If you have had a loved one killed by the negligence of another person or a corporation, you may be able to pursue a wrongful death and survival claim. You need to contact an experienced Columbia, SC, wrongful death attorney to help you determine if you have a viable case.
The personal representative of the estate has to bring the case against the person or corporation that negligently caused the death of the decedent for the benefit of the statutory beneficiaries. There are two types of causes of action: wrongful death and survival.
“Whenever the death of a person shall be caused by the wrongful act, neglect or default of another and the act, neglect or default is such as would, if death had not ensued, have entitled the party injured to maintain an action and recover damages in respect thereof, the person who would have been liable, if death had not ensued, shall be liable to an action for damages, notwithstanding the death of the person injured…”
“Every [wrongful death] action shall be for the benefit of the wife or husband and child or children of the person whose death shall have so caused, and, if there be no such wife, husband, child or children, then for the benefit of the parent or parents, and if there be none such, then for the benefit of the heirs of the person whose death shall have been so caused.”
A wrongful death action is for the exclusive benefit of the statutory beneficiaries. It is brought not to recover for injuries to the deceased, but only to compensate the beneficiaries for the loss occasioned by the death of the decedent.
SECTION 15-51-40 of the Code of Laws of South Carolina allows punitive damages to be awarded when the wrongful act, neglect, or default was the result of recklessness, willfulness, or malice.
(1) Pecuniary loss or economic loss,
(2) Mental shock and suffering,
(3) Wounded feelings,
(4) Grief and sorrow,
(5) Loss of companionship,
(6) Deprivation of the use and comfort of the deceased’s society, including the loss of decedent’s experience, knowledge and judgment in managing the affairs of himself and his beneficiaries,
(7) Loss of decedent’s ability to earn money for the support, maintenance, care and protection of the beneficiaries, [and for the education and training of his children],
(8) Reasonable funeral expenses.
The beneficiaries are entitled to all damages, past, present, and future. Future damages have to be reasonably certain to occur.
A survival cause of action can be brought by the personal representative of the estate when the decedent suffered conscious pain and suffering prior to his death. S.C. Code Ann. 15-5-90. Under a survival a cause of action, a jury may award damages for the decedent’s conscious pain and suffering, emotional distress, medical expenses, and funeral expenses. S.C. Code Ann. 15-5-100.
Since the decedent obviously cannot testify to the negligence of the other party, expert witnesses are often required to prove liability against the defendant. Economist expert testimony is also required in many of these cases to show the jury the amount of financial loss suffered by the family as a result of the decedent’s death. Medical expert testimony is also critical in many of the survival cases as the medical personnel are able to describe how the decedent experienced conscious pain and suffering and fright before his/her death.
Contact David “Chip” Truitt for a free consultation to tell him your story regarding the death of your loved one. He will listen to you and use his legal knowledge and years of experience to help you and your family receive all of the benefits the law allows. All fee agreements for a wrongful death case are handled on contingency basis so that you do not have to pay an upfront attorney fee. An attorney fee is owed only if you receive an award or settlement. No attorney fee is owed if there is no recovery.