If you spend much time on I-26, you have likely seen the signs that keep count of the number of fatal traffic accidents in South Carolina. But, the idea that a loved one’s death might increase the number almost certainly never crossed your mind. If you are now struggling to cope with the loss of a loved one, we offer our sincerest condolences, and we want you to know that we are truly here to help in any way we can.
Recovering from a Fatal Accident Can Truly Be a Lifelong Endeavor
According to the South Carolina Office of Highway Safety, more than 500 people have died in traffic accidents in South Carolina so far in 2019. While this is a large number, it belies the toll that these accidents have on the victims’ families. In addition to the emotional devastation, family members of fatal accident victims can experience substantial financial and non-financial losses, and the recovery process can truly be a lifelong endeavor.
If you have lost a loved one in a fatal car, truck, SUV, or motorcycle accident in South Carolina, it is important that you speak with an attorney about asserting your family’s legal rights. While no amount of compensation can truly replace what you have lost, the damages available in wrongful death cases can often be substantial. As “compensatory” damages, these damages are intended simply to make you and your family members whole to the greatest extent possible. South Carolina’s wrongful death and survival action laws exist to help people in your situation, and you have nothing to lose by finding out if your family is entitled to a financial settlement.
Compensation for Families Who Have Lost Loved Ones in Fatal Accidents in South Carolina
Common Forms of Negligence Responsible for Fatal Accidents
Similar to personal injury claims for non-fatal accidents, wrongful death claims and survival actions are rooted in the law of negligence. If a person or company was negligent in causing your loved one’s death, then that person or company deserves to be held accountable. Auto insurance covers virtually all forms of negligence resulting in harm to another, and trucking companies and other businesses will typically have liability policies that cover instances where their employees cause serious and fatal collisions.
In the context of a fatal vehicle accident, negligence can take many different forms. Examples of mistakes that can support families’ claims for financial compensation include:
- Distracted driving, including talking, texting, using social media, or taking photos or videos behind the wheel
- Driving the wrong direction into oncoming traffic
- Driving under the influence of alcohol, marijuana, sleep medications, or other drugs
- Drowsy driving
- Falling asleep behind the wheel
- Hiring inexperienced, untrained, or unlicensed drivers
- Reckless driving, including speeding, weaving through traffic, and following too closely
- Running red lights and stop signs
Various other, non-driver-related, factors can cause and contribute to fatal accidents as well. For example, failure to adequately contain construction equipment or debris, failure to fix dangerous roadways, and improper vehicle maintenance and repairs are all common factors in serious and fatal collisions.
Damages for Wrongful Death
In South Carolina, a wrongful death action must be filed by the executor or administrator of the accident victim’s estate. If the action is successful, the executor or administrator will then distribute the proceeds of the settlement or verdict to the victim’s eligible family members. In most cases, these are the victim’s spouse and children. But, if the victim did not leave a surviving spouse or child, then the proceeds will be distributed to the victim’s surviving parents (if any), and then to the victim’s remaining heirs.
A wrongful death action seeks to recover damages for the losses that the victim’s family incur as a result of his or her death. Typically, these will include:
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Medical bills resulting from attempted treatment for the fatal injury
- Loss of future earnings
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of the victim’s experience, knowledge, judgment, care, companionship, and protection
- The family members’ suffering and mental anguish
Proving damages in a wrongful death case requires a thorough assessment of the economic losses expected to be incurred, and a dollar value must be placed on the surviving family members’ non-financial losses. These are both steps with which an experienced personal injury lawyer can help, and families must have a clear understanding of their total losses before entertaining any settlement offers from the insurance companies.
Survival Actions to Recover Fatal Accident Victims’ Losses
A survival action differs from a wrongful death claim in that it seeks compensation for the victim’s losses sustained before death. Typically, this would include pain, suffering, and potentially lot earnings. Similar to a wrongful death claim, a survival action must be filed on behalf of the deceased family member’s estate, with any damages being distributed to the eligible family members.
What to Do if You Have Lost a Loved One in South Carolina
When coping with the consequences of a fatal collision, the most important thing you can do is to seek professional help. From dealing with the insurance companies to dealing with estate-related matters and calculating your family’s losses, virtually all aspects of the process require legal knowledge. An experienced car accident attorney will be able to help you understand the process for seeking just compensation, help you make informed decisions about enforcing your family’s rights, and take on the insurance companies for you so that you can focus your time and effort on coping with your loss.
Schedule a Complimentary Initial Consultation in Rock Hill, SC
At Lewis Law Firm LLC, we have been serving individuals and families in South Carolina for decades. If a family member was tragically killed in an accident, our auto accident attorneys can help you recover just compensation for your loss. To learn more about your family’s legal rights in a free, no-obligation consultation, call our Rock Hill, SC law offices at 803-327-1103, or tell us how to contact you online today.