Personal injury cases can arise from auto accidents, drunk driving wrecks, wrongful death claims, unsafe products, medical malpractice, nursing home negligence, and a number of other causes. This article by our South Carolina personal injury attorney provides facts you should know about the laws governing personal injury cases in South Carolina, and what you can do to protect your rights.
1. All clients and claims are viewed equally under SC personal injury law.
Insurance companies have spent millions of dollars stereotyping accident victims and the personal injury attorneys who represent them. In addition, dishonest people feigning phantom injuries have biased juror attitudes toward the truly harmed. Despite these facts, one great truth remains: everyday accidents occur, tragedies strike our communities, and families are left asking questions. Tragedy has no regard for race, ethnicity, neighborhood, or professional standing, and all are viewed equally under South Carolina personal injury law. No matter your background, if you have been injured due to another person or business's negligence, you have a right to hold them legally and financially accountable.
2. Every accident case is different.
Many factors affect a case’s value, including medical expenses, lost wages, lost earning capacity, permanent injury, the need for future medical care, the jurisdiction in which the incident occurred, and witness statements. However, two factors more than any others often influence the value of a case: the defendant’s conduct and our client’s character. On the one hand, liability drives damages. On the other, credibility is a client’s greatest asset. No matter how skilled the attorney may be, without a credible, likable client, the case may never reach its full value. It's important to be honest with your attorney from the start so that we can overcome any hurdles in your case together.
3. If you have health insurance, you should submit it to all medical providers for treatment related to your accident.
In truth, being insured is a major advantage for injured people. Health insurance allows you to get treatment when you might not otherwise be able to afford it. If you were in an accident, we will demand that the at-fault party’s insurance company pay for your medical expenses. The term “medical expenses” is not defined by what you pay, but rather the true cost or value of the treatment you receive. For example, if your health insurance co-pays total $300, but the pre-adjustment cost of your medical care is $10,000, our state’s personal injury laws ensure that you would be entitled to the full $10,000, not just your out-of-pocket costs.
4. You must establish these six facts to obtain the full value of your personal injury case in South Carolina.
As the old saying goes, "It's not what you know, it's what you can prove." That statement is truer today than ever before when it comes to accident claims. Physical harm, medical bills, and ongoing pain are not enough on their own to receive full compensation in South Carolina. We must establish additional elements of your case before an insurance carrier or jury will make you whole. In other words, we must provide answers, in the form of proof, to a number of questions, including:
- How the injury occurred;
- Who was at-fault;
- What injuries were sustained as a result of the accident;
- What medical treatment has been received;
- What medical problems are you currently experiencing; and
- How your life has been impacted by the event.
These questions may seem straightforward, and the answers simple, but if you have any experience dealing with insurance companies, you know they will dispute your personal injury case’s value for any reason under the sun. Do not be discouraged by this truth. I have spent my entire career helping people with the same challenges you now confront and am here to help you as well.
5. We must prove your injury was caused by another person or business to recover damages (i.e. fair compensation).
If we cannot demonstrate the other party was in some way negligent, careless, reckless, or willful, South Carolina law will not permit you to receive compensation. At times, negligence is clear. For instance, if a doctor fails to remove a surgical sponge or a texting driver hits you from behind. In other cases, liability will be disputed. Examples include crashes where the other driver claims you swerved into their lane, or a product manufacturer arguing your injury is due to improper use. In those cases, an attorney can help identify independent fact witnesses and experts to establish that someone else is liable for your injuries.
6. Once we show that the other party is liable, we must then prove their negligence caused your injury.
South Carolina personal injury law calls this "causation." For example, if you have a history of lower back pain, then get in a rear-end collision, the insurance company is going to argue that your preexisting condition - rather than the crash - explains why your back now hurts. To overcome their argument, we may need your doctor to say that the accident made your back worse, necessitating medical care. Likewise, we may have friends and family describe the changes in your physical activity since the crash to further prove the difference in your condition, and that it was caused by the wreck.
7. The at fault party’s insurance company is required to cover your lost earnings.
Whether the accident forced you to miss two weeks or two months of work, or 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 income you lose due to your injury. These components of your personal injury case are known as “lost wages” and “diminished earning capacity.” Put simply, how much money have you lost to date, and how much money will you lose over the course of your lifetime, because of someone else’s negligence. Do not let an insurance company undervalue or overlook these damages when attempting to reach a settlement.
8. You only have one shot at justice.
Before you settle the case or sign a release accepting an insurance company’s offer, make sure you fully understand every aspect of your case’s value. Once you sign the release, you will never again be able to demand further payment, even if you end up needing future medical treatment because of the accident. I encourage you to at least contact an injury lawyer for a free case evaluation before signing any paperwork to ensure you are not being taken advantage of.