You might know that if you’re injured in a motor vehicle accident, you may be entitled to damages under South Carolina law, including, but not limited to, compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. But those are just a few of the possible types of compensation that may be recoverable. Below describes some of the types of compensation you may be entitled to under certain circumstances.
Also known as special damages, economic damages are a type of compensatory damages that are related to the direct financial losses suffered as a result of the accident. Lost wages and medical bills are two common examples, but there are many more. South Carolina code lists the following as economic damages:
- medical expenses and medical care
- rehabilitation services
- costs associated with education
- custodial care
- loss of earnings and earning capacity
- loss of income
- burial costs
- loss of use of property
- costs of repair or replacement of property
- costs of obtaining substitute domestic services
- a claim for loss of spousal services
- loss of employment
- loss of business or employment opportunities
- loss of retirement income
- other monetary losses
Also known as general damages, noneconomic damages are another type of compensatory damages and are intended to compensate the plaintiff for non-financial hardships and losses. These losses are often difficult to place a value, as there is no statutory rule or other directive on which a jury or insurance company can base a monetary value. Because of this, it is often a good idea to consult an attorney to discuss these issues. Each case is different and each person’s situation may be unique, and your attorney should be able to take that into account. Pain and suffering is the best known of general damages, but there are many others. South Carolina code lists the following as noneconomic damages:
- physical impairment
- mental anguish
- emotional distress
- loss of society and companionship
- loss of consortium
- injury to reputation
- other nonpecuniary damages
- any other theory of damages including, but not limited to, fear of loss, illness, or injury
Compensatory damages – those listed above, categorized as economic/special and noneconomic/general – are awarded to “make the plaintiff whole.” In other words, they are intended to compensate the plaintiff for what they have lost, either in terms of real money or in terms of loss of quality of life. We often tell our clients that these damages are intended to place the person in the same or similar position they would have been in had the accident never occurred. Because you cannot undo an accident or the effects thereof, monetary compensation is the only means provided by law to “make the plaintiff whole.”
Punitive damages are different. They are not intended to make the plaintiff whole, but to punish the defendant for misconduct and to deter similar future misconduct by that particular defendant and others. The most well-known example of this is the infamous and widely reported McDonald’s hot coffee lawsuit of 1994 in which a jury awarded plaintiff Stella Liebeck $2.7 million in punitive damages after she received burns from hot coffee. (The judge later reduced the amount to $640,000, but that was less widely reported.)
South Carolina law provides for punitive damages under certain circumstances. The plaintiff must request punitive damages in the initial complaint in order to have the chance to recover them. There are many factors to be considered on a case-by-case basis as to whether a particular case may qualify for recovery of punitive damages. Your attorney should be able to discuss with you and explain the various laws and considerations relating to punitive damages.
If You’re Partially Responsible, You’ll Get Partial Compensation
South Carolina is a comparative negligence state. That means that if you’re partially responsible for the motor vehicle accident, you may still receive compensation (assuming your negligence was no more than 50%), but your level of compensation will be less.
For instance, if a car accident case goes to trial and the jury determines the damages should be $10,000, and that you were 25% responsible for the accident, you’ll get just 75% of the damages, or $7,500. By being 25% responsible, you give up 25% of the damages.
Your level of negligence can significantly impact the amount of damages you’re ultimately awarded. Again, your attorney can discuss the various considerations relating to South Carolina comparative negligence law.
How Do You Know What Damages You’re Entitled To?
A personal injury attorney can help you determine what damages you’re entitled to and can build a case to help you get them. Sometimes it’s possible to settle with an insurance company for a fair amount, but other times, a trial is required in order to pursue fair compensation.
The personal injury attorneys of The Carolina Law Group are experienced litigators and trial attorneys who are ready to take your lawsuit to trial if a fair settlement cannot be reached. Contact them today and schedule your consultation to discuss your case. It costs you nothing to discuss your case and to meet with an attorney of The Carolina Law Group.
The Carolina Law Group has four offices in upstate South Carolina for your convenience: Greenville (principal office; call 864.312.4444), West Greenville (864.312.4444), Greer (principal office; call 864.757.5555), and Spartanburg. Call today.