Personal Injury Specialized Area of Practice
The sudden death of a loved one is one of the most difficult things we could face in our lives. The situation becomes even more heartbreaking when that loss was caused by another party’s negligence or misconduct. So many accidents are preventable tragedies, but when the loss is a result of negligence, a Wrongful Death lawsuit can bring justice to the bereaved parties and help in the life-changing circumstances that follow.
Stefan B. Feidler & the Feidler Law Firm have the knowledge and expertise to guide you through this challenging time. We are much more than legal advocates—we’re here to support you in your time of need. We have the litigation experience to navigate your case and get you the compensation you and your loved ones deserve and hold the parties accountable.
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Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
In South Carolina, a wrongful death claim may be filed by the surviving spouse, the decedent’s children, siblings, or surviving parents. Immediate family members of the decedent may choose to file a personal injury lawsuit separately or jointly in an effort to recover damages. The court will appoint a guardian in the event the only surviving beneficiary is a minor, in order to protect his or her best interest through litigation.
There are typically two primary claims for a loved one’s death: a wrongful death claim and a survival claim.
Wrongful Death Claim
Under South Carolina law, a "wrongful death" is defined as one that is caused by the "wrongful act, neglect, or default" of another. The wrongful act, neglect, or default must be the type of action for which the person could have filed a personal injury lawsuit had he or she lived. (S.C. Code § 15-51-10 (2021).) The executor or administrator for the estate of the deceased is usually the filer of the lawsuit.
As in all personal injury cases, the defendant's liability in a wrongful death case is expressed solely in terms of financial compensation ("damages"), which the court orders the defendant to pay to the decedent's survivors. This is one big difference between a wrongful death lawsuit and criminal homicide cases, where a conviction will be penalized with jail or prison time, probation, and other sanctions.
A survival claim permits a personal injury lawsuit to “survive” the deceased. The goal of a survival claim is to compensate the estate of the deceased for the losses the individual suffered prior to death. Survival claims are basically a personal injury claim on your loved one’s behalf, and the case will be prosecuted in the same way as a personal injury lawsuit.
A survival action focuses on the suffering of the deceased person instead of the agony and financial losses of the family. In a survival action, the decedent’s estate may be eligible to recover damages relating to the incident, similar to what the person could have recovered in a personal injury lawsuit if he or she had survived.
In order to recover damages for your loved one’s death, a personal representative must be appointed for the estate. Personal representative means the same thing as administrator or executor. The probate court will approve of or appoint the personal representative; then the wrongful death case can proceed.
Once we have a personal representative for the estate, we begin collecting medical records and other evidence (exp. photos, police records, coroner's reports). We will also put the negligent party on notice of the wrongful death action and request that they forward our correspondence to their insurance company.
Proving the case often requires speaking with multiple witnesses, utilizing a private investigator, and retaining experts. Insurance companies take wrongful death accidents very seriously and defend them vigorously. For these reasons, it is essential that our legal team gather as much evidence and witness testimony as possible early in the case.
The types of damages recoverable in a wrongful death lawsuit under South Carolina law are determined not by the value of the life lost, but by the damages suffered by the beneficiaries.
- Mental anguish
- Pre-death pain and suffering
- Economic losses such as medical expenses and lost income incurred by the deceased prior to death
- Pecuniary (financial) losses
- The loss of your loved one’s experience, knowledge, and judgment
- Grief and sorrow. Mental shock and anguish suffered by the survivor of the decedent
- Loss of your loved one’s companionship, care or protection
- Punitive damages, intended to punish wrongdoers and prevent them from harming others.
Statue of Limitations
Governmental Defendants - 2 Years
Under the laws of South Carolina, you have 2 years to bring a lawsuit - also known as a civil action - against governmental defendants. For instance, if you wanted to hold a county hospital or one of its doctors responsible for medical malpractice, you would most likely only have 2 years from the date the malpractice was committed.
Non-Governmental Defendants - 3 Years
Under the laws of South Carolina, for wrongful death actions against non-governmental defendants, you generally have 3 years from the date of the incident.
Wrongful Death Lawsuit Fee Arrangement
The Feidler Law Firm believes that everyone deserves high-quality legal representation, no matter their financial status. Therefore, we operate on a contingency fee basis, which means you pay us only when we win your case. Our fee would come in the form of a percentage of the settlement or verdict amount we obtain. If there is no recovery, there will be no attorneys’ fees.
You’re not alone. The Feidler Law Firm is here to help. Submit your information through our web form, or call The Feidler Law Firm at 843-790-9015 for a FREE consultation to discuss your case.