New S.C. law helps loved ones of first responders killed in line of duty

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Published: Jul. 5, 2023 at 5:26 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - There is no remedy to take away the pain of losing a loved one, but a new South Carolina law will help the families of first responders who make the ultimate sacrifice for their communities.

It applies to first responders killed in the line of duty, including law enforcement, firefighters, emergency medical service personnel, and coroners.

“People who put their lives in harm’s way every day to protect and help the rest of us,” Sen. Thomas McElveen, D – Sumter, said during a Senate debate on the bill.

Under the law, the beneficiaries of first responders killed in the line of duty will receive $75,000, so long as their death was not the result of their own willful negligence, suicide, or intentionally self-inflicted bodily injury.

That amount has increased to $150,000 if their death resulted from an unlawful and intentional act of someone else or if it was an accident while responding to an emergency, including traffic crashes, or while enforcing a traffic law.

Before, their loved ones might have been eligible to receive the equivalent of their annual earnable compensation, if they received anything.

This new law also applies to volunteers.

“Especially in a lot of our smaller, rural counties, we depend on volunteers. If they lose their lives in the way of duty, their lives are no less precious than anybody else’s,” McElveen said.

This legislation had only applied to law enforcement officers initially.

But state senators expanded it to first responders more broadly, saying many of their loved ones were not eligible to receive anything if they were killed in the line of duty.

Like most pieces of legislation in South Carolina, this bill would have gone into effect the date the governor signed it, which would have been in late June.

But lawmakers went back and changed the effective date so that the family of James Muller was included.

Muller was the Irmo firefighter killed while responding to an apartment complex fire in May.

“So that, that one individual and his family would get the particular benefit that others will enjoy subsequent to this bill being enacted,” Sen. Tom Davis, R – Beaufort and the bill’s lead sponsor, said.

This bill passed both the Senate and the House of Representatives earlier this year without a single vote against it on the floor.

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