Personal injury law in South Carolina encompasses a wide range of legal issues that arise when an individual is harmed due to the negligence or intentional actions of another party. These injuries can result from various situations, including car accidents, slip and falls, medical malpractice, product defects, and more. Understanding what is considered personal injury in South Carolina is crucial for both victims seeking compensation and individuals seeking to avoid legal liability.
Legal Basis for Personal Injury Claims: Negligence and Fault
The foundation of most personal injury claims in South Carolina is the concept of negligence. Negligence occurs when a person or entity fails to exercise reasonable care, resulting in harm to another person. To establish a successful personal injury claim based on negligence, the following elements must typically be proven:
- Duty of Care: The responsible party had a legal duty to act reasonably and prevent harm to others in a specific situation. For example, drivers have a duty to follow traffic laws and drive safely.
- Breach of Duty: The responsible party failed to fulfill their duty of care by acting in a way that a reasonable person would not have under similar circumstances. This breach can be caused by actions, such as texting while driving or not maintaining a property in a safe condition.
- Causation: The breach of duty directly caused the plaintiff’s injuries. In other words, if it weren’t for the defendant’s actions, the plaintiff wouldn’t have been injured.
- Damages: The plaintiff suffered actual damages, such as medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, or property damage, due to the defendant’s negligence.
It’s important to note that South Carolina follows a modified comparative negligence system. This means that even if the plaintiff is partially at fault for the accident, they can still recover damages as long as their fault doesn’t exceed 50%. However, their awarded damages will be reduced by their percentage of fault.
Types of Personal Injury Cases in South Carolina
Personal injury claims can arise from various situations, and South Carolina law addresses a wide array of cases. Some common types of personal injury cases in South Carolina include:
- Car Accidents: When drivers fail to follow traffic laws or drive safely, accidents can occur. Car accident victims can seek compensation for medical expenses, property damage, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
- Premises Liability: Property owners have a duty to keep their premises reasonably safe for visitors. If someone is injured on another person’s property due to unsafe conditions, the property owner may be held liable.
- Medical Malpractice: Medical professionals have a duty to provide a reasonable standard of care to their patients. When negligence by a healthcare provider leads to patient harm, a medical malpractice claim may arise.
- Product Liability: Manufacturers and distributors have a responsibility to ensure that their products are safe for consumers. If a defective product causes injury, the injured party can pursue a product liability claim
- Slip and Falls: Property owners are responsible for maintaining safe conditions for visitors. Slip and fall accidents due to hazardous conditions, such as wet floors or uneven surfaces, can lead to personal injury claims.
- Dog Bites: Dog owners are generally liable for injuries caused by their pets, especially if the dog has a history of aggressive behavior.
- Workplace Accidents: While workers’ compensation often covers workplace injuries, there are instances where a third party’s negligence contributes to an accident, allowing the injured worker to pursue a personal injury claim against that third party.
- Wrongful Death: When a person’s death is caused by the negligence or intentional actions of another, certain family members can bring a wrongful death claim to seek compensation for their loss.
Statute of Limitations in South Carolina
In South Carolina, there is a time limit within which a personal injury lawsuit must be filed. This time limit is known as the statute of limitations. For most personal injury cases, including those arising from negligence, the statute of limitations is three years from the date of the injury. If the lawsuit is not filed within this time frame, the injured party generally loses the right to seek compensation through the court system.
However, there can be exceptions and variations depending on the specific circumstances of the case. For instance, if the injury was not immediately apparent, the statute of limitations might start from the date when the injury was discovered or should have been discovered.
Seeking Compensation for Personal Injury
When someone is injured due to another party’s negligence in South Carolina, they have the right to seek compensation for various damages they have suffered. These damages can be divided into two main categories:
- Economic Damages: These are quantifiable financial losses that result from the injury, such as medical bills, rehabilitation costs, lost wages, property damage, and future medical expenses.
- Non-Economic Damages: These are less tangible losses that are more challenging to quantify, such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life, and loss of consortium (impairment of marital relations). Hiring a personal injury attorney can be very beneficial when non-economic damages are involved, as it’s difficult for victims to put a price tag on damages that don’t come with a receipt – and you must remember that the other side’s insurance company will most likely dispute these values in an effort to avoid paying out a fair sum.
In cases involving particularly egregious behavior, punitive damages might also be awarded. Punitive damages are meant to punish the responsible party for their actions and to deter others from engaging in similar behavior.
Working with Personal Injury Attorneys
Navigating the complexities of personal injury law in South Carolina can be challenging, especially when dealing with insurance companies and legal procedures. Hiring a skilled and experienced personal injury attorney can greatly improve a victim’s chances of obtaining fair compensation. An attorney can investigate the incident, gather evidence, assess the value of damages, negotiate with insurance companies, and, if necessary, litigate the case in court.
Understanding what is considered personal injury in South Carolina is essential for both potential plaintiffs and defendants. Whether it’s a car accident, slip and fall, medical negligence, or another type of incident, personal injury cases in South Carolina revolve around the concept of negligence and the duty to exercise reasonable care. If you or a loved one has been injured due to another party’s negligence, consulting with a knowledgeable personal injury attorney is recommended to navigate the legal process and seek fair compensation for the damages suffered.
Contact McWhirter, Bellinger & Associates
The attorneys at McWhirter, Bellinger & Associates are experienced in all areas of personal injury law, and we would love to help you if we can. We can listen to your situation and advise you on your next steps – and there’s no obligation to hire us after speaking to us.
Our law firm has a strong track record for helping victims get what they’re rightfully owed, and we are proud to say that we treat every single client like family.
We have seven offices across the Midlands of South Carolina, and we offer free case evaluations. Give us a call today at 803-219-8478. It won’t cost you anything to see if we can help.®