Basic Personal Injury Settlement Breakdown: How Much Goes Into My Pocket in South Carolina?

Basic Personal Injury Settlement Breakdown: How Much Goes Into My Pocket in South Carolina?

The difference between a “gross” personal injury settlement (the amount referenced in your settlement agreement) and your “net” settlement (the amount you actually receive) can be significant. An understanding of the factors that contribute to the value of your gross settlement can help you estimate its value in advance.

Types of Damages

South Carolina offers the following types of damages for those who establish their claim:

  • Economic damages: Remember this much: If they’re easy to count, they’re probably economic damages. Medical bills, lost earnings, and out-of-pocket expenses all qualify as economic damages.   
  • Non-economic damages: Non-economic damages are compensation for intangible psychological harm, such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, and more.
  • Punitive damages: Punitive damages are extra compensation in case the defendant’s behavior was so bad the punishment is warranted—injuring you intentionally, for example. 

In a personal injury claim, you must prove your entitlement to damages by “a preponderance of the evidence.”

Limiting Factors

The following factors can limit how much you receive in a settlement.

Inability To Prove Non-Economic Damages

How do you prove the value of your pain and suffering, especially in settlement negotiations? Intangible non-economic damages are inherently difficult to quantify. A good lawyer can help.

Poor Negotiating Skills

In a practical sense, the value of your claim depends to a large degree on your (or your lawyer’s) negotiation skills. It’s not fair, but it’s reality.

Insurance Policy Limits

Every insurance policy has a maximum payout. In a car accident, for example, South Carolina drivers must purchase no less than $25,000 per victim in bodily injury insurance ($50,000 per accident) and $25,000 in property damage liability. 

Other insurance policies apply different limitations. No matter how much your claim is worth, however, there is no way that an insurance company will offer you more than their policy limits.

Comparative Fault

You won’t receive any compensation at all if the accident was mostly your fault. If your percentage of fault is 50% or below, however, a court would deduct the same percentage from your compensation. 

If you were 5% at fault, for example, you will lose 15% of your compensation. Expect settlement to work out the same way. 


Deductions are amounts that are taken out of a settlement after payment of the amount agreed to in the settlement agreement. See below for examples.

Under the contingency fee system that personal injury lawyers favor, legal fees typically add up to 30% to 40% of total compensation, including punitive damages. If you win $100,000, then. your lawyer will deduct $30,000 to $40,000 in legal fees before you see the money.

Case Expenses

If you win your case, your lawyer might deduct case expenses from your compensation. These include amounts that the lawyer has already paid, such as:

  • Accident reconstruction expenses
  • Administrative expenses (copying, postage, and more)
  • Court filing fees
  • Deposition costs
  • Expert witness fees
  • Medical record retrieval fees
  • Mediation and arbitration fees
  • Process server fees
  • Costs for obtaining police reports
  • Travel expenses related to the case

However, check with your lawyer to see how these case expenses will be handled. Not all attorneys treat them the same way.

Medical Liens

A medical lien is a legal means by which you secure payment of your medical bills by pledging your interest in a possible personal injury settlement. Once you settle, you have to pay the value of the lien. In South Carolina, medical liens do not attach automatically—they require a lot of red tape to record and perfect.


Taxes on personal injury settlements are usually almost non-existent unless you win punitive damages. Talk to a tax lawyer if you have any questions.

Imagine “winning” a personal injury case by negotiating a $10,000 settlement without the help of a Rock Hill personal injury lawyer. Now imagine the alternative: hiring a Rock Hill personal injury lawyer, winning $50,000 for the same claim, and paying $15,000 in legal fees, leaving you with $35,000. 

Naturally, an ethical lawyer will never guarantee you any particular settlement in advance. On average, however, there is a wide disparity between the amount of a settlement you can secure with a lawyer and the amount you will likely secure if you represent yourself.

Elrod Pope Accident & Injury Attorneys can help, contact us at 803-324-7574.