THE MCMILLIAN LAW FIRM IS PRIVILEGED TO SERVE THE FAMILIES OF THE SOUTH CAROLINA LOW COUNTRY WHO HAVE BEEN TRAGICALLY EFFECTED BY THE LOSS OF A LOVED ONE.
This is the second article of a three article series that examines and explains South Carolina law concerning wrongful death and survival actions. In this article, I will discuss the relevant South Carolina statutes that designate who recovers any compensation recovered for the separate legal actions of wrongful death and survival.
WHO CAN RECEIVE COMPENSATION FOR A WRONGFUL DEATH ACTION IN SOUTH CAROLINA?
To begin to answer the question that has been posed above, let's look at the relevant statutes in the South Carolina Code. South Carolina Code Ann. Sections 15-51-20 and 15-51-40 gives the answer by first telling us who gets the compensation (15-51-20) and how it shall be distributed (15-51-40).
WHO RECEIVES WRONGFUL DEATH COMPENSATION?
S.C. Code Ann. Section 15-51-20 states as follows:
Every such action shall be for the benefit of the wife or husband and child or children of the person whose death shall have been so caused, and, if there be no such wife, husband, child or children, then for the benefit of the parent or parents, and if there be none such, then for the benefit of the heirs of the person whose death shall have been so caused. Every such action shall be brought by or in the name of the executor or administrator of such person.
A careful read of the statute shows that a certain classification and order is established on who can receive wrongful death benefits. It goes in this order:
- Spouse and children of deceased; if none of these survive the deceased then
- Parents of the deceased; if parents do not survive the deceased then
- Any other surviving heirs
A strict reading of this statute leads to only one conclusion, that anyone who is going to take from a wrongful death action is going to have to be related to the deceased through either blood or marriage. The statute definitely removes the possibility of any boyfriends, girlfriends, significant others, and non-spouse paramours. South Carolina courts have interpreted this statute very tightly and there is no reason to believe that will ever change.
HOW IS WRONGFUL DEATH COMPENSATION DISTRIBUTED?
Now that we know who can get the funds, lets determine how much each person is entitled to receive. That is explained in S.C. Code Ann. Section 15-51-40, which is published below:
In every such action the jury may give damages, including exemplary damages when the wrongful act, neglect, or default was the result of recklessness, willfulness, or malice, as they may think proportioned to the injury resulting from the death to the parties respectively for whom and for whose benefit such action shall be brought. The amount so recovered shall be divided among the before-mentioned parties in those shares as they would have been entitled to if the deceased had died intestate and the amount recovered had been personal assets of his or her estate. However, upon motion by either parent or any other party of potential interest based upon the decedent having died intestate, the probate court may deny or limit either or both parent's entitlement for a share of the proceeds if the court determines, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the parent or parents failed to reasonably provide support for the decedent as defined in Section 63-5-20 and did not otherwise provide for the needs of the decedent during his or her minority.
So what does this mean? Well, anyone who receives compensation from a wrongful death action is paid this specific compensation in an amount consistent as if the deceased died without a will. So, let's apply this statute to a hypothetical:
Example: X is married to Y. They have two children from their marriage. X is killed in an auto accident cause by a negligent 3rd party. The wrongful death action brought by Y is settled for $100,000.00. In accordance with South Carolina intestacy law, the $100,000.00 will be split with $50,000.00 going to the spouse Y, and the children splitting the remaining $50,000.00 ($25,000.00 each).
Example 2: Same hypothetical as above, but Y predeceased X, and one of the two children also predeceased X, leaving one surviving child. The one surviving child receives the entire $100,000.00.
Example 3: X is predeceased by Y and both children, therefore X's surviving parents or parents would received the funds from the wrongful death suit.
Intestacy law can be quite confusing, and it is at this point where the rubber meets the road that it is advisable to have an attorney involved to help you properly navigate these statutes and avoid any liability down the road to rightful heirs.
One thing to consider . . . its an obvious point but one that needs to be addressed. If the deceased party did die with a will, the terms of that will do not apply to the recipients or manner of distribution of any wrongful death proceeds. The wrongful death proceeds are distributed in accordance with these statutes without exception.
THE MCMILLIAN LAW FIRM
DEDICATED TO SERVING FAMILIES ACCIDENT VICTIMS IN CHARLESTON, SC AND SUMMERVILLE, SC
As an attorney with experience in wrongful death and survival actions, I will take all necessary steps to protect your rights and earn just compensation for you and your loved ones due to an unfortunate set of events. Through my efforts, I can bring about much needed financial relief to the family who may be suffering from the loss of a loved one. Being a small firm allows you to have direct access to your lawyer during this entire process, with open lines of communication as we work together towards a viable solution to your specific case.
Being an experienced personal injury attorney, I have experience dealing with insurance companies. I also know where the courthouse is and will not be afraid to call the insurance company to the mat in front of a judge and jury if necessary.
If you or a loved one has been injured due to the negligent or reckless acts of another in Charleston, Summerville, Mount Pleasant, James Island, West Ashley, Goose Creek, Moncks Corner, North Charleston, or any of the other fine communities of the Low Country, and need to meet with an experienced personal injury lawyer, please contact me to set up your free case evaluation today. Let me help prevent you from being taken advantage of by the insurance company. I am serious and I am here for you! Contact The McMillian Law Firm today @ 843-900-1306