Can I bring a claim on behalf of a family member who died if it was someone else's fault?
A claim for damages resulting from a fatal accident is called a Wrongful Death claim in South Carolina. In order to actually bring such a claim the first step would be to have the estate opened. One this is done, and a personal representative has been appointed, we can begin the process to submit the wrongful death claim.
If you believe that a wrongful death claim may result from a family member's death you are welcome to contact our office before you attempt to open the estate. When our office accepts a wrongful death claim we generally include all related Probate Court services necessary to have the estate opened.
Who is entitled to receive money from a wrongful death claim?
Legal heirs or next of kin to the deceased are eligible to receive the proceeds of a wrongful death claim. This may include the surviving spouse and children, or in the case of someone who is unmarried it may include their parents, siblings or other relatives.
In some cases a portion of the proceeds will be allocated to what is called a survival action. Any portion of the survival action that remains after the estate pays any necessary expenses will be distributed according to the decedent's will (if any), otherwise it will pass to the legal heirs just like the other wrongful death benefits.
How much is a wrongful death case worth?
The law does not presume that it can put a monetary value on a human life, but there are several factors that should be considered. What follows is a partial listing of what is considered relevant in evaluating any wrongful death claim:
- Was the death due to ordinary negligence or carelessness, or was it due to gross negligence or reckless conduct?
- Are there final medical bills?
- Did the defendant have conscious pain and suffering? Did they know they were injured and the extent of their injuries prior to death?
- How much was the funeral expense?
- How strong was the relationship between the decedent and their next of kin? Did they have a spouse, or children who were dependent on them for financial support?
- What were the future earnings of the decedent?
Frequently it is only possible to determine the fair value for a wrongful death case after careful examination of all of the available evidence. Just as no two people or families are alike, there is no set value for this type of claim.