When a life is taken due to another's negligence or reckless behavior, it's unexpected, and the grief can be overwhelming. During this emotionally charged time, you need an ally who understands your pain and fights for justice on your behalf. A Florence wrongful death attorney can be that strong advocate in your corner.
A Florence wrongful death lawyer can help you navigate the complex labyrinth of legal proceedings following your loved one's death if your loved one died because of a person's negligence or a business's negligence. Whether the tragic loss was caused by a car accident, truck accident, or some other event, you may have the right to seek compensation for your loss under South Carolina law.
A wrongful death lawsuit is a way for families to get justice for the loss of their loved one, and it's also a way for them to get some closure. However, wrongful death lawsuits also serve another purpose, namely to serve as a deterrent to others that might otherwise engage in reckless or negligent behavior. In this way, wrongful death cases can make our communities safer.
What is a "Wrongful Death" in South Carolina?
South Carolina law defines wrongful death as a situation where "the wrongful act, neglect or default of another" leads to a person's death. Essentially, South Carolina provides that a wrongful death claim is a type of act or omission that the decedent could have filed a personal injury claim for had he or she survived the incident. Since the person is deceased, somebody else must bring the claim on the deceased person's behalf, and that "somebody" is the personal representative of the estate.
Common Types of Wrongful Death Cases
There are a wide variety of incidents that could serve as the basis of a wrongful death case. The essential element is that the incident involved a wrongful act or omission that killed someone. Below are some of the more common types of wrongful death cases in South Carolina.
Auto Accidents and Motorcycle Accidents
Fatal automobile accidents and car accidents are on the rise in South Carolina according to data from the South Carolina Department of Public Safety. In 2019, there were 927 fatal traffic collisions in South Carolina; there were 964 the year after; and there were 1,112 in 2021. Motorcycle fatalities are also trending upward. There were 125 motorcycle fatalities in South Carolina in 2019; 116 in 2020; and 166 in 2021.
This is a significant uptick in fatal traffic accidents in South Carolina. Although we can always hope for good news in the future, it appears that the roads are getting more dangerous and/or crowded every year.
As for Florence crash data, there were 40 fatal collisions in 2021 alone, with a total of 41 people losing their lives. There were also 79 traffic accidents in Florence that resulted in a serious non-fatal injury. In 2021, Florence was among the top 10 counties in South Carolina for fatal collisions, serious injury collisions, and total automobile collisions.
Semi-Truck, Tractor Trailer, and 18 Wheeler Accidents
As we talked about above, crash data shows that motor vehicle and motorcycle fatalities are on the rise in South Carolina, but that's not all. It also appears that fatal semi-truck and 18 wheeler accidents are increasing year to year. Specifically, there were 82 fatal collisions involving tractor trailers in 2019; 86 in 2020; and 99 in 2021.
There are lots of great lakes and rivers in South Carolina that boaters can enjoy. Near Florence, you have Oakdale Lake, Forest Lake, Muldrows Mill Pond, and others. These bodies of water can be quite populated in the summer, and there's a serious danger of boats colliding with each other or other structures in the water. As a result, there are fatal accidents on South Carolina waters every year.
Unfortunately, when people get into a boating accident, there's a serious risk of drowning, especially if a person isn't wearing a life jacket at the time of the collision. Thus, as you can see, boating accidents can serve the basis of a wrongful death case in Florence.
Medical Malpractice and Dental Malpractice
We all want to be able to trust our doctors. However, as medicine and dentistry move more and more toward giant, big business operations, we will see more tragic deaths involving negligence. Some of these deaths may be due to failure to diagnose. For example, in dentistry, the dentist may fail to spot squamous cell carcinoma and send it out for a biopsy, and this can result in the patient losing years of his or her life.
Other types of medical malpractice include issues with medication or anesthesia. Here, you might see improper doses administered or a failure of the doctor to properly monitor the patient. In dentistry, anesthesia errors are one of the most common ways a patient can die.
ATV and Golf Cart Accidents
More and more people are traveling by golf cart, and this makes sense. Golf carts are a fantastic way to get around, and the electric ones have incredible range now. These things are probably going to get more common every year.
However, as more golf carts get out on roads, it's inevitably going to result in more people getting killed. Golf carts are no match for an automobile or pickup truck, and they just don't have the same safety mechanisms to protect riders. Additionally, kids love to take golf carts out for a spin, and they often get hurt when they do.
The same is true for ATVs. They're not made to withstand a serious collision. Moreover, they tend to roll over or flip at high speeds. So, although these claims aren't as common as automobile accidents, they're still fairly common wrongful death claims.
Other Types of Accidents
The types of cases listed above are some of the most common. However, there are many other types of wrongful death cases, including accidents caused by defective products, other traffic fatalities, workplace accidents, and other types of unexpected losses.
How Can a Florence Wrongful Death Attorney Help?
Whenever you're dealing with a wrongful death case, the chances are that you're going to be going to battle with an insurance company. Insurance companies, for all intents and purposes, have unlimited money, and they will spend a lot of money to fight a claim. Their goal is not only to pay as little money as possible, but they want to make the personal injury and wrongful death claims process difficult so that people think twice before suing them. The insurance company will have a team of lawyers, and you should have a wrongful death lawyer on your side to fight them.
Your Florence wrongful death attorneys can help you in a lot of ways. First of all, your attorney will gather and preserve valuable evidence to support your claim. Additionally, your lawyer can work to make a persuasive case on your behalf and negotiate with the insurance companies to reach a settlement. Finally, if the insurance company refuses to pay proper value for the case, your lawyer can file a lawsuit and push the case to mediation or even trial, if necessary.
Ultimately, when you hire a Florida wrongful death attorney, you let the insurance company know that you're serious and that you're not going to be pushed around. At that point, they will have to consider very carefully how they choose to treat you because they will have to spend a small fortune to fight the case. Your attorney will make sure you have a voice, and your attorney will make sure you understand your legal options.
Compensation in South Carolina Wrongful Death Cases
The unbearable pain of losing a cherished one due to another's negligence can be overwhelming for family members. In addition to the pain, these events also impose financial burdens on families. Part of an experienced wrongful death attorney's job is to make sure that you seek damages for everything you're entitled to under South Carolina law.
A close family member can seek compensation for a lost loved one under South Carolina law, so long as the decedent's death caused damages, which is usually the case. Specifically, spouses, children, and the decedent's heirs may be entitled to money recovered. The "money" part of a wrongful death case is called "damages" in South Carolina, and these damages can be divided into economic damages, non-economic damages, and punitive damages.
Economic Damages in Wrongful Death Cases
In South Carolina, you have the right to seek compensation for economic damages, which are tangible damages. This includes things like medical expenses, lost wages, and lost future income. This also includes funeral expenses and burial costs.
Non-Economic Damages in Wrongful Death Cases
Beyond these tangible losses, there are non-economic damages, which are the intangible damages stemming from the decedent's death. This includes things like pain and suffering, mental anguish, emotional distress, and loss of consortium. These reflect the emotional toll inflicted on surviving family members by the tragic event.
Punitive Damages in Wrongful Death Cases
Punitive damages are a distinct type of damages that could be available in a wrongful death action. Punitive damages are rare, and they're reserved for cases where the defendant's behavior is particularly egregious. So, for example, you might see punitive damages in a case where a drunk driver kills somebody.
Unlike economic damages and non-economic damages, which are intended to compensate a person or a person's family for their loss, punitive damages exist to punish behavior. Thus, they are unique, and they're not available in every wrongful death suit.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Florence, SC?
South Carolina's wrongful death laws are specific in defining who can file a lawsuit. Namely, South Carolina law provides that only the personal representative of the deceased person's estate can file the lawsuit. This is typically a surviving spouse or a child of the deceased, but it may be another close relative, depending on the circumstances and who survives the decedent. Often times, a decedent will have named a personal representative in his or her will.