Things to Know About Death Certificates in Investigating Wrongful Death Claims

A certified death certificate may be an important part of your wrongful death claim as a means of obtaining death benefits, claiming insurance proceeds, notifying social security and other legal purposes. Additionally, most probate courts require a certified copy of the death certificate in order to appoint a personal representative or special administer to investigate and pursue legal claims on behalf of the estate or deceased person.

In order to obtain a certified death certificate in South Carolina, we typically start by contacting the South Carolina Division of Vital Records. South Carolina Vital Records issues certified copies of South Carolina birth certificates, death certificates, marriage records, and divorce records for events that occurred in the State of South Carolina. You may be entitled to obtain a certified copy of a South Carolina death certificate if you are a member of the decedent’s family. Below, please find the steps recommended by South Carolina Vital Records to obtain a certified copy of the death certificate on your own.

When consulting with legal counsel regarding a potential wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of a family member or loved one, it is important to obtain a certified copy of the decedent’s death certificate. With a death certificate and other necessary paperwork, an estate can be opened and a special administrator or personal representative appointed. The special administrator or personal representative can possess the power and authorization to help your lawyers investigate a potential lawsuit by signing medical authorizations – allowing your wrongful death lawyer to request medical records, request an autopsy report, demand death benefits, and take other necessary legal action.

When an autopsy is performed, it generally takes additional weeks or months for the death certificate to become available. While mistakes on death certificates are uncommon, they do happen, so it is important to review every detail of the certificate once you receive it. In cases of suspected medical malpractice, if your loved one died in the hospital, nursing home, or even a detention center, jail, or prison, his or her attending physician will issue cause of death and sign the certificate. If the physician attempts to cover up a case of malpractice, the cause of death may be falsified. You should obtain the death certificate immediately to determine if the cause of death is plausible and accurate. If you suspect your loved one’s death was attributed to malpractice, you may need to request an autopsy or investigation before the body is cremated or embalmed and buried.

Four Ways to Apply for a Death Certificate

If your loved one or family member has died under suspicious circumstances, you may have the right to investigate a potential wrongful death action. At Evans Moore, LLC, our attorneys will work with you to develop a comprehensive legal strategy to investigate and pursue a wrongful death action. Our goal is to hold the responsible party accountable, to ensure that it does not happen again, and to work as hard as we possibly can to fully compensate you for your loss. Contact us at (843) 995-5000 to learn more about your legal options.