Compensation available when a loved one’s car accident turns fatal

If you have lost a loved one in a fatal car accident caused by carelessness, you may be eligible to recover in a wrongful death lawsuit.

When a car accident occurs, the lucky ones walk away with minor injuries. Unfortunately, not all car accidents have this fortunate outcome. In some cases, the accident results in a fatality. If this happens to a loved one, you may suffer financial losses in addition to your emotional ones. If the fatal car accident occurred because of someone's carelessness or negligence, you may be eligible to recover many of your losses in a wrongful death lawsuit.

What is wrongful death?

Under South Carolina law, a wrongful death occurs if someone is killed because of someone else's negligence, neglect, default or wrongful act. The purpose of a wrongful death lawsuit is to allow you and other dependents of the decedent to recover financial and emotional losses suffered as a direct result of the death.

A wrongful death often occurs in fatal car accidents. For example, it is often present in drunk driving accidents, collisions caused by driver distraction (e.g. texting while driving), or truck accidents caused by violations of safety regulations (e.g. truck driver fatigue). Although the party responsible for the death may also face criminal charges for his or her role in the death (especially in drunk driving cases), a wrongful death lawsuit is a separate civil proceeding which is not affected by the outcome of the criminal case.

In South Carolina, the administrator of the deceased's estate must file the wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the spouse, children and certain other family members entitled by law to recover. Any compensation that is recovered in the lawsuit is distributed first to the spouse and children. If the decedent was not married and had no children, the parents of the deceased may recover compensation.

What compensation is recoverable?

Under the law in South Carolina, many forms of economic and noneconomic losses suffered by the relatives of the deceased may be recovered. Such losses include:

• Funeral and burial expenses

• Medical bills

• Pain and suffering

• Loss of companionship

• Loss of decedent's future income or financial support

• Loss of services performed by the decedent

In addition to these losses, the court may award punitive damages in cases where the conduct responsible for the death was willful, reckless or malicious. Punitive damages do not require the family to prove any losses. Instead, the damages are awarded to punish the responsible party and discourage others from performing similar acts in the future.

An attorney can advise you

Wrongful death lawsuits are often of a complicated nature, as complex issues of proof are often involved. If you have lost a loved one in a car accident caused by negligence, it is wise to immediately seek the advice of an experienced personal injury attorney. An attorney can work with experts to determine the cause of the accident and build a strong case to obtain the compensation you deserve under the law.