Wrongful Death Versus Survival Actions in South CarolinaAs wrongful death attorneys in multiple states, we have supported families coping with the tragic loss of a loved one in an accident. Cases involving the loss of a loved one are emotional because the family is dealing with a fresh tragedy. However, these cases are also necessary for the family to get justice.

In South Carolina, there are two separate legal claims that may be pursued when a person passes away due to the negligent actions or inactions of another. The first claim, known as a wrongful death action, compensates the deceased person’s survivors and beneficiaries. The second claim, a survival action, provides for the recovery of damages for injuries suffered by the deceased. In this article, our South Carolina wrongful death lawyers will explain South Carolina wrongful death claims and survival actions, which includes the filing process and recoverable damages.

South Carolina Wrongful Death Claims Explained

Under South Carolina's wrongful death statute (Section 15-51-10 through 60), a lawsuit can be filed on behalf of the deceased person’s spouse and children when a family member's death is caused by another party's intentional, reckless, or negligent actions. If the deceased person leaves behind no living spouse or children, the lawsuit benefits the deceased person's parents. If the deceased person leaves behind no living spouse, children, or parents, the lawsuit benefits the deceased person's heirs (those legally allowed to inherit property from the deceased).

Types of Accidents That May Lead to Wrongful Death Lawsuits in South Carolina

Wrongful death lawsuits in South Carolina can arise from a variety of fatal accident types. Some of the more common accidents or incidents that lead to a wrongful death action include the following:

  • Car accidents
  • Motorcycle collisions
  • Commercial truck accidents
  • Medical malpractice incidents
  • Nursing home abuse or neglect

Who May File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in South Carolina?

According to South Carolina law, wrongful death actions must be filed by (or in the name of) the deceased person's executor or administrator. Sometimes, this person may be called the “personal representative” of the estate. This individual or institution is responsible for executing the deceased person's will or distributing their property according to South Carolina probate laws when there is no will. If the deceased person had a trust in place at the time of his or her death, they may have what’s called a trustee or a fiduciary administrator.

Damages Recoverable in a South Carolina Wrongful Death Claim

Damages awarded in wrongful death settlements or jury verdicts aim to compensate for the deceased's family's financial and emotional losses. These damages may include:

  • Medical expenses;
  • Lost wages, which can encompass the deceased person’s future earnings;
  • Lost benefits;
  • Pain and suffering;
  • Emotional distress;
  • Loss of support or companionship;
  • Funeral expenses (unless already recovered through a survival action);
  • Punitive damages (for willful, wanton, reckless, or intentional conduct).

Calculating damages for medical expenses and funeral costs involves totaling the incurred amounts, regardless of insurance payments. Estimating lost future earnings and benefits is a bit more complex; it often requires a determination of the deceased person's anticipated lifespan and earnings. Noneconomic damages, like pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of companionship, are the most challenging damages to quantify because they are subjective and unique to each individual's perception of loss.

Any damages recovered in a wrongful death action are to be divided among the spouse, children, parents, or heirs according to their rightful shares of the deceased person's estate, as if the deceased person died intestate (without a will).

South Carolina Survival Actions: What Are They?

While wrongful death claims benefit family members, survival actions serve the interests of the deceased. South Carolina's survival action statute (Section 15-5-90) allows an injured person who does not die immediately to recover damages incurred between the accident and their death.

Imagine a person who is seriously burned in a car accident and then dies because of those injuries 2 weeks later. That person suffered tremendously for 2 weeks before dying, and that person’s family is entitled to damages for that loss. That’s only one example of a survival action, but it hopefully helps to illustrate the point.

Damages Recoverable in a South Carolina Survival Action

Survival actions are filed on behalf of the deceased person, not their family. Accordingly, there is no recovery for damages suffered after the deceased person's death, except for funeral expenses. In a survival action, South Carolina law permits the deceased person's estate to recover damages for:

  • Conscious pain and suffering, like we talked about above in the example where someone suffers serious burns in a car crash and dies weeks later;
  • Emotional distress;
  • Medical expenses;
  • Funeral expenses (unless already recovered through a wrongful death action).

Filing a Survival Lawsuit in South Carolina

Similar to a wrongful death claim, a survival action must be filed by (or in the name of) the executor or administrator of the deceased person's estate. Typically, a survival action is filed in conjunction with a wrongful death claim. Like a wrongful death claim, any damages recovered are divided among the spouse, children, parents, or heirs according to their shares in the deceased's estate, as if they had died intestate (without a will).

Contact a South Carolina Wrongful Death Attorney

If a negligent or reckless person took your loved one from you, you may have a viable wrongful death claim. Contact a South Carolina wrongful death attorney at Spetsas Buist to have a free conversation with our South Carolina wrongful death attorney, Charles Buist. Mr. Buist has longstanding ties to South Carolina and comes from a long line of Charleston, South Carolina attorneys. Like those that came before him, Mr. Buist has dedicated his life to helping his clients.

Don’t hesitate to call us at 843-638-6590 to schedule your free legal consultation. If you need a Florida wrongful death lawyer, you can call our Orlando, Florida personal injury law firm today at (321) 352-7588 to schedule your free consultation by phone. When you schedule a consultation at our law firm, you will get a consultation with a wrongful death lawyer, not a customer service representative or intake person. We have at least one lawyer licensed in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina. So, if you’ve been injured in the Southeast, we may be able to help you. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us.

For more information on South Carolina wrongful death lawsuits, you can download our free e-book: South Carolina Wrongful Death: Information You Need to Know Before Filing Your Wrongful Death Lawsuit in South Carolina.