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Time Limit for Filing a Wrongful Death Claim in SC

Time Limit for Filing a Wrongful Death Claim in SC

When a person’s life is taken, it can either be intentional or accidental. When someone takes another person’s life and they do so willingly and knowingly, they are guilty of manslaughter or murder. On the other hand, when someone “accidentally” kills another individual, they won’t necessarily face homicide charges, but that doesn’t mean they won’t escape justice.

People die in accidents every day in the United States. Some of these accidents happen on America’s roadways, while others occur in swimming pools and at amusement parks. Some accidental deaths are caused by dangerous drugs, while others are caused by negligent nursing home staff– the possibilities are endless. When someone is killed in an accidental death and it’s another person’s or entity’s fault, the decedent’s surviving family members may be entitled to damages through a wrongful death lawsuit.

What the Law Says

Under the South Carolina Code of Laws Section 15-51-10, it states: “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.”

Essentially, there’s a wrongful death claim if there would have been a personal injury claim if the victim had not died. For example, let’s say that an amusement park ride came off the rail, plunging twenty passengers to their death. Had the passengers been injured, but survived, the victims would no doubt have a personal injury claim. But since they fell to their death when the ride derailed, the victims’ families now have grounds to file a wrongful death lawsuit.

Filing Within the Deadline

Each state has enacted what’s called a “statute of limitations” or deadline for filing a wrongful death claim. In South Carolina, a wrongful death lawsuit must be filed within three yearsof the decedent’s death. However, wrongful death lawsuits in South Carolina must be filed by an executor or administrator of the decedent’s estate.

If the decedent did not name an executor in his or her will, or if they were too young to have a will, or if they died without a will, the probate court can name an administrator or personal representative to handle the decedent’s estate and file a wrongful death claim on behalf of the surviving family members.

The surviving family who can recover damages for medical bills, funeral-related expenses, lost income and benefits, pain and suffering, etc. include:

  • The decedent’s spouse and children,
  • The decedent’s parents if the decedent had not spouse or children, or
  • If the decedent did not have a spouse, children, or surviving parents, the heirs at law.

Note:If a parent abandoned their child before the child turned 18, the parent cannot file a wrongful death claim on behalf of their deceased child.

Interested in filing a wrongful death claim in Columbia, SC? If so, contact our firm to schedule an initial consultation with a compassionate member of our legal team.


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