If your loved one died because another party failed to act with reasonable care, compensation may be available to eligible beneficiaries. A successful wrongful death claim may yield compensation for funeral expenses; lost income; mental anguish; and loss of care, companionship, and protection.
Just because such damages might be recoverable, however, doesn’t mean that you personally have the right to pursue the claim. In South Carolina, a wrongful death claim can only be brought by the personal representative (“PR”) of the deceased’s estate.
If the deceased failed to assign the role to someone—or to make any estate plans at all—the probate court will appoint the Pr. If this party ends up filing a successful claim, the damages would be distributed among the deceased’s spouse, children, parents, or eligible heirs.
How Long Does the Personal Representative Have to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
If the at-fault party disputes liability or otherwise refuses to settle, filing a formal lawsuit may be the only way to pursue the compensation your family deserves. Should this be the case, the personal representative must file suit in most cases within three years of the death. Otherwise, the judge will likely dismiss the case.
Because there are a few exceptions that can shorten this deadline—if you intend to sue a government agency, for example, you have just two years to proceed—it is wise to seek legal counsel as soon as possible.
Who Can Bring a Survival Action in South Carolina?
If your loved one did not die immediately from the accident, your family may be able to bring a survival action in addition to a wrongful death claim. The survival action will also have to be filed by the personal representative of the estate.
Survival actions allow families to seek compensation for damages the deceased incurred prior to passing. Examples include pain and suffering, emotional distress, and medical expenses. If the action is successful, individuals who may be entitled to the recovered funds include the deceased’s spouse, children, and parents. The settlement or verdict will generally go to the estate and then be distributed accordingly.
Should the Personal Representative Consult a Lawyer Before Proceeding?
While it is technically possible to bring a wrongful death claim and survival action without legal counsel, it is wise to consult and retain a trial attorney. An experienced lawyer can help you avoid critical mistakes, gather evidence, approximate a fair settlement, and file the necessary paperwork. Your attorney will also handle all correspondence with the opposing party and ensure you meet critical deadlines. What’s more, hiring a seasoned litigator will send a message to the opposing party that you would be willing to file a lawsuit and even try the case if they refuse to pay a fair settlement.
Discuss Your Claim with a Wrongful Death Attorney in Spartanburg
If you think your family has grounds for a wrongful death claim, contact Hodge & Langley Law Firm. Our compassionate team will answer your questions, conduct a thorough investigation into the cause of death, and help you determine the most strategic way to proceed. Call 864-585-3873 or fill out our Contact Form to schedule a free consultation with a wrongful death lawyer in Spartanburg, SC.