Fatal car accidents leave behind emotional and financial devastation for the surviving family members. When someone else is at fault for the crash, that person or party is liable for the resulting damages. Our fatal car accident lawyer will ensure you receive fair compensation for your losses, including your emotional pain and suffering. The first step is to consider the factors contributing to a wrongful death claim and the laws governing these cases.
Elements of a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
When someone dies because of another party’s negligence, South Carolina law refers to that loss as a wrongful death, allowing the surviving family a legal avenue for justice and compensation. To establish liability and create a valid claim, you must prove the four elements of a wrongful death case:
- Duty of care. You should show that the defendant owed a duty of care to the deceased, meaning there was a requirement to act with a certain level of caution to prevent harm. On the road, all drivers have a duty to follow traffic laws.
- Breach of duty. You must demonstrate that the defendant failed to uphold this duty by not acting in a way that a reasonably prudent person would act. Violating traffic laws would represent a breach of duty.
- Causation. You will need to prove a direct connection between the defendant’s breach of duty and the death of your loved one, confirming that their actions were a substantial factor in causing the fatal crash.
- Damages. The accident must result in quantifiable and present damages, which can include tangible and intangible losses.
Every wrongful death car accident case has unique circumstances that influence how you build your claim. Our fatal accident attorney will help you understand the process and how it applies to your case.
Filing a Wrongful Death Claim for a Fatal Car Accident in South Carolina
Every state mandates who can file a wrongful death claim. In South Carolina, only the deceased’s estate representative can file a lawsuit against the at-fault party. In the absence of a will or established executor, the court will assign one to the deceased’s estate. Should the lawsuit result in an award for damages, the family members who can receive payment include:
- The surviving spouse and children of the deceased are first.
- If they had no spouse or child, the surviving parents are next.
- With no surviving spouse, children or parents, the remaining heirs will receive damages.
Filing a wrongful death claim can be complex, especially when the claimant or plaintiff experiences pushback from the insurance provider. This is where our fatal car accident lawyer can step in to protect your rights.
How Our Fatal Car Accident Lawyer Can Help You
The nuanced role of a legal representative will change based on the details of your claim. However, some specific tasks we perform to build a solid case with evidence include:
- Communicating with the insurance provider to negotiate a settlement
- Investigating the fatal accident to find evidence of the other party’s negligence
- Calculating the recoverable damages you can prove to ensure you receive adequate compensation
- Drafting all necessary documentation to create and establish your demands package
- Providing objective professionalism along with compassionate support
Our firm works on contingency, which means we only receive payment for our services if we win your case. Working with the families of fatal car accident victims gave us a unique perspective on the suffering negligent drivers can cause. We adjust our approach to your case to ensure you receive the compensation you deserve.
Losses You Can Recover From a Wrongful Death Claim
Compensatory damages is the term the South Carolina court uses to refer to the losses you can recover with a valid civil claim. The types available will depend on the details of your loved one’s death. However, most cases involve some expected economic and non-economic losses. Under specific circumstances, you may also receive an award for punitive damages.
The consequences of a fatal car accident will often create substantial economic damages. Most cases include a variation of the following:
- The cost of funeral and burial or cremation expenses
- The loss of income and benefits your loved one provided for the household
- Any medical bills and expenses your loved one accumulated during treatment of their final injuries
- In some cases, loss of inheritance or contribution to retirement plans
- The cost of repairing or replacing your loved one’s vehicle and other damaged property
The process of proving economic damages is straightforward. You may need medical bills, itemized invoices for the funeral and burial, pay stubs, tax returns, expert testimony and repair estimates for damaged property. As your legal representatives, we help you identify and gather this evidence.
Non-economic damages cover the mental and emotional components of your losses. Common examples in a wrongful death case include:
- The mental anguish and emotional distress you experienced
- The loss of consortium for spouses, which signifies the loss of companionship, affection and support their spouse provided
- Loss of parental guidance, mentoring, love and nurturing
- The loss of support, care and safeguarding the deceased provided
- The deprivation of love and moral support you experience
Evaluating and quantifying non-economic damages can be challenging and subjective. These losses have no definitive monetary value, and jurisdictions may have varying caps or limitations on what you can receive. We help navigate these aspects and ensure you receive adequate compensation.
Punitive damages do not compensate for financial or emotional losses. Instead, the court may order the defendant to pay them as a reprimand for the defendant’s actions and to deter similar behavior in the future. For example, suppose the fatal car accident resulted from another driver speeding while under the influence or driving aggressively with the intent to harm. In that case, the court may see fit to make them pay an additional penalty on top of compensatory damages.
In South Carolina, the general cap on punitive damages is an amount greater than three times the actual damages or the year’s inflation-adjusted cap, which was recently up to almost $680,000. However, there are exceptions to this rule. If the accident involved alcohol or drugs, there is no limitation on punitive damages. If the defendant had a financial motivation for their actions, the cap increases to four times the actual damages. Unfortunately, punitive damages are unavailable when the defendant is a government entity or charity.
The process of determining punitive damages unfolds in the trial, where the jury decides liability for compensatory damages and the amount awarded. They then determine if there is cause for punitive damages before the judge applies any relevant caps or alterations, finalizing the award.
Contact Our Fatal Car Accident Lawyer To Schedule a Free Consultation Today
If you lost a loved one in a car accident caused by someone else’s careless behavior, our fatal car accident lawyer can answer your questions about what you can do to seek justice. The law cannot restore your emotional loss, but it can hold the party responsible for it financially liable. Contact Jeffcoat Law Firm today to speak with a legal professional about the details of your case. We understand the impact a fatal accident can have on your family and will work aggressively to help you rebuild.