According to the Rock Hill Herald, a recent police killing in South Carolina has sparked questions about wrongful death litigation. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) conducted an investigation into the circumstances of the shooting, however, authorities have not yet released this report nor camera footage from the event citing the ongoing review process. 

Meanwhile, the family has filed a lawsuit demanding answers and compensation. The lawsuit claims that the man returned to the store after accidentally walking out with an unpurchased item. His attempt to return it began an encounter with police, and the man fled. The police report claims that he was in possession of a firearm and that he attempted to draw it on officers. 

Wrongful death laws 

Wrongful death laws vary by state. In South Carolina, a jury can demand compensation when a death is the result of “recklessness, willfulness, or malice.” The law does not define these terms outright, so a jury has wide discretion in deciding who, if anyone, is responsible for a death. Juries in wrongful death cases also decide the amount of damages based on their accounting of the family’s burden—financial and emotional. They are explicitly allowed to give “exemplary” damages. 

Compensation goes first to the spouse and children of the decedent. If the decedent was unmarried or did not have children, these damages then go to surviving parents. In cases without either, any legal heirs become eligible recipients. 

Opening a wrongful death lawsuit 

To open a wrongful death lawsuit, an “executor or administrator” of the decedent must file a lawsuit with circuit or probate court. This may be an executor named in the decedent’s will, or the court can appoint someone such as a lawyer to act as an executor. Settlements made outside of court are not legal until a judge approves or denies the agreement in a hearing. 

While no amount of money can compensate for the death of a loved one, receiving damages may help ease some of the suffering.