Few events create as much grief, stress, and confusion as the sudden, unexpected death of a loved one. It is natural for family members to want answers as to why and how this happened, and it is understandable to want accountability if the death was caused by others’ negligence.
Surviving family members are often left to pay the final medical costs as well as funeral and burial expenses. A family may struggle with the sudden loss of emotional and financial support that the deceased individual previously provided the household. The grief-stricken family members should not have to bear the burdens alone if the person’s death was the result of someone else’s negligent actions or inaction.
South Carolina law allows family members who have lost a loved one due to others’ negligence to seek compensation through a wrongful death lawsuit in certain situations. While no amount of money will ever replace the love and support that the person provided, a wrongful death claim could bring closure and compensation that can help the family have financial stability and move on with their lives after this tragic incident.
The Myrtle Beach wrongful death attorneys of Joye Law Firm have extensive experience helping those who have lost loved ones seek justice. Our record of success includes a $12 million verdict for the family of a father and infant son killed in an 18-wheeler crash, among other successful verdicts and settlements on behalf of South Carolina families like yours. Call (877) 941-1019 or contact us online to receive a free consultation with a caring and compassionate member of our team today.
How Can a Wrongful Death Attorney Help Me in Myrtle Beach?
The first thing that a lawyer will be able to do for you is to conduct an independent investigation into your loved one’s death. This will help to determine the cause, identify all liable parties and preserve important evidence.
You will want an attorney to speak on your behalf when the insurance company for the other party contacts you. Insurance companies frequently try to settle wrongful death claims for a fraction of the fair value of the case. An insurance company adjuster may contact a victim’s spouse or other family member and offer a lump sum settlement to resolve the case quickly. Some people may be taken aback by the offer and quickly accept, possibly out of fear that it is the only offer they will receive.
Those individuals who accept quick settlements often discover that the settlement will not cover many costs. You can avoid this situation by refusing to speak to an insurance company representing the other party until you have an attorney. An experienced lawyer will have an informed perspective of the reasonable value of the case and will seek to negotiate a full settlement.
Examples of Wrongful Death Cases
Some of the most common causes of wrongful deaths in Myrtle Beach include:
- Car accidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Truck accidents
- Bicycle accidents
- Pedestrian accidents
- Boating accidents
- Construction accidents
- Airplane accidents
- Maritime accidents
- Manufacturing accidents
- Accidents involving children
- Defective products
- Medical malpractice
- Nursing home neglect
- Violent crimes
It is important to remember that death is not always instantaneous. Some victims die weeks, months, or even years from injuries related to the original accidents.
Some wrongful death claims are based on intentional acts of other parties that are usually acts of violence. In such cases, the offenders will likely face criminal charges for assault, murder, vehicular manslaughter or a related crime.
Keep in mind that a criminal case is much different than a civil case. A civil action is filed by a person and a criminal case is filed by the state on behalf of residents.
When a defendant is convicted in a criminal case, the court will usually order a sentence that involves criminal fines and/or imprisonment. However, you would need to pursue a separate civil lawsuit to seek a monetary judgment against the plaintiff.
Criminal cases and civil cases have different burdens of proof. A prosecutor is required to prove a defendant’s guilt in a criminal case beyond a reasonable doubt, which is a very high standard. A civil case requires a plaintiff to prove a defendant’s negligence by a preponderance of the evidence, which basically translates to more than half of the evidence.
A family should not assume that a person cannot be held liable in a civil action just because he or she was not convicted of a crime. A good example of this is the case of former pro football star O.J. Simpson. Simpson was acquitted of murder in the deaths of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman but was later found liable for their wrongful deaths. A jury awarded the families $8.5 million in compensatory damages and $25 million in punitive damages.
How to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Myrtle Beach
A wrongful death action in South Carolina can be brought by an executor or administrator under Section 15-51-10, if a person was killed in Horry County due to a wrongful act, neglect, or default on the part of another person or party. Section 15-51-20 lists the individuals who may be entitled to damages in a wrongful death action. They include:
- Parents (if no spouse or children exist)
- Other heirs (if no spouse, children, or parents can bring a claim)
You generally have three years to file a wrongful death action in South Carolina. The statute of limitations begins on the date a person dies, which may be different than the date of the accident. In cases involving government agencies including county-owned medical centers, there may be different notification requirements and deadlines for filing a claim. Therefore, it’s important to consult a Myrtle Beach wrongful death lawyer as soon as possible to review your case and advise you.
If a wrongful death resulted from medical malpractice, then the clock on the statute of limitations begins on the date an injury is discovered or “reasonably ought to have been discovered.” South Carolina imposes a six-year “statute of repose” on wrongful death claims involving medical malpractice, meaning that no action can be filed more than six years after an injury occurred.
Filing a wrongful death action will usually require a person to prove the four basic elements of a negligence claim. Those are that the defendant owed a duty of care to the victim to conduct themselves in a safe and reasonable manner, the defendant breached that duty of care by not conducting themselves in a safe and reasonable manner, the breach of duty caused the victim’s injuries, and the victim’s injuries resulted in damages.
Types of Damages that Can Be Recovered from a Wrongful Death Claim
The types of damages that could be recovered in a wrongful death action differ from those recovered through a personal injury claim, where the victim was not killed. In South Carolina, damages that may be available to surviving family members include:
- Final medical expenses for the deceased
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Loss of emotional support, love, and guidance
- Loss of financial support
- Loss of household services and other benefits
- Pain and suffering
A very limited number of cases may also result in the award of punitive damages (also known as exemplary damages). A fatal drunk driving accident in Myrtle Beach is a good example of a case that might lead to a punitive damage award. A plaintiff cannot recover punitive damages unless they are awarded compensatory damages. There is no statutory cap on an award of punitive damages.
Turn to Our Wrongful Death Law Firm for Help
Joye Law Firm has been representing injured people in Myrtle Beach and surrounding areas since 1968. Our law firm has made it a point to give back to the communities we serve through our Joye in the Community program that offers scholarships and helps improve the health and well-being of people across South Carolina through charitable giving.
If your loved one was recently killed in an accident caused by another party’s negligence, you may have questions about who can file a wrongful death suit and whether you have a right to do so. You may be entitled to hold the at-fault party accountable for their actions. You can trust the attorneys at our Myrtle Beach wrongful death law firm to pursue the full and fair compensation that you are owed. We are here to take the stress and strain off of you and your family during this challenging time. We believe that you deserve time to grieve and support your loved ones, and we’ll diligently get to work on your behalf.
Joye Law Firm has received an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and has multiple attorneys who have been named Super Lawyers. We will sit with you to discuss what happened and explore the legal options available to you when you call (877) 941-1019 or contact us online to set up a free consultation with us today.