If you have been injured in a car accident in Columbia that wasn’t your fault, the lawyers from the Stewart Law Offices want to help you.
Car accidents occur with disturbing frequency in Columbia and throughout South Carolina. According to the Traffic Collision Fact Book from the South Carolina Department of Public Safety, there is a traffic collision in South Carolina every 3.7 minutes. A property damage collision occurs every 5.2 minutes, an injury collision occurs every 13.1 minutes, and a fatal collision occurs every 9.3 hours.
Did you suffer severe injuries or was your loved one killed in a car accident in the Columbia area? You need to contact an experienced attorney for assistance in seeking all of the compensation you need and deserve.
Stewart Law Offices, LLC has an office in Columbia as well as other South Carolina locations in Beaufort, Rock Hill, and Spartanburg. Call us or contact us online to have our lawyers review your case and discuss all of your legal options during a free consultation.
What Compensation Can You Recover After a Car Crash in Columbia?
You are entitled to compensatory damages. Compensatory damages are usually a combination of economic damages and non-economic damages. Economic damages are tangible costs a victim has incurred or will incur, while non-economic damages are more subjective.
Common economic damages include:
- Medical bills
- Lost income
- Property damage
Noneconomic damages may include:
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of consortium
- Emotional distress
In a limited number of cases (primarily those involving drunk driving), a victim could also be awarded punitive damages. South Carolina law limits punitive damages to cases that involve a defendant’s willful, reckless, or wanton conduct.
South Carolina Code § 15-32-530(A) establishes that punitive damages cannot exceed three times the compensatory damages or $500,000, whichever is greater. Under South Carolina Code § 15-32-530(C), however, there is no cap on punitive damages when the defendant had an intent to harm the plaintiff, the defendant pleaded guilty to or was convicted of a felony related to the plaintiff’s injuries, or the defendant was under the influence of drugs or alcohol to the point that their judgment was substantially impaired.
Types and Causes of Car Accidents in Columbia, South Carolina
Some of the most common types of crashes in South Carolina include:
- Head-On Collisions — These often severe crashes can occur in instances of improper passing or unexpected departures from driving lanes. Head-on collisions are much more likely to result in fatal injuries than other accidents.
- Rear-End Collisions — Many rear-end accidents occur because of one driver’s failure to pay attention. Rear-enders can lead to serious injuries.
- Side-Impact (T-Bone) Collisions — When a vehicle is struck on the side, the passengers seated on that side are at greater risk for injury, though anyone in the vehicle could suffer serious harm.
- Intersection Accidents — A motorist’s failure to recognize or abide by traffic lights or signs can lead to collisions at intersections. Many of these types of crashes occur at higher speeds and have devastating results.
- Multiple Vehicle Collisions — Car accidents are not always limited to two vehicles. Pileup or chain reaction accidents are particularly common on state highways. Any accident involving multiple parties immediately becomes more complicated because multiple defendants and insurance companies are involved.
- Hit and Run Accidents — South Carolina Code § 56-5-1220 establishes that any person involved in a motor vehicle accident must stop as close as possible to the accident and give their name, address, and registration number of the vehicle they are driving, as well as show their driver’s license to any person involved in the crash. When a driver fails to comply with these requirements, it is a criminal offense and authorities should be contacted immediately. Even if the motorist is never found, you may still be able to recover compensation through the uninsured motorist coverage on your policy.
- Rollover Accidents — Certain types of vehicles such as SUVs and pickups may be more likely to be involved in rollover crashes. Some of these accidents are caused by defective parts or designs, which may make manufacturers liable.
Some of the leading causes of car accidents in Columbia include:
- Distracted driving
- Driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or drugs
- Driver fatigue
- Reckless driving
- Failure to yield
- Improper turns
- Unsafe lane changes
- Inclement weather
- Dangerous roadways
It is important for victims to contact authorities to make sure a police report is completed as soon as possible after an accident. In many cases, officers will issue citations to drivers who violate traffic laws. However, it’s important to remember that the police do not determine civil liability for a crash.
Steps to Take After an Auto Accident in Columbia
When you are involved in any kind of car accident, no matter how seemingly minor, you should always make sure that you receive medical care. You should do this even if you do not at first think you were hurt. Keep in mind that many serious injuries involve delayed symptoms.
If it is possible, you should try to take as many pictures as you can of the accident scene. Cell phones have a camera feature, which is very convenient for taking photos of the accident scene. Also get the names and phone numbers of any people who saw the crash. When you cannot take these measures yourself due to injuries, ask a friend, family member, or someone on site to do this for you.
You may be contacted by an insurance company for another driver soon after the accident. You should avoid saying anything to an insurance adjuster about the case until you have an attorney.
Building a Case for Compensation
No matter what the other driver may have said at the scene of their accident, you will almost assuredly have that driver’s insurance company alleging that you somehow contributed to or directly caused the crash. Settlement negotiations may center on the degree of blame that is assigned to each party.
In order to prove your case in a court of law in South Carolina, you will have to satisfy the four general requirements of a negligence claim, which are:
- Duty of Care — The defendant had a duty to the plaintiff to operate their motor vehicle in a safe and lawful manner.
- Breach of Duty — The defendant breached that duty of care by not operating their motor vehicle in a safe and lawful manner.
- Causation — The defendant’s breach of duty caused the victim to suffer injuries.
- Damages — The injuries the victim suffered resulted in damages.
Keep in mind that South Carolina is a modified comparative fault state. This means that a person will not be able to recover any damages if their negligence exceeds that of the defendant’s.
The damages that are awarded in a car accident case can be reduced in proportion to a victim’s negligence. This means that a person awarded $100,000 in a car accident case who is found to have been 35 percent at fault will have their damaged reduced by $35,000 and ultimately receive $65,000.
How Our Law Firm Can Help After a Columbia Car Accident
Stewart Law Offices, LLC can immediately launch an independent investigation into the true cause of the crash. We can preserve important evidence, calculate the full extent of your losses, and then work to hold the negligent parties accountable.
If you sustained serious injuries or your loved one was killed in a car crash caused by another party’s negligence in Columbia, you deserve justice. Stewart Law Offices, LLC has been helping clients in Columbia and all over South Carolina for over 20 years. Call us or contact us online now to schedule a free consultation.