In South Carolina, if a loved one dies due to the negligent or wrongful acts of another person, that person’s family members have the legal right to file suit to recover monetary damages for that person’s death. These civil claims for damages are known as wrongful death actions and offer victims an important avenue to hold the responsible party financially accountable for their actions.
South Carolina Wrongful Death Act
Legislators in South Carolina specifically addressed the issue of wrongful death lawsuits in the South Carolina Wrongful Death Act found in South Carolina Code § 15-51-20. The law lays out what a wrongful death claim entails, under what circumstances such claims can be brought and, critically, who is permitted to sue to recover damages.
The law specifically mentions that South Carolina wrongful death actions must be brought for the benefit of either a person’s spouse, children, parents or finally, their heirs. In South Carolina, wrongful death claims must be brought by or in the name of the executor of the recently deceased person’s estate. So what does all this mean in practice?
Who has the right to bring a wrongful death claim?
First, if the person who was killed was married at the time of his or her death, then that person’s spouse has the right to pursue a wrongful death claim. If there is no surviving spouse, or if the spouse waives his or her right to file suit, the children of the recently deceased are entitled to bring a wrongful death claim. If the children are under the age of 18, then a South Carolina court can choose to appoint a guardian to bring the case on the children’s behalf. If the recently deceased person is under the age of 18 or single with no children, then the right to bring a wrongful death lawsuit falls to the parents. Finally, in cases where there is no spouse, child or parent, the right to bring suit falls to siblings and other heirs of the person’s estate.
Who gets what?
When a representative of the recently deceased person’s estate wins a wrongful death case, South Carolina law says that the amount of money recovered will be divided among the person’s heirs as if the person had died intestate (meaning without a will) and the amount recovered in the wrongful death suit had been part of his or her estate.
In South Carolina, this means that in cases where a recently deceased person has children, but no spouse, the children will receive the full amount recovered. In cases where the person has a spouse, but not children, the spouse gets everything. When there is a spouse and children, the spouse receives half the amount recovered and the children receive the rest. If there are parents, but no spouse or children, then the parents receive everything. Finally, siblings receive money only if there is no spouse, parent or child to stake a claim.
Charleston wrongful death lawyer David Aylor understands how the sudden loss of a loved one can lead to emotional as well as financial devastation. If a family member was killed due to the negligent actions of others, it may be helpful to reach out to an experienced lawyer who can guide you through the complexities of a South Carolina wrongful death claim. For more information, call our office at 843-310-4900.