If an individual’s death is caused by the “wrongful act, neglect, or default” of another person or organization, it could constitute a wrongful death claim or lawsuit. These cases can involve a range of fatal accidents. Certain family members may be entitled to receive compensation after losing a loved one to negligence.
How Does the Legal Process Work in a Wrongful Death Claim?
The burden of proof in a wrongful death claim rests with the person filing the suit (or their legal representative). The legal process involves proving specific elements of negligence (duty, breach, causation, damages). Building a case typically requires:
- Investigating the cause of the accident to determine the cause of the wrongful death and to identify liable parties
- Gathering evidence and other information to prove negligence
- Calculating losses incurred
- Initially, issuing a demand to the at-fault party for compensation (in exchange for an agreement to cease to pursue the matter further legally)
- Filing a wrongful death lawsuit if a settlement cannot be agreed upon via the previous step
Who Can Sue in a Wrongful Death Action?
In South Carolina, named executors in the deceased’s estate plan can file a wrongful death claim. In the absence of a will, the court will appoint a representative who can act on behalf of the deceased victims’ loved ones.
The court will usually appoint the following family members as the representative if there is no will:
- The surviving spouse and children of the deceased
- The victim’s surviving parents, if there is no spouse or children
- The deceased’s heirs in the absence of a spouse, children, or parents
If the case is successful, the representative will then distribute the awards among the surviving family members. You could also recover additional compensation from a survival action. This allows you to pursue a claim for injuries and damages suffered by your loved one before their passing.
Compensation Awarded in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
No amount of money can replace a loved one. However, a wrongful death action could help ease the financial burden of your loss by providing compensation for the following:
- Medical expenses and treatment of the deceased prior to their passing
- Funeral and burial costs
- Loss of companionship, care, and protection
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of financial support and other benefits
- Loss of household services
Surviving family beneficiaries may be awarded punitive damages in exceptional cases involving reckless, willful, or malicious acts.
You deserve to honor the memory of your loved one and grieve in peace. While you spend time mourning with your family, we can calculate your damages and fight for fair compensation.
Examples of Negligence in Wrongful Death Cases
Unfortunately, there are many different ways a fatal accident can happen. As such, the following list serves to highlight the most common causes of wrongful death rather than a comprehensive index.
Drivers owe other drivers, passengers, and pedestrians a duty of care. When they violate traffic laws or drive negligently, they can cause fatal accidents. Some examples of negligent driving include:
- Reckless driving
- Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- Distracted driving, such as texting while driving
According to the National Safety Council, almost five thousand people died from potentially preventable accidents at work during 2019. Some sectors are inherently more dangerous than others: agriculture and forestry, mining, transportation and warehousing, and construction. Wrongful deaths in many workplace accidents involve:
- Transportation incidents
- Falls, slips, or trips
- Being struck by a moving object or vehicle
- Electrocutions, fires, or explosions
- Exposure to harmful substances
When medical professionals and health care institutions fail to provide the required level of care, resulting in the death of a patient, a family may pursue a wrongful death lawsuit. Common examples of medical malpractice include:
- Medication errors
- Misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis
- Surgical error
- Poor patient aftercare
- Failing to order diagnostic tests
- Ignoring or misinterpreting test results
Other causes of wrongful death include dangerous prescription drugs, defective products, and nursing home abuse. Simply put, whatever the nature of the accident, if you believe someone else was responsible for the death of your loved one, you may have a valid wrongful death claim.
When You Need Help, We Are Here For You
We understand how building a legal case is probably the last thing on your mind at the moment, so if you are struggling emotionally and financially, we are here to help when you are ready. Our attorneys can handle every aspect of your lawsuit, enabling you to focus on being with your family at this most difficult time.
To learn more about how we fight to secure compensation from those responsible for the loss of your loved one, call George Sink, P.A. Injury Lawyers, serving South Carolina at (888) 612-700. You can also review our case results here.