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Key factors in substantiation of a wrongful death claim

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You may be one of thousands in South Carolina whose life forever changed upon learning that a loved one was involved in a fatal car accident. Perhaps you were merely going about your daily routine when a phone call came in from an unfamiliar number. When the person on the other end of the line identified himself or herself as a police officer, you knew something was terribly wrong. That day and that phone call are now deeply etched memories in your mind that replay themselves again and again. 

When you learned that your loved one died because of another person's negligence or reckless driving behavior, you may have felt a flood of emotions, including anger. It's understandable when you've lost a family member in a situation that was preventable. Many people in similar situations in the past have sought counseling and support to process their emotions in the aftermath of their loved ones' sudden deaths. 

Seeking justice 

If a distracted driver or someone who chose to get behind the wheel under the influence of alcohol causes your family to suffer the sudden, unexpected loss of a loved one, the law entitles you to seek legal accountability against that driver by filing a wrongful death claim. As a plaintiff, you must convince the judge or jury that the defendant's negligence or recklessness was responsible for your loved one's death. The following list includes factors that help substantiate such claims:  

  • You must establish that the person you claim has caused your family member's death committed a breach of fiduciary duty at the time of the incident. For instance, if your loved one was a pedestrian, you must show evidence that the driver failed to yield a right-of-way or was otherwise negligent. 
  • It is not only critical to show the court that the driver you have named as a defendant was somehow negligent or reckless but that his or her negligence or recklessness directly caused your loved one's death. In legal terminology, this is known as establishing a line of causation.
  • Once you have shown that a breach of duty, negligence and causation exist, you must also prove that you have suffered damages as a direct result.  

Such damages might include the burden of burial expenses, as well as any medical bills for treatment that your loved one may have received in the initial aftermath of the accident. You may also be able to claim damages from lost wages, considering the income your family member might have earned had driver negligence not abruptly ended his or her life.  

Seeking support 

Recovering from the sudden death of a loved one is often a long, arduous process. You may have good days and some very bad days in the weeks and months that follow such a tragic event. Other South Carolina families have found it helpful to participate in family support groups established to help with sudden death grief. Some have also found it particularly helpful to speak with experienced personal injury attorneys to learn more about how to seek justice on behalf of a deceased loved one.

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