What You Need to Know About Wrongful Death Claims: How To Pursue Your Rights
Losing a loved one is one of life’s most painful experiences. However, losing your loved one at the hands of another’s negligence and misconduct can further amplify your feelings of anguish and distress. According to reports, unintentional injuries are now the third leading cause of death in the U.S. These injuries can arise from different circumstances, such as motor vehicle accidents, manufacturing defects, or medical malpractice.
If you recently experienced a loss due to the negligence of another, you have the right to seek justice and hold the offending party accountable for their actions and seek compensation for wrongful death. This guide will help you navigate the complexities of filing a wrongful death lawsuit to hold the offending party accountable.
Understanding the Legal Framework
A wrongful death is caused by another person’s neglect or wrongful action. The nature of their death may be considered wrongful if the deceased could have filed a legitimate personal injury suit had they survived.
According to South Carolina state law, wrongful death claims must be made by the executor or administrator of the deceased person’s estate. They are typically named in the deceased person’s will or estate plan. In the absence of a will, or if the legal representative is unavailable, it is up to the court to name one on their behalf. Regardless of who the executor is, compensation for wrongful death will be paid out to the surviving family in the same manner as if their estate were being divided.
Wrongful death claims are civil cases, while a murder charge begins a criminal case. Both of these are different in that the law honors the surviving family’s rights in wrongful death cases while it seeks to punish the offender in a criminal case. Although the offending party can still be prosecuted in relation to the fatality, these are separate and distinct from the wrongful death claims process.
Steps In Pursuing a Wrongful Death Claim
Filing a wrongful death lawsuit begins with the executor making a claim. It must be made before the statute of limitations lapses, three years from the date of death under South Carolina law. Once the claim has been made, a wrongful death attorney will then negotiate with the insurance company to obtain payment for damages.
In cases where negotiations with the offending party’s insurance company break down, you may need to file a wrongful death lawsuit. This is done to involve the court in the proceedings, although a trial is not guaranteed.
To increase your likelihood of success in a wrongful death lawsuit, you will need to prove four elements:
The offender’s duty of care toward the deceased.
The offender’s breach of the said duty.
The offender’s breach of duty being the cause of death.
Proof of damages suffered because of the death.
Gathering Evidence and Documentation
In a civil action like a wrongful death lawsuit, the burden of proof is much lower than in a criminal case. In a criminal case, the prosecution must be able to prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt to convict them in court. However, in a civil case, you will only have to prove that the defendant’s unlawful conduct resulted in the victim’s death. This explains why O.J. Simpson was acquitted of murder in a criminal trial but was later found liable for Nicole Brown Simpson’s and Ronald Goldman’s wrongful death.
However, regardless of the lower standard, meeting the burden of proof in a wrongful death lawsuit can still be a complex process. Gathering sufficient evidence is still necessary in order to prove the elements of the claim. Some of the most commonly used forms of evidence include the following:
Seeking Compensation for Damages
Filing a claim allows the victim’s surviving family members to seek compensation for wrongful death. These can be in the form of damages the victim could have claimed had they survived the offending party’s unlawful behavior. On top of this, they can also seek damages for economic and non-economic losses due to trauma caused by the death of their loved one.
Common examples of damages include:
Funeral and burial expenses
Loss of income and inheritance
Pain and suffering
Loss of companionship
Common Challenges in Wrongful Death Cases
Wrongful death cases can be extremely complex and demanding. Before being awarded a claim, you may encounter several challenges that can make the process even more difficult. Initially, you will face challenges collecting proof of negligence and determining the offending party’s liability. As the case progresses, you may also have to deal with the insurance company’s negotiating tactics and overcome jury bias if the case goes to trial. Fortunately, you do not have to deal with these complexities alone.
Working With a Wrongful Death Attorney
Navigating the intricacies of a wrongful death claim can be overwhelming. However, having the assistance of an experienced wrongful death attorney can be highly beneficial. A wrongful death attorney will:
Explain your legal rights in wrongful death cases fully
Gather and analyze evidence to build a robust case
Handle all communications between you and other parties
Negotiate for a fair settlement on your behalf
Represent you in court if the case goes to trial
How Littlejohn Law Can Help
At Littlejohn Law, we understand how overwhelming it is to lose a loved one at the hands of another’s negligent behavior. With our wealth of expertise in personal injury and wrongful death claims, our experienced team is determined to help you seek justice and ensure you are adequately compensated.
As the team handling your case, we work tirelessly to provide you with compassionate support and skilled representation throughout the process. From investigating your case and gathering evidence to ensuring you are represented well in court, we fight for your right to ensure you get the justice you deserve.
You don’t have to navigate this journey alone. Let us help you make the law work for you. Contact Littlejohn Law for personalized guidance and a free consultation regarding your wrongful death claim.