Average Car Accident Settlement In South Carolina
It’s common for individuals and families seeking injury compensation to ask how much they can expect to receive after their accident. There is actually no true average amount of payout, because car crash cases vary widely. Some may settle for a few thousand dollars, others for several million. At Kassel McVey, for example, we have settled car accident cases for as much as $13 million.
The value of each case is dependent on many factors. Among these are extent of liability of the defendant, including aggravating factors like intoxication, the amount of physical and emotional trauma experienced by the plaintiff, the severity of injury, including any permanent injury, the need long-term care, the need for surgery or invasive procedures, the amount medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life and more. Some non-economic damages, such as emotional distress, may also be compensable but difficult to value, so you’ll want to consult an attorney for this.
Your share of fault in the accident, if any, is also a significant factor in how much you may receive. This is because of South Carolina’s “modified comparative negligence” system. Your compensation may be reduced according to how much your fault was.
Take a look at some of the common car wreck scenarios and the common resulting type injuries.
The Severity of the Wreck Itself
Car wrecks take place in a variety of settings from low speed parking lot crashes to high speed interstate roll-overs. Speed is generally a significant cause determining the severity of most wrecks. The size of a case is often determined by how significant a fact finder (insurance adjuster, lawyer or jury) sees the impact. The greater the property damage to the vehicles the easier it is for one to find greater personal injury resulting. People tend to disbelieve significant personal injury can result from a minor fender bender. While this may be true in many situations it is not universally true. Individuals, particularly with pre-existing medical conditions, can be permanently injured from low speed impacts. It is your lawyer’s job to convincing proof a causal connection between a low speed wreck and injury when appropriate.
Given the importance of property damage in evaluating the size of a motor vehicle wreck case it is all important to have good photographs of the resulting damage. Insurance adjusters, lawyers and juries want to see pictures and understand how bad was the wreck. With the ubiquitous nature of cell phone cameras, good pictures are usually available.
As mentioned speed is usually important. To the extent a defendant was speeding above a posted speed limit, or traveling too fast for conditions, he or she may be in violation of a South Carolina traffic statute. Statutes are written laws governing conduct. Violation of a traffic statute may be negligence per se (if speeding one is deemed negligent) and evidence of recklessness or a higher degree of culpability. Violation of a traffic statute may subject a defendant to punitive damages in addition to actual damages.
Similarly, other conduct may enhance the value of a motor vehicle wreck case. If a defendant is driving under the influence and in violation of our DUI statute, he or she may be subjected to punitive damages. Other aggravating factors the impact case value may include failure to render assistance, leaving the scene, or lying about how the wreck happened.
The Whiplash Case In South Carolina
The term ‘whiplash’ refers to the intense strain on the neck that results from a violent back-and-forth motion of the head (like a whip’s motion). This typically happens in rear-end or frontal car accidents. Patients who suffer from whiplash experience symptoms such as neck pain or stiffness, shoulder pain or stiffness, headache, and dizziness. There are also severe associated symptoms like memory loss, concentration difficulties, and sleep disturbances.
Even though whiplash has appropriate medical treatments, this injury is commonly questioned in compensation claims because it is often not very severe and can be difficult to establish. It is a soft tissue injury (affecting muscles and/or tendons), so it usually cannot be seen directly on imaging tests like x-rays and MRIs. This makes it easier for insurance adjusters to undermine whiplash claims.
The value of whiplash type cases is affected by many factors. Again the severity of the impact and degree of property damage is usually a significant finding. Further, a fact finding will examine the nature of the plaintiff’s treatment and question who rendered care to the plaintiff’. Chiropractic care may be discounted by some while physical therapy may not. A consciousness and thoughtful family doctor or orthopaedist who supports the plaintiff’s claims of injury will generally be very helpful. Pre-existing neck pain or injury may tend to lessen the value of the case while its absence may have the opposite effect. Nonetheless, plaintiffs in South Carolina are aided by the law that states they are entitled to compensation for aggravation of any pre-existing condition. Further, a defendant in South Carolina must take the plaintiff “as he finds him”. That is, the defendant cannot complain that a healthy individual would not have been injured in the wreck.
It should be pointed out that case value is impacted by the amount of the defendant’s insurance coverage or lack of it. Minimum limits in South Carolina for liability coverage is $25,000 currently. Negotiations over case value will take place with a proper understanding of the insurance coverage in play. Of course, the existence of underinsured motorist coverage and uninsured coverage must be considered as well.
Given all these factors it is not possible to determine generally what value a case may have. It requires an examination of all the factors and a in depth discussion with your attorney.
The Concussion Case In South Carolina
Concussions are another type of injury that can vary greatly in severity and symptoms that they are not always easily recognizable. A mild concussion may fade without causing much discomfort, but very often, this injury involves headaches, confusion, nausea, dizziness, and even some memory loss. More serious signs include sleep disturbances, personality changes, and psychological problems.
A concussion is a form of traumatic brain injury (TBI). Research has shown that the lifetime costs of an individual’s TBI can range from $85,000 to as much as $3 million. In addition, there is a staggering 60 percent unemployment rate for adults with brain injury, two years after their diagnosis. Costs like these are major factors in a head injury claim.
However, it can be highly challenging to claim a fair amount for a concussion. Its symptoms are not only varied but can also take a while to emerge. In fact, doctors recommend a medical check after any head injury that’s more than just a light bump, even if that injury doesn’t require emergency care.
The haziness around concussion symptoms make the injury difficult to prove by the injured and easy to deny by insurance companies. Often what is at stake is figuring out the “pre-morbid” cognitive state and comparing that to the post traumatic state. This is usually done with the help of a neuropsychological exam. The idea is to assess any prior I.Q. testing, school records, or other records to determine a baseline for comparison. Subsequent cognitive testing can be compared to earlier testing to see if there is a loss of function attributable to the trauma.
It’s wise to consult with an experienced lawyer, together with medical experts, to determine the rightful compensation that the injured deserves.
The Back Or Neck Injury In South Carolina
Injuries to the back or neck are very common in motor vehicle accidents, and they vary widely in severity. Some can be treated with over-the-counter medication, while others require multiple surgeries. Some can cause mere discomfort during movement, while others can lead to devastating consequences like paralysis.
The costs of these injuries vary as well. Here are some estimates:
- Broken back – $50,000 to $150,000 for diagnosis and surgical treatment
- Herniated disc – $20,000 to $50,000 per surgery
- Sciatica – as much as $500 for home remedies; as much as $350 per therapy session; as much as $5,000 per year for epidural steroid injections; as much as $90,000 for surgery
- Spinal cord injury, low tetraplegia – average of $769,000 in the first year, then $113,000 every year after that
- Spinal cord injury, paraplegia – average of $518,000 in the first year, then $69,000 every year after that.
Aside from these medical expenses, there are plenty of hidden costs that come with such injuries. Examples are travel expenses, lost earning potential, lifestyle changes, and needed home modifications such as ramps. These should also be considered when discussing with your attorney what your case is worth.
Economic And Non-Economic Damages
Doctors’ fees, hospital bills, and treatment costs may often be steep, but they are only some of the damages that an injured person may claim for.
There are generally two types of damages in a car accident case. Economic damages are those that have specific monetary value, such as the medical expenses enumerated above. This also includes lost wages and reduced capacity to earn in the future. On the other hand, there are also non-economic damages, which are less tangible but can be assigned a dollar amount. Examples are pain and suffering, disfigurement, and emotional distress.
Fair compensation should ideally cover both economic and non-economic damages. It takes the help of a knowledgeable attorney to determine all the damages you are entitled to, and how to establish them in your claim. An attorney is need even more when you are faced with insurance companies that are well-prepared to reduce your settlement.
In South Carolina, contact the law firm of Kassel McVey. We have a proven track record of helping individuals and families fight for the compensation they deserve. Let’s start by just talking about your injury. Your initial consultation is completely free. Call us today at (803) 256-4242.
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Post Office Box 1476
Columbia, South Carolina 29202
Fax: (803) 256-1952
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