After any accident, an injured party may consider bringing a lawsuit due to the damages incurred.  In a car wreck or slip and fall case, just an evaluation in the Emergency Room will run into the thousands of dollars. In addition to the hospital bills, the injured party will usually have other associated damages.  They may have lost time from work.  They may have endured a great deal of pain and suffering and might even be prescribed pain medicine.  In serious injury cases, the consideration of lost future earnings come into play due to semi-permanent or permanent disability caused by the accident.  Other incidents might not involve any medical evaluation or treatment or lost work. What factors should be considered before bringing suit?
 
         First, it is important to know that costs are always involved in actually filing suit against another party.  The filing fees are normally around $150 (potentially much more).  Service of process on another party can be costly, paying for depositions in discovery can cost a few hundred per deposition.  Filing suit and litigating cases involves costs that must be factored into whether or not to bring the suit.  That's even the case with lawyers working on contingency and not an hourly fee.
 
        In cases involving an insured party, and insurance should be involved in car wreck cases due to legal requirements, parties can sometimes work out a settlement without filing suit.  In a car wreck in which liability is not contested, for example a rear-end collision, the insurance company is usually willing to settle.  The disagreements will normally then come with the amount of settlement, with the insurance company attempting to keep the numbers low.  That's where a lawyer can be cost effective:  Even though the lawyer receives 1/3rd of the settlement, he should be able to negotiate a settlement well beyond what might be negotiated without a lawyer and more than make up for his contingency.
 
        If the medical bills are in the hundreds and no injuries were diagnosed, attempts at settlement but not lawsuit is generally the best course of action.  Even if a jury might award a bit more than a settlement, the costs would likely not be justified.  Beyond the monetary costs are the costs of time and stress of the lawsuit.  The time away from work due to the lawsuit (depositions, answering discovery, trial, etc.) can be very costly in lost income.  For a case involving substantial medical bills and injuries, the predicted jury award would likely be worth it.  For low dollar damage cases the best bet is usually a decent settlement.
 
       The decision of whether to sue can be a tough one and should not be made lightly.  Think about everything involved including the cost, pray about it, and make your decision.


 
         After an accident involving personal injury and resulting damages, it's critical to determine all possible insurance coverage.  A personal injury lawyer is usually able to look beyond what most non-lawyers know about coverage, but anyone who has been hurt should know the basics of finding coverage.  It's relatively easy in the situation a liable party causes injury and has a policy with high enough limits to pay damages like medical bills, lost wages, and pain/suffering.  The tougher situation is when parties either don't have enough coverage, or in some cases neither the liable party has coverage and the hurt party doesn't have uninsured motorist coverage. These unique situations are the focus of this article.
 
        When a liable party causes a great deal of damage, but only maintains minimum limits (in South Carolina that is $25,000.00), the harmed party must look beyond the liable party's coverage.  The first place to look is the underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage available by the party with high damages.  These limits will usually be at the level of the liability limits if available.  Therefore, if a party has $25,000.00 in liability coverage the UIM coverage will be $25K.  If the damages are beyond the UIM coverage, the other potential coverage is in "stacking" UIM policies for other vehicles under the harmed parties' policy.  That allows for that additional coverage as needed.  Yes, the liable party can be sued for an amount beyond their coverage, but attempting to satisfy damages beyond coverage becomes very difficult and time-consuming.  The old saying "you can't squeeze blood from a turnip" applies in many cases, and remember there is no debtor's prison.  
 
        The same principle of coverage applies when the other driver is uninsured.  Instead of UIM coverage, it is uninsured motorist (UM) coverage, with the same ability to stack policies to satisfy damages.  Again, must better to go after insurance policies available then attempting to "squeeze blood from a turnip".
 
         The other situation that can create the need for alternative insurance coverage is in the event of an accident involving an uninsured driver and the harmed party does not have personal policy coverage (or declined UM/UIM coverage).  Another potential coverage may exist as the only alternative to having no coverage available.  If the person is a "resident relative", living in the same house with a direct family relative (like father/mother or spouse or children), and the relative has UM/UIM policy coverage, that harmed party could be covered.  The insurance company for the policy allowing coverage for a resident relative will likely conduct an investigation to ensure the relatives did live together at the time of the accident, and proof will be required.  Assuming the insurance company accepts the resident relative status, then the coverage is available to the limits of the UM/UIM policy.
 
        Again, a personal injury lawyer will be looking for these alternative types of coverage, but it's still important for everyone to understand what is available to cover damages.  It could make all the difference in the world for yourself, or more importantly for those you love.
 
Bill
 

FINDING ALL POSSIBLE INSURANCE COVERAGE AFTER PERSONAL INJURY

 
         After an accident involving personal injury and resulting damages, it's critical to determine all possible insurance coverage.  A personal injury lawyer is usually able to look beyond what most non-lawyers know about coverage, but anyone who has been hurt should know the basics of finding coverage.  It's relatively easy in the situation a liable party causes injury and has a policy with high enough limits to pay damages like medical bills, lost wages, and pain/suffering.  The tougher situation is when parties either don't have enough coverage, or in some cases neither the liable party has coverage and the hurt party doesn't have uninsured motorist coverage. These unique situations are the focus of this article.
 
        When a liable party causes a great deal of damage, but only maintains minimum limits (in South Carolina that is $25,000.00), the harmed party must look beyond the liable party's coverage.  The first place to look is the underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage available by the party with high damages.  These limits will usually be at the level of the liability limits if available.  Therefore, if a party has $25,000.00 in liability coverage the UIM coverage will be $25K.  If the damages are beyond the UIM coverage, the other potential coverage is in "stacking" UIM policies for other vehicles under the harmed parties' policy.  That allows for that additional coverage as needed.  Yes, the liable party can be sued for an amount beyond their coverage, but attempting to satisfy damages beyond coverage becomes very difficult and time-consuming.  The old saying "you can't squeeze blood from a turnip" applies in many cases, and remember there is no debtor's prison.  
 
        The same principle of coverage applies when the other driver is uninsured.  Instead of UIM coverage, it is uninsured motorist (UM) coverage, with the same ability to stack policies to satisfy damages.  Again, must better to go after insurance policies available then attempting to "squeeze blood from a turnip".
 
         The other situation that can create the need for alternative insurance coverage is in the event of an accident involving an uninsured driver and the harmed party does not have personal policy coverage (or declined UM/UIM coverage).  Another potential coverage may exist as the only alternative to having no coverage available.  If the person is a "resident relative", living in the same house with a direct family relative (like father/mother or spouse or children), and the relative has UM/UIM policy coverage, that harmed party could be covered.  The insurance company for the policy allowing coverage for a resident relative will likely conduct an investigation to ensure the relatives did live together at the time of the accident, and proof will be required.  Assuming the insurance company accepts the resident relative status, then the coverage is available to the limits of the UM/UIM policy.
 
        Again, a personal injury lawyer will be looking for these alternative types of coverage, but it's still important for everyone to understand what is available to cover damages.  It could make all the difference in the world for yourself, or more importantly for those you love.
 
Bill
 

Workers Compensation or Personal Injury?

 
       When someone is hurt on the job it's important that person understand the issues involved with being compensated for damages.  In most cases, the worker is covered by Workers Compensation insurance provide through his employer. In the event the employer did not have Worker's Compensation Insurance when required due to having 4 or more employees, the state has a fund to help such injured employees.  Workers Compensation is meant to help both the employee and employer.  It helps the employee by providing medical coverage and wage compensation without having to prove liability of the employer.  It helps the employer by preventing litigation costs as Worker's Compensation is the sole remedy for the employee against the employer.
 
      Despite the positive ends of Workers Compensation to the employee, it also brings certain drawbacks. Despite the liability of the employer in causing the injury through negligence, the employee cannot receive more than the medical costs and certain lost wage compensation.  It does not provide for damages like pain and suffering, and therefore can drastically limit what the employee would have obtained through a personal injury claim which could be filed in court.  The employee must accept Workers Compensation as the remedy against the employer, even if the employee would rather file a personal injury claim to obtain redress for damages like pain and suffering.
 
      It's important to know that Workers Compensation law in South Carolina does not restrict an injured employee from filing a personal injury claim against a third party (non-employer) with liability or some liability for the injury.  The employee must first finish the Workers Compensation coverage and settle the Workers Compensation claim before pursuing any further claims (and the Workers Compensation Insurance may hold a lien on any settlement or award from the liable third party).  However, when the Workers Compensation claim is settled, the employee can then file a claim against the third party.  That claim can involve all damages, including potentially punitive based on the nature of the case (more on punitive damages in another article).
 
      It's important to have an attorney handle work-related accidents.  Not only because Workers Compensation law is relatively complicated and involves many rules in dealing with the Workers Compensation Commission. The other reason is that an attorney will be able to properly assess the potential for the third party claim and what damages to seek. 

Call The Bill Connor Law Firm Today!

         Another car blew a red light and ran into your car passing through an intersection on green. The police have investigated and issued an accident report holding the other driver at fault, and an ambulance took you to the Emergency Room of the local hospital. You know insurance will cover your vehicle, but realize the injuries involved will required a personal injury claim.  The first question will likely be the expected result of bringing a personal injury claim with or without trial.  Though the next step would likely be visiting an attorney, it's important to personally understand the factors involved with the value of a personal injury claim due to the effect on family and personal finances.
 
        One of the first things to understand in valuing a personal injury claim is that the level of liability for the other side effects the claim.  In the case described above, the liability the opposing side would likely assign to the other driver is 100%.  Therefore, whatever number a jury were to determining damages would be fully against that driver.  Other cases can involve situations in which the person bringing the claim has some level of liability.  In South Carolina, as long as the other driver is at least 50% at fault they can be sued for that percent of damages.  If the other side is less than 50% at fault (the plaintiff cannot be more than 50% at fault) they could not be sued in South Carolina.  
 
        A factor in evaluating the claim is the venue (county) the suit could be brought.  Counties have historic trends in jury verdicts and in some jury verdicts would be expected to be higher, while in other the verdicts are traditionally much lower.  Whether that appears fair or not, trials are in front of citizens from the county and their decision stands. The case can either be brought in the defendant's home county or where the accident occurred.  It's important to speak to your attorney about venue.
 
       As a general rule, many insurance companies will develop their personal injury damages primarily based on the medical bills from the ambulance, ER, and other medical doctor and specialist related bills.  They will also consider the other medical bills, like chiropractic bills, but normally put the most weight on the hospital/doctor bills.  If the bills solely involve an ambulance to the ER and ER evaluation and treatment (and release without inpatient treatment) with soft tissue injury, the "expected" settlement can range at 2-3 times those medical bills.  Therefore, if the total bill is $5,000.00, the settlement value can sometimes be expected in the range of $10-15,000.00.  This varies greatly based on venue, and other nuances of the case.  
 
       Understand that the valuation is based on the total medical bills, and not what was paid by medical insurance or co-pays by patients. In the event of a settlement, a medical insurer will likely have some kind of "lien" on the settlement. Normally, this is far below what the insurer paid on the bill, which was far less than the bill.  Therefore, for a bill of a few thousand dollars, an insurer might have a lien of a few hundred.  Either way, the other money is to cover pain and suffering and other such damages.
 
      In addition to those valuations of damages, other damages are considered as well.  For example, lost wages due to the accident should be calculated and sent to the insurance company.  The settlement will consider these on a 1 for 1 basis, and not the 2-3 times amounts like with the medicals.  Additionally, when injuries involve more serious injuries like broken bones or worse, the valuations can go well beyond the 2-3 times the medicals.  Additionally, the medicals are expected to go into future treatment and problems.
 
     In cases of serious injury, the biggest restriction on valuation can be the insurance limits available to cover damages.  In South Carolina, minimum insurance limits are only $25K per incident or $50K overall.  That's for the other driver.  Most drivers also have underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage on their policy which helps cover the excess medical damages.  Those limits are based on the kind of policy you have, and why to consider higher policies.  Also, lawyers can explain ways to "stack" UIM coverage of multiple vehicles on the policy to cover damages.  
 
       Every case is unique, and your attorney will give far more detail about the nuances of the case.  There is also the factor of settlements when the other side is still reasonably contesting liability and therefore not willing to settle at expected amounts.  You always have the right to take the case to courts and juries, but always understand the pros and cons of that process.
 
 
 
 

         The term "personal injury" can have different meanings depending on the context.  In the context of lawsuits, personal injury means those damages which an injured party or parties will bring against the party who caused the injury.  Within damages in a lawsuit, it is distinguished from property damage which may have occurred during the same incident or accident.  Closely connected to personal injury, and brought as damages with personal injury, are personal damages like lost wages.  The first question someone should ask when they are injured by the seeming negligence of another is: Should I bring a lawsuit and what should I reasonably expect from the lawsuit?

        In determining whether or not to take the steps toward bringing a lawsuit, which would normally begin with a demand letter and attempt to settle before filing, is the reasonable chance of winning in court.  You must be able to show the negligence of the offending party or parties (Note:  I have written a separate article about negligence which explains the elements you must prove).  Regardless of the truth about what occurred during the accident or incident, what matters most is the evidence which could go before a jury.  Did the other side make an admission?  How many and how credible are witnesses?  What does the physical evidence show?  All these factors must be analyzed to ensure the case has the potential for winning in front of a jury (Note:  I have also written about the importance of venue, where you can seek venue, and factors about venue which plan in the decision).

      After determining the reasonable chance of success, the next evaluation is the reasonable amount to be expected in settlement and/or jury verdict.  In some cases, the monetary damages expected may be so low it is not worth it to pay the costs associated with bringing suit.  With personal injury, the first analysis is on the total medical bills associated with the injury.  If EMS and emergency evaluation/treatment is involved, the bill for those medical services is likely to be over $3,000.00.  Those are usually the most uncontested bills, as seeking treatment in the Emergency Room is normally considered reasonable regardless of the accident.  In determining the potential jury verdict, the actual bill from the hospital is what must be considered as the damages.  Not what was paid by the insurance company or patient co-pays.  Your insurance company may have paid only a fraction of the bill, but that insurance information will not go before a jury.  Only the medical bills.

      Further treatment recommended by the ER, like seeing a primary care provider, is normally accepted as reasonable.  Unusual treatment, like chiropractic treatment in some circumstances, can be questioned.  Treatment which evidence/records proves connected to a pre-existing injury can be contested.  This is an issue in which expert testimony may be required in bringing suit, but worth it is the liability appears clear and the damages are substantial.  Beyond straight medical bills, pain and suffering, and future partial or permanent disability are more subjective damages, but damages the jury will be expected to consider in the overall verdict.  Lost wages, loss of future earning capabilities, loss of enjoyment of certain things due to the injury are also damages connected with personal injury the jury would consider.

      Different venues offer different average jury verdicts, so studying the venue and prior verdicts is important to evaluating the value of the case.  As a rule of thumb in many venues, assuming no substantial future damages and/or substantial injuries like broken bones, the total damage award can be expected at 2-3 times the overall medical bill.  The reason it goes well beyond the medical bills is compensation for pain and suffering associated with the injury.  The amount can be substantially more if the injury is significant and involves futures.  Again, each venue is different, so it's important to study the venue and consider all medical damages and future issues.  In some cases, psychological injury comes into play due to the nature of the injury.  Additionally, spouses can claim damages for "loss of consortium" due to the accident.  These are damages the spouse suffers due to what has happened to their loved one. Note:  Loss of consortium goes beyond the sexual into all the things spouses do for each other.

      It is always best to seek legal representation (note:  I have written about contingency fee agreement for those bringing lawsuits), and best to get your lawyer to provide detailed analysis.  However, with these basics of information, you will be in the position to better understand whether to sue and what to expect.

The Bill Connor Law Firm

1408 Russell St

Orangeburg, SC 29115

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