In South Carolina, thousands of car accidents occur each year, leaving victims with devastating injuries and losses. After a car accident, it's important to understand your legal rights and options for seeking compensation for any injuries or damages resulting from the accident. Knowing your legal rights helps ensure you receive the compensation you deserve to cover medical expenses, lost wages, and other damages resulting from the accident. This article will provide an overview of your legal rights after suffering injuries in a serious car accident in South Carolina.
Your Legal Rights After Suffering Serious Injuries in a Car Accident
Being involved in a serious car accident can be a traumatic and stressful experience, especially if the injuries sustained have long-term effects. While the immediate focus should be on medical treatment and recovery, it is essential to understand your legal rights.
Right to Safety and Medical Attention
If you have been involved in a car accident, you have the right to receive appropriate medical care for any injuries sustained. This includes emergency medical treatment, hospitalization, and any necessary follow-up care. It is crucial to prioritize your safety and well-being by seeking medical attention as soon as possible after the accident, even if you do not immediately feel injured. Delaying medical treatment can worsen injuries and lead to complications that could have been prevented with prompt medical attention.
Right to Report the Accident
In South Carolina, you not only have the legal right to call the police after a car accident—you are legally obligated to do so. Calling the police is one of the first things you should do after a car accident. They will document the incident and file an official police report. This report can serve as evidence for your case. Any car accident with at least $1,000 in property damage or that results in injuries or death must be reported. If the situation isn't too serious, you may call the non-emergency number. However, don't hesitate to call 911 if needed.
Right to Gather Information
To build up your case, you need evidence. As South Carolina is a comparative negligence state, proving the amount of fault is critical. You have the legal right to access evidence related to the accident. This includes police reports, medical records, and witness statements. Trying to access this information on your own can be difficult. A lawyer will have access to databases and other sources of information that can help you gather the evidence you need to build a strong case.
Right to Compensation
In some cases, you may be able to recover damages from the other party's insurer. You may need to take legal action and file a lawsuit in other cases. You would need to take legal action against the at-fault driver or their insurance company to seek compensation for damages. However, in some cases, you may also have the option to sue a third party. For example, the manufacturer may also be held accountable if a defective vehicle component caused the accident. In some cases, seeking damages from multiple parties can help ensure you receive the compensation you deserve for the harm and losses you have incurred.
Fair compensation after a car accident extends beyond car repair costs and medical expenses. Examples of other costs and damages that may be recovered include:
- Lost wages. This includes wages you would have earned had you not been injured and any benefits and perks you may have lost.
- Loss of future earning potential. In some cases, injuries sustained in a car accident may result in a victim being unable to work in the future or working in a different capacity. Compensation for loss of future earning potential seeks to compensate for this financial loss.
- Pain and suffering. This refers to any physical pain, discomfort, or emotional distress caused by the accident and its aftermath. This may include ongoing pain, emotional trauma, and loss of enjoyment of life.
- Emotional distress. The emotional impact of a car accident can be significant, causing anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues.
- Diminished quality of life. Injuries sustained in a car accident can affect a victim's quality of life by limiting their ability to perform daily activities, enjoy hobbies and interests, and interact with others.
- Loss of consortium. This refers to the accident's impact on a victim's relationship with their spouse or partner. Compensation for loss of consortium seeks to compensate for the negative impact on the relationship.
- Property damage and other out-of pocket expenses. You may be able to recover damages for the costs of repairing or replacing your vehicle and renting a vehicle until your car is repaired or replaced, for example.
- Punitive damages. Punitive damages may be awarded to punish the at-fault party for reckless or intentional behavior, and to deter them and others from engaging in similar conduct in the future.
Right to Legal Representation
Navigating the complicated legal system is not for the faint of heart. The average person doesn't know everything about South Carolina injury law. An experienced lawyer can help you get the compensation you need to cover medical bills and other expenses related to the accident.
A big reason why you want an attorney is because they can speak on your behalf. Any communication with the other party may be taken as evidence. You don't want to be caught accidentally saying the wrong thing—one slip of the tongue can lead to costly mistakes.
After a car accident, your personal injury attorney can handle negotiations with insurance companies on your behalf. They can represent you in all discussions and negotiations, allowing you to focus on your recovery and avoid potential mistakes or miscommunications.
While the legal process can be lengthy and confusing, having a knowledgeable attorney by your side can help alleviate some of the stress and uncertainty associated with a claim.
Factors That Can Affect Your Legal Rights After a Serious Car Accident
Several important factors can affect your legal rights when you are involved in a serious car accident. Understanding how each of these factors can impact your legal case is crucial in ensuring that your rights are protected and that you receive the compensation you deserve:
- Insurance coverage. The amount and type of insurance coverage involved can significantly impact the amount of compensation you may be entitled to.
- Comparative negligence. In some cases, both parties may share fault for the accident. South Carolina assigns fault in car accidents based on comparative negligence. This means that fault is assigned based on percentage. For example, if you are 10 percent at fault, you can claim up to 90 percent of the damages.
- Statute of limitations. There is a specific timeframe within which you must file a legal claim after a car accident. In South Carolina, you generally have three years from the date of an automobile accident to file a lawsuit for injuries or damages. Failing to do so within this timeframe can impact your ability to seek compensation.
- Choosing the right attorney. Having an experienced personal injury attorney on your side can make a significant difference in the outcome of your case. It's important to choose an attorney who is knowledgeable and has experience in serious car accident cases.