Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in Myrtle Beach?

In South Carolina, the only person who can bring a wrongful death lawsuit is the personal representative of the estate. Additionally, it is important to consider the timing of a wrongful death claim. The personal representative must file a claim within a certain timeframe, typically three years, or the court will refuse to hear the case.

Understanding Liability in a South Carolina Wrongful Death Suit

South Carolina defines a wrongful death as loss of life "caused by the wrongful act, neglect or default of another." Some common wrongful death claims result from traffic accidents and defective products. In these claims, it is necessary to prove a few specific elements, including: 

Duty of Care 

A duty of care generally means that a person has a responsibility to act in a manner that promotes the safety of others and refrain from doing things that could pose a threat.

Breach of Duty of Care

It must be shown that the person at fault violated or ignored that duty by acting carelessly, neglectfully, or even in a willfully malicious manner.


Causation states that the breach of duty of care caused harm to another person. In a wrongful death claim, this breach ultimately leads to the death.


After proving the other elements, it is also necessary to show that the victim suffered damages. Clearly, a death is a serious loss, and family members experience various hardships, both personal and financial, when a loved one dies because of negligence.

Do I Need a Myrtle Beach Wrongful Death Lawyer?

While South Carolina law does not require that you hire an attorney for a wrongful death lawsuit, an experienced wrongful death lawyer can provide the information and guidance to help families through this process. Before any claim is filed, an attorney will speak with family members to learn more about the case, as well as: 

  • Gather evidence
  • Locate witnesses
  • Prepare paperwork

Common Types of Myrtle Beach Wrongful Death Claims

Any time a person dies, surviving family members face a stressful and challenging time. Adjusting to life without a loved one can be difficult, and it can be made even more so when the loved one's death was avoidable.

When careless or negligent actions cause a death, families often want answers, they want to hold the responsible person accountable, and they may need compensation to address the effects of the death on their daily lives. In South Carolina, a wrongful death claim can help surviving family members address these issues. 

There are a wide variety of circumstances that can lead to a wrongful death suit. In general, it is understood that everyone has a responsibility to act in a safe manner that will not cause harm or injury to others. When a person fails to uphold this duty, he can be held accountable. Some of the most common causes of a wrongful death claim include:

Traffic Accidents

Traffic accidents are among the leading causes of death in the United States every year. Drivers under the influence of alcohol and drugs, those distracted while behind the wheel, and those who may be unfamiliar with the roads or driving while fatigued can cause serious, deadly accidents in Myrtle Beach. Traffic accidents include passenger car and commercial semi-truck crashes.

Water Accidents 

Boating, swimming, jet skiing, parasailing, and other water activities are common in Myrtle Beach. Warm weather and beautiful beaches draw many to enjoy exciting outdoor fun. However, these activities do come with risks. When operators of water sporting equipment are careless, impaired, or reckless, the results can be deadly.

Motorcycle Accidents

Myrtle Beach has long been a popular spot for motorcyclists out to enjoy a ride. However, with high traffic volumes and many drivers unfamiliar with the roads, it can be easy for these smaller, lighter vehicles to be overlooked. Motorcycle accidents are often more serious than other types of road crashes, with riders frequently suffering serious injury and even death.

Work-Related Accidents 

While work-related deaths are often addressed through the workers' compensation system, there are times when a third party is responsible for the death of a person on the job. 

Nursing Home Abuse or Neglect

When families entrust their loved ones to the care of a nursing home, they expect a safe environment and effective treatment. Older people can be especially vulnerable to injury and medical complications, and it's important to watch for signs of physical abuse in these facilities. 

Defective Products

Whether it's a part on your vehicle or a souvenir from a beach vacation, the products that come to consumers should be safe. Manufacturers have the same responsibility as everyone else to act in a responsible manner, and when they fail to provide products that function properly and are safe to use, they can be held accountable.

Whenever a loved one dies, surviving family members experience grief and stress. When that death is caused by another person's careless or negligent behavior, the situation can become even more difficult to manage. At The Derrick Law Firm, our wrongful death attorneys understand how upsetting and frustrating this can be, and that's why we work hard to help surviving family members.

Types of Compensation for Surviving Family Members After a South Carolina Wrongful Death

When a loved one has died, surviving family members are faced with many challenges. In addition to the pain and grief of loss, there are practical questions that must be answered. For many families, financial concerns are a top worry, particularly when the loved one was a main income earner or caregiver. While money may be the last thing that families want to think about at this difficult time, it is both important and possible to consider your family's financial future and how it could benefit from a wrongful death claim. 

While nothing can bring back your loved one, a wrongful death claim can help ease some burdens as families begin to rebuild their lives. South Carolina law allows surviving family members to obtain compensation for:

Funeral Expenses

The costs associated with the funeral and burial of the deceased can be included in wrongful death compensation.

Medical Bills 

It is often the case that the deceased did receive medical care in an attempt to save their life. Bills for this care related to the injury that caused the death still need to be paid and could be covered by a wrongful death lawsuit.

Lost Income and Benefits 

Surviving family members may be entitled to compensation that is equal to the wages and benefits that the deceased would likely have earned throughout his life until an anticipated retirement.

Value of Services 

In some cases, the deceased may not have earned income but rather provided essential services for the family, such as caregiving. The value of that contribution need not be ignored.

Pain and Suffering 

The pain and suffering experienced by the deceased prior to his death can be considered in a wrongful death lawsuit.

Loss of Care, Companionship, and Protection 

Especially in cases where the deceased was the parent of minor children, it is possible to acknowledge the loss of the care and guidance that the deceased could have provided to loved ones.

Every situation is unique, and the amount of compensation that surviving family members may obtain can vary from case to case. South Carolina law does state that family members could be awarded as much compensation as a jury "may think proportioned to the injury resulting from the death." So, the specific details of each family's circumstances will be considered to determine the value of the claim.

Choosing a Lawyer for Your Wrongful Death Claim

Choosing a lawyer can be challenging in any situation. Many people have little experience with the law, and they aren't sure exactly what they need. They may not fully understand their rights and don't know what questions to ask to ensure they have found a trustworthy, effective attorney. Navigating this process can be especially difficult after the sudden death of a loved one when surviving family members are considering a wrongful death claim. It is a time of grief and change, and families deserve the peace of mind that comes with knowing that an experienced, dedicated lawyer is on their side.   

To begin the search for a reputable, experienced, and compassionate attorney, you can first start by:

Asking Friends and Other Family Members

Turn to your friends and family for advice. It may be surprising to learn that they have experience with trustworthy Myrtle Beach wrongful death lawyers and can share their recommendations. 

Checking the Local Bar Association Website

Both state and county bar association websites typically provide lists of Myrtle Beach wrongful death lawyers in good standing.

Checking the Local Library

Often, libraries will be able to provide information about local lawyers and their practice areas.

Using an Internet Search

A simple search can produce the names of attorneys and firms that work in the wrongful death claim field.

Get the Information You Need in a Consultation in Myrtle Beach

Once you've found some possible attorneys for your wrongful death claim, it's important to meet with them. This gives you and your family members a chance to ask questions and get a general feel for the lawyer. Some helpful questions to ask include:

How Long Have You Practiced Wrongful Death Law?

An attorney's experience is relevant to a legal claim. A lawyer who has handled a wide variety of claims may be equipped to handle the complexities of your wrongful death case.

Do You Have Any Other Pertinent Experience That Can Help in a Wrongful Death Case?

An attorney may have other experiences that can provide insight or other knowledge into these types of claims.

How Much of Your Practice Is Devoted to Wrongful Death?

It's important to know that your attorney does, in fact, routinely handle the type of claim you are pursuing. You may want to ask what percentage of his cases are for wrongful death.

Who Will Be Handling My Wrongful Death Claim?

It's important to know exactly who is responsible for your wrongful death case. If the firm has a large staff of lawyers and paralegals, you need to know if you'll speak to someone on the team or directly with the attorney. Different situations work for different people, so it's important to manage this expectation from the start.

How Often Do You Settle Wrongful Death Claims?

Many wrongful death claims are settled through an insurance company before they go to court. It's helpful to know how often a lawyer settles claims or goes to court.

What Is Your Goal in Pursuing a Wrongful Death Claim?

Families may have different goals when pursuing wrongful death lawsuits. It's important to have a lawyer with the same objectives as yours. If you're seeking a trial for justice or closure, discuss with your attorney how a settlement will help provide what you need.

How Do You Handle Fees?

Discuss the type of fee agreement the firm uses. From the very start, the attorney and client should have clear expectations for how the attorney will be paid so there are no unpleasant surprises during an already difficult time.

What Do You Think Will Happen With My Case?

An experienced lawyer can provide some idea of the outlook for a particular claim. While no one can predict the future or guarantee a result, he can explain the process and offer a general opinion on what to expect.

Gathering as much information as possible about an attorney can help surviving family members decide whether that person is right to represent their wrongful death cases, but it's also important to go with your instincts.

When you meet with a lawyer and get a sense of who he is, it may become clear that he's the right or wrong person to provide legal representation. A wrongful death claim is personal and difficult, so it's important to ensure that your family finds the right attorney. 

Dirk J. Derrick
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South Carolina Lawyer Dirk Derrick helps victims recover from car accidents, personal injury & wrongful death.