What Happens After a South Carolina Personal Injury Lawsuit is Filed?

south carolina lawsuitAfter being injured due to another person or business’s negligence in South Carolina, many people weigh the pros and cons of filing a personal injury lawsuit. These lawsuits are known as “civil actions.” Their purpose is to hold the wrongdoer responsible while fairly compensating the person got hurt. While it’s not always necessary to file a lawsuit after an accident, this article addresses when legal action may be required, as well as what you can expect after the lawsuit is filed.

 

When Should I File an Injury Lawsuit?

If you were injured and someone else is responsible for your harm, you have the right to file a claim with their insurance company. However, filing an insurance claim and filing a lawsuit are not the same. In fact, it’s not always necessary to file a lawsuit after you’ve been injured because sometimes – though certainly not always – the insurance company may offer to fully compensate you for your damages without having to file suit.

All too often though, insurance companies prioritize their own profits and make it harder than it should be to negotiate a fair settlement. If you are experiencing one of the following situations, it may be time to consult a lawyer concerning a potential lawsuit to ensure your legal rights are protected:

  1. The insurance company is stonewalling (purposely delaying the claims process), denying your claim, or refusing to make a fair offer.
  2. The at fault party is refusing to disclose insurance information, preventing you from filing a claim.
  3. You are unsure about additional ways to recover beyond the at fault party’s insurance limits (e.g. uninsured or underinsured coverages).

Simply put, if the responsible person/party and their insurance provider are not cooperating, but are instead making it difficult for you to recover funds to pay for medical expenses, lost wages, property damage, etc., you should consider filing a civil action. If you’d like more information, you can contact us by phone at (803) 790-2800 or live chat, or check out this library article where we address specific questions about dealing with difficult insurance companies: Insurance Company Tricks to Avoid Paying Claims.

 

Do I Have to Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer to File a Lawsuit in South Carolina?

No, it is not always necessary to hire a personal injury lawyer to file a lawsuit. However, hiring a lawyer can make the process much easier, and most people with strong cases end up benefitting greatly from working with an attorney. Personal injury lawyers have experience negotiating with insurance adjusters and will be able to recognize the strengths and weaknesses of your case, which may even result in your case settling before a lawsuit is filed. To find out more about what an injury lawyer will do in your case, read our library article here: How will a personal injury lawyer help me?

 

3 Things To Expect After Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit

As a lawyer who is forced to deal with insurance carriers every day, I end up filing a number of lawsuits. I wish this were not the case. It would be much easier if insurance companies simply offered fair settlements based on the harm you incurred. I would rather see personal injury clients receive money with less fight, but often times a lawsuit is the only avenue to justice in South Carolina.

If we do file a lawsuit, here are three things you can expect:

 

1. There may be litigation costs associated with your lawsuit, but your lawyer will pay for them.

The costs associated with a typical personal injury lawsuit can range 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, incidentals, or hourly work. At the end of the case, I am simply reimbursed for the checks I wrote to third parties specifically on my client’s behalf. Additionally, if my law 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. We take on 100% of that risk, and in our experience, cases with high costs often come with high settlements and much better net recovery for the client.

 

2. There will be multiple phases of your personal injury lawsuit.

  • The Complaint

A lawsuit begins when we file a “Complaint.” The Complaint contains facts about how you were injured, why the other party is at-fault, and what injuries you have sustained due to their wrongdoing. The at-fault party’s insurance company will hire a lawyer to defend the case after they receive the Complaint. Their lawyer will most likely file an “Answer” to the Complaint. The Answer usually denies all wrongdoing, and sometimes blames you for the accident. It is generally a boilerplate denial that we may be able to strategically use to our advantage later.

  • The "Discovery" Phase

The next phase of litigation is known as “discovery.” It involves exactly what the word implies. We discover what evidence they intend to use at trial, and what explanations they offer as to the cause of the accident. Discovery includes written questions known as “interrogatories,” demands that all evidence be produced called “requests for production,” and official court proceedings called “depositions.” This last term is probably familiar to you.

  • The Deposition

Depositions do not have to be scary. Preparation is key. When I “depose” the at-fault party or one of their witnesses in a personal injury case, I ask lots of questions about safety rules, the importance of those rules, and the reasons those rules were violated. All answers are given under oath exactly like court testimony. These answers are also recorded by a court reporter and may later be used to cross-examine the witness. When it comes to our client’s deposition, we empower and embolden them with the truth, which in turn removes any fear.

  • The Mediation

Once depositions have been taken, the next step in South Carolina personal injury lawsuits is usually “mediation.” This is when my client and I meet with the insurance adjuster and their attorney to determine whether a fair settlement can be reached. A third attorney, known as a “mediator,” listens to both sides’ version of facts. We are then split in two rooms, and the mediator goes back and forth to help achieve a settlement. For instance, when mediation begins our latest demand may be $1,000,000.00. The most recent offer from the insurance company may only be $10,000.00. However, at the end of mediation, we might have settled the case for somewhere between those two figures.

The mediator’s job is to resolve the dispute by showing both sides how much there is to lose at trial. We may have a case that could result in a verdict for the defense. The same case might, however, result in a large verdict for my client. Because both sides have so much to lose given the uncertainty of trial and the unpredictable nature of juries, a settlement could be best. If mediation fails, we further prepare for trial.

  • The Trial

Trial is the final phase of a lawsuit. If a fair settlement cannot be reached in the previous phases, your case will go to trial where a jury will decide whether or not the insurance company should have to cover your damages. If the jury rules in your favor, they will also determine how much is owed to you, which may include recovery for economic damages like lost wages and medical bills, non-economic damages like lost enjoyment of life or pain and suffering, and possibly punitive damages if the defendant was being reckless when he or she caused your injury.

 

In sum, after most personal injury lawsuits are filed in South Carolina, an answer will be given, discovery will be performed, mediation may be held, and a trial could take place. As I stated, it would be far simpler for the insurance company to pay you what your case is worth at the outset, but many times justice cannot be achieved without a fight. My job as a South Carolina personal injury attorney is to maximize the value of your case and earn the best possible result no matter how great the fight.

 

3. The insurance company will be hoping you'll make a mistake.

mistakes in a personal injury caseInsurance companies are always looking for ways to pay you less for the harm, loss, and damage you sustained in an accident, so it’s important to avoid these three mistakes if you want to obtain a fair result from your South Carolina personal injury claim.

  1. First, do not give the at-fault party's insurance company a recorded statement; they will only use your words against you. You can agree to an unrecorded statement, but I would consult an attorney before saying anything else to an insurance adjuster. Remember, the adjuster's job is to pay you as little as possible - do not help them achieve that goal by providing a recorded statement.
  2. Second, tell your personal injury attorney about all pre-existing conditions and prior accidents. The insurance company will eventually obtain all that information. It is important for your lawyer to know your health history, as well as the details of any prior insurance claims you have made. Like your doctor, an attorney can only help you if he/she knows all the facts.
  3. Third, never be disrespectful toward your lawyers, their staff, or the insurance defense team. It is hard to stay calm and patient over the course of a personal injury case. However, you must resist any temptation to disrespect the team of people who are helping you or the side that is evaluating how much money they should offer for your injuries.

 

Consult with a Lawyer to Determine if Filing a Lawsuit in South Carolina is Right For You

If you have suffered harm because of a person or business’s dangerous action, you have a right to hold them accountable by filing a lawsuit. Don’t let the process of filing a lawsuit intimidate you. The right attorney will handle communicating with the insurance company and navigating the legal system, so you can focus on healing and getting back to life as normal.

If you are considering filing a lawsuit, contact our firm for a free consultation. We will listen carefully and help you make an informed decision on whether you would benefit from filing a civil action. We help people across the state, and are available via live chat, contact form, or by phone at (803) 790-2800 in Columbia or (843) 427-2800 in Myrtle Beach.

Kenneth Berger
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Columbia and Myrtle Beach car accident and personal injury lawyer dedicated to securing justice for clients.