Your Greenville Personal Injury Case: The Basics
You've just moved to Greenville and need some recreation. Everyone keeps talking about "The Rabbit," a 17.5-mile-long scenic bike route. Ready to cycle, you load up your new Cannondale and hit the trail. As you're riding, you notice a large dog off-leash without an owner. You approach the dog to see if he has tags. He walks over and sniffs you. The next thing you know, Fido has sunk his teeth into your leg and refuses to let go. You scream out in pain. Witnesses rush to your aid. The dog's owner follows.
Finally, the dog lets go. You have deep lacerations and can't walk. Paramedics arrive and transport you to Greenville Memorial Hospital. The doctor says you need surgery. You'll have to miss work and that backpacking trip you've been looking forward to.
What should you do? What should you expect? Here's some information to help guide you through the process of a personal injury case in Greenville.
What to do first?
If you are injured, seek medical attention as soon as possible. Your health should always come first and foremost. Try not to minimize any pain or suffering you're feeling. Be completely honest with your doctor and explain how the injury happened.
Next, you may wonder if you have a case, but how do you know for sure? There are a number of things to think about in the Upcountry to preserve your right to a make a claim.
South Carolina's Negligence Laws: How much does "fault" matter?
In order to win your case, you must prove the defendant was negligent or "at fault" for your injuries. There are a number of different ways to prove fault. The strategy you choose will depend on the particular circumstances.
It's important to note that your own actions may affect your ability to recover damages. In South Carolina that's called "comparative negligence" or the "51 percent rule." Don't let the name intimidate you. It's possible that both you and the defendant were responsible for the accident. However, you are barred from collecting any damages from the defendant if it is determined that you are more than 50 percent negligent, or at fault. Otherwise, if you are found less than 51 percent, your final award will be reduced by your percentage of fault.
Sometimes more than one person may be at fault for an accident. In multi-party suits, the plaintiff's negligence must not exceed the combined negligence of the defendants. So, even if no defendant is individually responsible for 51% of the negligence, the plaintiff's claim is not barred.
The Course of a Greenville Personal Injury Case
Below, you'll find a brief outline of how personal injury cases typically work in Greenville:
- A dispute develops.
- A complaint is filed and served by the plaintiff.
- The defendant may be required to file an answer.
- Both sides gather evidence.
- A pre-trial conference takes place between judge and the attorneys to discuss possible settlement. You may also be able to hire a mediator and settle out of court.
- If there isn't a settlement, a trial takes place and a verdict is rendered.
- Either party can appeal the decision to appellate courts.
What kind of damages can I collect?
There are several types of injuries for which a person can collect damages. The most common type is physical injuries, which includes direct trauma to the body. A victim may be to recover compensation for medical bills, lost wages (past, present and future), pain and suffering, loss of life's pleasures, scarring and disfigurement, and the loss of consortium. Mental and emotional injuries can also be compensable. In addition, victims may collect money for property damage, including damage to cars, houses, or other personal property.
Punitive damages usually are sought only if the defendant was grossly reckless or intended to injure the plaintiff. These damages are awarded as punishment to make sure the defendant won't commit the act again.
How long do I have to file a complaint?
The standard time limit for a personal injury claim in South Carolina is three years from the date of the incident causing the harm. There are, however, some exceptions for minors and mentally impaired persons. Remember, even if you have a legitimate claim, you may be unable to receive compensation for an accident if you are late in filing.
How can I protect my rights?
- Keep a journal and calendar. As soon as possible after the accident, write down every important detail you can, including the harm that resulted and its effect on your daily life. Continue to keep notes as your claim progresses and keep track of dates including medical appointments.
- Report the accident. Report the accident to the police, your insurance company or, in some circumstances, the person or entity you believe is responsible and get his or her name and address. If you are contacted by the insurance company that represents the responsible person, remember that it's best not to give the company a statement without first contacting a lawyer.
- Preserve the evidence. Evidence is the key to winning a personal injury case. Take photos or videos from all angles at the accident scene and of the damage suffered. If injured, consider taking photographs periodically of your injuries.
- Obtain medical records. The federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) gives you the right to obtain a copy of your medical records from any medical provider.
- Gather the necessary information. Obtain police reports and the contact information of any witnesses (name, address, phone number).
If you aren't sure what to do, a trained legal professional may be able to help. Lawyers take personal injury cases on a contingency fee basis. In this arrangement, you do not pay for the costs of a case or pay the lawyer his or her attorney fees if you lose the case. However, if you win, you pay the lawyer a percentage of the award. A settlement of your case is considered a "win" and your attorney will most likely be entitled to collect his or her fees.
If you do decide to sue, your lawyer will provide details about where and when to appear in court. Usually, the case is filed in the county where the injury happened. Here's where you will appear for Greenville County:
South Carolina 13th Circuit Court of Common Pleas: This court hears all civil actions in which the controversy exceeds $7500.
Magistrate Court: This is the small claims court hearing all civil matters under $7500.
Next Steps: Search for a Local Attorney
Contact a qualified attorney.