One of the worst things we can experience is the loss of a loved one or family member. When the loss is due to a medical professional’s negligence, though, you may be able to bring a wrongful death case against them.
While it may seem disrespectful to even consider legal consequences when you have just lost a family member or loved one, the law in Columbia, South Carolina requires you to act as soon as possible, especially when the cause of death is potentially medical malpractice as opposed to ordinary negligence of some other cause such as assault.
Mistakes made by surgeons, doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals can have dire consequences. Typical wrongful death cases include:
- Emergency room errors
- Diagnosing errors
- Medication errors
- Misdiagnosis and failure to diagnose
- Failure to perform necessary tests
- Surgical errors
- Hospital errors
- Obstetrical malpractice
- Medication errors
- Misdiagnosed and undiagnosed cancer cases
When healthcare providers do make mistakes, the victims of medical injury can find their lives changed forever. They may not be able to move or walk normally every again, and the may not be able to work again. In extreme cases, the medical errors result in the death of your loved one, in which case you may have grounds for a wrongful death lawsuit in Columbia, S.C.
Who Is Allowed to Sue for Wrongful Death?
Typically, children, parents, and spouses are allowed to sue. In many states, further extended family, like domestic partners, siblings, and grandparents are also permitted to file suit. In Columbia, S.C., though, a wrongful death claim must be brought by the person that administers the deceased’s estate. If the person who passed away does not have a will or estate plan, the court can appoint an executor or administrator. But, any claim that is filed is essentially brought on behalf of family members. In South Carolina, the following family members can recover damages:
- The spouse and children to the deceased;
- The deceased’s parents if there in children or spouse, unless the parents abandoned their deceased child prior to the child turning 18;
- Legal heirs of the deceased if there are no spouse, children, or parents.
Who Can Be Sued for Wrongful Death in Columbia, S.C.?
When a nurse, doctor, or other health care professional acts negligently and causes the death of a loved one, not only
can that individual be held responsible, but so too can the medical group or hospital that they work for. Of course, each case depends on the specific details of how treatment was given, and who, or what, was responsible for certain duties.
For instance, if your loved one has surgery and caught an infection due to the hospital maintenance crew forgetting to replace air filters, the actual hospital, as opposed to an individual nurse or doctor, is likely to be liable. On the other hand, if a nurse failed to wash after treating an infection and it resulted in another infection, both the nurse and the employer can be held liable.
What Damages Can Be Sought?
In South Carolina, the kinds of compensation that you can sue for in this type of case include:
- Lost wages and benefits
- Expenses for the deceased person’s funeral and cremation or burial
- Any property damages and other financial losses due to the deceased’s death
- Bills that result from the deceased’s final medical care that relate to the injury or illness
- The loss of the person’s guidance, judgment, services, and experience
- The loss of the person’s companionship and love
- Any suffering, pain, and mental distress that the surviving family experience
In some instances, the court may award punitive damages if the negligent actions that caused the death are considered to be reckless or deliberate. Also referred to as exemplary damages, punitive damages are aimed at punishing the liable person and serve as a warning to everyone else.
More About Wrongful Death Lawsuits in Columbia, South Carolina
The state of South Carolina creates a cause of action for wrongful death. The state’s law permits a claim to proceed where a person’s death was caused by the default, wrongful act, or neglect of another person, and the deceased would have been allowed to recover damages from the liable party had he or she survived.
Any damages that are recovered in a wrongful death action are divided among the parents, spouse, children, or heirs, according to the shares they may have been entitled to if the person had died without a will and the financial recovery had been part of the person’s personal assets of the estate.
Survival Right of Action
In addition to wrongful death damages, a deceased person’s estate can also recover monetary damages for the conscious suffering and pain that the deceased person experienced before death and for their medical expenses, as stated in the Survival Right of Action Statute, Section 15-5-90.
What Are the Time Limits in Bringing a Case?
In South Carolina, the statute of limitations for bringing a wrongful death lawsuit is within three years of the date that the deceased died. It is vital that you bring you case before that time is up, as the court will not hear a case brought after three years.
What Is Your Next Step?
A wrongful death claim allows you and your family, as survivors, to ease your financial strain and seek justice from the liable parties. Sadly, bills do continue to mount regardless of your loss and grief, and you may have lost your family’s main breadwinner, making the situation even harder. Of course, financial considerations, as important as they are, tend to pale next to the support and love of spouses, children, and others. Wrongful death can be felt for a lifetime.
If you believe you may have a wrongful death claim for the loss of your loved one, talk to an experienced attorney at The Jeffcoat Firm who will advise you on the best course of action for your particular situation.