A wrongful death lawsuit can be brought following a fatal accident by the representative of the decedent’s estate on behalf of the “distributees”, usually the decedent’s immediate family members. Any damages awarded, however, are generally NOT part of the estate and are not distributed according to the decedent’s will. This is an important distinction because it makes them not taxable.
Compensation in a wrongful death lawsuit tends to be greater if the surviving family members are monetarily affected. Some states allow some close family members to be compensated for mental anguish resulting from their loss. In some cases, the estate’s representative may bring a “survival action” together with the wrongful death suit in order to recover such damages.
Wrongful Death Online Information:
Wrongful Death Damages
Damages awarded in a survival action, however, do become part of the estate. In any case, the principal measure of damages in a wrongful death action is fair and just compensation for financial, or “pecuniary,” injury that resulted from the decedent’s death. Pecuniary injuries include:
- Medical and funeral expenses
- Recovery of medical and funeral expenses already incurred
- Loss of support services
- Lost prospect of inheritance
- Interest accrued from the date of death
After the jury determines the amount of damages to be awarded, the court will often adjust the award depending on a variety of circumstances. For instance, if it is found that the decedent regularly squandered his or her income, the award may be adjusted downward.
Conversely, despite the decedent being unemployed at the time of death, lost earnings may be awarded if he or she had worked in the past. Some states permit the recovery of punitive damages in cases of malicious wrongdoing that resulted in the death. Punitive damages are intended to punish the wrongdoer and deter others from behaving similarly. In South Carolina, “punitive damages may be awarded only upon a finding of actual damages.”
While the legal action is referred to as wrongful death, this action may be a result of personal injury matters like car accidents, workplace injury, and fires. Medical malpractice claims resulting from a missed diagnosis and surgical error are leading causes of action as well.
Negligence in Wrongful Death Claims
The basis for most wrongful death suits is negligence. A wrongful death attorney will need to show that the wrongdoer’s action, or failure to act in a responsible manner, caused the decedent’s death. A wrongful death lawyer must also have access to experts who can testify with regard to the determination of the pecuniary losses to plaintiffs in the case. In light of the statute of limitations, (i.e., deadlines by which a wrongful death lawsuit must be filed), it is important to contact an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible. Such an attorney will be able to discuss your legal rights and the potential merits of pursuing a wrongful death case. There is no cost or obligation to you in scheduling a free case evaluation.
Contact a Charleston wrongful death lawyer now.