Rock Hill Wrongful Death Lawyers
It is never easy to lose someone you love. It is especially painful when the death is unexpected or due to someone else’s careless behavior. Whether the death was caused by a distracted driver on the road or a negligent physician, it is simply unfair and wrong to ask a grieving family to bear the burdens of expensive medical bills, lost income, and lost financial support after an accident caused by negligence. The responsible party should be held accountable.
Rock Hill Wrongful Death Lawyer
At Stewart Law Offices, our Rock Hill injury attorneys aim to help grieving families pursue compensation for final expenses and other unplanned financial burdens that come from losing a loved one. Our trusted legal team has the experience and the resources to help families through this difficult time. Call our office today to set up a free consultation and learn about your legal rights.
What Is a Rock Hill Wrongful Death Claim?
When a person is killed due to the negligent or reckless actions of another party, family members may be entitled to pursue financial compensation through a wrongful death claim. In order to recover compensation for wrongful death in South Carolina, you will need to prove several key elements:
- Standing to pursue a claim. First, you must be the executor or representative of the decedent’s estate to pursue a claim. Depending on whether the person had a will or not, this individual is usually a close blood relative – but not always.
- The defendant’s duties. Once the appropriate person is identified to pursue the case, the first element of proving negligence is showing that the defendant owed the decedent a duty. This can be as simple as showing that all drivers have a duty to remain sober when driving or not texting while behind the wheel. It can also be very complex, such as in medical malpractice cases or claims involving structural defects and engineering malfunctions.
- Breach of those duties. You then have to prove that the defendant breached or violated their duties to the deceased individual in some way.
- Direct cause. Next, you must show that the defendant’s conduct was the direct cause of the death. At a minimum, you should be able to show that the defendant’s conduct contributed to the death.
- Damages. Finally, even if you can prove that the defendant was negligent in causing your loved one’s death, you still must show the harm done. In other words, you will need to show how the death affected you and your family financially and emotionally.
What Types of Damages Are Recoverable in a Rock Hill Wrongful Death Claim?
Damages are often a difficult thing for a lot of people to really understand. After all, no amount of money can truly compensate you for the untimely loss of a loved one. However, here are some of the damages that you may be entitled to recover from the negligent party:
- Reimbursement for final expenses. The negligent party should be held accountable for the funeral and burial costs, as well as the reasonable value of final services, burial plots, opening and closing costs, internment, cremation, or any other reasonably necessary services.
- Reimbursement for final medical bills. Although some people die instantly and never receive any medical treatment, this is the exception to the rule. The vast majority of wrongful death cases involve some degree of medical care, usually an ambulance bill and an emergency room bill. For an injury to be severe enough to lead to death, the final medical bills can be well in the six-figure range, leaving the surviving family members to suffer a second loss – a financial one.
- Compensation for the loss of financial support. If the deceased was the breadwinner or earned a significant portion of the family’s income, then his or her death could come as a double disaster, leaving the family unable to pay the bills, mortgage, rent, car payments, and other regular expenses. This means the family is then forced to suffer, grieve, and endure financial burdens.
- Compensation for loss of emotional support, affection, and companionship. There are many different types of compensation available under the category of emotional or non-economic damages. These are essentially compensation for things you can’t exactly put a number on. Nevertheless, a jury is instructed to do just that: attempt to put a dollar value on the love and affection lost by a child, parent, or spouse when a dear loved one is taken from them.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Rock Hill?
Under South Carolina law, the executor (where there is a will) or administrator of the estate will be the sole individual authorized to bring the wrongful death lawsuit. This person is typically also a potential beneficiary or heir, because most people name their spouses and children as their executors.
However, there are situations where the executor under a will may not be a relative. If this happens, it is the executor’s job to preserve the potential cause of action and pursue the compensation for the heirs.
Who Can Receive Damages in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
The individuals who can receive compensation are considered beneficiaries of the estate. They are listed in a pecking order of sorts:
- First, the money is intended to benefit the spouse and children of the decedent.
- However, if the person dies without a spouse or child, then the money would go to his or her parents.
- If the person dies without parents, then the funds would pass to any remaining heirs under South Carolina law.
This can seem a little harsh to some people because a person may be very close to someone other than a spouse or child. In today’s modern American family, step-siblings, cousins, and even close friends can be every bit as much a part of the family as blood relatives. Nevertheless, the law is very specific in limiting these types of cases to lawful relatives. Girlfriends and boyfriends, informal sibling-type relationships, and unrecognized common law marriages do not count.
Time Limits in Rock Hill Wrongful Death Cases
The law is also very strict about the length of time that a family can wait before pursuing compensation. Under South Carolina law, you only get three years from the date of the death to file your wrongful death lawsuit.
This is just one of many reasons why it is so important to hire an experienced Rock Hill wrongful death attorney as soon as possible. Three years may sound like a long time, but it really is not. For example, you should consider that:
- Grief doesn’t care about deadlines. Human grief is more powerful than most people care to admit. Some family members may spend years clinically depressed or struggling with emotional fallout over the loss of a parent, child, or spouse. Although you should take the time you need to grieve, you should also take the time to contact an attorney about what has happened. Many people feel a sense of relief when they are able to hold the at-fault party accountable.
- It takes time to investigate wrongful death cases. Depending on the type of case, many wrongful deaths are highly complicated and involve a lot of evidence. Even seemingly simple auto accidents can be quite complicated. State police may spend upwards of six months to a year investigating and finalizing impact reports and crash reconstruction investigations. Then there are medical providers who may not want to provide records or who may delay responding to requests. Finally, your attorney will likely need to consult with trained medical professionals. This can also take time. If you wait until right before the statute of limitations expires, you could be out of luck.
- Evidence and witnesses go missing. In many cases, the most critical piece of evidence may be witness testimony or a damaged piece of equipment. If you wait years to pursue the matter, the witnesses may be hard to track down, and the damaged equipment may have been repaired or long since destroyed.
What Accidents Can Result in a Wrongful Death?
There are many types of accidents that can lead to wrongful deaths. For example, our Rock Hill wrongful death lawyers typically handle cases involving:
- Car accidents
- Motorcycle crashes
- Semi-truck crashes
- Bicycle and pedestrian accidents
- Medical negligence/malpractice
- Slip and fall accidents
- Intentional assaults and homicides
- Nursing home abuse and neglect
Contact Our Compassionate Rock Hill Wrongful Death Lawyers Today
A wrongful death is often the worst thing most people can imagine – the loss of their soulmate, spouse, child, parent, the person they care most deeply about in the world. Before you accept any wrongful death settlements or speak to risk managers or insurance adjusters, you owe it to yourself and your family to seek skilled advice from an experienced wrongful death lawyer in Rock Hill.
At Stewart Law Offices, we take the time to get to know our clients so we can provide personalized and compassionate service. Stop by or contact us online today to schedule a free initial meeting with a knowledgeable attorney, and let us help you understand your rights after a wrongful death.