When someone dies in an accident in South Carolina due to someone else’s carelessness, it’s traumatic. Families of South Carolina fatal accident victims have legal rights to a settlement in a wrongful death case.
Beware of going it alone against the insurance company. You’re a traumatized victim with no legal knowledge, and the insurance company will be heartless in keeping its money from you—no matter how much you need it or deserve it. A South Carolina wrongful death attorney can prevent you and your family from being doubly victimized by a cheap settlement. We can help in ways you may never have considered.
One of the key reasons you need a wrongful death attorney in a fatal accident case is gathering the evidence and evaluating it to develop the right amount to ask for in a settlement.
Here are the legal factors to get a wrongful death settlement in South Carolina and examples of evidence we use to prove it.
Our Eight-Point Assessment for a South Carolina Wrongful Death Case
1. Make sure you’re the “personal representative” who can sue for wrongful death. South Carolina wrongful death lawsuits can only be filed by the official representative of the victim’s estate, called a “personal representative,” or PR. The PR gets appointed by a Probate Court order. If you’re not the PR, we can help you get named PR. If there already is one, only the PR can hire us to represent the family for a South Carolina wrongful death case.
2. Figure out the wrongful death beneficiaries, who get the wrongful death settlement. South Carolina wrongful death settlements are split or divided by certain family members named under the wrongful death law. Just figuring this out can be a little complicated, and maybe even surprising for some. For example, if a wrongful death victim leaves a spouse, South Carolina’s wrongful death law provides the spouse doesn’t get it all. It’s split between the spouse and children. It’s critical to get this legal requirement right. A PR can be held legally responsible for not properly distributing a wrongful death settlement.
3. Establish legal fault (liability). In most cases, liability is clear. But sometimes, we must face hard facts bravely, and that includes whether the victim may be partially at fault. You can still get a settlement if the victim’s partially at fault under South Carolina’s comparative negligence law. Other cases are just intensely complex, especially medical malpractice.
This includes evaluating whether punitive damages apply. You can qualify for punitive damages in a South Carolina wrongful death settlement, but the legal factors are highly complex, and it’s often hard to prove.
Even if you should get punitive damages, as in a drunk driving accident—which could involve a tough case against a bar or restaurant—just coming up with the right amount takes a trained legal mind.
4. Find out how much insurance is available to pay a settlement. This is a critical consideration in most cases, since most people and business don’t have the money or assets to pay a wrongful death settlement. Finding out the amount of insurance can require a lawsuit, depending on the case type. For example, if a drunk driver who got overserved at a bar causes a fatal accident, the bar is highly unlikely to voluntarily reveal its alcohol service insurance coverage.
If the victim got killed in a car accident, an experienced South Carolina wrongful death attorney can find out how much insurance the at-fault driver had- and whether additional settlements can come from the victim’s own policy. If the at-fault driver had no insurance or the wrongful death resulted from a fatal hit-and-run, a skilled attorney can use the victim’s insurance policy for a settlement. Using the victim’s policy is tricky. The victim’s insurance company won’t rush in to help. And if you don’t know how to handle multiple policies or multiple vehicles on the same policy, you risk shortchanging your family for financial relief you might desperately need.
5. Determine if filing suit immediately is best. Knowing how to handle this sensitive, critical legal analysis is a key reason to get an experienced South Carolina wrongful death attorney. Some wrongful death cases just need an immediate lawsuit. A key factor in this decision for us is the likelihood evidence might disappear. We see this problem in cases involving deaths from tragic falls or defective products. Surveillance video showing the fall can be erased. Defective products or machinery can be modified or even destroyed.
Also, in some cases, early negotiations do no good. That’s especially true in medical malpractice or nursing home neglect cases.
6. Evaluate the depth and strength of the relationship between the victim and family members who can get a wrongful death settlement. Only certain family members can get a settlement under South Carolina law.
A key component of the amount of the settlement is the emotional trauma and loss of the victim’s companionship. That means we’ll need to have some emotionally tender conversations and your family to help you describe how the victim’s story formed yours. We’ll meet with you when you’re ready to talk.
We’ll want family pictures showing the depth, strength, and joy of your relationship, plus evidence of who the victim was.
This is where a wrongful death attorney who’s a good storyteller can make a real difference in your case. We can find your family’s story and craft it in a meaningful way to translate the powerful impact of your loss. Here’s how we did that in a real case.
7. Evaluate the financial loss caused by the death. This can be a critical calculation you can’t afford to get wrong, especially if the victim’s income was vital to your family. It will likely require an expert like an economist or an accountant. That becomes even more important if the victim held a job with benefits like health insurance and retirement since those benefits aren’t immediate cash but do have a potentially enormous impact on the family’s bottom line. These experts’ highest service is computing these figures and translating the amount to present value so it’s admissible in evidence if the case goes to trial.
8. Prove funeral expenses, medical bills, and the victim’s conscious pain and suffering from accident injuries. In South Carolina, a fatal accident victim’s estate has a separate case, called a survival action, to get a settlement for these items. We obtain the medical records and closely study them for evidence of pain and suffering. We’ll also help protect the estate from creditors, including health insurance, by negotiating repayments from the settlement, hopefully for a reduction.
Our South Carolina Wrongful Death Settlement Process
Once we’ve got all the evidence, we give you an honest, thorough settlement evaluation in writing. It covers all the factors of the amount we should ask for in your South Carolina wrongful death settlement.
After that, we arrive at a settlement goal, then develop a strategy to get it. This likely includes a demand letter summarizing why it’s a good idea for the insurance company to settle. Once we start negotiations, we keep you informed as they progress, since we never forget this case is about you and your family. You’ll know every offer so you can have input on the counteroffer.
When we reach a settlement, we make sure you and your case are prepared to go before the judge for the wrongful death settlement hearing.
If negotiations fail, we file suit if we haven’t already. If your case involves a lawsuit, it will eventually go to a mediation, where a lawyer who’s not involved in the case tries to get us to settle. If we can’t reach a proper settlement there, we don’t have to settle. We can still take your case to trial to let a jury decide it.
Don’t Sell Your Family Short. Get Guidance From a South Carolina Wrongful Death Attorney.
This is your only chance to do this right, to get a financial settlement your family might desperately need.
You’ve got too much to deal with already. Don’t expose yourself to be taken advantage of by the insurance company—and the lifetime of regret that can come with that.
Contact our Spartanburg wrongful death attorney to get your questions answered and schedule a free strategy session to start building a case to protect your rights, your family, and your peace of mind. Before you do, feel free to check out what other clients say about us on an attorney website we don’t own and even Google. Call us toll-free at 888-230-1841.
We will handle the dirty work while you work through your grief and start moving forward.