How to Prove Injuries in a Car Accident Case
As part of his or her car accident lawsuit, an injured motorist must prove three propositions related to his or her injuries: (1) that he or she did in fact suffer injuries in the car accident; (2) these injuries were caused by the negligent actions of the other driver (or another third party); and (3) the extent of these injuries is both quantifiable and compensable by a monetary damages award. The first two propositions are established by evidence and testimony of eyewitnesses and/or expert witnesses. The last proposition can be proven in a variety of ways, depending on the type of damages involved:
- Economic damages such as lost wages and medical bills are proven through objective documents. The injury victim’s medical bills, pay stubs, and attendance records will be useful in establishing the expenses and losses he or she suffered as a direct result of the accident. This documentation can also be used to estimate the amount of future losses the victim may be expected to incur (such as the future cost of prescription medication or additional time the victim will need to miss from work).
- Noneconomic damages such as pain and suffering are more subjective in nature and hence more difficult to quantify. An experienced South Carolina car accident lawyer will generally turn to family and friends to help describe the quality of life the victim enjoyed before the crash and the quality of life he or she has now following the accident.
It is important to remember that proving the extent of injuries is only part of the puzzle: the injury victim must also show that these injuries are causally connected to the defendant’s negligent or reckless conduct.
How Much Does an Accident Lawyer Cost?
Cost is always an important consideration for car accident injury victims. A popular misconception holds that accident attorneys are after one thing: the money of the clients they represent. This leads some car accident victims to choose to gamble with their potential compensation award by representing themselves in their car accident case. This can end up costing the victim much more than hiring an attorney.
Many South Carolina car accident lawyers take cases on a contingency-fee basis. This means that the victim is not held responsible for paying the attorney’s fees unless and until the attorney is able to recover compensation on behalf of the victim. In a contingency-fee arrangement, the lawyer’s fees are usually set as a percentage of the compensation he or she is able to recover for the victim: the more compensation the lawyer recovers on behalf of the victim, the greater the amount of fees the lawyer collects. If the lawyer is unable to recover any compensation for the victim, then the victim does not owe the attorney any payment for his or her fees (note, though, that some contingency-fee agreements will require the victim to pay the costs of litigation – such as filing fees and deposition costs – regardless of whether the lawsuit is successful).
Before deciding that an attorney’s advice and assistance is too costly, you should speak with several South Carolina car accident lawyers about their fees, the manner in which you would be billed (i.e., hourly or on a contingency-fee basis, etc.), and what costs you would be responsible for before deciding a car accident lawyer is too expensive.
What is the Law on Rear-End Accidents?
Traditional wisdom might tell you that a rear-end accident is always the fault of the rear vehicle (the vehicle that rear-ends the other vehicle). When a person strikes another car from behind, the investigating police officer may write the person a ticket for “following too closely” or “inattentive driving” without performing any investigation at all into the cause of the crash. Nonetheless, a rear-end collision may be the result of any number of causes, some of which are not the fault of the driver of the rear vehicle at all:
- The lead vehicle may have carelessly made a sudden stop or turn without reason;
- The lead vehicle may not have had working brake lights and/or turn signals;
- There may have been an obstruction in the road that caused the lead vehicle to suddenly stop;
- The lead vehicle may have misread a road sign or traffic light (such as coming to a complete stop at a yield sign); or
- A third vehicle behind the rear vehicle acted negligently and struck the rear vehicle, causing the rear vehicle to strike another vehicle in front of the rear vehicle.
A rear-end collision lawsuit can be brought against the driver of the lead vehicle and/or another driver if evidence is available showing that this person or these persons acted in a careless or reckless manner and this behavior contributed to the rear end collision. An experienced South Carolina car accident lawyer can help you conduct a thorough investigation into your case and help you identify the party or parties who may be obligated to pay you compensation.
What if I’m a Passenger in a Wreck?
Passengers involved in a car accident have legal rights that are nearly identical to those possessed by injured car drivers. That is, an injured passenger has the same right to file a lawsuit against the at-fault party or parties that an injured driver would have. Depending on the circumstances of the crash, the passenger may even be able to bring a lawsuit against the driver of his or her own vehicle, if this person contributed to the crash. Similarly, the passenger’s own negligence can result in a reduction of the compensation he or she would otherwise receive if a judge or jury determines that the passenger’s own behavior contributed in some way to the crash (by distracting the driver, for example.)
If a passenger believes his or her own driver may be responsible in some way for the crash, it is highly advisable that the passenger obtain independent legal counsel. Rules concerning “conflicts of interest” may prevent a lawyer from representing a driver and passenger of a car where one is accused of contributing to the injuries and losses of another.
Some of the more commonly-asked questions about car accidents and car accident lawsuits include the following:
“Do I have to go to the hospital after a car crash?” This will depend on you and the severity of your injuries. If you are seriously injured (or even if you don’t know the severity of your injuries), you should ask to be transported to the hospital for examination. If you do not appear to be injured, you should nonetheless seek medical evaluation as soon as possible to confirm that you have not been injured and to preserve your ability to seek compensation if you are later found to have suffered car accident-related injuries.
“Why should I speak with an attorney before the adjuster(s)?” What you tell an adjuster can be used to reduce or deny your claim for compensation altogether and can be used against you if you file a car accident lawsuit. For example, admitting that your traffic signal was red before you entered the intersection can not only result in a denial of your insurance claim against the other party but can also be used to establish your own fault and negligence in causing the crash, thus denying your ability to recover compensation in court. This is why it is important to review the facts of your crash with your attorney before speaking with the adjuster.
“If I Was Negligent or Careless, Can I Still Recover Compensation?” Maybe. In South Carolina, so long as the plaintiff is 50 percent responsible for causing the crash or less, the plaintiff may still be able to recover compensation. The compensation awarded to the plaintiff would be reduced in proportion to the plaintiff’s own fault. For example, a plaintiff who is awarded $50,000 in damages but who is determined to be 50 percent at fault for causing the accident will be awarded only $25,000.
If you have been injured in a car accident, it is imperative that you reach out to a skilled attorney today. The dedicated attorneys at the Elrod Pope Law Firm are available to help you immediately.