Accidents are part of life, but sometimes, an accident leads to the death of a loved one. If you have recently lost a loved one, and you believe someone else is to blame, you need to learn more about wrongful death lawsuits. Check out these commonly asked questions about wrongful death to determine your next step.
What Is a Wrongful Death?
In most cases, when someone passes away, there is a valid reason, such as they were sick or got into a car accident. However, there are times when a death is considered wrongful because it was purely caused by neglect or carelessness of another person.
One of the most common examples of wrongful death is medical malpractice. For example, if a doctor ignores a patient's symptoms, causing the patient to become sick and pass away, the doctor can be found guilty of medical malpractice and wrongful death.
Other common examples of wrongful death include car accidents, motorcycle accidents, birth injuries, nursing home abuse, defective medical devices, recalled/dangerous vehicles, etc.
Who Do You Sue for Wrongful Death?
When it comes to a wrongful death lawsuit, you want to sue the person responsible. Therefore, in the above example of medical malpractice, you would sue the doctor. On the other hand, if a defective product caused the death, you can sue the manufacturer. However, in many cases, you can actually sue multiple people.
With medical malpractice, for example, you may be allowed to sue the hospital that hired the doctor, and with a defective product, you can usually sue anyone who handled the product before it reached you (stores, distributing companies, etc.).
When it comes to car accidents, you may be able to sue any at-fault drivers and government agents for not providing warnings for road hazards. If the accident involved alcohol, you may be able to sue anyone who served the impaired driver alcohol.
Who Can Sue for Wrongful Death?
In South Carolina, the legal claims must be brought by the estate’s personal representative, who is appointed by the probate court. Although the term “wrongful death” is frequently used to describe the severity of the injury, there are actually two causes of action that may be brought. First, there is a survival action, which includes damages for conscious pain and suffering by the decedent before passing, as well medical bills. These damages are paid to the decedent’s estate. Second, there is the wrong death cause of action for the loss of a loved one suffered by family members. These damages are paid to the spouse , children and/or heirs.
What Happens During the Lawsuit?
When you do file a lawsuit, one of many things may happen. First, the claim may be denied if you aren't an immediate family member. It may also be denied if you've waited too long. The statute of limitations for wrongful death lawsuits is three years of the date of the death (or two years if the defendant is a governmental entity).
If the courts allow you to go ahead with the claim, you and your attorney must prove three things: You must prove a loved one died.
You also have to prove the defendant caused the death with negligence or carelessness. This step can be incredibly easy or incredibly hard, depending on the circumstances surrounding the death. For example, if you have proof of the defendant's blood alcohol content when they were drunk driving, it's easier to prove wrongful death than if it was just your word against theirs.
Wrongful death accidents are some of the most tragic because you don't see them coming. Luckily, wrongful death lawsuits allow you to recoup some financial freedom while you grieve. For more information, or if you want to start filing a claim, contact us at Palmetto Injury Lawyers LLC.