If you are injured in South Carolina due to someone else’s negligence, your first question before initiating a lawsuit is likely asking what damages you may be entitled to. In South Carolina, there are several categories of damages, including financial losses, that you may receive if they are a direct result of your personal injury. If you suffer from an injury, it is important to understand what damages you may be able receive if you prevail on your claim.
What Damages Could I Receive in My South Carolina Personal Injury Claim?
You must first make sure you are within the time limit to file your claim. Otherwise, you may be precluded from recovering damages. Under South Carolina law, the time limit (otherwise known as the “statute of limitations”) for personal injury cases is three years from the date of the injury, unless the defendant is a governmental entity, in which case the statute of limitations is two years. If you are filing a medical malpractice case however, the statute of limitations generally does not start until the date your injury was discovered. If you file your case within this time period and prevail, there are a wide range of economic damages you could receive from a personal injury lawsuit:
- Past, current, and future medical expenses (including hospital bills and any drug expenses);
- Past, current, and future lost employment wages if due to work injury;
- Lost future income or earning potential;
- Any repairs or renovations you may need to make to your home to accommodate your disability;
- Any repairs you may need to make to your car to accommodate your disability; and
- Any repairs you make to property that is also damaged because of someone’s negligence.
In addition to recovering expenses paid or otherwise lost, you may also potentially be entitled to recover compensation for any pain or suffering, emotional distress, disfigurement, or loss of enjoyment of life you may have suffered as a result of the injury.
What Evidence Should I Collect To Build My Case For Damages?
As an injured party, you should be prepared to present supporting documentation for the damages you are seeking. For example, if you are seeking reimbursement for medical bills and prescription drugs, you should be prepared to present any documentation of invoices and proof of payment, along with copies of your insurance policies and other relevant documents related to these expenses. As another example, if you are seeking damages for modifications to your home or vehicle necessitated by an injury you sustained, you will want to provide estimates or receipts for these modifications and proof of payment such as credit card statements or canceled checks. In addition, you may consider hiring expert witnesses to testify as to the extent of your injuries and the necessity for said modifications.
Are There Caps on How Much I Can Recover?
Sometimes. South Carolina does have several categories of damage caps that you should consider if your lawsuit falls under these three categories:
- Lawsuits For Injuries Caused by Government Employees or Entities: If you are injured due to the negligence of a government entity or employee in South Carolina, your damages will be capped at $300,000 per claim. However, this cap may vary depending on the type of claim. Specifically, if you and several people are injured in a car wreck by a government employee while he is working within the scope of his employment, there is a $300,000 cap per person injured in the car wreck and a total limit of $600,000 for all claims. On the other hand, if you are bringing a claim against a government physician, the total cap for damages is raised to $1.2 million. Lastly, if you are bringing a wrongful death action for a loved one who dies due to the negligence of a government employee, you may recover an additional $300,000 under a separate claim for survival if the deceased suffered from conscious pain and suffering or medical expenses prior to their death.
- Lawsuits Against Charitable Organizations: The caps for charitable organizations and their employees are generally applied the same way as the caps for governmental employees/entities (above), unless you can show gross negligence on behalf of an employee defendant.
- Lawsuits for Non-Economic Losses for Medical Malpractice or Against a Nursing Home: Unless the nursing home is part of a governmental entity, there are generally no caps for economic damages recoverable in medical malpractice lawsuits and lawsuits against a nursing home. However, there is a damage cap for non-economic losses including pain and suffering, emotional distress, or disfigurement. This cap increases every year based on the Consumer Price Index.
How Will My Own Negligence Affect My Damages?
South Carolina follows a comparative negligence scheme. Under this scheme, an injured party may recover damages as long as his negligence is less than the defendant’s negligence. However, the injured party’s damages will be reduced in proportion to the amount of his negligence. For example, imagine a scenario where you are found to be 10 percent at fault, the defendant is 90 percent at fault, and your damages total $10,000. Under South Carolina’s comparative negligence law, your recoverable damages would be reduced to $9,000 ($10,000 minus the $1,000 attributable to your share of the fault). If you are found to be fifty-one percent at fault or more, you will not be able to recover anything
Other Rules Related to Recovering Damages in South Carolina
There are several other nuances to bear in mind regarding recovering damages in a South Carolina personal injury lawsuit:
- The Collateral Source Rule: An injured party’s damages may not be reduced by benefits received from an independent third party source, such as health insurance.
- Avoidable Consequences Rule: An injured party may not recover for additional expenses incurred due to the party aggravating his own loss. Similarly, the injured party must avoid or reduce his damage (i.e. going to the hospital to seek treatment when injured, rather than waiting for a few weeks and worsening the injury).
- Punitive Damages: A court may find it appropriate to award punitive damages if it finds the defendant’s conduct was reckless or willful. However, a court may only award punitive damages if it first awards actual damages for an injury proximately caused by the conduct. Under South Carolina law, an award of punitive damages generally cannot exceed the greater of three times the compensatory damages or $500,000.
Contact an Experienced Greenville Personal Injury Attorney Today!
If you are damaged due to someone else’s negligence or recklessness in Greenville, South Carolina, you should hire an experienced Greenville personal injury attorney who can help you evaluate your case and assess the possible categories of damages you could be entitled to recover. The skilled personal injury attorneys at David R. Price, Jr., P.A. will help you go through your case, gather evidence for damage recovery, and help you negotiate an equitable amount of damages for your particular case. Contact us today to get started with your personal injury claim.
David Price is a Personal Injury, Civil Litigation, Collections, and Criminal Defense Attorney who practices in Greenville, SC. He graduated from the University of Georgia School of Law, and has been practicing law for 12 years. David Price believes in helping those who have been injured. Learn more about his experience by clicking here.