In early April, the widower of a woman struck and killed by an allegedly drunk driver in Greenville filed a lawsuit against him. Separately, lawsuits were filed in Hilton Head against the driver of a car that overturned, ejecting and killing his passenger, the bar that served the driver alcohol, and the restaurant group that owns the bar.
Both cases involved survivors filing a wrongful death suit against the parties they believed were responsible for the death of their loved one in a car accident.
If your loved one has died in a car accident, you may be considering filing a wrongful death claim yourself. Here’s what you need to know.
A wrongful death claim is a civil suit
In car accidents that result in death, the driver at fault may or may not face criminal charges brought by the state. A wrongful death claim is different because it is a civil matter, and according to South Carolina code, must be brought by the deceased’s executor or administrator, or in their name. It is brought against the party or parties responsible for a person’s death when a “wrongful act, neglect, or default was the result of recklessness, wilfulness, or malice.”
To determine whether there’s any basis for such a claim, consider it this way: had the deceased survived the car accident, would they be in a situation to bring a personal injury claim against the driver at fault? If yes, then there may be basis for a wrongful death claim.
In car accidents that result in death, there may be a number of parties that could be responsible in whole or in part for the death of the deceased, depending on the unique circumstances of the accident, including:
- Driver of the car in which the deceased was a passenger
- Driver of another car that struck the deceased, whether in a car, on foot, or riding a bike
- Manufacturer or vendor of the car that failed in some way
- Party responsible for the condition of the road
- Person or establishment that supplied alcohol to the driver at fault
More than one wrongful death suit may be filed, as in the example from the beginning.
Damages in a wrongful death suit
Damages recovered shall benefit the spouse and child(ren) of the deceased, or if none, the parent(s), or if none, the heirs who would have inherited the deceased’s estate.
In South Carolina, the jury may award damages they believe are in proportion to the injury to the survivors of the deceased. This may include punitive damages to punish the party at fault. Damages may be recovered through a jury trial or through a settlement. In this state, a settlement in a wrongful death suit must be approved by the court.
Work with an experienced attorney
It’s important to work with a lawyer who has experience in handling wrongful death claims in South Carolina and who isn’t afraid to go to trial if necessary. Call the attorneys at The Carolina Law Group today to schedule your free consultation so you can talk about your case and discover how they can help you get the damages you deserve.
The Carolina Law Group has four offices in upstate South Carolina for your convenience: Greenville (principal office; call 864.312.4444), West Greenville (864.312.4444), Greer (principal office; call 864.757.5555), and Spartanburg (principal office; call 864.757.5555). Call today.
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