When To File a Personal Injury Claim in South Carolina

Any time you are injured at the hands of another person, you incur costs that you otherwise wouldn't have. The cost of medical bills, medication, and physical therapy can add up quickly. And that's saying nothing of the times that you either can't work or have to miss work to go to doctor's appointments or other accident-related activities. Add to all of that the pain and suffering you deal with on a daily basis, and you're left pondering what, if anything, you should do about it. Should you pursue a claim or suit against the person responsible for your injuries? The decision about whether or not to take legal action is simple but complex. If you decide to take legal action, the first thing you need to consider is whether to file a personal injury claim or a personal injury lawsuit. Despite some similarities, claims and lawsuits are not the same. So, before you decide what to do, you must understand the differences between the two.

Claim vs Lawsuit: What's the Difference?

The difference between a personal injury claim and a personal injury lawsuit is fairly straightforward. A claim is simply an action that takes place before a lawsuit is considered. This usually involves a bunch of negotiation between you and the insurance company of the other person. The goal of these negotiations is to come to a compromise that allows both parties to walk away as content as possible. If your personal injury claim negotiations aren't productive, and a settlement can't be reached, a personal injury lawsuit is filed. There are a number of reasons that a settlement may not be reached. Most often, this happens in cases where the claims adjuster disputes the severity of your injuries or even whether or not the person they insure is at fault in the first place. These factors all play a huge role in the amount you're ultimately able to recover. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Filing a Personal Injury Claim

The moment you are injured or suffer property damage as a result of another person's negligence is the moment your personal injury claim truly begins. This process generally starts when the injured party takes formal action against the guilty party, who, in turn, tosses the case over to their insurance company. After the insurance company is contacted, the case is assigned to a claims adjuster, whose job it is to reach out to you (or your lawyer) to negotiate a settlement. Once a settlement is reached, the need to file a lawsuit dissipates. Before settling a case, a claims adjuster will investigate the case looking for proof regarding who was indeed at fault for what happened. If they discover that it was, in fact, their insured party who was negligent, they will delve into other aspects of the case. This usually involves looking at your medical records and bills, talking to you and other witnesses to the accident, reviewing the police report, and accounting for all other damages and estimated repair costs. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

How Long Do I Have to File a Personal Injury Claim in South Carolina?

The law that establishes how long you have to file a civil lawsuit is known as the "statute of limitations." In South Carolina, the statute of limitations for filing a personal injury lawsuit is three years from the date the injury occurred. If you don't file your lawsuit within this time period, the civil court system will probably not be willing to hear your case. There are practical reasons beyond the statute of limitations to file your lawsuit in a timely manner. The main reason is that, if you don't, you give the defense ammunition to use against you, as they will call into question what took you so long to file. Most often, people with serious injuries file their claim as soon as possible, and if your injuries are significant you should follow suit. If you are considering filing a personal injury claim against the government or a government agency, you typically have between 30 days and 12 months to notify them. Even in cases when you have 12 months, you'll be best-suited if you move forward quickly, as that time can be gone before you know it. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Shared Fault Rules in South Carolina

It's common for the person you file a lawsuit against to say that you are partly (or completely) at fault for the events that led to you getting injured. If you are found to share some portion of the blame, it will impact the damages you will receive from the other at-fault parties. In South Carolina, there are laws for occasions of both or all parties sharing blame in a civil lawsuit. These are known as "shared fault rules." Here is an example of shared fault rules in action. Let's say that you slip and fall on a wet floor and injure your back. You file a lawsuit to cover your medical bills and lost wages, you win your case, and you are awarded $20,000 in damages. The defense states that, although their floor was unsafe and contributed to your accident, you were slightly intoxicated and, therefore, also contributed to the incident. You are found to be 10% liable, and your $20,000 award is reduced by 10%, to $18,000. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Is There a Maximum Amount of Damages I Can Receive for My Injuries?

 Many states place limits on the damages a plaintiff can collect after winning their personal injury case, and South Carolina is one of these states. In medical malpractice cases, there is a total cap of $1.05 million, only $350,000 of which can account for pain and suffering, and other non-economic damages. Of course, these limits don't apply to all personal injury cases, but there are some cap laws that relate to punitive damages. Punitive damages are damages awarded to the plaintiff meant to send a message and punish the defendant for participating in especially egregious behavior. In South Carolina, the cap for punitive damages is limited to either $500,000 or three times the actual damages, whichever is greater. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

What Should I Do at the Scene of the Accident?

If you're involved in an accident, particularly a car accident, there are certain steps you should take. Let's discuss a few of these in detail. Safety first: If you or anyone else is seriously hurt, get medical help as soon as possible. In fact, if you even suspect that an injury may be serious, don't take the situation into your own hands. Doing so can make an injury worse than it already is, which isn't good for anyone involved. Call 911: Contacting the police is especially relevant in the case of a car accident, but it may be necessary in other personal injury cases as well. Unfortunately, when accidents happen, people often react poorly. If you think that things may get out of hand, having a third party to mediate can make a huge difference. Getting the police involved is also a great way to document what happened, which can help prove your case if you end up filing a claim. Do not admit fault: Even if you aren't sure who is to blame, admitting that you're to blame is never a good idea. It can be held against you later on. While it always helps to be a calming force in a delicate situation, it's not worth saying something just to appease everybody. In most cases, you're best served by biting your tongue (figuratively, not literally). Say nothing. If you let the facts speak for themselves, you will avoid a war of words and are more likely to come out victorious in the end. Go to the doctor: It's far too easy to minimize our own injuries. Don't do this. Just because you don't feel too bad right after the accident, it doesn't mean you aren't hurt. In fact, it's common to not feel the effects of an injury (particularly soft tissue injuries) until a day or two after it occurs. Some people (guys especially), are especially averse to going to the doctor in general, but if you've fallen or may have been injured in some way, you need to have a doctor look you over. Make a record of all witnesses: If anyone saw the incident that caused your injuries, get their contact information. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

What Should I Do if I Get Injured Due to the Negligence of Someone Else?

 If you've been injured, your main priority should be your health. Once you've established a plan to have your injuries taken care of, you can move on to the other steps. These steps include: Gather evidence: Not only can evidence solidify who is at fault for an accident, it also establishes reasonable expectations when it comes to collecting damages. Quality evidence includes witness statements and photographs of the accident scene. Also, be sure to get the names and contact information of all witnesses and contact them as soon as you can to confirm this information. Establish your account of what happened: Documenting everything that happened leading up to and during the accident helps build the foundation for your case. Sometimes writing everything down in the days after the incident, while your memory of what happened is still fresh, can prove to be priceless down the road. Document the aftermath: As crucial as it is to write down what happened to cause your injuries, it's just as crucial to keep a record of everything that happens after the accident. This is where missed work, lost wages, medical bills, and doctor appointments should be accounted for. Notify anyone that you may file a claim against: Not only is there a statute of limitations that requires you to file your claim within a certain amount of time, but the sooner you do it, the smaller the headache you'll face as your case progresses. Communicating early and often (preferably through your attorney) will let the other party or parties know that you're taking your case seriously. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Should I Hire an Attorney?

If your case is simple and your injuries are minimal, you may not need to hire a lawyer, but, most often, it's worth discussing your case with a personal injury attorney at the very least. Consulting an attorney is not the same thing as hiring one, and some are even willing to discuss your case at little or no cost. A consultation will usually give you an idea about your options and whether or not you'll need to hire an attorney. In personal injury cases, most attorneys work on a contingency basis. This just means that they only get paid if you receive damages through a settlement or court judgment. The amount that an attorney gets paid is an agreed-upon percentage of whatever proceeds come from your case. A small judgment equals a small amount. A large judgment equals a large amount. So, if you consult with a lawyer and they agree to take your case, they probably believe that you have a pretty good chance of winning. Depending on how much money is at stake, and the complexity of your claim, it may be worth having an experienced attorney on your side. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Contacting an Attorney in South Carolina

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If you've been injured and think you may have a legitimate claim, contact a reputable attorney who has experience in personal injury cases. They will answer any legal questions you have and let you know whether or not you indeed have a winnable case. The risk of at reaching out to an attorney is minimal, but the risk of not at least talking to one can be huge and may end up haunting you for years to come.

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