- What do I do in the event of an accident?
- What if I get an estimate, then the body shop starts work and they find something else wrong?
- Should I get an attorney after a car accident?
- How soon after my accident should I hire an attorney?
- What if I am hit by a commercial motor vehicle?
- Why don’t they just give me the money and let me repair my car wherever I want?
- Why won’t the hospital take my health insurance? Why do they need to know who the liability carrier is for the other driver?
- What do I do with the FR-10?
- What is the FR-10 form the officer gave me at the scene?
- What kind of medical care should I seek after an accident?
- What kind of treatment should I expect when I have been injured in a wreck?
- How to protect your interests with auto accident claims: What you can do
- Involved in a car wreck in South Carolina? Here is what you need to know.
- I’ve heard about depreciation. What is it and how much is my now wrecked car devalued?
- My car is wrecked, now what?
- I have health insurance, but why should they pay my medical bills when the other driver sent me to the hospital?
- How does gap insurance affect my totaled car?
- My car was brand new. I want a new one since they totaled mine.
- Should I go to the emergency room by ambulance from the scene?
- Should I be the middle man between the insurance company and the repair shop?
- Can I choose who repairs my car?
- What an electric arc flash does to a hard hat
- What are assignments of benefits?
- What are frivolous lawsuits?
- What are permanent injuries?
- What are personal injuries pain and suffering and other stuff I hear about?
- What are related medical expenses?
- What is pain and suffering and how do I put a value on it?
- What is “SUBROGATION”?
- What kind of insurance should I carry and do I have enough insurance?
- What happens after I hire an attorney?
- What compensation can I collect?
- What do I need to do to collect compensation?
- What can I do to ensure a strong case?
- How do I know who to hire as my attorney?
- How do I hire an attorney?
- How does the lawyer get paid?
- How is scarring evaluated?
- Can I collect the wages I lost because of the wreck?
- I am on Medicaid or Medicare. Do they have a subrogation right?
- What damages can I claim in a personal injury case?
- What are punitive damages?
- What if I was partially at fault?
- How much is my case worth?
- What is the statute of limitations for personal injury cases?
What do I do in the event of an accident?
- First, check on the health and safety of yourself and your passengers.
- Check on the safety and health of the other vehicle driver and occupants. Call 911 to report the accident. Ask for medical assistance if needed or simply for an officer to investigate the event.
- Move everyone to a safe location to avoid any further collisions.
- Gather your registration, license and insurance information and wait on the officer to arrive.
- Refrain from any admission of fault.
- Take photos of the vehicles, scene and any injuries.
- Gather information on the other driver such as insurance information, tag number and license information. Gather any witness names and information. Look around to see if there are any video cameras that might have recorded the collision.
- Cooperate fully with the investigating officer without admitting any wrongdoing on your behalf.
- Seek medical attention if necessary either by ambulance or in a personal vehicle.
- Take the green Insurance Verification Form (FR-10) the police give you to your insurance agent so that they can complete it and provide proof of insurance (Failure to do so will result in suspension of your license).
Should you call an attorney? Not necessarily. For minor accidents with little or no injury, you can most likely handle it yourself.
You should call an attorney if you or your passengers suffer serious injury. A serious injury is one where someone is transported by ambulance and receives test, X-rays, CT or MRI scans and requires further medical treatment.
What if I get an estimate, then the body shop starts work and they find something else wrong?
That’s typical in repairs. The body shop and insurance adjuster do their best to get the estimate correct, but sometimes the repairs just cost more than anyone expected. The body shop will do a supplemental estimate, and usually, the repair gets approved. This is especially true if you go to the insurance company’s approved shop.
Should I get an attorney after a car accident?
It is never a bad idea to consult an attorney after a car accident. A lawyer may be able to help recover compensation to meet your needs and make up for your losses. If your situation is one where an attorney is unable to offer assistance, they can let you know after a brief, no-obligation consultation and often provide you with the information necessary to file and handle a claim on your own to resolution.
How soon after my accident should I hire an attorney?
The sooner you start working with an attorney, the more assistance they will be able to provide. A car accident lawyer could help collect evidence to show the cause of a collision, answer questions from investigators and insurance companies, and help prevent mistakes that could jeopardize your ability to recover. Moreover, your attorney has been through the process before and can guide you through the ordeal. For all these reasons, it is helpful to contact a lawyer as soon as possible after the accident.
What if I am hit by a commercial motor vehicle?
If you or a loved one have been hit by a commercial motor vehicle, such as a tractor trailer, delivery truck, or any vehicle weighing over 20,000 pounds, it is imperative that you contact a lawyer as quickly as possible to protect your rights as an injured person. Commercial motor vehicle collisions occur every day in South Carolina and can often result in catastrophic injuries or even death. Oftentimes, with the help of an attorney, immediate access to the subject of a commercial motor vehicle can be granted to uncover a wealth of information through downloading the truck’s electronic data recorder which will provide an incredible amount of detailed information about the days, hours, and seconds leading up to the collision.
Why don’t they just give me the money and let me repair my car wherever I want?
Well, they actually will, but the risk is then on you if you choose the wrong repair shop or there’s a need for supplemental repairs. If the damage is minor and you choose not to repair the car, then you can and should accept the repair amount.
Why won’t the hospital take my health insurance? Why do they need to know who the liability carrier is for the other driver?
The hospital wants the entire amount, not the negotiated rate. But they contracted with your health insurance carrier and they have to submit it on your health coverage, whether they like it or not.
What do I do with the FR-10?
Under South Carolina law you MUST turn this form into your insurance agent within ten days. This is done to provide proof of insurance. The agent fills out the remainder of the document and files it with the SCDMV, thus proving you have insurance. Failure to turn this form over to your agent, or of your agent to file it with the SCDMV as proof of insurance, may cause your driving privileges to be suspended.
What is the FR-10 form the officer gave me at the scene?
The FR-10, Insurance Verification Form, or green form, is a cursory report created at the scene by the officer setting forth the basic details of the accident. This includes such things as the names of the drivers and owners of the involved vehicles, along with their insurance information. Of special note is the section under each vehicle that indicates whether or not that driver contributed to the accident. See what is circled, and that will give you the officer’s impression of who was at fault. This is not final and not binding on you or the other driver; it’s just his impression based on what he found at the scene and what he was told.
What kind of medical care should I seek after an accident?
If you are injured in an accident, then seek immediate medical care from your local emergency room. As soon as possible, begin keeping a medical log.
What kind of treatment should I expect when I have been injured in a wreck?
The answer depends on what is recommended by your medical providers. Attorneys neither suggest nor dictate your medical treatment. Some of the most common medical treatments and evaluation tools you might see are:
- X-Rays, CT Scans, MRIs: Used to evaluate fractures, closed head injuries, and ligament and tendon injuries.
- Personal Physician: Also thought of as your family doctor, primary care physician, or the one who sees you for most of your medical needs.
- Orthopedist: Sometimes referred to as a bone doctor. These physicians diagnose and treat injuries to the spine and boney elements of the arms, legs, hips and shoulders.
- Physical Therapists: Medical personnel who on orders from a physician provide intense therapy to recondition the muscles and joints that assist in your physical recovery.
- Chiropractors: Healthcare providers who use various modalities to help diagnose and treat injuries to your spine.
- Pain Management: Physicians who treat patients with long-term pain issues through various trials of medications and injections in hope of alleviating or reducing one’s pain.
- ESI: Epidural steroid injections. Administered by a trained physician, often times a pain-management doctor, to alleviate inflammation and pain in the spine.
- Acupuncture: An ancient, but potentially helpful treatment for pain that uses needles to identify and isolate for treating various nerve and tissue related pain receptors.
- Rehabilitation facilities: Long-term care facilities where a patient might be sent from post-accident surgery or hospitalization for rehabilitation with various therapies to help return the patient to partial if not full independent functioning.
How to protect your interests with auto accident claims: What you can do
One of the steps in recovering after a traffic accident can be filing an auto insurance claim. These claims can end up getting victims the compensation they need to fix their vehicles and get treatments for their accident-related injuries.
All too often, however, car accident victims end up finding out that the auto accident claims process can be contentious and frustrating, especially if insurance providers are really out to minimize (or try to deny) claims and payouts.
To help victims protect their interests – and potential rights to compensation, below are some of the most important things to do when filing auto accident claims and dealing with insurers following collisions.
The 4 do’s of auto accident claims: What motorists should know
- DO stick to the facts and only the facts – Explain where and when the accident took place, as well as what happened before/during/after the crash. Avoid trying to pin the blame on anyone. And, by all means, avoid accepting the blame for the collision. Just stick to the facts.
- DO wait to make an official statement if you aren’t ready – Depending on the insurer, you may be asked pretty early on to give an official statement. Make sure you only do this when you are ready to – meaning that you are clear about the facts and you feel well enough. Making official statements to insurers too early can end up backfiring, as people can just blurt things out that they didn’t mean to say, possibly hurting their claim.
- DO provide insurers with your photos and/or other evidence – Make sure you give insurers copies of your accident-related pictures and evidence (of course, retaining originals for yourself). Your evidence can impact their determinations, and you want to make sure they have all of the info they need to see things your way and issue a decision in your favor.
- DO keep everything insurers send you and avoid signing/cashing anything – Basically, this point goes towards what you should do to protect yourself just in case anything ends up going south with your claim (like an insurer wrongly denies it or seriously undervalues it). The things to keep in case you need to take further action include any correspondence from insurers, notes about calls insurers have made to you, etc. Also, make sure you never sign anything or cash any checks they send you without carefully reviewing them first (ideally, with the insight of an experienced lawyer) because that could be the end of your claim/could mean that you are inadvertently accepting a settlement or ending your claim.
Involved in a car wreck in South Carolina? Here is what you need to know.
We all know car wrecks happen, but you may be surprised at how often they occur. According to the 2017 data from the South Carolina Department of Public Safety, a traffic collision occurred every 3.7 minutes – and every 8.7 minutes a person was injured.
What are the common causes of car accidents?
Most wrecks are a result of careless and illegal driving habits such as ignoring traffic signs and signals, distracted driving, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, speeding, making unsafe lane changes, and improper turning. These driving behaviors can result in collisions, injuries, and fatalities. Although there is no surefire way to avoid a car accident, obeying traffic laws and practicing good driving habits can certainly help.
Filing a car accident claim
A car accident, especially a severe one, can have a significant impact on your life, leaving you physically injured and in emotional distress. The financial impact of a car accident can be immense. You may be left with substantial medical bills, prescription costs, and you may be unable to work. If you were injured in a car wreck due to the negligence of another driver, you should file a claim to recover compensation for your damages. However, because every state has different laws pertaining to recovering damages after an accident, it is important to speak with a personal injury lawyer with experience handling car accident claims in South Carolina.
The Columbia car accident lawyers at Chappell Smith & Arden, P.A. offer this infographic that provides important things to know when seeking compensation after a South Carolina car accident.
I’ve heard about depreciation. What is it and how much is my now wrecked car devalued?
This is a tough question with no easy answer. Some people think the depreciation is a percentage of your repair bill. Some argue that if your car is repaired correctly there’s no depreciation. With online vehicle-history listings (e.g., CARFAX), someone can always see if your car has been wrecked and repaired and it’s simply not worth as much. Likewise, we have all seen the red or grey car that has had a fender repainted that doesn’t really match, and time only makes it more obvious. (I’ve never understood why grey was so hard to match. But I digress.) In a perfect world, I would get the dealer who you bought it from to reappraise your now-wrecked and repaired car and tell you what they would give you in trade for it now, compared to what they would have given you the day before it was wrecked. That’s the true depreciation number.
My car is wrecked, now what?
The first thing is to have your car towed or-if drivable, driven to the repair shop of your choice.
Next, contact the at-fault driver’s insurance company and set up a claim. Tell them where your car is and have them send out a claims adjuster to look at your car ASAP. Tell them that it is not drivable and demand a rental car.
Rental Cars: Under South Carolina Law, you are entitled to a vehicle while your car is in the shop. But what kind of vehicle? Don’t be fooled into thinking that you have to accept the cheapest car on the rental car lot. The law says you are entitled to a “similar” or “like” car. If your work van was damaged they should authorize a rental work van. If you were driving a BMW, then you’re entitled to a similar quality car. They don’t have to provide you a BMW, but it should be a comparable four-door sedan. Another question that frequently comes up is whether or not YOU have to put down your credit card and get reimbursed later. The answer is NO.
The key to securing a temporary replacement vehicle of like make and model is to be persistent. The squeaky wheel does get the grease. So you might ask, “Mr. Lawyer I hired you to represent me for my car wreck, so why don’t you deal with it?” The answer is twofold. First, we don’t bring a lot of value to the equation. Fixing your car will cost what fixing your car will cost. Second, charging a fee on the repair of your vehicle would not be in your best interest financially. We would be glad to give advice, but having an attorney in the equation as the middle man only slows down the process.
Total Loss: When is your car “totaled?” Under South Carolina law a vehicle is deemed totaled when the estimate for repair exceeds 70 percent of the car’s value. As an example, say after doing your research you realize that your vehicle is worth $11,000. The repair estimate is $7,700. The insurance company will likely pay you the $11,000 for the car, take possession of it and send it to a salvage yard where it will be auctioned off and parted out. A vehicle that is deemed totaled will be sold with a “salvaged” title and will only be able to return to the road once its repairs are made and after inspection, the vehicle is deemed “roadworthy.”
I have health insurance, but why should they pay my medical bills when the other driver sent me to the hospital?
The easiest answer is because the hospital or doctor’s office won’t treat you if you don’t have health insurance or pay in cash. You need medical treatment, so give them your health insurance and be seen. Don’t worry about using your health insurance.
How does gap insurance affect my totaled car?
If you are either fortunate enough to have purchased gap coverage or even if you were forced to buy it by your lienholder, consider yourself lucky if your car is totaled in a wreck. Gap insurance is first-party coverage you paid for that pays off the difference on your loan if the value of your totaled car is less than the amount you owe on it. As an example, you settle on a value with the insurance company for $19,000, but you still owe $21,000 to the bank. Your gap policy pays the other $2,000. The bank gets the $19,000 from the liability carrier and adds the $2,000 from the gap carrier. Now your loan is paid, but you don’t have a down payment for another car. But wait: the bank will likely work with you if you have been a good payer, and they’ll arrange for the loan to transfer on to the next vehicle. Remember, the bank likes good-paying customers with loans backed by collateral (your car). Talk to your bank or loan company about making the deal.
My car was brand new. I want a new one since they totaled mine.
This is a manageable situation depending on how long you have had your new car, how many miles were on it and how willing the dealership and insurance company are to work with you. Assume you’ve had your brand-new car for two months and it only has 1,100 miles on it. It gets totaled. You want another car just like it. Oftentimes the insurance carrier will work with the dealer, who definitely wants to sell you another car to make the deal work. They might just substitute a new car for the wrecked car on your loan, and you carry on. But like most things involving insurance companies, the law, and life, nothing is certain.
Should I go to the emergency room by ambulance from the scene?
I would defer to the on-scene medical personnel. They are professionals in assessing your medical needs. There are advantages to going to the ER by ambulance. You get almost immediate attention and medical treatment and the insurance companies assume that if you don’t go by ambulance you weren’t hurt.
Should I be the middle man between the insurance company and the repair shop?
Unless you are a trained body shop repairman or an insurance adjuster, you’re probably like me and not certain if the repair is needed or the price is correct. Never get caught in that argument. That is why I often recommend having your repairs done at the shop that the insurance carrier recommends and that has a good reputation. Let them battle it out.
Can I choose who repairs my car?
Anywhere you want, as long as the insurance company agrees to it. It needs to be a quality repair shop. You want a quality repair and the insurance company wants you to be satisfied with the job done. Too many times in my career I’ve seen someone choose their old pal John, and not only does the car not get a good repair, but it languishes forever in the shop, the insurance company pulls your rental car, and eventually you and John have a falling out. Use a certified repair shop. Often times the insurance company has a preferred repair shop, and I suggest you either use the preferred shop or the dealership where you bought your car.
What an electric arc flash does to a hard hat
Industrial accidents can be flatly horrifying. Electric arc flashes are some of the worst.
Even relatively small plants and factories require tremendous amounts of electricity to maintain production. This, in turn, necessitates large, complex equipment that can safely disburse thousands of volts from a substation to individual machines. Literally hundreds of pages of safety regulations have been written, and are constantly revised, to protect the safety of the men and women who work in close proximity to this equipment because when accidents happen with electricity, the results can be very, very bad.
Electric arc flashes last for mere milliseconds–far less than the time it takes to blink an eye. Their lethality stems from the tremendous heat generated by the electricity. A single arc flash can reach temperatures of 35,000 degrees Fahrenheit–three and one-half times the heat of the surface of the sun. This sudden blast of heat is enough to vaporize steel, plastic, and human flesh.
Workers who survive these types of accidents generally do so with third degree burns across large portions of their bodies. They face years of excruciating burn treatment and a lifetime of terrible scarring and disability. Medical bills alone can easily exceed one million dollars in a matter of months.
Seeking compensation for workers killed or maimed by arc flash explosions is a difficult task. Employers who may have failed to observe safety protocols are generally protected from liability by state workers’ compensation laws. These laws may enable a worker to have his medical bills satisfied and receive a small amount of compensation for disability, but workers’ compensation usually does not provide any recovery for the truly awful pain and suffering and loss of quality of life incurred by victims of electrical burns.
Achieving compensation for these individuals requires an extensive, multi-faceted legal approach that touches upon not only workers’ compensation laws, but also tort law, product liability, agency, and even appellate practice. As a result, very few law firms are equipped to handle such a responsibility. But without such a sweeping approach to the legal rights of the victims of a major industrial accident, achieving anything close to reasonable compensation for these terribly injured individuals is a near impossibility.
What are assignments of benefits?
When you go to the hospital or doctor’s office you will sometimes be required to sign an Assignment of Benefits agreement. By signing this, you are agreeing that the medical provider will get paid first out of any settlement proceeds you get from your case. The agreement is never to your benefit and only to the medical providers. They now have a lien on your case. You do not have to sign these, but some medical providers will not see you if you don’t. Show them your health insurance card and ask them to accept that instead.
What are frivolous lawsuits?
Well, there just aren’t a lot of frivolous lawsuits as insurance companies would have you believe. It’s just not true. Insurance-company propaganda, I call it. As we just discussed, we’re contingency-fee lawyers. Frivolous claims or frivolous lawsuits by their very definition have no value. So getting paid a percentage of a case with no value means getting paid…. no value. Why would an attorney or a client pursue a case with no value?
What are permanent injuries?
Permanent injuries are those which will remain with you for the remainder of your life. These are more often than not associated with spinal injuries and fractures of bones in your body or joints. After an injury, the body seldom returns to its pre-accident/pre-injury condition. The loss of functionality in whole or in part is considered a permanent injury. This opinion, just like the one above on future medical treatment, must be testified to by a physician to a reasonable degree of medical certainty to establish the existence of the alleged injury.
What are personal injuries pain and suffering and other stuff I hear about?
Like I say about everything in my life, let’s start with the law. Under South Carolina Law, if you are injured as the result of someone else’s negligence, you can be compensated for all medical expenses, past, present and future; pain and suffering, past present and future; any permanent impairment; wages lost from your job, past, present and future; loss of enjoyment of life and scarring.
What are related medical expenses?
Related medical expenses are for treatment and care for any injury resulting from the negligence of others. This includes, but is not limited to, hospital and physician bills; physical therapy and chiropractic treatments; X-rays, CT Scans, MRIs; psychiatric and psychological visits; and prescription medications.
What is pain and suffering and how do I put a value on it?
Under South Carolina law, a person can collect for their pain and suffering. In fact, this often amounts to much greater damage than your medical bills or wage loss. Pain is the physical manifestation of your injury, whereas suffering is the effect the pain and the injury has on your day-to-day life. Documentation of this is the key. Anytime you are being treated at a medical facility, you need to advise them of how you are feeling and what is going on with your injuries. Insurance companies rely greatly on what is in your medical records and mostly what is not in your medical records. If you don’t mention the pain you are in, the carrier will argue you must not have been in pain. I also advise my clients to keep a daily log of how they are feeling, how they are sleeping, and what things they can and cannot do.
What is “SUBROGATION”?
As soon as the medical provider’s billing code shows your treatment resulted from a wreck, you will likely receive paperwork to fill out explaining what happened, identifying the liability carrier, and identifying your attorney. We can complete that paperwork for you. They will assert their right of subrogation, which means they want their money back. But all is not lost. Let’s talk about the best way for you to handle this situation. When you go to the hospital, give them only your health insurance information. Never give them the liability insurance information. More on that in the next item. Your health insurance company has negotiated a contract with that hospital where they have agreed by contract to accept less than the billed price for their services. You will later have to pay back your health insurance carrier on their subrogation claim.
Here’s how this can work to your benefit. Say the hospital charges $100. The health insurance contract price is $62. In resolving your case we can, under South Carolina law (not North Carolina), submit the entire $100 bill to the liability carrier. They pay the $100. Then we negotiate down your health insurance company’s subrogation from the $62 they paid to $40. In the end, you only pay $40 on the $100 hospital bill. The hospital got what they contracted for ($62). The health insurance company got back what they negotiated for ($40). And liability carrier paid what they were required to pay ($100). All negotiated, and all legal and above board. You may ask: What if my health insurance carrier never contacts me about their subrogation claim? Not all carriers are aggressive about pursuing them. If they don’t put you on notice of their subrogation claim, don’t go looking for one. The exceptions are ERISA plans and any state or federal medical plan such as Medicaid or Medicare.
What kind of insurance should I carry and do I have enough insurance?
The answer to both of those questions is: as much as you can afford. It also depends on what you are trying to accomplish. By that I mean: What are you trying to protect? Yourself? Others? Your assets?
So what do I recommend? Earlier I said to purchase as much as you can afford, but that varies greatly from person to person. A young person starting their life with little or no assets and money might not be able to afford more than the state minimum. But remember, if you are making payments on a car, you will likely be required by the bank to purchase comprehensive, collision and gap coverage insurance. This protects the bank’s asset, your car.
Someone with a home, business, or other major assets will need to purchase more than the minimum limits. Oftentimes I see policies in the 100/300/100 range for people, and oftentimes a 250/500 policy with a one-million-dollar umbrella above that. It is pretty rare for an individual to carry a single-limits policy because they normally only come as a one-million-dollar single-limits policy.
What happens after I hire an attorney?
Every case is unique, but generally your attorney will need to learn about your case by collecting information from you, reviewing police reports, and gathering data from other sources. When your lawyer has the full picture, they may send a demand letter requesting compensation for your injuries and other damage. If an insurance company is asking questions or pressuring you to settle the case, your lawyer could negotiate on your behalf and evaluate the fairness of any offers received based on legal precedent. In situations where a settlement offer does not provide adequate compensation, your attorney could file a lawsuit to seek appropriate damages.
What compensation can I collect?
Compensation is designed to restore you to the condition you were in before the accident. Therefore, a damages award should cover expenses such as medical bills, future medical treatment, vehicle damage, and make up for wages lost while you are unable to work. In addition, the law entitles you to a subjective level of compensation for your pain and suffering. No amount of money can restore your health or take away pain and suffering, but accident victims in South Carolina generally receive additional monetary compensation for these intangible losses because there is no other available remedy. An award of compensation also usually includes money to provide for future needs such as additional medical care and to offset any anticipated wage losses if the accident impacted your ability to work.
What do I need to do to collect compensation?
To have the best chance of receiving fair compensation, you should seek advice from an attorney experienced in handling car accident cases and follow that advice closely. For instance, your attorney may advise you to avoid making statements that could be taken out of context and used to deny liability. Your attorney might also advise you to avoid activities that could undermine the severity of your injuries.
What can I do to ensure a strong case?
A strong case for recovery is built on evidence. You will need evidence showing the cause of the accident and evidence of your losses, particularly your injuries and the effect those injuries have had on your life. A car accident attorney in South Carolina could help you collect evidence to show liability for the accident. This might include obtaining footage from traffic cameras, interviewing witnesses, and taking photos of the accident scene. Many times, accident lawyers will call on experts in collision reconstruction who can put the evidence together to demonstrate what happened and why another person should be held responsible.
How do I know who to hire as my attorney?
You won’t find the lawyers from Chappell Smith and Arden in any of those places. You’ll find us in the courtrooms and hearing rooms representing good people in deserving cases. So I suggest the best way to see if a lawyer is the right one for you is to ask a friend. Then check them out on the internet.
Go to their website. Look at their experience. Look at their involvement in the community and their leadership among lawyers. Look for the lawyers who teach other lawyers to be better at their trade. Look for the lawyers who other lawyers look up to and consider outstanding in ethics and competency.
How do I hire an attorney?
We make hiring an attorney pretty simple and no risk to you. Most importantly, we can answer your questions for free and help you decide whether or not you need an attorney. If you don’t need a lawyer, we will tell you so. If you do, we make it simple.
How does the lawyer get paid?
We work on a contingency fee basis. Most people have never hired a lawyer and don’t know what that means. Contingency means we only get paid if we obtain you money. As I like to say, nothing ventured, nothing gained. Why you might ask, would we take on a legal matter without a guarantee of being paid? In fact, very few lawyers will represent you without some guarantee of payment. Contingency attorneys are different. We’re in it with our client and when the client loses, we lose, and when the client wins, we win. It is that simple. The reason it has been such a successful business model for Chappell Smith and Arden is because of the skill and experience of our lawyers. We have more than one hundred years’ combined experience in handling just these types of cases. So we’re pretty good at quickly determining if the case is “winner or a loser.”
How is scarring evaluated?
When someone receives cuts or abrasions in an accident or from subsequent surgeries, the scarring left behind is both permanent and unsightly. The value the insurance company places on scarring varies greatly by who the scars are on and where they are located on the person. Scarring on a child is regarded differently than on someone my age. The same holds true for females with scars versus males. Location matters as well. Scarring on one’s face merits higher damages than a scar that cannot be seen in public. Oftentimes, clients see a plastic surgeon for a scarring evaluation to see what if any surgeries might reduce the appearance of the scars. It’s crucial that you photograph your wounds from the very beginning to help document the extent of your injuries.
Can I collect the wages I lost because of the wreck?
Under South Carolina law a person can collect for the time they missed from their work because of a wreck. This is so even if you had to use your sick leave, PTO or vacation time. The defendant should not be rewarded because you had built up days off at work.
I am on Medicaid or Medicare. Do they have a subrogation right?
Absolutely. And you do have to go looking for their claim and pay them back. They are the government, and they have an automatic claim by law to be reimbursed. If you don’t contact them, then you could lose your benefits, have your tax refunds held, and be subject to a fine. As with the other health insurance liens, we can negotiate with Medicaid and Medicare to pay them back less than they paid for your treatment. Keep that in mind.
What damages can I claim in a personal injury case?
Every personal injury is different, but most cases involve different types of compensatory “damages,” which is money awarded to compensate you for your injuries and other losses. We typically view compensatory damages as either economic or non-economic.
- Economic damages include medical bills, lost earnings, future medical treatment, and property damage. These are damages that have a tangible, monetary value.
- Non-economic damages are damages such as pain and suffering, mental anguish, and loss of enjoyment of life. These damages are equally real and severe, but they do not have an objective monetary value.
What are punitive damages?
Punitive damages are awarded in addition to compensatory damages and serve the purpose of punishing the at fault party, deterring similar conduct in the future, and vindicating the rights of the injured party. In a case of simple negligence, punitive damages are not allowable.
However, if the at fault party was acting grossly negligent, reckless, or intentionally, punitive damages can be awarded by the jury, up to certain constitutional limits. The most common example of cases that warrant punitive damages is when an at fault driver was driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
What if I was partially at fault?
As lawyers love to say in response to any question: “It depends.” Generally, in South Carolina, you may still recover actual compensatory damages, even if you contributed to your injuries, unless your degree of fault was greater than that of the at fault party. We call this modified comparative negligence.
For example, if the jury determines that you were 50% or less at fault and the other party was 50% or greater at fault, then you can still recover some damages. However, your final award will be reduced by your percentage of contribution to the incident. So, if you are in a wreck and were speeding, but another driver ran a red light, the jury may find you were 15% at fault and the driver who ran the red light was 85% at fault. Assuming you have damages of $50,000, your award would be reduced by $7,500, but you would still receive $42,500.00 in total damages.
How much is my case worth?
The value of your case cannot be ascertained with any simple formula or calculator. Instead, a personal injury attorney will need to investigate the facts of your case to determine which damages can be proved by a preponderance of the evidence, whether you may be entitled to a punitive award, and if any damages award may be subject to a reduction due to contribution.
In South Carolina, case value can also vary depending upon the county in which the lawsuit can be filed. A South Carolina personal injury attorney can assess each of these factors and, after investigation, advise you as to likely case values.
What is the statute of limitations for personal injury cases?
In South Carolina, you only have 3 years in which to file a personal injury claim. After that deadline, your case will be barred, regardless of how strong and compelling your case is. There are only a few rare exceptions to the statute of limitations, so it’s important to consult with an attorney as soon as possible to begin building your case before you run out of time.