Posted on Dec 06, 2023

A man was hit and killed by a semi-truck while he was trying to cross the road in Moncks Corner, South Carolina on the night of Monday, November 27, 2023. The incident occurred at around 11pm in Berkeley County, SC, about 8 miles north of Summerville on Black Tom Road near Cane Bay Blvd.

When the man attempted to cross Black Tom Road, he was hit by a 2015 Western Star truck. He was later identified as 44-year-old Eugene Kelly of Summerville, South Carolina. Kelly was pronounced dead at the scene.

This particular intersection at Black Tom Road is a known problem. In fact, several people died there earlier this year.

Pursuing a Wrongful Death Claim in SC After a Loved One is Killed by a Semi-Truck

There’s no way to anticipate losing a loved one in a motor vehicle accident. It’s a shock that none of us are ready to deal with. However, when something like this happens, it begs the question: What can be done?

In South Carolina, people who have lost a loved one as a result of the misconduct of a truck driver or trucking company may have the right to pursue a wrongful death claim.

Understanding Wrongful Death Claims

Wrongful death claims in South Carolina are civil suits that are meant to compensate a family for the loss of a loved one. Compensation can cover things like funeral expenses, lost wages, loss of companionship, and more. A companion cause of action in South Carolina is a “survival action,” which is meant to provide compensation for the victim’s damages from the time of injury to the time of death.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?

In South Carolina, only the executor or administrator of the deceased's estate can bring the claim. This person is often named in a will or appointed by the court. As you can imagine, there may be several people who are affected by the loss of a loved one, so this rule helps to narrow the rightful claimant down to one individual, and that person brings the claim on behalf of all the potential beneficiaries.

Gathering Evidence

Evidence is critical in a trucking accident, especially any evidence that tends to show that the trucker violated the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association regulations. Here, we’re looking at whether the trucker violated the rules for hours of service, the driver’s qualifications and training, and the maintenance of the truck. If the trucker or trucking company violated FMCSA regulations, this can help your case tremendously.

Other useful evidence will often include things like accident reports, witness statements, and any available camera footage from the scene. You should consider hiring a personal injury attorney with experience in wrongful death cases involving semi-trucks to help you navigate the complexities that are specific to trucking accident cases and trucking regulations. An attorney at our office can work with you to uncover the most critical evidence so you can present the strongest case possible.

Negotiating Settlements

Many wrongful death claims result in settlements out of court. These cases are serious, and if the jury sympathizes with the plaintiff or is outraged by a defendant, these cases could spell trouble for the insurance company. Thus, as you might imagine, it’s a risky move for an insurance company to let a death case go to trial.

Because death cases are so risky for insurance companies, these cases will often settle through mediation or negotiations. However, the value of these cases can be very high, and so the insurance company may delay settling until the last minute. The longer they hold onto money, the more they make through their investments, and so they’re generally in no hurry to pay a policy. Keep that in mind throughout your legal journey; these folks have no interest in doing the right thing, and it’s all about money to them.

Going to Court

If the parties can’t reach an agreement, whether through mediation or negotiations, the case may need to go to trial. Here, the goal is to tell a compelling story that the jury can understand and that highlights the negligence of the defendants and what the family lost as a result of that negligence.

Damages Available in a SC Wrongful Death Case

What damages are available in a wrongful death case in South Carolina? Put another way, what damages does the law allow a claimant to seek?

Generally, damages can be divided into 3 main categories: Economic, Noneconomic, and Punitive. Let’s talk about these types of damages in more detail.

Economic Damages

Economic damages are quantifiable and tangible costs that you can calculate based on the money spent, including:

  • Medical Expenses: Costs incurred as a result of the injury leading to death.
  • Funeral and Burial Costs: Immediate expenses related to the death.
  • Lost Wages and Benefits: The estimated future income the deceased would have provided had they lived, which considers their expected lifespan and earning potential.

Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages are more subjective and intangible, and they are intended to compensate for non-financial losses:

  • Pain and Suffering of the Deceased: Compensation for the pain and suffering the deceased may have endured between the time of injury and death. This is one of the types of damages that is typically sought in a survival action, not a wrongful death claim.
  • Loss of Companionship and Support: This acknowledges a family member’s emotional loss of guidance, companionship, and nurturing the deceased would have provided.
  • Mental Anguish: This can be thought of as the compensation for the psychological impact on the survivors due to the sudden and traumatic loss.

Punitive Damages

In cases where the defendant's actions were especially reckless or egregious, punitive damages may be awarded. These are not tied to a specific loss but are intended to punish the wrongdoer and deter similar conduct in the future. Here, we’re talking about things like drunk driving or watching TikTok videos while driving.