If you have been injured in South Carolina, you may be thinking about filing a lawsuit. If so, you may wonder what the lawsuit process is like. Once you hire a personal injury lawyer, they will take care of the process for you. To keep you informed along the way, here is what the typical personal injury lawsuit process looks like in South Carolina:
First Step: Hiring a Lawyer
Before you start the legal process in South Carolina, you will want to consider hiring a lawyer. While you may think that your case is small enough that you can handle it on your own, getting legal help is always recommended for these reasons:
You may think that your injuries and damages are smaller than they are. Personal injury attorneys have a wealth of experience that allows them to determine all that you may be compensated for.
If the defendant has a lawyer and you do not, you will likely be at a disadvantage. Professional representation typically produces a better outcome than self-representation in the courtroom.
A personal injury lawyer knows the proper procedures to follow. If you make a mistake during the filing process, it can delay or prevent your trial.
You should always let a lawyer deal with the insurance companies. Insurance companies always try to give you less money than you deserve. Sometimes, they will manipulate you into saying something wrong on the phone and then use that as evidence that you should receive an insufficient payout. A personal injury lawyer knows how to deal with the insurance companies correctly.
If you are not sure if you want to file a claim, most legal firms offer a free consultation to help you decide. You can take their advice and spend some time deciding whether or not to file. Be aware that the statute of limitations for filing personal injury claims in South Carolina is three years.
Review of Claim and Medical Records
After you have hired a South Carolina personal injury lawyer, the first thing that the attorney will do is review your circumstances. You will be asked to explain everything that happened leading up to the accident and during the accident. Your lawyer will also look over your medical records and bills.
Before going any further, your lawyer will wait until you have reached a point of maximum medical improvement (MMI). This is the point at which you have recovered enough that you will not be accruing any more medical bills. Until this point, your attorney does not know the maximum amount of recompense that you deserve. However, if you have not reached MMI by the time that the three year time limit approaches, your attorney will have to move on with the process.
Negotiation and Filing
Your lawyer may determine that it is possible to settle the case without filing a lawsuit. If so, your attorney will present a demand to the defendant. The defendant or defendant’s lawyer can then try to negotiate the terms of the demand.
If negotiations fail or your attorney determines that settlement is not likely, the next step is to file a personal injury lawsuit. The documents filed will include a complaint where your attorney lists what happened in the accident, your injuries, and the damages that you are seeking.
Damages that You can Seek
There are two kinds of damages: compensatory and punitive. Punitive damages are designed to punish the defendant rather than compensate you for bills, lost wages, etc. In South Carolina, punitive damages in most personal injury cases are capped at three times the compensatory damages that you receive, or $500,000. For South Carolina medical malpractice suits, compensatory damages are capped at $350,000, and total damages are capped at $1.05 million.
The Discovery Process: Gathering Evidence
After your personal injury attorney files the lawsuit, both sides will begin the discovery process. This is where each side gathers evidence, gathers witnesses, consults with medical professionals, and does any other pretrial steps they feel the need to.
Before your actual trial, you, your personal injury attorney, the defendant, and the defendant’s attorney might appears in Court to argue pretrial motions. This is where both lawyers will present motions to the court. Examples include: motions to dismiss parts or all of the case, motions to suppress evidence, etc. The presiding judge will make judgments on the motions, and each side must abide by the judge’s rulings.
Attempts at Mediation and Settlement
Prior to the trial, all parties meet and attempt to negotiate a settlement again. Even if the first negotiation failed, the evidence-gathering process, length of time before trial, or other factors might have convinced one side or the other to be more cooperative in negotiating. If the negotiations fail or do not happen, the case will go to trial.
Once a personal injury case goes to trial, it runs like most other court cases. Each side will present their evidence and interrogate witnesses, the jury will render a verdict, and the judge will determine the amount of damages awarded.
A big factor that influences the value of a case is the amount of comparative negligence. This means that if the plaintiff is determined to be partially liable for the collision, the plaintiff is deemed responsible for a portion of the damages. In other words, if a judge or jury determines that the collision was 20% the plaintiff’s fault, then the defendant is only liable for 80% of the compensatory damages. The plaintiff must be less than 50% at fault.
If you are injured in South Carolina, contact the attorneys at Branch & Dhillon. They have a long track record of winning cases and getting people the full amount of compensation they deserve. They will work hard to fight for you.