Losing a loved one is always difficult, but it can be even more devastating if their death was caused by the negligence or misconduct of another person or entity. When a wrongful death occurs in South Carolina, the deceased’s family members may be able to file a lawsuit and seek compensation through the legal system. However, the process can become more complicated if the deceased had any pre-existing medical conditions at the time of their death.
Wrongful Death Claims in South Carolina
South Carolina allows certain family members to sue for wrongful death through statute 15-51-10. This includes the spouse, children, parents, and other dependents or heirs of the deceased. To succeed with a wrongful death claim, the plaintiff must prove:
- The death was caused by the negligence or misconduct of the defendant
- There are surviving family members who are negatively impacted by the death
- Quantifiable monetary losses stemming from factors like lost income, benefits, companionship, grief, and more
However, if the deceased person had any pre-existing medical conditions, the defense will often argue that their condition – not the defendant’s actions – was the actual cause of death.
The Impact of Pre-Existing Conditions
Pre-existing conditions can make it more challenging to prove wrongful death in South Carolina. The defense attorney will likely argue that the person’s death was inevitable due to their pre-existing condition, such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity, respiratory issues, or the like.
However, it is sometimes still possible to successfully sue for wrongful death even if the deceased had known health problems. Here are some strategies that may help:
Demonstrating negligence aggravated the condition
While pre-existing conditions are a complicating factor, you can still argue the defendant’s negligent or reckless actions aggravated the person’s condition and hastened their death. Thorough investigations and medical evidence can demonstrate this connection.
Proving misconduct led to a chain of events
Even if the pre-existing condition seems indirectly related to the cause of death, you may be able to show how the defendant’s actions still set in motion a chain of events that ultimately led to the person’s premature passing.
Quantifying losses accurately
Work closely with financial and vocational experts to accurately quantify losses like lost income and benefits. Reasonable calculations will counter any defense arguments that the person was going to pass away soon regardless.
Common Causes of Wrongful Death
Some of the most common causes of wrongful death that lead to lawsuits include:
- Medical malpractice – Errors or negligence by doctors, nurses, hospitals, etc.
- Automobile, truck, or motorcycle accidents – Reckless driving or negligence by other motorists
- Defective products – Dangerous consumer goods like vehicles, medical devices, etc.
- Premises liability – Unsafe property conditions that led to slips, falls, drowning, etc.
- Workplace injuries – Hazards, lack of safety precautions, negligence by employers
- Nursing home abuse or negligence
- Exposure to hazardous chemicals or substances
- Violent crimes like murder, assault, or battery
Determining if negligence or misconduct caused the death is key to identifying viable wrongful death claims.
Consulting a Wrongful Death Attorney
Suing for wrongful death in South Carolina can quickly become complex if the deceased had pre-existing medical conditions. An experienced local attorney can thoroughly investigate the case, build strong arguments, and give your family the best shot at compensation. They can also advise if a wrongful death claim is viable or not based on the specific circumstances. Consulting with a legal professional is highly recommended.
Collecting Evidence and Documentation
To build a strong wrongful death case, you will need as much evidence and documentation as possible. This includes medical records, police reports, accident reconstructions, expert testimony, and more. Your attorney can retain private investigators and subject matter experts to thoroughly demonstrate how the pre-existing condition did not directly cause your loved one’s death.
Understanding Time Limits
South Carolina has strict time limits on filing wrongful death claims, generally 2-3 years from the date of death. Having legal guidance is crucial to ensure you begin the process before these statutes of limitations expire. An attorney can also advise if there is any way to extend the filing timeframe.
Accounting for Damages
Be prepared to account for all the monetary and non-economic damages stemming from your loved one’s death. This includes medical and funeral bills, lost income and benefits, pain and suffering, loss of companionship, and impact on quality of life. An experienced lawyer can help fully quantify all the tangible and intangible damages.
While pre-existing conditions present challenges, it is still possible to sue for wrongful death compensation in many cases in South Carolina. A knowledgeable attorney from Monge & Associates can guide families through the process and help demonstrate how the defendant’s negligence or misconduct caused their loved one’s premature passing, despite their health conditions. With the right legal strategy, many families can still seek justice.
We have offices in 32 locations and 19 states, including Georgia, Arizona and Utah. Call now for a free consultation on (888) 477-0597.