Motor vehicle wrecks are an all too common occurrence on South Carolina roads and highways, and are one of the leading causes of severe injury and death in the country. The statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) as well as the South Carolina Department of Public Safety are sobering. NHTSA reports 35,092 were killed in motor vehicle crashes on U.S. roadways during 2015, a 7.2% increases since the year before and one of the largest percentage increases in nearly 50 years. South Carolina reported 911 fatal collisions in 2015, a 20% increase from the previous year. Many factors probably account for these numbers, including distracted drivers, inexperienced drivers, aggressive drivers, impaired drivers, poorly maintained roadways, poorly designed roadways, vehicle defects, weather conditions, lighting conditions, poor visibility, and more. Speed of course is usually always a factor.
The role of the legal system has been to ensure adequate and fair compensation for those injured or killed due to the fault or negligence of others. Under our system legal responsibility is based upon fault. Those at fault must pay for the injuries they cause. Therefore the burden on the person suffering injury from a motor vehicle wreck is proving which party or parties were at fault. Given that there can be more than one cause of a motor vehicle wreck, there may be more than one responsible party. At Kassel McVey we are trained to review motor vehicle wrecks to identify all potentially liable parties. It may be a driver who disregarded a traffic control device. It may be the South Carolina Department of Transportation for failure to maintain visibility at a dangerous intersection. It may be a motor vehicle manufacturer responsible for a recalled braking system. It may be a restaurant or bar who knowingly over-served a patron who then went out onto the roadway. It may be an individual who negligently entrusted a vehicle to an impaired driver. Determining potential “defendants”, those parties with a responsibility for the wreck, is a key responsibility for the lawyer assisting an injured victim.
As a passenger in a motor vehicle, your own driver may be a potential defendant, as well as the driver of any other vehicle involved in the wreck. It is not unusual, for example, for the wife as a passenger, to bring a claim against her husband and another driver involved in a two car wreck. Often the drivers will blame each other for causing the wreck. The safest position for a passenger in those circumstances is to bring claims against both drivers. Even if one of the drivers is your relation! Remember that if a passenger has a potential claim against his or her driver, both individuals cannot be represented by the same lawyer. That would be a conflict and prohibited by the lawyer’s code of ethics.
Following a motor vehicle wreck proper investigation must be commenced immediately. In the simple case that means collecting photographs and witness statements. Photographs of the vehicles and the damage to the vehicles is critical. Insurance claims adjusters as well as juries want to see the extent of damage as revealed in clear pictures. Whether true or not, people tend to equate the amount of property damage to the extent of personal injury. Chronic complaints of pain despite minimal property damage make for difficult cases. However, in certain cases, the lawyer can demonstrate how small impact caused severe personal injury. Photographs of the scene are important. Was the roadway straight or curved, flat or hilly? Where there any obstructions to visibility? Was there a traffic control device present or not? Was a construction zone in place? Was a day care or school located nearby? Finally, was the wreck witnessed by anyone? The lawyer must collect witness statements.
In the more complex cases, the investigation will be more involved. There may be a need to examine the vehicles by an engineer. Examination may include evaluation of any “black box” on board which might give data on speeds, braking, and the functioning of vehicle components. Investigation may include analysis of driving records, especially for professional drivers, to determine compliance with federal and state safety regulations. Accident reconstruction experts may be hired to make detailed maps of the wreck scene to determine vehicle travel paths moments before impact. Some cases may require employment of a bio-mechanical engineer to evaluate how an occupant moved inside the vehicle for the purpose of determine exactly how the injuries occurred.
In cases with significant personal injuries we may hire special experts to evaluate and document the extent and cost of the harm. For example, if injuries preclude a person from working in his chosen profession we may hire a vocational assessor. Based on testing and evaluation, the vocational assessor would determine the range of suitable and available jobs. The vocational assessor would identify the pay scales for these new jobs and determine any loss in earning capacity. Working with an economist, we could then project out lost income over the remaining years of the person’s work life. Likewise, if there is permanent injury, we may hire a life care planner to identify future medical needs and determine the cost of those future needs. In a motor vehicle wreck case South Carolina recognizes elements of damage to include past and future lost income as well as past and future medical expenses.
A key role for us at Kassel McVey is determining insurance coverage and the amount of coverage for motor vehicle wrecks. Clear liability with significant harm typically leads to a grim outcome if there is insufficient insurance coverage. First we contact the at-fault motorist’s insurance carrier to inform them of our representation and to request the amount of liability coverage available. Under South Carolina law, Section 38-77-250(A) every carrier providing insurance coverage in this state must provide to us within thirty days of our request a statement under oath identifying the name of the insurer, the name of the insured and the limits of coverage. All drivers must carry liability insurance. But in South Carolina, the current minimum limits equal only $25,000. Therefore it may be important to do an exhaustive search for appropriated coverage. In addition to liability coverage, we also search for any umbrella coverage which may be significant.
Part of the search for coverage includes determining if our clients have UIM or underinsured motorist coverage. UIM is not mandatory coverage but can be purchased for an additional premium after a meaningful offer is made. UIM pays if the liability coverage is inadequate to satisfy the amount of harm inflicted in the wreck. In certain circumstances where there are more than one vehicle in a household, UIM may be “stacked”. That means the UIM coverages on various vehicles may be added together to produce a larger pool of money to satisfy a claim.
Finally, we determine if our clients have PIP or personal injury protection or med pay, a limited amount of coverage to pay medical bills or lost income regardless of fault. The last coverage of importance is property damage. We assist our clients in making claims for property damage, including loss of use of their vehicle. At Kassel McVey we do not collect a fee out of any recovery for PIP, med pay or property damage.
At Kassel McVey, we want to protect your best interests. We will help you determine if the other party was at fault, how serious the sustained injuries are, and what you should rightfully receive for your medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering and other damages. We put our 30+ years of combined legal experience to work for you and fight to ensure the insurance companies pay you what you truly deserve.
What to Do After a Car Accident
If you are involved in a car accident, the first thing to do is check on the safety and health of all parties involved. If you or anyone else needs immediate medical assistance, call for emergency medical help right away. Note that you should have yourself checked by a doctor after a car accident if you believe it to be advisable. Documentation of medical care is important.
You should then call state or local authorities to notify them of your car accident. You may opt to provide input to the police report to ensure that it contains accurate information. Acquire a copy of the police report, as these can provide key evidence in disputed car accident claims. You may wish to take photos on a cell phone of the vehicles and resulting damage. Note the name and address and phone number of any witnesses.
You should also report the accident to your insurance company. You do not need to provide all the details, as you simply need to report that it transpired. After a major car accident, it would be best to let your lawyer handle any dealing with the insurance company.
If possible, get the name and address of the person at fault for the wreck. If possible get the name of the driver’s liability carrier. This information will generally be listed on a South Carolina FR-10 or accident report. It is typically best to allow your lawyer to contact the adverse party’s insurance carrier if you are indeed hiring a lawyer to represent you. Refrain from giving statements, including recorded statements until you talk with your lawyer.
The best way to protect your rights is to contact an experienced car accident attorney at the soonest possible time. An attorney will see to it that your financial interests and legal rights are protected throughout the whole legal process.
Contact Kassel McVey Today
Have you or a loved one have been involved in a car accident caused by the negligence of another? If so, you need a qualified South Carolina car accident lawyer on your side. Our legal team at Kassel McVey has years of experience handling car accidents resulting in personal injury or death.
To find out how we can help you take action, call us today at (803) 256-4242 and put our experience to work for you.
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1330 Laurel Street
Columbia, South Carolina 29201
Post Office Box 1476
Columbia, South Carolina 29202
Phone: (803) 256-4242
Toll Free: (855) 256-4242
Fax: (803) 256-1952
Copyright © 2017 John D. Kassel, Attorney at Law, LLC. All rights reserved. This website is designed for general information only. The information should not be construed to constitute formal legal advice or the formation of a lawyer/client relationship. The results and testimonials listed on this website are specific to the facts and legal circumstances of specific cases and should not be used to form an expectation that the same results could be obtained for other clients in similar matters. This list is not a description or characterization of the quality of the firm's representation, it is not intended to compare one attorney's work to another and is in no way a guarantee of a specific result for your case.