Nothing can make up for the unexpected loss of a loved one, but South Carolina tort law can provide compensation for surviving family members. You may have a valid wrongful death claim if you lost someone you love due to another party’s negligence or ill intent. At Rikard and Protopapas, our Columbia wrongful death attorney and legal team will help build a case and hold the at-fault person or agency financially accountable for their actions.
How Can Our Columbia Wrongful Death Attorney Help?
As legal representatives of families wading through grief and financial uncertainty, we recognize the necessity for aggressive action and compassionate support in these cases. We take over the administrative components, completing all the paperwork accurately and on time to ensure the case begins swiftly without delay. The investigation is an essential element of our job, and how we approach it will depend on the type of case and who is responsible for your loved one’s death.
The general duties of our Columbia wrongful death lawyer include gathering evidence to prove negligence and recoverable damages and negotiating with the insurance company for a fair settlement. We take our role as representatives seriously, handling all stages of the legal process so our clients can focus on healing from tremendous loss. Should the insurance company fail to offer adequate compensation, we will prepare the case for trial and fight for every cent.
What Types of Fatal Accidents Lead to Wrongful Death Claims?
A fatal accident can happen in numerous ways and under almost countless circumstances. While some are more likely than others, the most common accidents leading to wrongful death claims include:
- Auto accidents: Head-on collisions, truck accidents, and crashes involving motorcyclists result in fatalities more often than other car accidents. The party responsible for the collision is also liable for damages.
- Premises liability accidents: Property owners owe a duty of care to maintain safe conditions for lawful visitors. When failure to do so results in an accident that causes the death of an individual, the property owner is liable.
- Nursing home neglect or abuse: Some of the worst and most avoidable wrongful death cases involve elderly abuse in nursing homes. The liable party could be one or more staff members or the entire facility.
- Pedestrian and bicyclist accidents: These two parties are especially vulnerable to severe injuries and death when involved in accidents with vehicles. Liability is sometimes complex, but a Columbia wrongful death attorney can help.
- Unsafe products: Manufacturers and distributors owe a duty of care to consumers. When they breach that duty by producing a defective product or one without adequate warnings or instructions, they are liable for the resulting injuries or deaths.
Medical malpractice cases resulting in death
Medical malpractice is arguably the most complex type of wrongful death case. While the burden of proof for a civil claim is substantially lower than in criminal court, challenging a medical facility without the help of an experienced legal representative can present many obstacles. Doctors, nurses, and other healthcare staff swear an oath to protect the health and safety of patients. Violating that oath and causing someone’s death through negligence should result in accountability.
Common types of medical malpractice that could lead to death include:
- Emergency room errors
- Misdiagnosis, delayed diagnosis, and medication errors
- Surgical mistakes
- Childbirth injuries
- Inadequate staffing and poor workflow
Our team of Columbia medical malpractice lawyers has extensive experience taking on lawsuits against negligent medical facilities and building solid cases for damages under South Carolina wrongful death laws.
What Laws Govern Wrongful Death Claims?
State-specific laws govern wrongful death cases. The two most important rules to understand in South Carolina address who can file a claim and how long they have to file.
Statute of limitations
The statute of limitations is a definitive deadline for filing a lawsuit. In South Carolina, the deadline for wrongful death suits is usually within three years from the date of the person’s death. Attempts to file a lawsuit after the statute of limitations passes will likely result in immediate dismissal.
Eligibility to file
Some states allow surviving family members to file a wrongful death claim directly with the civil court. In South Carolina, only an administrator or executor of the deceased’s estate can pursue compensation in a wrongful death case. Often the executor is a family member, but when the deceased did not have an estate plan before death, the court will appoint someone.
Should the case settle or the court award compensation to the deceased’s estate, the money goes to the surviving family members. First in line of those who can recover damages include the deceased’s spouse and children. Without a surviving spouse or child, the parents can recover losses, and in the absence of a surviving spouse, parent or child, any remaining heirs could receive the awarded damages.
What Damages Can You Recover From a Wrongful Death Case?
The court refers to your compensatory losses as damages. These can vary from case to case and depend on the circumstances surrounding your loved one’s death. However, economic and non-economic damages common among wrongful death claims include:
- The medical bills accumulated after the accident and before death
- The funeral and burial expenses
- Loss of financial support and benefits, such as healthcare insurance and retirement plan contributions
- The loss of your loved one’s companionship, knowledge, experience, protection, society, nurturing and love
- The pain and suffering endured by surviving family members
If the party responsible for the incident that led to your loss acted deliberately or with reckless abandon, the court may also award punitive damages. Unlike compensatory damages, these do not compensate for any loss. Instead, they punish the guilty party for their actions and hopefully deter future similar behavior.
FAQs About Wrongful Death Claims in South Carolina
How much does a wrongful death lawsuit pay in South Carolina?
The value of a wrongful death lawsuit depends on several factors, including the cause of death, the value of recoverable damages, and the responsible party’s intentions. Given the significant impact on surviving relatives’ emotional and mental health, non-economic damages are often substantial.
Is there a cap on damages in South Carolina?
Most wrongful death claims in South Carolina will not have a cap on the amount of recoverable damages. One exception is medical malpractice cases, where the law limits the total available non-economic damages to $350,000 against an individual provider and $1.05 million total against multiple providers. Additionally, punitive damages cannot exceed three times the total actual damages or up to $500,000. There are other caps for governmental healthcare providers. Consult one of our attorneys today to understand which caps may apply to your case, and how they work.
How fast do wrongful death claims settle?
With the help of a Columbia wrongful death attorney, most wrongful death cases settle without reaching the trial phase. It can take between a few months and several years to settle a claim based on unique circumstances. When the insurance company or companies refuse to offer a fair settlement, our attorneys may recommend filing a lawsuit and pursuing compensation through trial.
Contact Our Columbia Wrongful Death Attorney Now
The statute of limitations for wrongful death cases allows only a short time to file a lawsuit. Therefore, you have nothing to lose by scheduling a consultation with an experienced Columbia wrongful death attorney at Rikard and Protopapas. You deserve a legal representative who understands the civil process and will fight aggressively to protect your right to compensation. Contact our firm and schedule your free consultation today.