Q: What damages can I claim in a personal injury case?
A: 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 as either economic damages or non-economic damages. 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.
Q: What are punitive damages?
A: Punitive damages are damages that are awarded in excess of 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 simply 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 prime example of case that warrants punitive damages is one where an at fault driver was driving under the influence.
Q: What if I was partially at fault?
A: 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. So, for example, if the jury determines that you were 50% or less at fault and the other party 50% or greater at fault, you can still recover some damages. However, your compensatory damages award will be reduced by your percentage of contribution to the incident. So, if you in a wreck, and you are 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 $50,000.00 your award would be reduced by $7,500.00, but you would still receive $42,500.00 of your total damages.
Q: How much is my case worth?
A: 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 your 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.