Understanding South Carolina’s Wrongful Death Act: Legal Principles and Provisions

Losing someone you love is an unimaginable hardship, particularly when their death is the result of someone else’s wrongful actions. In South Carolina, the Wrongful Death Act provides a legal avenue for surviving family members to seek compensation and accountability for their loss. Understanding the principles and provisions of this statute is essential for those navigating the complexities of wrongful death claims. Here’s a factual overview of South Carolina’s Wrongful Death Act:

Legal Basis

South Carolina’s Wrongful Death Act, codified in Title 15, Chapter 51 of the South Carolina Code of Laws, allows certain family members to bring a civil action against the party responsible for the death of their loved one. The purpose of the statute is to provide a means for recovering damages for the losses suffered as a result of the wrongful death.

Who Can Bring a Wrongful Death Claim

In accordance with South Carolina statutes, specific individuals hold the eligibility to pursue a wrongful death claim. Generally, the surviving spouse, children, or parents of the deceased possess the authority to initiate such legal action. In the absence of these individuals, the personal representative of the decedent’s estate is empowered to bring forth the claim, acting on behalf of the beneficiaries.

Types of Damages Available

The Wrongful Death Act allows for the recovery of various types of damages, including:

  • Economic Damages:This encompasses recompense for the economic hardships endured by the surviving relatives, encompassing funeral expenses, medical bills, income losses, and the deprivation of prospective earnings.
  • Non-Economic Damages: Survivors may also be entitled to non-economic damages for intangible losses, such as pain and suffering, mental anguish, lost companionship, and loss of consortium.
  • Punitive Damages: In cases involving egregious misconduct or willful negligence, punitive damages may be awarded to punish the responsible party and deter similar behavior in the future.

Time Limitation

It’s imperative to understand that there exists a statute of limitations governing the initiation of a wrongful death claim in South Carolina. Typically, such claims must be lodged within three years from the date of the decedent’s passing. Failure to adhere to this timeline may lead to the forfeiture of the right to pursue compensation.

Proof Requirement

In a wrongful death lawsuit, the responsibility of proof lies with the plaintiff, who must establish the following elements by a preponderance of evidence:

  • The defendant owed a duty of care to the deceased.
  • The defendant breached this duty through negligent or wrongful actions.
  • The breach of duty directly resulted in the death of the deceased.
  • The surviving family members incurred damages as a consequence of the death.

Legal Representation

Given the complexities of wrongful death claims, seeking legal representation from an experienced attorney is highly recommended. A skilled attorney can navigate the legal process, gather evidence, negotiate with insurance companies, and advocate for the rights of the surviving family members throughout the proceedings.


South Carolina’s Wrongful Death Act serves as a vital tool for surviving family members seeking justice and compensation for the loss of their loved one. By understanding the legal principles and provisions outlined in the statute, families can pursue accountability and closure in the wake of a wrongful death. Consulting with a knowledgeable attorney can provide invaluable guidance and support throughout the legal process.