When a person or business’s negligence leads to a fatality, South Carolina law calls it wrongful death. Common causes of fatal accidents include car crashes, medical malpractice, nursing home negligence, and fire. If the victim suffered prior to their passing, there may also be a “survival” claim. Families come to me with many questions about how to pursue wrongful death claims. This article attempts to answer some of those questions.
Pursuing a Wrongful Death Claim
In order to recover compensation 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, and 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 claim, and ask 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 we gather as much evidence and witness testimony as possible early in the case.
Finding Out "Why" the Incident Occurred
After investigating the facts and obtaining all possible evidence we may either send the insurance carrier a "pre-litigation demand package" or file a wrongful death lawsuit. Though filing a lawsuit may lengthen the process, it is often the only way to find out "why" the accident occurred. Without subpoenas, depositions, and other fact-finding tools that only a lawsuit provides, a family may never know why the negligent party made the dangerous choices it did. For instance, did a company put profits ahead of safety? Did a driver mix alcohol and medication before getting on the highway? Answers to these questions often benefit the legal claim while also providing some level of vindication for families.
Though medical bills may not be a part of the suit, juries and insurance carriers understand the need to compensate families for the lost earnings, loss of companionship, and grief brought on by a wrongful death. And though there will never be enough money to achieve true justice, the law attempts to account for every loss the fatality caused.
Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
If you have questions about a wrongful death accident claim in South Carolina, I am here to help. My job as an attorney is not simply to seek compensation, but to guide, counsel, and comfort survivors. I do not seek to profit from tragedy. I am not in the business of exploiting families and chasing money. I handle fatal accident cases in and around Columbia because I have an interest in justice and community safety. To find out how I can help, call me today at 803-790-2800, or fill out a contact form and someone will reach out to you shortly to schedule a consultation.