Personal Injury Cases in South Carolina

November 30, 2016

If you or a loved one has been injured in the state of South Carolina, in a car accident, a slip and fall accident, or any number of other ways, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries.  Personal injury is defined in the state of South Carolina as “injuries to the person, including but not limited to, bodily injuries, mental distress or suffering, loss of wages, loss of services, loss of consortium, wrongful death, survival, and other noneconomic damages and actual economic damages.”

What Types of Compensation May Be Available to Me?

In South Carolina, there are three different types of damages that may be available to you – economic damages, noneconomic damages and punitive damages.

  • Economic damages. In South Carolina, there are a number of damages that can be awarded in personal injury cases that are directly linked to costs already incurred, or anticipated costs in the future.
  • Medical care. Medical care and medical expenses are covered as compensable.  Medical care is not limited just to medical treatment, but can also extend to rehabilitation services.  Custodial care of an injured party is a form of allowable economic damages, as well.  Mileage associated with trips to and from the doctor’s office, or the cost of bus fare, or taxi, are also covered.  Prescriptions and durable medical equipment are also compensable.
  • Loss of earnings, past, present, and future. Another form of economic damages is in the form of earnings.  If you have been injured, and this has prevented you from working for a period of time, these past lost earnings may be recoverable.  If the injury makes it so that you cannot return to the job you had, and you cannot be trained in a job that has a similar pay scale, or if you cannot return to work because of your injuries, this loss of earning capacity may also be recoverable.
  • Attendant property costs. In a situation where you have been injured, and your property has been damaged, this can also be compensated.  For example, if you were in a car accident, and the other driver was at fault, in addition to your medical care and loss of earnings, if your car was totaled, the cost of the replacement of the car, or the repair of the car where that is possible, can be compensable.
  • Household help. Sometimes, an injury will result in an inability, either temporarily or permanently, to continue regular household duties, such as laundry, or care of the children.  If the injury results in the need to obtain a substitute to provide domestic services, this cost can be compensable.

Other Damages Available Under the Law 

You can also be compensated for other losses, including the following:

  • Loss of spousal services;
  • Loss of employment;
  • Loss of business opportunities;
  • Loss of employment opportunities;
  • Loss of retirement income; and
  • Other monetary losses.

Additionally, costs associated with education to provide for new skills, which will accommodate a new job, taking into consideration any injury that prevents the injured from returning to their old job, can be covered as economic damages.             

In the Case of Death of a Loved One

If the injury your loved one sustained resulted in their death, burial costs are considered an economic damage that is recoverable.

  • Noneconomic damages. Noneconomic damages can also be recovered in personal injury cases.  Noneconomic damages can include some or all of the following:
  • Pain;
  • Suffering;
  • Inconvenience;
  • Disfigurement;
  • Physical impairment;
  • Emotional distress;
  • Mental anguish;
  • Loss of consortium;
  • Loss of society and companionship;
  • Injury to reputation;
  • Humiliation;
  • Other nonpecuniary damages; and
  • Other theories, including but not limited to fear of loss, illness, or injury.
  • Punitive damages. Punitive damages are only available in rare cases.  They are designed not to compensate the injured party for loss, but rather to punish the wrongdoer for an act determined to be “willful, wanton, or reckless conduct.”  In determining whether punitive damages will be granted, a jury will consider “all relevant evidence.”  This could include any or all of the following:
  • The degree to which the wrongdoer is culpable;
  • The seriousness of the harm inflicted;
  • Any criminal penalties also imposed on the wrongdoer (such as a prison sentence in the case of a death as a result of an auto accident where the driver who was the wrongdoer was drunk);
  • The extent that the injured party may have contributed to the injury by their conduct;
  • The likelihood that an award of punitive damages will deter the wrongdoer or others from committing similar acts, which could result in subsequent similar injuries;
  • The amount of time the wrongdoer engaged in the conduct;
  • The wrongdoer’s ability to pay;
  • Whether the wrongdoer engaged in similar conduct in the past.

Typically, there are statutory limits on the amount of punitive damages that can be awarded in any given case.  However, there are three exceptions to this rule.  If a wrongdoer had a deliberate intent to harm someone, and the conduct of the wrongdoer engaged in actually harmed someone, the cap on punitive damages is waived.  Additionally, where the defendant acted (or failed to act) while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or intentionally consumed glue, toxic vapors or aerosol to the extent that the wrongdoer’s judgement is impaired substantially, punitive damages do not have a cap.  Finally, there is no cap on punitive damages in a situation where the defendant has pled guilty of, or been convicted of a felony crime that arises out of the “same act or course of conduct” where that course of conduct, or act, was the direct cause of the injury.

What to Do If You Have Been Injured

There are many types of injuries that be compensated, both for economic and noneconomic losses.  Some may also qualify for punitive damages.  In order to make this determination, your case needs to be carefully reviewed by attorneys who regularly practice in the area of personal injury.  Each case can be very fact specific.  If you have been injured, or if you have lost a loved one to an accident, or deliberate act of another, contact the determined Lugoff, SC personal injury attorneys of Connell Law Firm for a free consultation.