Personal Injury Lawyer in Columbia, SC
Personal Injury Attorneys that can help
Defining personal injury
What is a personal injury lawyer ? At its most basic level a personal injury occurs any time a person is either physically or psychologically harmed by another person. Though this defines a personal injury, it is not necessarily enough to make a successful personal injury case. For a personal injury claim to be successful, there needs to be not only an injury, but also fault, meaning that you are able to demonstrate someone else caused and is legally responsible for causing the damage you suffered. It may be in your best interest to contact a qualified personal injury lawyer.
Types of personal injury cases
Personal injuries can occur at any time and in almost in place. As a result, personal injury cases cover a wide range, from auto accident cases to complicated medical malpractice or product liability claims. Auto accident claims are among the most common given the abundance of vehicles on the road. Slip and fall and other premises liability cases are also common. Workplace injury cases are another category, though these claims are usually handled as part of the workers’ compensation system. Product liability cases involve claims over faulty or dangerous products, whether that be machinery or even pharmaceuticals. Finally, medical malpractice is another category of personal injury and these cases exist when a doctor or other healthcare professional is negligent and that negligence causes harm to a patient.
Types of personal injuries
There is no one type of injury common to personal injury cases. A personal injury case may involve minor injuries, like cuts, bruises or sprains. Personal injury cases may also be more serious, with broken bones, neck or back pain or minor brain injuries such as concussions. Finally, personal injury cases can also be very serious, involving claims of paralysis, permanent disfigurement, traumatic brain injury or even death. In each case, the victim is able to sue for compensation of the harm suffered, as there is no floor or ceiling to the kinds of injuries that can be compensated.
Do you need a Columbia personal injury lawyer?
You might be skeptical of hiring an attorney, fearing that lawyers are expensive and will just complicate the situation. While it is certainly true that lawyers are not required in every personal injury case, they can be a big help to have around in some. If you’ve been involved in a serious accident and you’re looking at a mounting pile of medical bills, knowing you have an experienced Columbia, SC personal injury attorney on your side can be a huge relief. Your personal injury lawyer has been down the road before and understands the steps involved in getting you the compensation you deserve. Rather than trying to learn on the fly, you can entrust your case in the hands of a skilled personal injury lawyer, a tremendous benefit in complicated cases where the competing interests of insurance companies, judges and opposing attorneys would be enough to cause anyone’s head to spin.
How to prepare for your first meeting with a Columbia SC personal injury attorney
Some people are nervous about their first meeting with a Columbia, SC personal injury attorney and want to be sure they do their part to hit the ground running. There’s no reason to be nervous, but if you want to be sure you get the most bang for your buck out of the first meeting, take some time to put together the following documents before meeting with your personal injury lawyer. First, gather any insurance information and any communications you have received from insurance companies since your accident occurred. Next, gather contact details, including the names and numbers of those involved in the accident and anyone who may have witnessed the accident. If you have any photos, videos or notes or any other physical evidence about the accident itself, gather that and bring it along too. You’ll also want to assemble medical records and information about any treatment you’ve received since the injury. Finally, bring along all receipts showing what money you’ve spent as a result of the accident and how much work you might have missed.
As we mentioned earlier, a successful personal injury claim requires a few different things: first, that there be an injury that results in harm and second, that there be fault. One way of demonstrating fault is by claiming someone was negligent. So what is negligence? Negligence is the failure of one person to use reasonable care to prevent harm from occurring to others. A person is deemed negligent if he or she does something that a reasonable person would not do in the same situation. Negligence also exists if that person fails to do something that a reasonable person would have done.
South Carolina is one of several states that embrace a legal principle known as modified comparative negligence. This means that the person filing the case (the plaintiff) can be partially responsible for causing his or her own harm and still be able to sue to receive compensation. This differs from places like North Carolina, where a plaintiff is prevented from suing for damages if he or she is even 1% responsible for causing the accident.
Here in South Carolina, the law says that a plaintiff is entitled to receive compensation reduced by an amount equal to the percentage of his or her fault. This is true so long as the plaintiff is found to be 50% or less responsible for the accident. If the plaintiff is found to 55% responsible, for example, he or she will not be allowed to recover any damages.
How does this work?
The following is an example of modified comparative negligence in action: John is involved in a car accident when he’s t-boned while making a left turn. The other driver is clearly responsible for the crash, but John forgot to turn on his turn signal, meaning he too shares some of the blame. The jury hears the case and decides that John is 10% at fault while the other driver is 90% responsible. If the jury decided John had $50,000 in damages, the other driver would be responsible for paying $45,000, with the other $5,000 being deducted as John’s share of the blame.
Categories of damage in a personal injury case
What type of things will a defendant be required to compensate a plaintiff for? There are two main categories of damage: economic and non-economic. Economic damages refer to those things that can be measured and easily added up, like property damage, lost earnings and medical bills. Non-economic costs refer to those that aren’t so easy or obvious, like emotional distress or pain and suffering. These can be harder to put a value on and are, as a result, far more speculative.
Are damages capped?
You may worry that the damages you will receive in your South Carolina personal injury case could be capped. Though there are some laws on the books regarding capped damages, these do not impact the vast majority of personal injury claims. The first damage cap in South Carolina concerns medical malpractice cases and limits the recovery for non-economic damages to $350,000 per defendant or $1.05 million total. Remember though, these caps only apply to medical malpractice claims, not all personal injury lawsuits.
The only damage cap that does apply across the board concerns punitive damages. Punitive damages are awarded to an injured plaintiff when the defendant’s behavior was especially egregious and deserving of punishment. In South Carolina, the law says that punitive damages are limited to either three times the actual damages awarded or $500,000.
Thankfully, the law places no cap on economic damages, such as those related to medical bills, property damage, lost earnings, etc. No matter how expensive these costs are the responsible party will be expected to compensate you for your losses.
Personal Injury Statute of limitations
If you’ve suffered a personal injury in South Carolina it’s important to understand that you do not have an unlimited amount of time to consider filing your claim for compensation. The law says that victims in South Carolina have only three years from their date of injury to file a case in court. Luckily the law does not require that the case be finished in three years, just that it must have been filed before the three years are up. If you wait longer than three years to file your case you run the very real risk of having your case thrown out of court, with the judge deciding that time has barred your claim, no matter how serious your damage or how guilty the defendant.