Copyright © 2009-2018 Quinn James. 1134 Waterfront Drive Mt. Pleasant, SC 29464 Telephone: (843) 849-0111 Fax: (843) 628-1027 Personal Injury Information What is a personal injury?   In law, personal injury refers to harm to a person caused by some other person's negligence. A personal injury is a type of tort, which refers to injuries against an individual, as opposed to crimes, which are considered injuries against the government. Some events commonly considered personal injuries may include car accidents, workplace injuries and industrial diseases, slip and fall events, and injuries caused by defective products. What should I do?   If you are the victim of a personal injury, your first priority should be to take stock and gather information. As soon as possible, you should write down a detailed account of the situation you experienced. If you have any evidence from the event, such as clothing, a damaged vehicle, or damaged items, save the evidence; or if you are going to repair the items, take photographs or video of their damaged condition. Find out who witnessed the incident and get their contact information. Also get the contact information of relevant authorities, such as the police, the insurance companies involved, and corporate representatives (in the case of a workplace injury). If you are planning to file a claim against someone for the injury, it is a good idea to let them know. But that doesn't mean you should rush into action. In particular, you should avoid signing agreements with, or making statements to, insurance company representatives until you hire a lawyer and speak with him or her. The opposing insurance company may try to trick you into signing away your rights to collect damages, to protect their own bottom line. A good personal injury lawyer knows when this is going on and how to stop it. Statute of limitations   If you've experienced a personal injury, you should be aware that you can't wait forever to take action. In South Carolina, the statute of limitations for personal injury cases is usually three years, although it can be even shorter in some cases. This is longer than some states (such as Virginia, Georgia and Alabama) provide, but it is not unlimited. You should consult with a qualified and experienced lawyer as soon as possible to ensure that you do not inadvertently exceed the statute of limitations and lose your right to file a lawsuit. Liability and negligence   The fact that you have been hurt is not enough for a court to award you compensation for a personal injury. The person or persons you are suing must be found to be negligent. This means that the other party had a duty to you that they did not fulfill, and that you suffered harm as a result. In South Carolina, your own negligence or carelessness may also be a factor. Under what is known as the "51 percent  bar" rule, your own negligence, if any, is compared to the negligence of the defendant or defendants in causing your injury. If you are 50 percent or less responsible for your injury, you can recover some damages; if you are 51 percent or more responsible, you cannot. All else being equal, the more responsible the other party is for the harm done to you, the more damages you are likely to recover. But even if the other party is as much as 49 percent responsible, you cannot recover damages in South Carolina. The determination of what proportion each person is at fault is absolutely critical -- it can have a huge impact on how much compensation you get. A qualified personal injury lawyer can help you determine where you stand in the complex situation of negligence, and whether you are likely to recover damages. What must be paid for?    It's not always clear what a personal injury claim is worth. The party responsible has robbed you in ways that are immediately apparent, and in ways that aren't so obvious; but unlike in a bank robbery, they didn't make off with an easily measurable wad of cash. Insurance companies know that it's difficult to calculate the size of the claim. Like the banker from "Deal or No Deal?" they may try to give you a lowball offer to get you out of the way, hoping that you won't have all the information. Damages that insurance companies are expected to compensate include easily measurable things like property damage and medical care. But they must also compensate for things that you weren't able to gain because the accident interfered, such as lost income from time missed at your job. They must also pay for pain and suffering and emotional damages, which are notoriously difficult to quantify. Insurance claims adjusters have their own ideas about how much these things are worth, using a complex formula or a computer program to calculate your damages. They don't get the last word, though, and a qualified lawyer may be able to negotiate this figure upward depending on the circumstances of your case. photo credit: Zach Klein photo credit: AMagill photo credit: starpause kid