Charleston Wrongful Death Lawyer
If you lost a loved one in Charleston, South Carolina because of an accident the wrongful death trial lawyers of Mickelsen Dalton are ready to help you get the compensation you need and deserve for your loss. This can include medical bills, final expenses, lost wages, and even pain and suffering.
With over half a century of experience protecting clients just like you, our Charleston wrongful death lawyers have a stellar reputation showing that we get results even in complex cases. The first consultation is free.
What is Wrongful Death?
Wrongful death is a legal term used to describe a situation in which an individual has died due to the negligence or misconduct of another person or entity. It is a civil cause of action brought by family members and dependents against individuals who knowingly or negligently cause the death of their loved one. A wrongful death lawsuit seeks compensation for the family’s losses, including medical expenses, funeral costs, lost wages, and loss of companionship.
Common Examples of Wrongful Death
There are many different types of wrongful death cases that can be brought forward. Some common examples include:
Car accidents are common causes of wrongful death. If a driver is speeding, distracted, under the influence, or otherwise negligent in any way, they may be held liable for any deaths resulting from their actions. Motorcycle accidents and truck accidents are also common causes.
Medical malpractice occurs when a doctor fails to provide reasonable care and causes injury or death to their patient as a result. Medical professionals owe their patients a duty of care and must take all necessary precautions to ensure that they are providing quality care. If they fail to do so and it results in injury or death, they may be held liable for wrongfully causing harm or death.
Product liability claims involve products that have been released onto the market without proper testing and safety protocols in place. Injuries sustained due to defective products can often lead to wrongful death claims if severe enough injuries occur due to these defects. Companies must ensure that all products are tested thoroughly before being released onto the market so that consumers know that they won’t suffer any harm from using them.
Premises liability claims involve accidents occurring on another person’s property due to dangerous conditions such as broken stairs or slippery floors. Property owners are responsible for ensuring that their premises are safe for visitors, and if they fail to do so then they may be held liable for any injuries or deaths sustained on their property.
Bicycle and Pedestrian Accidents
Bicycle and pedestrian accidents occur when drivers fail to yield right-of-way or pay attention while driving around areas where cyclists and pedestrians are present such as parks or crosswalks. If cyclists or pedestrians are killed due to these actions, it’s possible for their family members to file wrongful death claims against those who were responsible.
How Mickelsen Dalton Can Help After a Wrongful Death in Charleston
Wrongful death matters in Charleston can be challenging to prove, depending on the circumstances of the accident. Regardless, dealing with the fallout of the accident and the fact that it caused the death of your loved one causes you enough stress. Our Charleston wrongful death attorney takes care of you and the claim (and deals with the insurance company) from beginning to end.
When Mickelsen Dalton takes your case, our Charleston wrongful death lawyers:
- Create and launch a thorough investigation to determine the explicit cause of the accident
- Find and interview witnesses
- Act as your liaison with the insurance companies
- Negotiate a settlement that covers all of your financial damages
- If necessary, an aggressive and experienced trial attorney fights on your behalf in court
For one of our wrongful death clients, we secured a $7 million verdict.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in South Carolina?
Under wrongful death laws in South Carolina, “every such action shall be brought by or in the name of the executor or administrator of such person.” If the victim had an estate plan, it would name the executor or administrator. If not, the court will appoint one. The executor or administrator files the wrongful death claim on behalf of the deceased victim’s loved ones.
According to South Carolina Law, “Every such action shall be for the benefit of the wife or husband and child or children of the person whose death shall have been so caused, and, if there be no such wife, husband, child or children, then for the benefit of the parent or parents, and if there be none such, then for the benefit of the heirs of the person whose death shall have been so caused.”
In other words, their spouse, children, parents, and/or other family members who were financially dependent on them at the time of their death could be eligible for compensation as a result of the death.
What is a Survival Action?
When an individual dies as a result of someone else’s negligence or intentional act, a survival action can be filed to seek compensation for the losses the deceased would have been able to recover had they not passed away. Only the executor or the administrator of the decedent’s estate can initiate a survival action. Any compensation recovered goes to the decedent’s estate and will be disbursed appropriately.
What Damages Can Be Recovered Through A Survival Action Claim?
The types of damages that can be recovered through a survival action claim are similar to those that would be available if the deceased had lived longer and pursued these claims themselves as a personal injury case.
These damages may include medical bills, lost income, property damage, pain and suffering suffered by the deceased prior to their passing.
What Kind of Damages Are Available to the Families of Wrongful Death Victims?
In wrongful death cases, the damages awarded are generally categorized into two types: economic and non-economic.
Economic damages in wrongful death cases pertain directly to the financial losses and expenses incurred as a consequence of your loved one’s untimely passing.
Medical Bills and Funeral Expenses
These costs represent immediate expenditures your family has had to bear as a direct result of the tragic event. These can include ambulance charges, doctor’s fees, costs for medication or treatments prior to the deceased’s passing, and expenses related to their funeral, burial, or cremation.
Lost wages involve not just your loved one’s salary lost from missed workdays but also take into account potential future earnings that have been cut short due to their premature death. Calculating these amounts often requires insights from various experts capable of estimating what would’ve been earned throughout the course of their career.
Non-economic damages, which cannot be objectively quantified in monetary terms, cover a variety of emotional aspects, including the following:
Pain and Suffering
Pain and suffering is one type of non-economic damage. This refers to compensation for the mental anguish caused as a result of your loved one’s untimely passing. The severity can vary significantly between claimants; determining its monetary equivalent requires reviewing every detail about how closely intertwined you were with your loved one.
Loss of Consortium
This compensates for the emotional harm caused by losing companionship, love, or sexual relations due to your loved one’s death. Loss of consortium goes far beyond physical interactions between spouses. It encompasses emotional support, love, care during illness, and other benefits received from being married.
Loss of Instruction and Guidance
Additionally, if children are left behind, they may also receive compensation due to a loss of instruction and guidance. This category acknowledges that a parent doesn’t only provide financial stability but also plays an influential role in shaping their child’s development. It provides compensation for the intangible benefits lost as part of parental care, like emotional support, growth, nurturing, and guidance.
Calculating Non-Economic Damages
Calculating non-economic damages in a wrongful death claim is often complex due to their intangibility. As noted above, these losses do not have a specific dollar figure attached or tangible financial evidence supporting them.
So, the process typically entails assessing the emotional toll and psychological trauma experienced by survivors. Considerations include your relationship to the deceased (such as how close and dependent you were on them), duration of shared companionship before they passed away, and potential long-term impacts of losing them.
At trial proceedings, juries (or sometimes judges) make decisions based on evidence presented concerning non-economic damages. Evidence usually includes personal accounts to illustrate just how profoundly your loss has altered your life.
Expert testimony and reports from mental health specialists such as psychologists can also offer credible perspectives about any emotional effects you are facing. This can help frame the losses better and allow the judge or jury to come to a monetary amount.
At Mickelsen Dalton, we are experienced wrongful death trial attorneys. We can help put together an accurate number to help compensate you for both your economic and non-economic losses.
How Long Do I Have to File a Lawsuit After a Wrongful Death in South Carolina?
In South Carolina, you must file a wrongful death lawsuit within two or three years of the death. You have two years if you allege wrongful death against a government entity. For non-government entities, you have three years. However, it’s best to file right away. This makes it easier to access information and find witnesses.
Wrongful Death Case Process & Timeline
When proving wrongful death in South Carolina, there are four key elements that must be established:
- Proof of death
- A wrongful act by the party responsible for the death. A wrongful act is usually based on negligence but may also include intentional or reckless conduct depending on the circumstances of the case.
- Causation – how the wrongdoer caused the death. To prove causation, medical evidence and witnesses are used to explain what happened during the accident and how the victim suffered physical trauma as a result.
- Damages – the losses the plaintiffs suffered as a result of the death. Damages awarded depend on actual losses suffered by the deceased person’s family as well as an estimate of how much value their life had until its untimely end.
Gathering Evidence to Support the Claim
Once you have identified the four elements of negligence, it’s time to gather the evidence necessary to support your claim. This process typically involves the following steps:
Obtain Medical Records: Medical records are a critical piece of evidence in a wrongful death case. They can help establish the cause of death and prove that the defendant’s negligence directly contributed to the loss of life.
Consult Expert Witnesses: Enlisting the help of expert witnesses can be invaluable in proving your claim. These professionals may include medical experts, accident reconstructionists, or even economists who can testify to the financial impact of the wrongful death.
Collect Police Reports and Witness Statements: Police reports and witness statements can provide crucial details surrounding the incident. They can help to establish a timeline of events and confirm that the defendant’s actions or inactions were negligent.
Preserve Physical Evidence: Any physical evidence related to the wrongful death, such as photographs, videos, or objects, should be preserved and documented. These items can strengthen your case and provide compelling evidence of the defendant’s negligence.
How Long Does a Wrongful Death Claim Take?
When someone close to us passes away unexpectedly, it’s natural for us to feel grief and sorrow over the loss. This grieving process is both normal and necessary for our healing. During this time, it’s important that we take care of ourselves and allow ourselves time and space to grieve in whatever way feels most natural.
Filing a Claim
Once some of the initial shock has worn off, it might be time to start thinking about filing a wrongful death claim. The first step is finding an experienced lawyer who specializes in personal injury or wrongful death cases. It’s important that you find someone who understands your situation and is willing to fight for justice on behalf of your deceased loved one.
Once you have chosen your lawyer, they will begin gathering evidence such as medical records, police reports, witness statements, etc., which will all be used when filing your claim against those responsible for the death of your loved one.
Once all evidence has been gathered and an insurance claim or a wrongful death suit has been filed, the settlement process will begin. Here, both parties negotiate terms until they can come up with an agreement that each side finds fair and justifiable given their circumstances. If a settlement cannot be reached, you will have to take your case to trial and fight it out in court.
Depending on how complex your case is, this entire process can take many months or even years to conclude.
How a Lawyer Can Help With Your Wrongful Death Claim
Navigating these complex legal matters can be overwhelming for those unfamiliar with them. This is why it is important to seek out an experienced lawyer who understands South Carolina law and can guide you through each step of your claim. A skilled attorney will ensure that all elements of your case are properly investigated and documented so that your family receives justice for their loss and financial compensation for their suffering.
Lawyers understand that no amount of money can make up for losing someone you love; however, having financial resources available during such a difficult time can make things easier for those left behind.
Finally, attorneys are well-versed in court proceedings, allowing them to better prepare clients for any hearings they might have to obtain compensation from those responsible for their loved one’s death.
Our Experienced Charleston Wrongful Death Lawyers Are Ready to Help
Mickelsen Dalton is the firm to call if you’re mourning a loved one because of a wrongful death in Charleston, SC. Hiring the right law firm to handle your wrongful death claim makes a big difference in the amount of your recovery. So, choose a firm that has a solid reputation.
Mickelsen Dalton has decades of experience fighting for victims and their families in Charleston, SC. Call our Charleston wrongful death attorneys now. Call to schedule your free initial consultation.