Columbia Personal Injury Lawyer
Suffering a personal injury can seriously derail your life. You could find yourself out of work with mountains of medical and other bills piling up, dealing with mental anguish and, of course, physical pain and suffering. If you believe depictions of attorneys you see in the media, you may think it’s best to try to handle all of this on your own. At Auger & Auger Accident and Injury Lawyers, we’re here to tell you: We’re on your side.
Our Columbia, SC personal injury attorneys have been representing victims for over 25 years. During that time, we have gone toe-to-toe with insurance companies, both in and out of the courtroom, to fight for our client’s rights to compensation. When you choose us to represent you, rest assured that we’ll treat your case as if you were a close friend or family member. If you or a loved one has been injured due to someone else’s actions or negligence, call us today or come by our office for a free consultation.
Why Choose Auger & Auger?
In our over 25 years of practicing personal injury law, the attorneys at Auger & Auger have recovered millions on behalf of our clients. One of our partners was once an attorney for the insurance companies, so she knows their tricks to avoid paying out a full settlement. Now, we turn those tricks against the insurance companies to get every penny you deserve.
When you choose to hire us, you will always be informed of the latest developments in your case. While some attorneys may choose to only talk to clients when they absolutely have to, we relish the chance to speak with you, let you know what’s going on, and make sure you and your family are doing okay. We believe consistent contact is key, and we welcome any and all questions you may have about our firm, our methods, or anything else about your case.
Finally, our attorneys work on a contingency basis. So if we don’t get compensation for you, we don’t get paid a dime. In fact, we ensure that policy with our legally-binding Zero Fee Guarantee.
Columbia Practice Areas
Our Columbia attorneys represent victims of many different types of personal injury, including:
- Bicycle Accidents
- Wrongful Death
- Pedestrian Accidents
- Boating Accidents
- Truck Accidents
- Defective Medical Devices
- Workers’ Compensation
- Car Accidents
- Premises Liability Claims
- Aviation Accidents
- Daycare Accidents
- Motorcycle Accidents
- Construction Accidents
- Golf Cart Accidents
- ATV Accidents
- Dangerous Drugs
- Dog Bites
- Other personal injury cases
Determining Liability After a Personal Injury
In some situations, it may seem very clear who was at fault in an accident or injury. In others, there may be questions about what happened or who was responsible. Accidents are often complicated circumstances, and we encourage you to speak with a personal injury attorney to be sure you have all the facts. Some accident victims will forgo compensation for their injuries because they mistakenly believe they were at fault when they weren’t.
The Duty of Care
The first element of establishing negligence in a personal injury case is the duty of care, which varies depending on the situation. In very general terms, everyone is expected to make an effort not to hurt others. A person may have a more specific duty of care in particular situations, such as:
- Driving vehicles – cars, boats, golf carts, ATVs, etc. The driver has a duty of care to be responsible and avoid reckless actions that might cause an accident.
- Running a business. An employer has a duty of care to keep their workplace reasonably safe for employees and reduce the risk of accidents. If the business is open to the public, the business owner also has a duty of care to provide a safe environment for shoppers. Manufacturers, distributors, and resellers also have a duty of care to ensure the products they produce and/or sell are not defective or harmful to the end user.
- Providing medical treatment. Doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers have a duty of care to perform up to the standard of care for their profession to avoid causing harm to the patient.
- Property owners. Even if you don’t own a business, you have a duty of care to anyone who legally enters your personal property to keep it reasonably free of obvious hazards that could cause harm.
Breaching the Duty of Care
The second element necessary to prove in a personal injury case is that the defendant (the person or entity you would file a lawsuit against) breached or failed in their duty of care. If you were injured in a car accident because the other driver was drunk and speeding, then it would be fairly easy to argue that they breached their duty of care as a driver. In other situations, it may be more difficult to prove your case, but your attorney will do their best to find as much evidence as possible.
Proving You Were Injured As the Result of This Breach
The third element to proving your claim is to show that you were injured due to this breached duty of care. To do this, your attorney will ask you questions about the accident, who was present, if there was any video of the incident that you know of, etc. They will also probably need access to your medical records. Occasionally the other party or their insurer may claim that you had a preexisting condition and the accident was unrelated. Or they may question that you were hurt at all, or that your injuries are as severe as you say. These situations are very frustrating, but your lawyer will support you every step of the way and work to prove the other party’s negligence caused your damages.
Beginning the Claims Process
After your injuries, you may be handed a large hospital bill while you’re still in pain and unable to work. Other bills start accruing as you remain out of work, going to doctor’s appointments and physical therapy. You might also be in physical and possibly emotional pain. What can you do in this situation?
We recommend contacting a Columbia personal injury attorney as soon as possible after your injury. They will answer your questions and walk you through the claims process, which is sometimes complicated and time-consuming. If you need to appeal to the insurance company, file a lawsuit, or address other difficulties, your lawyer will assist you with these steps as well.
Filing an Insurance Claim
This is the most common way that personal injury cases begin. When you sit down with an attorney to discuss your case, they will ask questions to determine who might be negligent. In many cases, the responsible person or entity may have an insurance policy that covers their liability in this type of situation. Although you may run into some difficulties with the insurance carrier (we’ll discuss these in detail in the next section), it is usually easier to make an insurance claim than it is to sue the negligent party directly. However, a lawsuit is still a good option in some situations, which we’ll discuss in more detail later.
Identifying Liable Parties
If you were in a car accident, the most likely liable party is the other driver (although there are a few situations where someone else may also be liable). In other situations, it may be more difficult to work out liability, but your Columbia personal injury attorney will help you with this. For instance, in some situations, a property owner may be liable, while a person recklessly using a piece of property might be responsible in others. Or, the maker of a defective product that harmed you could be liable. Determining liability can be confusing, so we recommend speaking with an attorney before filing an insurance claim.
Filing a Claim
Prior to filing your claim, you and your attorney should discuss your damages – the losses you experienced as the result of your injuries. Potential damages include:
- Medical costs. One reason that it’s helpful to consult a lawyer before making a claim is to ensure nothing is missed in this area. Your attorney may want to wait until your treatment is complete to understand the scope of your expenses. They will also ask about related costs like purchasing mobility aids or paying for home health care, physical therapy, or travel expenses if you need to drive a long way to see a specialist. If you need continued care, your lawyer will develop an estimate of your future medical expenses because you are entitled to these as well.
- Lost earnings. When an injury leaves you out of commission, you may miss work for days, weeks, or even months. Some people might be able to use their paid time off, but that still costs them days they could have used another time. You deserve compensation for any time that you miss work. If you can document how much time you missed, this will be helpful to your attorney.
- Permanent disability and lost earning potential. Sometimes a person is seriously and permanently injured, and as a result, they cannot return to work. Or, they may be able to work but not at the job they were doing previously. In some cases, the injured person may have to take a lower-paying or part-time job instead. If one of these situations sounds familiar, you and your lawyer should discuss seeking lost earning potential damages. Your attorney will calculate how much income you are likely to lose in the future due to your injuries.
- Any permanent injury, disability, or scarring. Even if your injury doesn’t prevent you from doing your job, it may still impact your life and ability to do things you enjoy. You and your attorney will discuss how much to seek in damages based on the severity of the permanent injury.
- Property damage. If your property – such as a car, home, or laptop – was damaged in the accident, you can seek compensation for repair or replacement costs.
- Pain and suffering. This takes into account both physical and emotional pain and anguish, as well as loss of enjoyment of life.
- Loss of consortium or companionship if you lost a loved one. The death of someone you love is devastating and may mean losing things like advice, comfort, care, and companionship.
- Punitive damages. In less common cases, a court may award extra or “punitive” damages unrelated to the injured party’s losses. The punitive damages are intended to punish a defendant whose actions were considered especially reckless or dangerous.
Response from the Insurance Company
After you and your attorney agree on the amount you want to seek in damages, your lawyer will compile the paperwork and file your claim. You can rest assured that everything will be filed correctly and on time and that your lawyer has taken steps to avoid any potential issues with your claim.
The insurance carrier will eventually respond. There are two main possibilities:
The Insurance Company Makes You an Offer
In some cases, they could agree to pay what you asked for, especially if you did not have an especially large amount of damages. However, the offer could also be for less than you asked for, and the insurer may or may not give you a reason why.
It’s your decision if you want to accept the offer or not, but your attorney will answer any questions you have and advise if they know of other options for pursuing compensation. For example, if your injuries were severe and your damages came to a large amount, it’s possible that they simply exceeded the insurance policy’s limits. In this situation, your attorney might advise you that you cannot get a better offer from the insurer. But depending on the situation, you may be able to seek compensation from another party for your remaining damages.
There are also cases where the insurer may offer less than the amount you requested, even though it doesn’t exceed the policy limit. If this happens, your attorney may negotiate with the insurer to reach a more equitable settlement. In most personal injury cases, we can settle out of court, but there are a few situations where the insurance company simply won’t come to a fair agreement. If that happens, you have the option to pursue the insurer in court, and we will support you through this process as well.
If you have already filed a claim on your own and received an offer, it’s still possible to consult an attorney before accepting or declining the offer – and we strongly advise you to do so. It’s very difficult for most people to calculate the value of a claim on their own, and insurance companies frequently make offers for less than the claim is worth. Discussing the offer with a lawyer allows you to be confident you were adequately compensated for your damages. If the offer is not sufficient, your attorney can negotiate with the insurer on your behalf.
The Insurance Company Denies Your Claim
Unfortunately, this is a typical response. Insurance adjusters know that some people will just accept a claim denial without argument, and some accident victims have lost the compensation they deserve. But you don’t have to be one of them – your lawyer will help you appeal the denial or take the insurer to court if necessary.
Here are some of the more common potential reasons the insurance company may give for denying a claim:
- Their client (the responsible party) wasn’t at fault. Often, the client insists the victim was at fault for some reason as a way of avoiding liability or higher insurance premiums. Unless there is strong evidence to the contrary, the insurance company will likely back them up so they can avoid paying the claim. Your lawyer will help you formulate a plan to fight back against this denial, usually by gathering more evidence of the other party’s culpability. They may assign an investigative team to seek out witnesses or search for video or other electronic records of what happened.
- Your particular kind of accident or injury isn’t covered by the policy for various reasons. Sometimes the insurer misinterprets a clause in their own policy and claims your case isn’t covered. In these instances, a letter from your attorney citing South Carolina statutes that could affect this interpretation may convince the insurer to reconsider. If not, you may be able to pursue the case in court. But if the accident truly isn’t covered by the policy, your attorney will consider other liable parties, such as the policyholder or sometimes third parties.
- The insurer doesn’t believe you were hurt as badly as you say or that your injuries were caused by the incident in question. They may suggest your injuries were preexisting or couldn’t have happened as you’ve stated. Sometimes this occurs because the injured party didn’t seek medical attention immediately after being hurt. However, it’s possible to feel fine at first but begin to experience pain or other symptoms later on – for this reason, we always advise accident victims to see a doctor right away, even if they believe they’re all right. Again, if the insurance company doubts your injuries, we will work to collect more evidence and appeal the denial. If necessary, we will seek testimony from medical experts about your type of injury and when symptoms may appear.
Other Options for Compensation
We will fight your claim denial to the full extent that the law allows, but sometimes there are valid reasons for a claim to be denied. For example, the responsible party may have allowed their insurance to lapse or may have done something that invalidated the policy, like driving without a valid driver’s license. In these circumstances, we will walk you through any other options for seeking compensation. These include:
- Sue the responsible party directly. If the responsible party doesn’t have appropriate insurance coverage, they are still liable, and you have the option to take them to court. However, we advise considering their financial state first – if you win a large judgment against someone with few assets, you may not be able to collect. In these situations, it might not be worth the time and expense of a court case if there is little hope of recovering your damages. In other cases, the responsible party has ample assets we can seize, and a lawsuit could be a good option.
- Look for other insurance coverage. For example, sometimes, a client will experience a car accident caused by an uninsured driver. If you’ve followed the law in South Carolina, you should have uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage (UM/UI) of at least $25,000 per person in bodily injury coverage and another $25,000 in property damage. Depending on the type of coverage you bought, this UM/UI policy may even apply in situations where the other party has insurance that doesn’t fully cover your damages. For example, if you had $40,000 in medical bills, but the other party only had $25,000 in liability coverage, your UM/UI policy might pay the additional $15,000.
- If there are no other applicable policies, we’ll consider if a third party may have contributed to your injuries somehow. For instance, your car accident may have been caused by another driver, but your injuries could have been made worse by a defective airbag, seatbelt, or other safety feature in your car. If your bills weren’t fully covered by the other driver’s insurance and yours, you might consider a lawsuit against the faulty parts manufacturer. In a few cases, South Carolina’s dram shop laws allow you to pursue a lawsuit against an establishment that overserved an intoxicated patron if that patron later drove drunk and caused an accident.
Speak with Our Columbia Personal Injury Attorneys Today
When you are injured by someone else’s actions or negligence, you have legal rights. At Auger & Auger Accident and Injury Lawyers, we’re here to help you find justice. Call or come by our office today for a free consultation. If you don’t like what we have to say, there is no obligation to hire us after our initial meeting. Contact us today to learn how we can help you.