The attorneys at Ayers, Smithdeal & Bettis, P.C. have been successfully advocating for auto accident victims in South Carolina for decades. Along the way, we’ve picked up the most common questions and misunderstandings that people have about the law as it relates to their own South Carolina auto accident claims. There are more than 940 miles of interstate highway through this beautiful state, and there are auto accidents on these highways every day, not to mention the thousands of side streets, residential neighborhoods, and commercial areas.
We regularly see cases that range from minor to life altering and even fatal, and we understand that each one has its own unique set of circumstances and outcomes. We also understand how serious each case is when it comes to the recovery and wellbeing of our clients.
The most important thing that we’ve realized over our years of dedicated service to South Carolina auto accident victims is that our clients need to be well informed to make the best decisions about their own cases. With that in mind, we’ve compiled this collection of important things that you need to keep in mind when you work with an auto accident attorney.
While some may seem obvious, there’s probably a few things you didn’t think of; and even those obvious points can be out of sight and out of mind if you don’t take the time to focus your attention on the areas where it is most needed. Read on to learn what you need to know when it comes to working with a lawyer after a South Carolina auto accident.
You Must Be Able to Prove Negligence in an Auto Accident Claim
Hiring an attorney to represent you in a South Carolina auto accident claim is the first step, but you can’t get adequate representation if you and the attorney can’t work together to prove negligence. You’ll get a free consultation from most auto accident attorneys in South Carolina, and this is where your case is evaluated, and we establish whether or not there is negligence on the part of another driver and if that negligence can be proven. If we can’t observe any negligence, then we can’t ethically take on your case, because we won’t be able to prove it.
To prove negligence, we’ll look at three key factors:
- Did the other driver owe you a duty of care? (In most cases, they did).
- Did the other driver breach that duty of care? (Did they behave carelessly?).
- Did that breach of duty result in your accident/injury? (There must be a causal link).
South Carolina is a Comparative Negligence State
Many people don’t realize that even if they are partially at fault for the accident, they can still recover compensation from the driver who held the majority of fault. This is not true in every state, but because South Carolina is a comparative negligence state, this rule applies. It basically means that if you are less than 51% at fault in a car accident, you can still recover up to 50% of your damages, depending on the percentage of fault held by the other driver.
Most South Carolina Auto Accident Attorneys Work on a Contingency Fee Basis
Another common issue that we run into is that victims of auto accidents think they can’t afford an attorney. They may or may not know about the contingency fee system. This is a method of billing that only allows the attorney to receive a fee if they successfully obtain compensation for you. Those who know about this may still be misinformed, thinking that the attorney will take the majority of their settlement.
The reality is that the attorney does not receive more than one-third of your settlement, in most cases, and even then you normally end up with far more compensation than you would without an attorney. On average, in the US, auto accident victims who hire an attorney recover more than three times more than those who don’t, even accounting for the legal fees.
You Can Pursue Punitive Damages in Some Auto Accident Claims
In some auto accidents, a person’s behavior was so negligent or intentional that they may face criminal charges. For example, if they were driving drunk or driving aggressively, they will likely be charged. However, that doesn’t impact your compensation unless you seek punitive damages. Punitive damages are those that are included in your settlement or judgment when the behavior of the at-fault driver was grossly negligent, intentional, or even criminal. These damages will be awarded in an effort to further punish the at-fault driver and deter that behavior in the future.
You Must Work Within the Statute of Limitations for South Carolina Auto Accidents
The statute of limitations for most personal injury claims, including auto accident claims, is generally three years in South Carolina, although in some cases it is only two years. This means that you need to act fast to assert your claim and allow yourself plenty of time for the process of negotiating a settlement or filing a lawsuit. If you let the statute of limitations expire, you’ll forfeit your right to pursue compensation.
Most Auto Accident Claims Are Resolved Outside of the Courtroom
A lot of people think that if they pursue an auto accident claim, they will at some point have to face a judge or jury to prove their case. The reality is that most claims are resolved through negotiation with an auto insurance company. If your case can’t be resolved in this way, then it may end up in court. If it does, the attorneys at Ayers, Smithdeal & Bettis, P.C. are prepared to prove your case with the gathered evidence, witness testimony, and powerful arguments for the compensation that you are rightfully owed. Call today to schedule a free consultation with our dedicated and experienced Greenwood auto accident lawyers. We will evaluate your claim and do everything in our power to resolve it without having to go to court. If it does go to court, we’ll be prepared, and we’ll make sure that you’re prepared, too.