It’s no secret that homicide crimes are some of the most serious
offenses in the United States. While the homicide laws vary from state-to-state,
generally a person can be convicted of manslaughter or murder when they
take someone else’s life.
But, what if the killing was a total accident? We’ll explain this
in a moment, but first we want to look at the difference between intentional
and accidental killings.
Murder is typically defined as an “intentional” or “premeditated”
killing, whereas manslaughter has less to do with “intent”
and more to do with a “heat of passion.” Manslaughter isn’t
usually planned or intentional, it’s often something that happens
when two people are in a violent altercation.
In addition to homicide crimes, we have accidental killings. Some accidental
killings will involve criminal penalties because of the degree of negligence
involved, for example, when a
drunk driver kills another person, they will typically face felony charges,
fines, and imprisonment.
Then, there’s a whole other breed of killings – accidental
killings. Many of these accidental deaths do not result in criminal charges,
but they do open the door for what is called a
wrongful death lawsuit in South Carolina.
What is a Wrongful Death?
Unlike a homicide crime that involves an intentional killing or a death
that results from a “crime of passion,” wrongful deaths are
caused by a person’s wrongful act, neglect, or reckless behavior.
Essentially, if it weren’t for a person’s negligence, the
deceased would have lived.
When someone is killed as a direct result of another person’s reckless,
careless, or negligent behavior, the decedent’s surviving family
members can file a wrongful death action against the at-fault or liable party.
Wrongful death actions frequently arise in the following cases:
The laws regarding wrongful death claims can be found in the South Carolina
Code of Laws
Section 15-51-10. Under this section, wrongful death claims must be filed by the executor
or personal representative of the decedent’s estate, who is named
in the will.
Filing a Wrongful Death Claim
If the decedent died without a will, the court can name a personal representative
to administer the estate. Although the executor or personal representative
is the one to file the wrongful death claim, he or she files it on behalf
of the decedent’s surviving family members, such as their spouse
and children, or more distant relatives if there is no spouse or decedents.
A successful wrongful death action may obtain damages for funeral expenses,
the decedent’s medical bills, lost wages, the decedent’s pain
and suffering, the family’s loss of companionship, and more.
In South Carolina, a wrongful death action must be filed
within three years of the decedent’s death, otherwise the family loses the right to
file a claim permanently.
Looking for a Columbia injury lawyer to help you file a wrongful death claim?
Contact the Law Office of James R. Snell, Jr., LLC to schedule a free consultation.