Columbia Car Accident Attorneys Representing South Carolina Car Crash Victims
Dealing with the aftermath of a car accident can be overwhelming and stressful, especially if you’re facing mounting medical bills, lost wages and severe injuries.
That’s where we come in.
At Smith, Born, Leventis, Taylor & Vega, we believe that if you’ve been injured in an accident because of another driver’s negligence, you deserve to be fully compensated for your injuries.
That’s why our experienced Columbia accident attorneys are here to help you navigate the legal process and fight for the compensation you deserve.
Jacob Born is a wonderful attorney who always had my best interests at heart. He and his staff worked diligently on my case, always keeping me apprised of the progress made and with clear explanations of anything I didn’t understand. His detailed guidance made a difficult event easier to navigate. I very much appreciate everything he and co-counsel, Sean Hinton accomplished for me. Highly recommend!
Through most unfortunate circumstances I was represented by Mr. George. I am a college professor and having taught ethics for a number of years, believe myself to be a keen evaluator of professional behavior. Jamie is ethical, kind, professional, responsive, and gets results. He guided me every step of the way as I do not have any experience/knowledge of law. Specifically, I was hit by a drunk driver at 1:00 pm in the afternoon. As the trauma of being victimized by a horrifically amoral individual, Jamie also crept into our hearts. He not only guided me, he also guided my family. I fall short of being able to aptly describe how much he helped myself and my family. In short, he is simply a stellar attorney.
What are the most common causes of car accidents?
The number one cause of car accidents is driver distraction. This can occur when a driver multitasks by texting, reading or talking with passengers.
Other common causes include:
- Drunk driving
- Reckless driving
- Bad weather
- Ignoring traffic controls
- Inexperienced or new drivers
Be aware that the cause of an accident can impact the determination of a party’s car accident liability or car accident fault. In South Carolina, fault and liability for damages are allocated among accident parties in proportion to their contributions to responsibility.
Also, while punitive damages are not often awarded in a negligence case, egregious drunk driving by a repeat offender might be grounds for punitive damages.
What does it mean that South Carolina is a fault state?
South Carolina is considered a fault state. In no-fault states, an injured party is compensated by their own insurance company regardless of who is at fault.
In South Carolina and other fault states, an injured party must prove that the other party (defendant) was at fault for their injuries.
However, South Carolina applies something called a modified comparative negligence rule. That rule recognizes that both parties might share responsibility. It allocates the fault, and therefore the damages, among the parties.
For example, if it’s found that you’re 20% responsible for a car accident, and the defendant is 80% responsible, your final compensation would be reduced by your percentage of fault, which in this case is 20%. So if you would have been entitled to $100,000 in damages, your final settlement award would be $80,000.
What are common car accident injuries?
Perhaps the most serious common injury in car accidents is a traumatic brain injury. Traumatic brain injuries are caused by ruptured blood vessels that lead to brain swelling.
This swelling causes compression of blood vessels, denying nourishment to and death of brain cells. Compression of brain nerves can also result in paralysis in other parts of the body.
Traumatic brain injuries in car accidents are particularly serious because they must be treated immediately to prevent long-term disability or death. Immediate medical care might not be readily accessible.
Other common car accident injuries include:
- Broken bones
- Spinal cord injuries
- Internal organ injuries and bleeding
- Whiplash injuries
What types of compensation can I get in a car accident case?
The question of how much a car accident claim is worth depends on the liability of the party who caused the accident and the extent of your injuries.
Personal injury claims are governed by South Carolina tort law, which requires an injured party to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant’s negligence or willful conduct was the proximate cause of their injuries.
If you’re injured in a car accident, your potential car accident settlement or car accident compensation awarded to you by a court can include the following:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Pain and suffering
- Wrongful death damages
In rare cases, you might also be awarded punitive damages.
Can I sue for punitive damages as well as compensation for my injuries?
Punitive damages are rare in negligence cases. However, they are sometimes awarded in egregious cases of intentional or gross negligence cases. In South Carolina, punitive damages are limited to the lesser of 3 times the compensatory damages or $500,000.
The jury is not apprised of the limitation on punitive damages. If they return a verdict award that exceeds the limit, the judge can award up to the greater of 4 times compensatory damages or $2 million. However, the judge’s discretion is subject to their finding that the defendant’s conduct was unreasonably dangerous, or their conduct could be punishable as a felony.
Also, there is no limit on jury awards of punitive damages where the defendant was intoxicated or under the influence of drugs. There is also no limit if the defendant is convicted of a felony for their conduct that hurt you.
How do I know if I should file a car accident lawsuit?
Most car accident claims are settled before going to trial. But, if you are injured in a car accident as a result of another’s negligence, you’re entitled to sue for damages. In many cases, an injured party files a lawsuit to motivate the defendant’s insurance company to make a better settlement offer.
One reason you might want to file a lawsuit is if the potential damages you should be entitled to exceed the defendant’s insurance coverage. This is often the case if you suffer catastrophic injuries that require ongoing medical treatment and rehabilitation.
An experienced car accident attorney can give you an estimate of how much your case should be worth so you don’t accept a settlement that’s less than you deserve.
What are the car insurance requirements in South Carolina?
South Carolina requires drivers to carry 25/50/25 liability insurance coverage:
- $25,000 per injured person per accident
- $50,000 total per accident
- $25,000 for property damage
Also, drivers are required to carry Uninsured Motorist and Underinsured Motorist coverage. Coverage above those minimums is optional but recommended.
What can I do if the other driver has no insurance?
If you’re injured in a car accident caused by another party who is not covered by insurance or is underinsured, you can sue that person. However, if they’re uninsured, they likely won’t have the assets to cover your claim, even if you win in court.
You can also file a claim with your insurance company under your Uninsured Motorist and Underinsured Motorist policy. In that event, your insurance company will be subrogated to your claim, giving them standing to sue the uninsured party.
When can I expect to receive my compensation?
Whether you settle your case or file a lawsuit, the process can take a considerable amount of time. The process usually consists of the following stages:
- You must seek medical treatment for your injuries.
- An experienced lawyer will evaluate your claim.
- Your lawyer will send a demand letter to the defendant and their insurance company.
- If you’re not able to settle, your lawyer will file a lawsuit. Settlement negotiations will continue after the filing.
- After filing your lawsuit, there will be a period of discovery where the parties will depose each other and witnesses or submit interrogatories to flesh out the facts.
- Applicable rules may require the parties to submit to mediation. A mediator will be appointed to get the parties together to negotiate a fair settlement.
- If your claim is not resolved, your case will go to trial.
- Opportunities for settlement continue after the trial begins. Otherwise, the resolution will be made by a jury or the judge.
What evidence do I need to support my car accident claim?
The amount and quality of your evidence are most important to the success of your claim. You’re in the best position to assemble that evidence, so if you can, you or an uninjured passenger should do the following:
- Take photos of the accident scene, and be sure to include:
- Your visible injuries, as well as those of any other parties to the accident
- Any damages to the vehicles
- The location of the vehicles where they came to rest
- The condition of the area, including collision debris and skid marks
- Any road conditions that contributed to the accident
- All traffic controls at the scene
- Weather conditions and vision limitations
- If there are witnesses not involved in the accident, get their names, addresses, and phone numbers.
- Get the other driver’s license number, license plate number and insurance information.
- If the police arrive at the scene, get the name and badge number of those present. Ask for the police report number, and find out how to get a copy of it.
In addition to photos, ask any injured parties to describe their injuries. If possible, record their answers on your phone.
What are some common mistakes I should avoid in a car accident claim?
After a car accident, you will be contacted by an insurance adjuster. Remember, they work for an insurance company whose profit margins are negatively impacted by any amount they pay to you. This means that they don’t like to pay claims.
Keep in mind that, under South Carolina law, the amount of your damage award will be reduced proportionately by your share of responsibility for the accident.
Because of this, you should be extremely careful not to say anything to the adjuster that could be considered an admission of fault.
Also, don’t minimize the extent of your injuries, your financial stress or your pain and suffering. To be safe, it is best that you don’t discuss your injuries with the adjuster. They’re not your physicians and are not entitled to this information. If the adjuster pressures you, you should refer them to your lawyer.
Other key points to keep in mind:
- Do not give an adjuster a blanket medical records release. Tell them to contact your lawyer.
- Do not give a recorded statement. You can offer to give a written statement only after your lawyer reviews it.
Will my case be weakened if I was not wearing a seatbelt?
Absolutely. As discussed above, South Carolina applies a modified comparative fault rule. Liability for damages is allocated to the parties in proportion to their respective contributions to the actions or inactions that caused the injuries.
If you were not wearing your seatbelt, you are partially responsible for the nature and severity of your injuries. Depending on the proportion attributed to your fault, your damage award could be reduced.
FAQs about car accident claims
The amount of your compensation depends on the severity of your injuries. Compensatory damages in a personal injury case are awarded in the form of economic damages and non-economic damages.
• Economic damages are those that can be expressed in terms of recognized monetary value. That includes the dollar amount of your medical bills, property loss and lost wages.
• Non-economic damages are those that do not have recognized monetary value. Those include pain and suffering as well as emotional distress.
In cases of a defendant’s egregious conduct, punitive damages are sometimes awarded as a deterrent against future conduct. However, in South Carolina, punitive damages are limited to 3 times compensatory damages.
Many insurance companies will respond to your claim with surprising promptness after your accident. They like to catch you in a vulnerable state of mind, hopefully before you are represented by an attorney. They will likely claim that their offer is based on their vast experience with claims similar to yours.
To be clear, you should never accept a settlement offer until you have the advice of an experienced personal injury lawyer.
Most personal injury attorneys offer free initial consultations, so you have nothing to lose by seeking their opinion on your claim.
Also, be aware that injury symptoms are often not experienced until some time after a car accident. This means that if you accept a quick settlement offer from the insurance company before fully understanding the extent of your injuries, you could lose out on significant compensation.
Many experienced personal injury lawyers (including our firm) handle cases on a contingent basis. They are paid a percentage of your settlement or jury award. This percentage can vary between 25% and 35% depending on whether your case goes to trial or is settled before trial.
They will also usually pay your litigation costs while your case is pending, for which they will be reimbursed in addition to their percentage fee.
If you lose your case, they get paid nothing.
It takes time to reach a settlement or win a jury award. During that time, you will have medical bills accumulating. If you have health insurance, you should use it to pay for your medical treatments. Otherwise, your attorney might submit a letter to your healthcare providers promising to pay fees out of your recovery. In a sense, they’re asking health providers to serve you on a contingent basis.
In South Carolina, the statute of limitation is 3 years for an action against a non-government defendant and 2 years for an action against a governmental defendant.
Why should I hire a car accident attorney?
Personal injury cases are usually complex, involving legal, technical and medical issues. Insurance companies employ professional adjusters and lawyers to minimize the claims they have to pay.
If you suffer injuries that require medical attention, you should consult a personal injury lawyer with extensive experience in car accident cases as soon as possible after an accident to protect your rights and minimize your liability.
Your evidence will necessarily require evaluation and testimony of medical experts, so your lawyer should have a working knowledge of medical issues. In many cases, your lawyer will have a substantial previous working relationship with physicians and other medical experts.
Moreover, they will have extensive experience in dealing with insurance company adjusters and lawyers.
Get a free consultation with our Columbia car accident attorneys
If you’ve been injured in a car accident in South Carolina, you need an experienced car accident attorney by your side to reduce your liability and ensure you get the maximum compensation possible for your injuries.
At Smith, Born, Leventis, Taylor & Vega, our team will fight for your rights and handle every aspect of your claim, so you can focus on your recovery.
Contact us today to schedule your first free consultation and learn more about how we can help you get the justice and compensation you deserve.