Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

The emotional trauma following the untimely death of a loved one can be overwhelming. When that death is caused by the negligence or wrongful act of another party, it often adds another layer of anguish. In these unfortunate circumstances, understanding the legal landscape can help families seek justice and, in some cases, compensation. One crucial aspect to understand is who exactly has the legal right to file a wrongful death lawsuit. This blog post aims to shed light on this often confusing subject, with a focus on South Carolina law.

What is a Wrongful Death Claim?

First, let’s clarify what a wrongful death claim entails. It’s a civil action brought against a party alleged to have caused the death of another individual due to negligence or misconduct. Wrongful death claims may arise from various scenarios, including medical malpractice, car accidents, or workplace incidents.

Who Can File?

In South Carolina, not just anyone can file a wrongful death lawsuit. The claim must be initiated by the executor or administrator of the deceased person’s estate. If such a representative has not been appointed, the probate court can assign one.

Family Members

Family members usually cannot file a wrongful death claim directly. Instead, they are the beneficiaries of any compensation awarded through the lawsuit. The law typically allows for the following beneficiaries:

  • Spouse
  • Children
  • Parents (if there are no children or spouse)

Other Parties

In cases where the deceased has no surviving spouse, children, or parents, other family members, like siblings, could potentially benefit from a wrongful death settlement. However, they still cannot initiate the lawsuit themselves; this is the role of the estate’s executor or administrator.

Time Limits

Understanding the “statute of limitations” is vital when considering a wrongful death claim. In South Carolina, the general rule is that a wrongful death lawsuit must be filed within three years from the date of death. Failing to meet this deadline typically means the case cannot proceed.

Compensation and Distribution

Any compensation awarded from a wrongful death lawsuit usually includes damages for medical costs, funeral expenses, loss of income, and pain and suffering. The distribution of these funds is determined by the court and is based on factors such as the relationship to the deceased and financial dependency.


The legal proceedings following a wrongful death can be complicated and emotionally taxing. Knowing who can file a wrongful death claim is the first step in navigating these waters. For those seeking justice in South Carolina, it’s crucial to understand that the lawsuit generally must be initiated by the executor or administrator of the deceased’s estate.

If you find yourself needing to explore a wrongful death claim, it’s essential to consult professionals experienced in South Carolina wrongful death law for personalized advice.