Motorcycle crashes often result in the death of the motorcyclist or passengers, and, when the crash was caused by another driver’s negligence, the deceased person’s family may be able to sue for wrongful death.
A single moment of carelessness can result in the painful and unimaginable loss of a spouse, child, parent, brother, or sister, and the family of a motorcycle crash victim is entitled to damages not only for the pain and suffering caused by the at-fault driver but their economic losses as well.
In this article, we will look at how wrongful death lawsuits work to compensate families after a fatal motorcycle crash, including:
- The difference between a wrongful death and a survival claim,
- Who files the wrongful death lawsuit after a motorcycle crash,
- When the court must approve a wrongful death settlement, and
- The types of damages that are owed to the motorcycle crash victim’s family.
What is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Losing a loved one is never easy, and, to add to the overwhelming grief and shock of the sudden loss, the family must now make funeral arrangements, handle their deceased family member’s bills, and probate their estate.
When the death is caused by a careless driver, whether it is through negligence, gross negligence, or an intentional act, there is one more thing that must be done to manage a deceased loved one’s estate: hold the responsible parties accountable and force them to pay compensation for what they did.
SC Code § 15-51-10 authorizes wrongful death lawsuits in SC whenever a person’s death is caused by the wrongful act or neglect of another to recover damages on behalf of the deceased motorcyclist and their spouse, children, or heirs, and, when there is a valid claim for wrongful death, the executor or personal representative of the estate has a fiduciary duty to collect these damages on behalf of the family.
What is the Difference Between Wrongful Death and a Survival Claim?
A wrongful death claim is filed on behalf of the deceased motorcyclist’s family, while a survival claim is filed on behalf of the deceased motorcyclist to compensate for medical costs and the pain and suffering that the motorcyclist experienced from the moment of the crash until their death.
They are often filed together, as separate claims within the same lawsuit.
How is the Compensation from a Wrongful Death Claim Distributed?
Compensation for the wrongful death claim is paid directly to the surviving family members. According to SC Code § 15-51-40, compensation from the wrongful death action must be divided among the deceased person’s heirs “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.”
Compensation for the survival claim is paid into the deceased motorcyclist’s estate before it is distributed to the heirs, and is then distributed in the same manner as other assets contained in the deceased person’s estate.
Who Files the Wrongful Death Claim?
A wrongful death lawsuit is filed by the executor, administrator, or personal representative of the deceased person’s estate – one of the executor’s duties is to settle all debts and collect all money owed, and this includes filing any wrongful death claims based on the motorcycle crash.
SC Code § 15-51-20 says that a wrongful death lawsuit is filed on behalf of “the wife or husband and child or children” of the deceased person, the deceased person’s parents, or the deceased person’s heirs.
Wrongful Death Settlements Must be Approved by the Court
According to SC Code § 15-51-42, only a duly appointed personal representative has the authority to settle a wrongful death or survival action, and, under SC Code § 15-51-41, any settlement of a wrongful death or survival action must be approved “by either a probate court, circuit court, or US District Court.”
Types of Damages in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
The types of damages available in a wrongful death lawsuit and survival action after a motorcycle crash include:
- Medical expenses,
- Funeral and burial costs,
- Lost financial support,
- Loss of companionship and loss of consortium,
- Pain and suffering,
- Mental anguish, and
- Punitive damages when there is willful, malicious, intentional, or grossly negligent conduct.
How much compensation does a wrongful death lawsuit pay?
It depends on the facts of the case, including how long the person survived after the motorcycle crash, the treatment or surgeries that were required, the degree to which family members depended on the deceased person’s income, how long the person would have lived but for the motorcycle crash, whether the at-fault driver’s conduct will subject them to punitive damages, and the available insurance coverage.
Types of Wrongful Death Lawsuits in SC
A wrongful death lawsuit can be filed any time a person is killed because of someone else’s negligence or intentional conduct. This includes deaths caused by:
- Motorcycle crashes,
- Auto crashes,
- Drunk driving crashes,
- Police misconduct,
- Defective products, or
- Any negligent or intentional conduct.
Motorcycle Collision Wrongful Death Lawyers in Charleston, SC
The motorcycle crash attorneys at the Boles Law Firm can help you to investigate your crash, gather the evidence you will need in court, negotiate with the insurance companies, and recover the maximum compensation that you are entitled to for your injuries.
Call us at 843-576-5775 to schedule an appointment for a free consultation at our North Charleston or Walterboro offices or send us a message through our website.