If you’ve been involved in a car accident in SC, when should you file a car accident claim, and what is the process to get paid?
In this article, we will discuss how car accident claims work in SC, including:
- When you should file a car accident claim,
- When you need an attorney to file your claim, and
- The stages of a car accident claim.
Should You Even File a Car Accident Claim?
When should you file a car accident claim?
The answer depends on 1) who caused the accident and 2) the extent of damage including damage to the vehicle and injuries to yourself or passengers.
Determining if You Have a Valid Car Accident Claim
The first question is liability – if another driver caused the accident, and there are sufficient damages to justify filing suit, you may have a valid car accident claim.
On the other hand, if you caused the accident, you may not have a valid claim (and the other driver might make a claim against your insurance or file a lawsuit against you).
SC follows what is called a “modified comparative negligence rule,” which means that, even if you were partially at fault for the accident, you may still have a car accident claim. Your recovery will be reduced by the percentage of fault that is assigned to you up to 50%, but, if your fault is greater than 50%, you recover nothing.
Injury and Damages
If you were not injured in the car wreck, you do not file a personal injury claim.
If you were injured, however, you can file a personal injury claim with the other driver’s insurance company and demand compensation for:
- Medical expenses,
- Future medical expenses,
- Lost wages and loss of future earning capacity,
- Emotional distress and mental or emotional injury,
- Pain and suffering, and
- Punitive damages when appropriate.
If you were not injured, but your vehicle suffered damage, you can still file a property damage claim with the other driver’s insurance company and demand compensation for the cost of repairs, diminution in value caused by the wreck, or the cost of replacement if your vehicle is totaled.
Do I Need a Lawyer to File a Car Accident Claim?
If you suffered property damage only, you may not need an attorney’s help – most insurance companies will pay the property damage claim quickly (and separately from any personal injury claims).
If you have significant property damage and the insurance company is refusing to pay, or if you or your passengers suffered injuries in the crash, you will need a SC car accident lawyer to get the maximum compensation you are entitled to under SC law.
In most cases, the insurance company will refuse to pay your claim or will attempt to limit your claim unless your demands are accompanied by the threat of trial with a personal injury attorney who knows 1) the full extent of damages you are entitled to, 2) SC law on insurance and liability, and 3) how to try a SC car accident case to a jury when necessary.
Stages of a Car Accident Claim
Your SC car accident claim will have three stages – pre-litigation, litigation, and trial.
Note that your case could settle at any stage of the proceedings. Although many cases settle before the lawsuit is filed, the insurance company could agree to pay at any time during the litigation, mediation, trial, or even when the case is on appeal.
Before the lawsuit is filed, your car accident attorney will gather evidence that you will need to prove liability and damages, using investigators or expert consultants when needed, including:
- Witness reports,
- Accident reports,
- Accident reconstruction,
- Photos and videos of the accident scene,
- Information on the defendant or their employer, and
- Medical records, bills, and invoices.
Your attorney will handle all communication with the insurance companies, and, in many cases, will make a pre-lawsuit demand for payment and negotiate with the insurance companies to get you paid.
If the insurance company does not pay your reasonable demand for full and fair compensation, and if negotiations are unsuccessful, your attorney will then file a lawsuit, prepare your case for trial, and continue with:
- Settlement negotiations,
- Depositions of key witnesses,
- Formal discovery including requests to produce, requests to admit, and interrogatories,
- Motion hearings, and
- Court-ordered mediation.
Trial and Appeal
Although most car accident claims are settled before trial begins, your attorney must be prepared and ready to try your case to a jury if the insurance company does not pay.
In most cases, the procedure at a car accident trial includes:
- Jury qualification and jury selection,
- Pretrial motions,
- Opening statements by each side,
- Presentation of your case to the jury,
- Presentation of the defendant’s case to the jury,
- Closing arguments by each side,
- Jury instructions from the court,
- Jury deliberations,
- Verdict, and
- Post-trial motions.
If either side claims that the court made errors during the trial, the case can be appealed to the SC Court of Appeals. The appellate court can then 1) affirm the result or 2) overturn the result in whole or in part and remand the case for a new trial or with instructions for the trial court.
Questions About Car Accident Claims in SC?
If you have been injured in a car accident in SC, call the Law Office of Nicholas G. Callas, P.A. at 803-369-3968 or contact us through our website for a free consultation.
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Let’s discuss the details of your case and see if we can help.