Can I File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit After a Car Wreck?

by | May 2, 2018 | Auto Accidents, Personal Injury, Wrongful Death |

South Carolina has some of the most dangerous roads in the nation.

The state’s highway fatality rate – 1.88 deaths per 100 million miles driven – is higher than in any other state and almost twice as high as the national average, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

In 2017, 998 people were killed on SC roads, and another 93 died while doing road work.

The most common causes of SC traffic fatalities include:

  • DUI of alcohol or other drugs;
  • Speeding;
  • Distracted driving, especially use of cell phones; and
  • Failure to wear a seatbelt.

Can I File A Wrongful Death Lawsuit After an Auto Accident?

If a loved one is killed in car accident as a result of another driver’s negligence, you may be able to file a wrongful death suit. In SC, a wrongful death claim can be brought by the executor or administrator of the deceased’s estate.

A wrongful death claim is a civil lawsuit, which means the burden of proof is lower than it is in a criminal case. You will need to prove by a “preponderance of evidence,” or more likely than not, that the at-fault driver is responsible for the death, rather than proving your case “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

How Will A Wrongful Death Lawsuit Help?

When a loved one dies, heartbreak and emotional distress are the most obvious and immediate challenges. It may not be considered polite in some company to talk about the more practical losses, but ignoring the financial costs will only increase the heartbreak and stress.

The damages you can collect through a wrongful death lawsuit include:

  • Funeral expenses;
  • The costs of any medical treatment your loved one may have received before their death;
  • Pain and suffering;
  • Loss of care or companionship;
  • Lost earnings (this is particularly important if your loved one provided the family’s primary source of income);
  • Property damage; and
  • Punitive damages.

When Are Punitive Damages Possible?

If the death was the result of the at-fault driver’s gross negligence or deliberate actions, you may be able to seek punitive damages. Unlike the compensatory damages mentioned above, punitive damages are not meant to compensate you for the costs of your loved one’s death. Punitive damages are meant to punish the person whose negligence caused the accident.

To prove negligence and win an argument for punitive damages, you will need to prove that the at-fault driver behaved in a way that any reasonable person would know would lead to someone’s death or injury.

It is easier to prove negligence in some kinds of accidents than it is in others. For instance, DUI is a clear example of negligence – when someone climbs behind the wheel while they are impaired, they show a willful disregard for the safety of others. South Carolina has capped the amount of punitive damages that can be awarded to plaintiffs in most cases, but there is no cap on punitive damages when the at-fault driver was intoxicated.

Auto Accident Attorneys in Myrtle Beach, Conway, Columbia, and Charleston, SC

Our Myrtle Beach personal injury lawyers at Coastal Law help our clients to recover full compensation when a careless driver causes the death of a loved one. We will help you to determine who was at fault and whether punitive damages should be a part of any settlement or trial.

Call your SC auto accident lawyer at Coastal Law today at (843) 488-5000 or fill out our online form to set up a free consultation about your case.

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Myrtle Beach, SC 29577


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Conway, SC 29526


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Charleston, SC 29401


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Columbia, SC 29201


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