If you’ve been hurt in a South Carolina personal injury case, it can be very difficult to know where to turn. The worry of physically recovering from your injuries may be eclipsed by other concerns, especially financial. Accidents that result in property damage, time away from work, or massive medical bills are heavy burdens for anyone to carry. The possibility that these financial stressors could jeopardize the safety and security of your family can be especially frightening. Keep reading to find out more about personal injury cases in Greenville, South Carolina.
What is a personal injury claim?
As the name implies, personal injury cases, at the broadest level, involve those disputes where one person suffered some kind of injury to their person due to the action, or inaction, of another person.
Every personal injury claim, regardless of the specific facts at issue, requires asking and answering two questions:
1) Is the defendant liable for damages sustained by the plaintiff?
2) If so, what is the extent of those damages?
If a plaintiff can demonstrate damages and prove liability, then they will win their case and are entitled to some form of compensation for the harm they suffered.
What are common examples of personal injury cases?
One of the most common examples of personal injury cases are car accidents. Automobile accidents provide a valuable window into how these kinds of injury claims operate. Claims arise after crashes because drivers have a duty to exercise reasonable care anytime they are behind the wheel of a car. If an accident happens, the injured driver can claim that the at-fault driver failed to exercise the required reasonable care, creating liability. When injury results from this breach of duty, a personal injury claim can be used to ensure the victim receives appropriate compensation.
What are some other examples of personal injury claims?
- Tractor-Trailer Accidents
- Motorcycle Accidents
- Bicycle Accidents
- Nursing Home Abuse
- Premises Liability (Slip and Fall/Trip and Fall) Accidents
- Dog Bites
- Medical malpractice
- Wrongful death
If you’ve been injured in a South Carolina accident, chances are that you have more important things on your mind than reading through statutes regarding time limits. However, for those who have just experienced a serious accident, timing matters a great deal.
This is because in South Carolina, S.C. Code Ann. Section 15-3-530 serves to limit the amount of time an injured individual has to file a claim for damages. These kinds of limits are referred to as a statute of limitations and specify the time-frame for bringing certain categories of cases. In South Carolina, the law says that victims have three years to file a personal injury claim. When does the clock begin ticking? According to the law, the time starts running from the date of injury. What happens if you wait three years and one day? Barring truly extraordinary circumstances, a judge will be forced to dismiss any claim that is filed after the statute of limitations has expired. This means by waiting too long you may waive your right to receive compensation for the harm you’ve suffered.
How much is your claim worth?
Once a personal injury victim has had a chance to begin the process of recovering, a common question concerns the value of any potential personal injury claim. The question is a reasonable one, given that many victims are facing thousands of dollars of medical bills, time off of work and even money out of their own pocket spent to repair personal property damaged by another person. All these costs can add up quickly and the person responsible for causing the harm should be expected to pay.
So how do you determine the value of a personal injury case? Unfortunately, it is not so easy. The fact is that there are a multitude of factors that can impact the ultimate value of a personal injury claim. As a result, there is no simple formula to help arrive at a damage estimate. Instead, personal injury attorneys use their experience and knowledge of the legal system to estimate possible values based on certain key issues in the case.
Some forms of damage are easy to calculate. These include lost wages or medical bills. Calculating the value of these categories of harm is often as simple as adding up a few numbers. Not only are these figures easy to total, but they are seldom in dispute. These represent clear examples of damage that almost anyone can put a price tag on.
Calculating damages becomes more difficult when a person suffers other injuries that are not so easily quantifiable. Examples include pain and suffering or emotional trauma. No formula can be created to reflect the harm that comes from truly debilitating accidents. The loss of a limb, the loss of companionship of a loved one, the trauma of a brutal car crash; these are all things that cannot be boiled down to a simple and easily defined number. Instead, facts will need to be presented to a jury who will have to decide what value they feel best compensates the victim for the harm suffered.
Factors under consideration
So what are some of the things that judges and juries (and insurance companies) consider when valuing a personal injury claim? The extent of injury is often a crucial question, something that can be answered by asking whether the person ever sought treatment from a doctor for his or her injuries. Additionally, whether medications or follow-up surgery was required can also have a big impact on the value of a personal injury claim. The length of recovery time and the permanence of the injury are also important considerations. Any disruptions suffered in your daily life, including at your job, must also be considered. Finally, the facts of the case, the actions of the parties, and which party seems the most believable and credible often comes into play when valuing a personal injury claim.
Damages in Greenville SC Personal Injury Cases
As we discussed earlier, in most cases, medical bills are the simplest category of damage to calculate. This is because medical bills often come with an actual invoice, meaning only simple addition and subtraction is needed to reach a total. Even this category can get complicated, especially in severe injury cases where future medical care is required. In these cases, personal injury lawyers may need to look into the future, estimating how many additional surgeries or doctors’ appointments are required to continue to address the harm caused by the initial accident. Estimates of future medical care can be controversial and disputed by the other side, requiring expert testimony showing that such care will be required to treat injuries linked to the underlying accident.
Another relatively straightforward category of harm is lost wages. In South Carolina personal injury claims it is very common for a plaintiff to have taken time off work, sometimes for many weeks or months. These lost wages must be compensated for by the responsible party, who must also compensate the injured party for possible future lost wages or loss of earning capacity. For example, in cases where brain damage has occurred, a person with a once promising career sometimes must either leave the workforce entirely or be forced to settle for reduced options. Similarly, a plastic surgeon who loses his hands in a car accident will no longer be able to practice his trade. In these cases, lost future earnings might be tremendously valuable, although also hard to estimate.
Pain and suffering
Another, potentially critical, component of damages for any South Carolina personal injury claim involves past and future pain and suffering. Pain and suffering refers not only to the emotional trauma caused by a serious accident, but also to the damage that a lifetime disability or disfigurement can create. This category, more than any other, is very difficult to come up with an agreeable estimate of damage, with both sides almost always fighting over wildly varying estimates. The testimony of expert witnesses and the victim and his or her loved ones is often crucial in establishing the value of such damages.
Anyone injured in South Carolina should understand how the legal concept of negligence can impact the ultimate resolution of your case. The issue boils down to whether someone can be said to have failed to use reasonable care in their actions or inaction. If someone acts in a manner that is reckless, careless or without reasonable regard for the safety of others, this is deemed negligence and results in legal liability. If a defendant’s negligence also results in harm to an injured party, then he or she will be held at least partially responsible for the harm that resulted.
Issues of fault
What degree of fault is required for a defendant to be held financially responsible for the harm he or she caused? It depends on the specific state where the accident occurred, but here in South Carolina, legislators have settled on an approach known as comparative negligence. The comparative negligence standard says that victims of an accident are permitted to recover money from the responsible party even if the victim is partially responsible for the accident. Although the personal injury claim can still move forward if the victim is partially at fault, the ultimate damage award will be reduced to reflect this partial responsibility. This means that if a plaintiff is found to be 10 percent responsible for an accident, the defendant will only be required to pay 90 percent of the value of the personal injury damages award.
Is there a maximum level of fault allowed? For example, might a victim sue when he or she is actually 99 percent responsible for the harm suffered? Not in South Carolina. The law is clear that under a modified comparative negligence approach, a plaintiff must not be found to be more than 50 percent at fault. That means in South Carolina, a plaintiff can still recover compensation for his damages if he is 50 percent responsible, but not if he is 51 percent responsible. If the plaintiff is found to be 51 percent responsible for his injuries or greater, then defendant will be able to avoid compensation entirely.
Hiring Personal Injury Lawyers in Greenville, SC
Sadly, it is inevitable that accidents will happen in South Carolina and that these accidents will impact innocent victims. Thankfully, the law works to protect those innocent victims and allows them to recover damages from those responsible for causing them harm. If you have been injured by the careless, reckless or negligent actions of another person, contact Greenville, SC Personal Injury Lawyer David R. Price, Jr., P.A., to learn more about how to file for a claim for compensation.
Remember, with all Personal Injury cases, there are no attorney fees until recovery. Home or hospital consultations are available.