Whether an incident involves an animal bite or a complication from a surgical procedure, individuals who believe they have suffered as a result of someone else's negligence might have grounds for a lawsuit. South Carolina laws governing personal injury litigation have unique requirements, although many legal procedures are similar nationwide.
What Is The Jurisdiction For My Lawsuit?
Individuals seeking less than $7,500 in damages can file personal injury lawsuits in the Magistrate Court in the county in which they reside, or in the county where the accident occurred. All other lawsuits are filed in Circuit Court.
How Long Do I Have To File?
In South Carolina, plaintiffs usually have three years after the incident to file a personal injury lawsuit, although in medical malpractice cases, the clock does not start until the date the injury or problem was discovered.
What Is The Filing Procedure?
Personal injury cases begin with the filing of a complaint. This is a legal document that describes the accident or incident and asks for damages. The person or organization accused in the complaint is the defendant and has 30 days to file a response. Defendants can also file cross claims that allege that another party was responsible for the incident, or counterclaims that contend that the plaintiff was responsible.
How Will Damages Be Determined?
Your lawsuit can request compensatory damages, which are compensation for lost wages, medical expenses or damaged property. Non-economic damages, such as compensation for emotional distress or pain and suffering, are permitted, although a cap exists in medical malpractice cases if the plaintiff cannot prove gross negligence. Punitive damages are permitted, although caps apply in certain situations. Damage caps also exist when the defendant is a state entity. South Carolina is a "contributory negligence" state, which means that the plaintiff cannot collect damages if the defendant can prove that the plaintiff was responsible for the accident in any way.
Preparations For Trial
Myriad procedures take place as both parties prepare to go to court, including an exchange of information and evidence. This process is called "discovery" and it can include various components:
- Medical examinations: Mental or physical evaluations
- Documentation: Copies of insurance policies and other pertinent documents
- Expert witnesses: Disclosure of the identity of any experts who were paid by either side
- Interrogatories: Written questions that require answers
- Depositions: Out-of-court testimony under oath
Alternative Dispute Resolution
It is rare for a personal injury case to go to trial. The vast majority either settle out of court or are resolved through arbitration, mediation or neutral assessment. In fact, mediation is required in any South Carolina civil litigation. The process saves time and money for all parties, as well as for the judicial system.
Proceeding To Trial
Trial commences with the selection of jurors, 12 in Circuit Court or six in Magistrate Court. The defendant and plaintiff present evidence in an attempt to sway the jurors, all of whom must agree to a verdict. Either party can appeal a verdict for certain legal reasons.
What Will The Lawsuit Cost?
Many personal injury attorneys represent clients on a contingency basis. This means they are not paid unless the plaintiff is awarded damages. Attorneys are reimbursed for expenses, but their fees are a percentage of any monetary award, commonly one third.
Consulting A Personal Injury Attorney in South Carolina
This article is a general overview of South Carolina personal injury law. Although it is possible to handle some simple cases without an attorney, it is best to seek representation for complicated matters.