smith & Arden, P.A. will use all available resources to help you get the compensation you deserve. If you live in South Carolina, contact us for your free consultation today.