Charleston, SC Personal Injury Attorneys
When it comes to Charleston personal injury attorney practices, Auger & Auger Accident and Injury Lawyers has over 50 years of combined litigation experience protecting the rights of injured victims. The laws of Charleston dictate that citizens, business owners, and even government institutions owe each other certain considerations. For instance, all vehicles driving on public roads must follow the state’s safety laws, and drivers must make sure they use diligence when it comes to others they may pass along the way. The state of South Carolina allows you to file a civil lawsuit against another person, company, or government agency when their acts or omissions have caused you harm. Whether your case is resolved by negotiating a settlement or in a courthouse, having a highly experienced legal advocate at your side can make all the difference.
What You Should Know about Charleston Personal Injuries
Some of the most common Charleston personal injuries have been traumatic brain injury (TBI), spinal cord impairments, and whiplashes. The compensation you are awarded is dependent upon the severity of your injuries. Auger & Auger’s Charleston personal injury attorneys will pursue a claim to ‘make you whole.’ You should receive money to pay for medical bills, lost income or reduction of earning potential, damages for pain and suffering, and emotional distress.
The following types of personal injury claims are further explained by clicking their respective links:
What Happens in a Charleston Personal Injury Case?
Our Charleston personal injury attorney will file a civil claim against the responsible defendant, whether that be another person, a company, or a government agency. Sometimes your lawyer will need to determine who that is, as it may not be immediately clear. In other cases, there may be more than one potentially responsible party.
When your personal injury case involves the death of a victim, wrongful death compensation may be paid to surviving family members. If you have lost a spouse, damages can also include compensation for the ‘loss of companionship.’
Personal injury cases are usually satisfactorily negotiated by a settlement between the defendant, their insurers, and the legal representatives of the opposing parties. In some situations, mediation or arbitration is the next alternative to taking the case to court. In fact, compulsory arbitration is sometimes applied to certain civil disputes.
If your Charleston personal injury attorney is hesitant to go to court to fight for your rights against big insurance companies or high-profile defendants, you can rest assured that our firm will not hesitate to do so.
Proving Negligence in a Personal Injury Case
To collect damages for your claim, you will need to demonstrate certain things in a court case. As we mentioned earlier, not all personal injury claims are resolved in a courtroom. Most settle out of court. However, if there is ample evidence in your favor, the other party or their insurance company may be more willing to negotiate a fair settlement. We will always try to negotiate a settlement, as most clients would rather avoid the time, stress, and expense of a trial if possible.
In many cases, the defendant (the party you’re suing) would rather settle out of court for many of the same reasons. However, sometimes they simply aren’t willing to agree to a fair amount of compensation. When this happens, we are prepared to pursue damages at trial.
When we go to court, we must establish the defendant’s negligence. Proving negligence involves three main steps:
- The defendant owed you a duty of care. In general, this means that everyone is expected to take reasonable steps to avoid hurting others when performing actions that could potentially be dangerous. When you drive on the road, you have a duty to drive safely and avoid behavior that might put others at risk, like excessively speeding or driving while under the influence. But it’s not just people who have a duty of care – businesses or other organizations do, too. Your grocery store has a duty to provide a safe environment for shoppers (and employees). A cruise ship has a duty to offer a safe environment for its guests and workers. If the manager of the store or the cruise ship ignores potential safety hazards instead of immediately addressing them, that manager may have failed in their duty, and the business could be liable.
- The defendant breached their duty of care. They may have driven drunk, done nothing about a leaky ceiling and a puddle of water on the grocery store floor, failed to follow food safety protocols in the cruise ship’s buffet restaurant, etc. You will have to demonstrate that the other party behaved in an unreasonable or irresponsible way given the circumstances.
- This breach of duty directly led to whatever incident or situation caused your injuries/damages. For example, if the other party was driving 90 MPH in a 45 MPH speed zone, ran a red light, and crashed into your car, causing you to suffer several broken bones, they breached their duty of care. But even in cases like this that seem obvious, you may still get pushback. In some situations, the other side may argue that your injuries couldn’t have come from the incident or that your actions contributed to the accident/injuries. This can be very frustrating, but your attorney understands these legal tactics and will work to refute them.
How your attorney works on proving the above points will depend on the specifics of your case, but here are some legal concepts that may come up and what they mean:
Causation in Fact and Legal Cause
These are two separate concepts, but it is necessary to prove both in most personal injury cases.
Causation in fact simply means that your injuries or damages would not have happened without the defendant’s actions. For example, if another driver hadn’t rear-ended your car, you would not have suffered a neck injury and chronic pain. Or, if a doctor hadn’t left a surgical instrument inside your body, you wouldn’t have suffered months of intense pain and permanent nerve damage.
Legal cause means that it should have been predictable or foreseeable that an injury like yours could happen due to the defendant’s actions. For example, if you’re texting and driving, it’s foreseeable that you might miss something and hit another car, injuring a person inside the car. On the other hand, if you’re paying attention to your driving but your brakes suddenly fail without warning, causing you to hit another vehicle, that probably wasn’t foreseeable.
Negligence Per Se
This is a legal concept that may save you and your lawyer some time by proving that the defendant owed you a duty of care and breached it. These elements are still necessary but are assumed to be true in certain cases where the defendant is found to have broken the law, if:
- The law was established to keep the public safe.
- The law makes it clear what is and isn’t allowed.
This often comes up in cases of drunk driving or vehicular manslaughter. There are laws against drunk or reckless driving which were specifically created to keep the public safe, and these lay out precisely what is and isn’t permissible. For example, driving with a blood alcohol level (BAC) of 0.08 or higher is illegal. So if the driver who hit you was found guilty of driving under the influence or related crimes, your lawyer might use negligence per se to prove the first two points.
Does that mean you don’t have a case if the other party wasn’t convicted of a crime? No, not necessarily. Negligence per se is one way to prove two of the elements of negligence, but it’s not the only way. It’s also helpful to understand that proving guilt in a criminal court is much more difficult than proving negligence in a civil court. A criminal court requires the jury to find a defendant guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.” A civil court only asks the jury to decide if the defendant is more likely negligent than not “by a preponderance of evidence.” In many cases, plaintiffs have successfully pursued personal injury cases against parties who were not convicted of any crime.
This is a common way that insurance companies or other parties may try to avoid financial responsibility for your damages. South Carolina is a “modified comparative fault” state for personal injury claims. In many situations, more than one party contributed to the circumstances that caused an accident or injury. Comparative fault doctrines seek to establish who was at fault by what percentage. If you were less than 50 percent responsible, you could seek damages from a party who was more than 50 percent at fault. Your award will be reduced by your own percentage of fault, so even if the other party can’t prove you were mostly at fault, they may still be able to lower their financial burden by blaming you.
This is one reason why we advise against giving a statement to any insurance company before you’ve had a chance to seek legal advice. Insurance company reps often ask pointed questions designed to confuse or frustrate you. They do this in the hopes that you’ll say something they can misconstrue to mean you were somehow at fault. Don’t take the bait – tell the insurance company you can’t talk right now and hang up. Then contact us for a free consultation.
How Long Do You Have to File a Personal Injury Claim?
Under South Carolina law, with few exceptions, there is a statute of limitations on personal injury claims of three years, either from when you were injured or from when you knew or should have known that you were harmed. If you were in a car accident or another situation where it would be fairly obvious that you were hurt, you would have three years from the date of the accident. But if your doctor performed an operation and left a surgical sponge inside your body, it might take several years before you found out why you were in constant pain. Then you would have three years from when the sponge was finally found to file a claim.
Most people are eager to begin the process of seeking compensation and will want to start their claim sooner than these limits, but in some situations, an injured party may be unaware of their rights and options. It can also take time for your attorney to gather evidence and build a case in your favor. For these reasons, we recommend that any injured party consult a personal injury attorney as soon as possible.
What Should You Do If You’ve Been Hurt and Believe Another Party’s Negligence is to Blame?
First, you should see a healthcare provider to document your injuries and receive treatment. Even if you don’t think you’re badly hurt, seeing a doctor is an excellent way to ensure the problem isn’t more serious than it seems. In many cases, an injured person may initially feel fine or think their injuries are minor. But sometimes, they may begin having more pain or worsening symptoms a few hours or days later. If this happens to you and you didn’t already see a healthcare provider, go to one as soon as you start having symptoms or feeling worse. It’s important to rule out any potentially serious issues you might be having.
Once you’ve taken care of your medical treatment, think about what evidence you might have regarding your accident. Make a list of anyone who might have been a witness, and gather any emails or documents pertaining to what happened. With most accidents, we recommend taking pictures at the scene if you’re able (sometimes this isn’t possible due to your injuries). If you don’t have pictures, think about any sources of photos or videos, like security or traffic cameras near where the incident occurred. (You don’t need to contact anyone, just list potential sources for your attorney.) Keep copies of any bills you receive for medical care and receipts for any purchases you have to make due to your injuries (such as buying a knee scooter so you can get around after hurting your leg). Don’t talk with the insurance company or the other party until you’ve had a chance to seek legal advice.
What If You Were Injured at Work?
The Worker’s Compensation system covers most workplace injuries in South Carolina. Worker’s Comp offers no-fault coverage for people who get hurt on the job, but that doesn’t mean the claims process is always easy. Many people have valid claims denied for a variety of reasons – the employer’s insurance carrier may think your injuries happened outside of work, that they aren’t that serious, that some treatment your doctor prescribed was unnecessary, etc. This can be a serious problem for someone who is out of work, in pain, and struggling to get their treatment paid.
Another issue is that employers sometimes discourage workers from filing a worker’s comp claim, even where one is necessary. This is because claims can raise the employer’s insurance rates. As a result, some employees feel their job may be jeopardized if they make a claim. Please know that retaliation is illegal, but it does still happen. However, that doesn’t mean you should accept the loss of income or paid medical care. Instead, speak with an experienced personal injury attorney – they can advise you on worker’s comp issues and, if necessary, represent you in a claim against your employer if you’ve experienced retaliation.
Additionally, your personal injury lawyer may be able to identify if you have a claim against a third party involved in your injury. For example, if you developed hearing loss from using defective headphones your company provided for loud noise protection, you may have a claim against the headphone manufacturer. This is separate from your worker’s comp claim and will not prevent you from receiving worker’s comp benefits.
What Kind of Damages Can You Seek in a Personal Injury Case?
Your attorney will go over your costs and how your injury has affected your life to ensure you’ve considered everything when seeking compensation. Here are some potential damages you may discuss:
- Medical expenses related to your injuries. This includes your initial hospital and doctor bills, follow-up visits, continued treatment such as physical therapy, and future expenses if you are expected to need continued care indefinitely. You should also include the cost of any mobility aids you have to buy, like a wheelchair, cane, or crutches. Items or equipment o help with your at-home physical therapy work, like tension bands, weights, balls, or foam rollers, should also be counted.
- Lost income. Figure out how much time you lost at work due to your injuries, whether it was weeks or months, as your attorney will need to know that. If you are not expected to recover and are unable to return to work, you can seek compensation for your lost earning potential. This is also true if you can still work but have to take a less physically demanding job that doesn’t pay as well or cut back on your hours.
- Other expenses related to your injuries. This may include transportation costs for medical visits, having to pay for food delivery if you can no longer cook for yourself, hiring someone to clean your house or care for your child if you’re unable to do it, and installing accessibility accommodations like a wheelchair ramp at your home, etc.
- Permanent disability, disfigurement, or scarring from your injuries.
- Loss of companionship or consortium if a loved one died due to another party’s negligence.
- Loss of enjoyment of life if you can no longer live the life you had before due to your injuries.
- Pain and suffering. This applies to both your physical injuries, and any emotional or mental trauma you have also suffered. The potential effects of any traumatic injury on your mental health should be taken as seriously as the effects on your physical health. If you’re feeling anxious or depressed or having trouble sleeping, please contact a mental health specialist. These symptoms are very common after a traumatic experience, and help is available.
- Punitive damages. These are not applicable in most personal injury cases but may be awarded in situations where the defendant is found to have acted in a “wanton, willful, or reckless” manner. Essentially punitive damages are an extra punishment for the defendant, not related to any specific expense or loss suffered by the plaintiff. Depending on the type of claim you have, there may or may not be a cap on these damages.
Auger & Auger Personal Injury Lawyers Mean Business
If you have been seriously injured from an accident or malicious act, or your loved one has sustained severe or fatal injuries following such an incident — our Charleston personal injury attorney is here to advocate on your behalf. At Auger & Auger Accident and Injury Lawyers, we are dedicated to doing the right thing and helping in any way we can to alleviate the stress and financial losses you have been left to deal with.
One of the policies we have instilled at our firm is the zero-fee-guarantee, ensuring that you don’t pay us unless we win your case. We believe this is critical to demonstrating our strong compassion and relentless intentions to get you the compensation you deserve.
Call (843) 751-4690 for your free consultation today, with no fees due until recovery!