The reality is that car accidents are remarkably common. In the state of South Carolina alone, there are over 140,000 traffic accidents each year, resulting in approximately 60,000 non-fatal injuries and 1,000 deaths. This means there is an automobile accident every four minutes in South Carolina. For victims, navigating the complexities of insurance companies and legal statutes can be overwhelming. This is where experienced attorneys can cut through the confusing jargon and help you secure the compensation you desire.
Automobile accidents can not only result in significant property damage, but also serious bodily injury, including whiplash, broken bones, and even brain trauma and paralysis. If you’ve been hurt due to the negligence of another driver, you deserve justice and compensation, including medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
What Are Victims Entitled To?
You might be asking yourself what fair compensation following a car accident even looks like. The situation will depend on the individual circumstances of the incident, but victims of traffic accidents may be eligible to a range of payments and reimbursements, including:
- Vehicle repair or replacement costs
- Temporary vehicle costs, like renting a car while yours is being fixed
- Other costs related to property loss or damage
- Current medical bills for acute care and recovery
- Anticipated future medical bills for chronic care and rehabilitation
- Lost wages due to inability to reduced ability to earn, both current and anticipated
- Emotional pain and suffering
- Post-traumatic stress and anxiety
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of financial support
- Funeral, burial, and estate management costs
- Other related financial hardships
Costs relating to personal injury and repairing the damaged vehicle often come to mind first for car accident claims. However, depending on the specific circumstances, victims may be entirely justified in seeking additional compensation or reimbursement for other costs.
Working with an experienced attorney can clarify any questions you may have about what you may or may not be eligible to pursue. They can also help you get a better sense of what is reasonable to expect as part of your settlement.
Car Accident Attorneys Get the Facts Straight
Figuring out how to best approach your car accident claim on your own can be very overwhelming, especially if you feel intimidated into accepting a settlement that is far less than what you feel you should receive. When you work with an experienced attorney, they can advocate to get all you deserve.
As part of your claim, an attorney may:
- Evaluate your case to assess possible outcomes
- Provide legal advice on your options and how best to proceed
- Navigate the specific laws relevant to the case, like the statute of limitations
- Conduct a thorough investigation surrounding the car crash
- Determine who was at fault for the accident and be able to prove it
- Gather evidence to support and justify the claim
- Clearly establish the sequence of events that led to or contributed to the accident
- Collect and document eyewitness testimony, including witness accounts after the accident to substantiate claims related to personal injury and loss of quality of life
- Gather relevant police reports, medical records, payment receipts, and other documentation to clearly establish the circumstances of the incident and accident claim
- Build a case based on the collected details and evidence
- Develop a legal strategy for how best to proceed with insurance companies and other parties involved in the claim
- Calculate an accurate representation of recoverable damages
- Calculate and justify an amount relating to pain and suffering
- File a personal lawsuit, if necessary, against the other party
- Communicate with you every step of the way to keep you updated and answer any questions you may have
Experience and expertise are invaluable assets when pursuing a vehicle accident claim. For example, while the usual statute of limitations for a personal injury claim against another individual may be about two years, it could be as short as six months if it is against a local government. Circumstances specific to your case are crucial in determining what you may be eligible to receive as compensation.
Attorneys Communicate on Your Behalf
When you enlist the services of a car accident attorney, they can speak on your behalf with all other interested parties. This includes any communication with insurance companies. If you accidentally misspeak with the car insurance company or the other driver, you could undermine your claim and cost yourself thousands of dollars. An attorney can help you avoid such a misstep.
This is true with straightforward vehicle accidents between two private individuals, but it is even more pertinent under less common scenarios, even if they are becoming more common. The following are just a few examples:
- What if one or more of the vehicles involved is part of a car-sharing program?
- Does it affect the claim if a rental car is involved in the accident?
- What differences are important to note when you’re involved in a car accident with commercial vehicles, public transportation, or government vehicles like sanitation trucks?
- What happens when you get into an accident driving a vehicle that belongs to a friend or colleague?
- How can you pursue the financial compensation you deserve if the other party is an underinsured or uninsured driver?
Before you speak with anyone about your car accident, speak with your lawyer first. They can then handle all communications on your behalf, ensuring you (and they) are doing everything possible to best serve your personal interests. This may include getting a suitable replacement vehicle and securing the money you need to address health care needs.
While your claim may resolve with an out-of-court settlement, sometimes it is necessary to take the case to civil court to pursue just compensation. Your attorney will work with you every step of the way to help you get a fair resolution.
What Is Comparative Negligence and Why Is It Relevant?
One facet that is worth exploring briefly is the doctrine of Comparative Negligence. In South Carolina, the amount of the claim put forth by the plaintiff is reduced by the percentage of fault attributed to them. In effect, the courts determine the relative negligence between the plaintiff and the defendant(s):
- If the plaintiff is not at all at fault, they may be eligible to receive the entirety of their claim.
- If they’re found to be 25 percent at fault, then they may only be eligible to receive up to 75 percent of their original claim.
- If the plaintiff is found to be more than 50 percent at fault, they receive no settlement at all.
When seeking damages following an automobile accident, it’s important to keep comparative negligence in mind. Even if you are partially at fault for causing the accident, you may still be eligible to pursue compensation.