Get Answers to South Carolina Personal Injury Common Questions
We know how many questions you must have right now about your personal injury or workers' comp case, so we compiled this list of the questions we hear the most. If you have a question that is not answered here, please call our Columbia law office to speak with Kenneth Berger.
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Who Is Legally Responsible for Injuries on Rental Properties in South Carolina?
Regardless of whether the accident occurs at a commercial (e.g. office building, restaurant) or residential location (e.g. apartment, beach house), the owner, renter, and any company who performed construction or maintenance on the property may be liable. These cases are very fact specific, but South Carolina law generally follows the age-old rule that people are responsible for their actions. Property owners must fix or warn people of dangerous conditions. Renters must not endanger their guests. Companies that work on site must meet the standards and follow the rules of their industry.
Depending on whose negligence contributed to the injury, a claim may be filed with multiple insurance companies. For example, some people carry renters insurance. Most landlords will also have either a homeowners or commercial policy. Likewise, if it was a construction or maintenance company's negligence that caused the accident, their insurance company should be notified. As you can tell, there is often a lot of finger pointing between the various potential defendants. In most instances, the insurance companies want to blame each other, but rarely do they want to step up and take responsibility for the harm that has occurred.
Fortunately, South Carolina's premises liability laws - which govern accidents on rental properties - demand that innocent people be made 100% whole. Multiple insurance companies may have to contribute for damages such as medical bills and severe physical pain, and in the end, regardless of who pays what, it must add up to 100% of an innocent person's losses. As the saying goes, "anything less than full justice is injustice." In fact, that is not just a saying, but rather the law of South Carolina.
For more free answers to questions regarding your accident case, simply call my office today at one of our convenient statewide numbers, or use our 24/7 live chat feature. We look forward to helping you as we have countless others.
How Is Lost Income Calculated in a Personal Injury Case?
Under South Carolina law, the person or entity that caused your harm must make you whole. In other words, they must compensate you for every loss their negligence caused. One of these losses may be income. Whether the accident forced you to miss 2 days or 2 months of work, the wrongdoer's insurance company is required to account for your lost earnings. Likewise, if your injuries affect your ability to make the same amount of money in the future as you did before the accident, you should be compensated for the difference.
Determining Lost Earnings
Insurance adjusters occasionally tell people that the portion of the settlement that accounts for lost income is based on post-tax earnings. If an insurance person makes such a statement about a South Carolina claim, please know they are lying. For example, if you earn $800 per week and miss 5 weeks of work due to your injuries, you would be owed $4000, not your net earnings.
Why You Need a Team of Experts
When it comes to lifelong injuries that impact your lifetime earnings, experts are often needed to perform the calculation. A vocational evaluator will assess what jobs are available to someone with your injuries, education, and skill set. An economist will then project how much income the accident will cause you to lose over the course of your life.
Get Back What's Rightfully Yours
No matter the degree of lost earnings, South Carolina law requires that responsibility for all losses falls on the shoulder of the negligent party, not the innocent victim. If you have questions about any aspect of a personal injury case, including how to calculate lose wages, I am here to help. Call me for a free consultation at 803-790-2800 or submit a contact form here.
How Much Should the Insurance Company Compensate Me for Scars Caused By an Accident in SC?
The answer to this question depends on whether your case falls under South Carolina's civil or workers' compensation system. For example, scarring caused by a car accident or burn that occurred away from work would be compensated differently than an on-the-job injury. Allow me to explain:
A personal injury case is intended to provide money for every harm you sustain, from medical bills and lost earnings to scarring and mental anguish. Insurance companies will evaluate how much you are likely to receive from a jury, then offer you a settlement in light of the potential verdict. Thus, a scar to a more visible part of your body such as your face or arms will be valued more highly than a scar to the foot. If that seems insensitive, I agree. South Carolina civil law does not set a standard for how much money an innocent person should receive for their scars. Instead, this issue is decided either by negotiations with an insurance carrier or at a jury trial.
Our state's workers' compensation laws are just the opposite. If you suffer a scar at work, you are capped at 50 weeks of compensation (i.e. two-thirds of your average weekly wage "x" 50) for this aspect of your injury. Therefore, if the weekly check you received while you were out of work was for $400, the most you could receive for scarring would be $20,000. That is not to say you would be prevented from receiving additional money for other injuries, only that South Carolina law caps what you may obtain due to the scar.
In sum, accident victims are likely to receive far greater compensation for scarring in a civil action than a workers' comp claim. And while most scars heal within the first year, some are permanent. It is my sincere hope that you heal and never require money for permanent injury. Nonetheless, much like people who went to medical school to help patients get well, I practice law to help people recover from accidents. Now that you have found my firm, you no longer have to battle the insurance companies by yourself. Call me today for a free consultation at 803-790-2800. My office is in Columbia. My practice is statewide.
Do Columbia, SC Personal Injury Attorneys Charge Retainer Fees?
Most lawyers who handle accident and personal injury cases recognize that the last thing you want to do after being hurt is to pay a retainer fee. Your focus is likely on medical bills, getting back to work or school, and regaining your health. Even if you could afford a retainer fee, that money is better set-aside to pay for other expenses you face. If any attorney in Columbia, SC tries to charge you anything other than a "contingency fee" for your case, you may want to consider speaking with someone else. As I often tell clients, if a lawyer believes in your case enough to take it on, they will be willing to accept a fee at the end of the case that is "contingent" upon how much compensation they obtain for you.
In summary, personal injury lawyers generally receive a fee of 33%-40% at the end of the case rather than charging retainer fees or an hourly rate. If you have other questions, or would like to receive a free consultation, call my Columbia, SC office today at 803-790-2800.
Will the Insurance Company Pay Three Times My Medical Bills After an Accident in South Carolina
Years ago, the unwritten rule in South Carolina was that an insurance company would pay three times your medical expenses. The thinking was that 1/3 would go to the doctors, 1/3 to the lawyer, and 1/3 to the person who was injured in the accident. That is no longer the standard, however. After years of "tort reform" and multi-million dollar insurance campaigns aimed at demonizing lawyers and the people they represent, the pre-litigation value of accident claims has decreased. In fact, many insurance carriers have begun offering unrepresented people less than 1.5 times the medical bills.
So rather than focus on medical expenses alone as a measure for your case's value, I view it as just one of several variables that goes into determining how much compensation you should receive. In addition to your bills, I focus on the overall effect the accident has on your quality of life, your physical pain, and any permanent injury you have sustained. The defendant's conduct is another factor in assessing case value. For instance: Was the individual defendant texting? Did a corporate defendant put profits ahead of safety?
Instead of allowing an insurance company or non-lawyer to convince you that your case's value is tied almost exclusively to the medical bills, call my Columbia, SC office today for a free case evaluation at 803-790-2800. I will provide candid, factual, experience-based answers to your questions and help ensure you are treated fairly.
Should I Sign the Lien Letter from Lexington Medical Center?
Lexington Medical Center ("LMC") is aggressive in its billing practices. The hospital often mails auto accident victims, and other injured people, what are known as "lien letters" or "letters of protection." LMC wants you sign these letters, promising to pay the hospital bill out of your settlement, possibly even before they file your bill with health insurance. They use a collections company called Medical Reimbursements of America to persuade - and sometimes frighten - injured people into signing away their rights.
So should you sign the lien letter from LMC or Medical Reimbursements of America? Probably not - at least not until all health insurance benefits have been exhausted. Do not let anyone tell you that you cannot put your health insurance benefits to use simply because you were involved in an accident. Request that LMC files your bill with health insurance before you sign any letter of protection. Likewise, if you want us to provide a free review of any documents the hospital or its collection agent has sent you, call us today at (803) 790-2800. We are here to make sure no one adds insult to your injury.
Who Pays the Cost of a Personal Injury Lawsuit in South Carolina?
The cost of a personal injury lawsuit often ranges from $1,000-$5,000. However, a complex case such as a medical malpractice or products liability suit might cost upwards of $100,000. So who pays these expenses? In South Carolina, the injured person’s lawyer usually advances the “litigation costs.” At the end of the case, those costs are subtracted from the client’s recovery. The only other options are for the client to pay along the way, or for the court to order the at-fault party to pay court expenses.
Most clients cannot afford to pay for experts, videotaped depositions, and other litigation costs – especially in light of the medical bills and lost wages they may be facing from the accident. For those reasons, I cover litigation expenses. I do not charge clients for postage, copies, mileage, or hourly work. At the end of the case, I am simply reimbursed for the checks I wrote to third parties on my client’s behalf. Additionally, if my firm doesn’t recover compensation on a client’s behalf, the client owes us nothing in fees or expenses.
If you are concerned about how much your personal injury lawsuit will cost you, don’t be. Call us today for a free consultation at (803) 790-2800. While my office is located in Columbia, we help people across South Carolina.
How Much Do Personal Injury Lawyers Charge in South Carolina?
Most personal injury attorneys in Columbia, Lexington, and throughout South Carolina, charge 33%-40% based on the amount of compensation they obtain for you. This is known as a "contingency fee" because it is contingent upon the value of your settlement or jury award. For instance, if we obtained a $100,000.00 settlement for you, our fee would be $33,000.00-$38,000.00 (I cap my fees at 38% in almost all cases), depending on whether a lawsuit was required. However, you would not pay us a dime until the end of the case. Moreover, we have an unwritten rule at our firm that goes like this: our fee will not exceed what our client receives. Even if the contract says we are entitled to 33% of the settlement funds, we will reduce our fee to make sure the injured person nets more than we do. Fact is: you're the one who got hurt; we are just privileged enough to represent you. Clients need us to obtain fair results, but we need them to make a living. In that way, we remember who comes first.
If someone wants to charge you a "retainer fee" or "hourly rate," I'd start looking for new counsel. Likewise, remember that not all South Carolina personal injury lawyers have the same qualifications or track record of results. An attorney who charges only 25%, but gets you only $25,000.00 is not as valuable as the attorney who charges 35% but gets you $50,000.00.
How Much is My Workers' Compensation Case in South Carolina Worth?
South Carolina workers’ compensation law provides a number of benefits, including: medical treatment; payment for time missed from work due to injury; and compensation for any permanent impairment or disability.When asked how much money someone should receive from his or her workers’ compensation case, the answer is always: it depends. The value or worth of most workers’ compensation settlements is based on:
- Impairment Rating;
- How the impairment effects the injured worker’s ability to earn a living;
- Work and educational history;
- Transferrable skills;
- How much money the injured worker was earning at the time of the accident;
- What body part or parts were injured;
- Whether future medical treatment is needed; and
- Whether the medical treatment will be left open.
Determing What Your Case Is Worth
Let’s look at these items one-by-one. First, impairment could be thought of as the permanent effect on physical health and mobility. For instance, if your shoulder was 100% before you tore your rotator cuff at work, it may only be 90% after surgery and physical therapy. You would therefore have 10% impairment to your shoulder. Impairment ratings are not issued until you have reached maximum medical improvement (“MMI”). MMI is the point at which your condition has stabilized. Your injury is not getting any worse but it will not ever get any better – it has plateaued. Thus, you have what is known as a permanent impairment.
Impairment has different effects on different people. For instance, in my job as a workers’ compensation lawyer, I could tear a ligament in my knee, sustain a 5% impairment, yet have no problem pushing papers, drafting documents, or standing up in court. Conversely, someone whose job requires heavy lifting, squatting, and carrying, could sustain the same injury and be unable to return to their former job. That is where work and educational history, along with transferrable skills. come into play. In this example, the heavy laborer would have a tougher time earning the wages after the injury as they did before. They would therefore have a great disability (i.e. inability to earn the same money as before the injury) than the lawyer whose torn ligament had no effect on earnings. Oftentimes, the greater the disability, the greater the settlement value.
The value of your workers’ compensation case is also influenced by which body parts you hurt. South Carolina workers’ compensation laws assign a specific number of weeks to most body parts. For instance, the shoulder is worth 300 weeks, the leg 195 weeks, but the thumb only 65 weeks. A 10% disability to the shoulder would be worth 30 weeks of compensation. A 10% disability to the thumb would only be worth 6.5 weeks. Thus, an injury to the shoulder is likely to result in far greater compensation than an injury to the thumb or hand.
What do I mean by 30 weeks? I mean you would multiply 30 by the compensation rate. What is the compensation rate? It is simply the amount of your weekly check. But where does that number come from? Your compensation rate (i.e. weekly check) is based on 2/3 of your average weekly wage at the time of injury. If you were making $600 before taxes prior to injury, your compensation rate would be $400 because $400 is 2/3 of $600.
Your workers’ compensation settlement is also influenced by whether you need any future treatment, and whether or not you are closing your case forever. If the insurance company wants to “clincher” your case they should pay for it. A clincher agreement takes them off the hook for any future medical treatment made necessary by a change in condition. That is valuable and should not be given to them for free. Furthermore, if the doctor has said you need additional medical treatment to remain at MMI, and the insurance company wants to clincher your case, they should pay the costs of the medical treatment you may need down the road.
Speak With A South Carolina Workers' Comp Lawyer Today
South Carolina’s workers’ compensation laws can be both confusing and frustrating. As a workers’ compensation lawyer based in Columbia, it is my privilege to help injured workers determine how much their case is worth, then fight to obtain a fair settlement for them. If you have questions or need help with your workers’ compensation case, request a free case evaluation and free copies of my books by calling 803-790-2800. You don’t have to take on the insurance company by yourself – I am here to help.