In South Carolina, the law is designed to protect a person who is injured in a car or truck accident due to the negligence or fault of another. It is important to consult with an attorney to determine the type of losses that you may be able to compensated for following a collision. The purpose is to compensate a victim of property damage, injuries or losses and to put the non-fault party, as near as possible, in the same position that he or she was in before the accident occurred. The ability to recover “actual damages” is what the law permits. In other words, actual damages would be the actual losses and expenses which the plaintiff has suffered because of the at-fault driver’s negligence.
This guide explains the law in South Carolina related to the compensation you are entitled to receive following a collision. The amount of the compensation is tied to the nature, extent and severity of the injuries and damages incurred, and often times an award can be increased if the driver was drunk, impaired, or other circumstances existed other than simple negligence.
Here is a description of the general types of damages that are recoverable in South Carolina if you are a victim of a motor vehicle collision:
Damages Recoverable for Personal Injuries – Medical Bills, Lost Earnings, Pain and Suffering, Loss of Enjoyment of Life, and Mental Suffering
A person injured in a motor vehicle accident that was caused by the negligence of another person can recover actual damages and expenses incurred as a result of the bodily harm. The recovery is based on two types of compensation: (1) economic damages and (2) non-economic damages. Economic damages are things like medical bills, lost wages, loss employment opportunities and non-economic damages would be related to pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life.
In determining the amount of compensation for the injuries or loss suffered as a result of a negligent driver, a determination of the amount of damages should include past, present, and future damages. Actual damages for a person who has been physically injured include: medical and healthcare charges related to the injury or expenses incurred for reasonable and necessary medical treatment; pharmacy charges and related expenses; pain and suffering; mental anguish; lost wages due to absence from work, which is the loss of time and income which resulted from the impairment of the ability to work and earn a livelihood, impairment of health or physical condition, the permanency of any injury, any permanent physical scarring; and any other losses which are reflected by the character of the injury.
The recovery of damages for a person who has been physically injured include pain and suffering — both past and future — as well as mental anguish, impairment of health or physical condition, and disfigurement. Pain and suffering compensates the injured person for physical discomfort and emotional response to the sensation of pain caused by the injury itself. There is no definite standard by which to compensate the plaintiff for pain and suffering.
Similar to pain and suffering, but separate, is recovery of loss of enjoyment of life. Loss of enjoyment of life damages are designed to compensate for limitations on the ability to participate in, and derive pleasure from, the normal activities of daily life. In determining the amount of compensation for personal injuries, it is proper to consider past and present aspects of the injury. This would include physical and mental pain and suffering, expenses incurred for necessary medical treatment, loss of time and income which resulted from the impairment of the ability to work and earn a livelihood, the loss of enjoyment of life suffered as a result of the injury, and any other losses which are reflected by the character of the injury.
Very closely associated with pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life is recovery for mental anguish. Mental anguish includes: mental suffering, apprehension, shock, fright, emotional upset, stress, humiliation and anxiety, and can be properly considered as an element of damages.
The amount of damages for pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and mental suffering cannot be exactly measured and is often left to the judge or jury hearing the facts of the case.
The injured party may recover for those future damages that are reasonably sure to result from the injuries. The principle underlying compensation for future damages is that only one action can be brought and, therefore, only one recovery had. It is proper to include in the estimate of future damages compensation for loss of capacity for work or attention to the plaintiff’s ordinary business, future medical expenses, and pain and suffering which will, with reasonable certainty, result.
Vehicle Property Damage – Repair or Value of Vehicle
The amount of damages to a motor vehicle is the difference between the value of the vehicle immediately before it was struck and the value of the vehicle immediately after it was struck. If repairing the vehicle would put it in as good a condition as before the accident, then the measure of damages would be the cost of repair plus any amount by which the value of the vehicle was decreased due to its involvement in a collision. This is also called depreciation.
If the vehicle cannot be repaired, the measure of damages would be the value of the vehicle immediately before it was struck, minus any salvage value. This is referred to as “fair market value.”
Fair market value is not determined by how much you paid for the car or your emotional attachment to it. Fair market value is simply the amount of money a person would pay you to take ownership of the car. Unfortunately, the money that you can receive for a totaled vehicle is not what you may owe on the vehicle or what you think the value of the vehicle should be, but based on the market value of the vehicle of similar make, model, and condition.
Under South Carolina law, any vehicle that has a loss of 75% or more of the fair market value must be declared a total loss. Insurance companies can choose to declare a vehicle a total loss if it has sustained less than 75% of the fair market value or if the fair market value of the vehicle was less than $2000. Vehicles declared a total loss will be marked as “salvage” unless at least one of the following is true about the vehicle: (a) it is marked “non-rebuildable”; (b) it has been damaged less than 75% and has not sustained water or fire damage; (c) the value of the vehicle is less than $2,000; or (d) it has been titled as an antique vehicle.
Loss of Use of a Motor Vehicle
A victim of a motor vehicle collision also may be entitled to recover for the loss of the use of a vehicle during the time that the plaintiff was unable to use it. Actual damages for this purpose may be measured by determining what it would have cost the plaintiff to rent a similar vehicle while the plaintiff’s own vehicle was being repaired. In some situations, damages for loss of use of a vehicle may be awarded even if the plaintiff did not rent a car and even if the plaintiff borrowed a car. However, the plaintiff is required to make all reasonable efforts to minimize the damages, which is referred to as “mitigation of damages.”
Punitive damages are sometimes available to a victim of a motor vehicle collision. Punitive damages are only reserved for cases where the negligence driver was driving recklessly, under the influence, or operating with a conscious disregard for the safety of others. Often times a court can consider awarding punitive damage if an at-fault driver violates a specific safety statute found in the South Carolina Uniform Act Regulating Traffic on Highways, as contained in S.C. Code 1976, § 56-5-10 et seq., such as running a red light or disregard of traffic signs. As discussed below, punitive damages can be the hardest to prove so this remedy is not available in most everyday collisions.
Punitive damages are different from actual damages and are not the same as pain and suffering. Punitive damages are intended to punish at-fault for extraordinary and outrageous misconduct and to prevent the at-fault driver and others from committing similar acts in the future. Punitive damages can only be awarded when conduct of the at-fault driver has been something more than mere negligence. The evidence must establish the acts or omissions giving rise to the collision were grossly negligence, reckless, or willful and wanton, meaning there was a conscious failure to exercise due care or a conscious indifference to the rights and safety of others or a reckless disregard thereof.
To support an award of punitive damages, the court requires proof by clear and convincing evidence that the conduct complained of included a consciousness of wrongdoing at the time of the conduct. Clear and convincing is more than just a preponderance, or greater weight, of the evidence, which requires only proof which persuades you that a party’s claim is more likely true than not true. On the other hand, clear and convincing proof is not as high a standard as the burden of proof in criminal cases, which is proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Clear and convincing proof leaves no substantial doubt in your mind. It means that the evidence is not ambiguous, doubtful, equivocal or contradictory. Convincing means persuading by proof or argument, causing one to believe in the truth of what is asserted. Clear and convincing proof establishes in your mind, not only that the fact is probable, but that it is highly probable. An punitive damage award imposed should take into account (1) the defendant’s degree of culpability; (2) the duration of the conduct; (3) the defendant’s awareness or concealment; (4) the existence of similar past conduct; (5) the likelihood the award will deter the defendant or others from like conduct; (6) whether the award is reasonably related to the harm likely to result from such conduct; (7) the reprehensibility of the conduct, the harm caused, (8) the defendant’s awareness of the conduct’s wrongfulness, (9) and any concealment. Thus, any penalty imposed should bear a relationship to the nature and extent of the conduct and the harm caused, including the compensatory damage award. Secondly, any penalty imposed should take into account, as a mitigating factor, any other penalty that may have been imposed or which may be imposed for the conduct involved, including any criminal or civil penalty or any other punitive damages award arising out of the same conduct.
Robert F. Goings – Top Voted Personal Injury Attorney
When other attorneys believe you are at the Top, it means something! Robert F. Goings was named in the Midlands of South Carolina as the Top Voted attorney in the field of Personal Injury in the 2019 Columbia Business Monthly’s Legal Elite of the Midlands. He was voted to this distinction by other attorneys in the Columbia and Midlands area of South Carolina. It is a great honor to be considered by other attorneys as the Top Voted Personal Injury attorney, and we believe this distinction reflects our firms strong reputation for honesty, hard-work, and dedication to our clients. Robert Goings’ reputation in the legal community as a champion for those who have suffered significant injury or a wrongful death is also reflected in being named to Super Lawyers and Best Lawyers in South Carolina by the U.S. News and World Reports. Being a highly rated and well respected law firm in the field of personal injury, wrongful death, and workers compensation takes many years of excellent results for clients. From serious motor vehicle collision caused by drunk drivers to medical malpractice and nursing home neglect, Robert Goings and his team of attorneys are highly rated by other attorneys in the legal profession. To learn more about the 2019 Columbia Business Monthly’s Legal Elite of the Midlands article can be viewed by clicking here.
5 Tips in Hiring the Best Lawyer for Your Personal Injury, Wrongful Death, or Workers’ Compensation Case
We believe that hiring an attorney for your personal injury case is a very important decision. Hiring the right attorney is critical. If you are looking to hire a personal injury attorney, here are some tips for you to consider so that you choose the best attorney for your case:
1. Be Cautious Choosing your Attorney based on a Billboard or a TV Commercial.
- Be careful if you are choosing an attorney solely based on an advertisement. Many times, law firms or attorneys will plaster their names all over billboards around town or run tasteless or cheesy television commercials. Hiring an attorney should not be based on a silly commercial, gimmicky telephone numbers, or promises for a quick check. Don’t be fooled! Ask yourself, do you want an attorney that is spending time their marketing to new clients on TV with cartoon-like characters and big numbers to call, or do you want a serious lawyer that is working hard for clients in and outside of the courtroom? It is hard to be a fighter in the courtroom if your attorney is too busy filming TV commercials or picking out the next billboard to print. We have found that often times the best attorneys don’t need to advertise. And if they do advertise, the advertisement should reflect high achievements and strong ethical commitments to the representation of injured people. We recommend that you hire an attorney who will treat your case as a serious matter and provide you with the best legal representation possible. The Goings Law Firm strives to set itself apart from silly commercial, gimmicky telephone numbers, or promises for a quick check. Instead, we provide sincere, honest and aggressive representation to people and families faced with serious injury and death.
2. Read Online Reviews Before you Hire an Attorney.
- Online reviews from former clients can be very helpful in choosing the best lawyer for your case. When a former client takes the time to leave a review, it helps people searching for an attorney know what law firm would be best suited for their case based on personality, success, and traits that are important to you. You can find reviews on website such as Google, Lawyers.com, and Avvo.com, and we would recommend choosing an attorney with strong recommendations and reviews of former clients. At the same time, we all know that not everybody can be made happy despite how hard you work or how great the result may be for their case. If you are interested in reading the 5 star and 10/10 reviews about the Goings Law Firm and Robert Goings, check out these links: Google Reviews, Lawyers.com Reviews, SuperLawyers Reviews, Avvo.com Reviews. The Goings Law Firm is also featured on Expertise.com as a highly rated and reviewed personal injury firm in Columbia, South Carolina, as shown here.
3. Consider if you want a “High Volume” Law Firm or an Attorney that You Will Give you One-on-One Attention.
- When you are searching for an attorney, it is important to consider if you want a law firm that accepts a “high volume” of cases or claims or if you want a smaller firm that only accepts a select number of clients. Also, do you want your case or file to be a number or would you rather be represented by an attorney who knows you personally and doesn’t treat you as just another number? Because legal matters can often times be complex and time consuming, we have found that we provide the best representation to our clients when our caseload is smaller and more manageable. When a law firm is does not accept a large number of cases, it it naturally easier to develop a relationship with your attorney and for that lawyer to provide one-on-one attention to each client. At the Goings Law Firm, we strive to provide one-on-one attention to each client. You will not be a just a number at our firm. If you want a “high volume” firm, we would not be right fit for you. We don’t operate with a “settlement mill” or “ambulance chaser” mindset, but with the focus on treating you in the same manner we would expect to be treated.
4. Is The Attorney a Real Trial Attorney with Results in Court?
- Another consideration in choosing a personal injury or wrongful death attorney is whether the attorney has a strong track record in going to court. It is important to know if your personal injury attorney has the trial experience to represent you in court. Often times attorneys have no desire or interest in trying cases even though they label themselves as “trial attorneys.” The Goings Law Firm is truly a team of trial attorney who are not scared to go to court! We refuse to take the “low-ball quick check” approach to representing victims. We go to court when necessary. We have found that if the insurance company knows your attorney is willing to take your case to trial before a judge or a jury, then the defendant or insurance company is more likely willing to resolve the case more fairly and with higher compensation. On the other hand, if the defendant or insurance company knows that the attorney has a reputation of never taking the case to trial, then the the defendant or insurance company has no real incentive to fairly compensate you. The Goings Law Firm has made its reputation in the courtroom with verdict after verdict in favor of our clients.
5. Hire an Attorney that Other Attorneys Would Hire.
- Lawyers in the community typically know which lawyers are the best to hire. Asking a lawyer who they would recommend is often a good way to find a lawyer for your case. The Goings Law Firm represents many clients on the recommendation of other attorneys. In fact, attorneys often times refer clients to the Goings Law Firm in situations where a lawsuit is required to be brought in order to get fair compensation. The Goings Law Firm is a firm that other attorneys hire to assist in representing their clients in complex litigation matter involving personal injury, wrongful death, and on the job workers compensation injuries. In fact, Robert F. Goings was named in the Midlands of South Carolina as the Top Voted attorney in the field of Personal Injury in the 2019 Columbia Business Monthly’s Legal Elite of the Midlands. His honor was based on receiving the top number of votes by other attorneys in the Columbia and Midlands area of South Carolina. We believe that you should hire an attorney that other attorney would hire!
2016 saw a rise in traffic fatalities in Richland County, and it seems that the problem will continue. 67-year-old Alicesene Dear Gilmore was killed on Friday, March 3, 2015 after being struck by an unidentified vehicle that fled the scene. According to Cola Daily, Ms. Gilmore was walking from Trenton Court Apartments to the store with two family members when the vehicle crashed into her. Police are still investigating and looking for the driver of the vehicle who struck Ms. Gilmore.
At the Goings Law Firm, LLC, our personal injury attorneys understand the hardships that families go through when a loved one is killed or seriously injured in a motor vehicle collision. There are often more questions than answers, and the legal implications can be confusing and burdensome. Give the Goings Law Firm, LLC a call today to see if we can help. (803) 350-9230
USA Today recently published the results of a AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety study showing that drivers who are sleep deprived are significantly more likely to be involved in a serious car collision, similar to the increased risk of collision that results from drunk (or “buzzed”) driving. The study reviewed thousands of car crashes, but only collisions that occurred between 6a.m. and midnight were included, which may mean that the study actually underestimates the effect of sleep deprivation. According to the article, previous studies have shown that the effects of sleep deprivation on attention and performance are greatest during the early morning hours.
The increased risk of being involved in a motor vehicle accident when a driver is sleep deprived is actually quite astonishing. The study showed that drivers who had skipped just one of the recommended seven hours of sleep were approximately 30% more likely to be involved in a serious crash. Drivers who received 5-6 hours of sleep were almost twice as likely to be involved in a collision as those who received seven hours or more, and drivers who slept 4-5 hours were more than four times as likely to crash. Most significantly, the study showed that drivers operating on less than four hours of sleep were 11.5 times more likely to be in a motor vehicle collision resulting in injury than their well-rested counterparts.
Goings Law Firm, LLC wants to remind South Carolina drivers to be safe and vigilant whenever they are behind the wheel. Be sure to get enough sleep at night, take frequent breaks when traveling long distances, and try to travel with an alert passenger, especially at night. The personal injury lawyers at the Goings Law Firm, LLC know all too well the life-altering injuries that can occur when drivers are not alert and focused on the road.
If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident and need help, call us at (803) 350-9230. Our personal injury attorneys may be able to assist you with the applicable legal process and help you obtain the compensation you need.
Eight vehicles were involved in a car crash around 7:30am on Tuesday, August 30, 2016 in Columbia, SC, and eight passengers were taken to the hospital from the scene. No report yet on the severity of their injuries.
According to WLTX, the accident occurred when a vehicle spun out of control just as it got to the bottom of the Shop Road ramp onto Interstate-77 and hit three other cars. When traffic came to a sudden stop, four additional vehicles collided. All South-bound lanes on I-77 were closed for about an hour near Exit 6.
The personal injury lawyers at the Goings Law Firm, LLC understand how difficult it can be for people to deal with the aftermath of car crashes. If you or a loved one have been injured in a car accident, we may be able to offer you legal assistance to hold negligent parties accountable. Call us at (803) 350-9230 to learn more about your options.
In an effort to reduce the number of fatalities and accidents caused by drunk drivers in South Carolina this upcoming holiday season, the state’s attorney general has announced a partnership with Uber and Mothers Against Drunk Driving intended to raise awareness and promote safe ride options.
The state’s Smart Choice program is intended to provide and spread information regarding safe transportation options for individuals who will be drinking this holiday season. In a news conference held at the Statehouse in Columbia, Attorney Alan Wilson spoke of his meetings with people from the “Mothers Against Drunk Driving” (MADD) program and from Uber Technologies in which all parties discussed ways to encourage drinkers to stay safe this season. Attorney Wilson is hoping that the partnership will help curb accidents caused by drunken drivers in the state, as South Carolina currently ranks ninth in drunk-driving related deaths in the United States.
The lawyers at the Goings Law Firm, LLC in Columbia work for people who have been victims of drunk driving accidents. If you are dealing with the aftermath of an accident caused by a negligent driver, contact us today by calling (803) 350-9230 to discuss your legal options.
At least 90,000 Tesla vehicles will be inspected in a voluntary recall to address a possible seatbelt malfunction that may cause further injuries to occupants, an article of USA Today reported on November 20.
According to reports, Tesla Motors will inspect all of their Model S sedans to determine if any have a suspected seat belt defect that may fail to protect passengers in the event of a collision. Though there were no injuries or collisions reported, the issue was detected after one owner of the affected vehicle in Europe notified Tesla of the problem. While Tesla has yet to find any issue in the 3,000 vehicles they examined so far, they will conduct free inspections and offer repairs to all vehicles covered in the recall.
The lawyers of the Goings Law Firm, LLC understand that many families in Columbia have to deal with great financial loss after suffering injuries in accidents. We want you to know that we are here to help you recover compensation for any injuries or damage you suffer as a result of a defective product. Call our offices at (803) 350-9230 today to discuss your case and learn how we can help you.
Robert F. Goings of the Goings Law Firm, LLC won a jury verdict in the amount of $897,500 for a client involved a car accident in Columbia. The client sustained $58,000 in medical bills for treatment from shoulder and back injuries caused in a rear end collision on I-26. The client also sought damages for future medical expenses, loss of earning capacity, and pain and suffering. The jury award punitive damages in addition to actual damages.
This case was featured in Columbia’s The State Newspaper. Here is the article:
Richland jury awards Iraq vet $897,500 for injuries in I-26 crash
By: John Monk
RICHLAND COUNTY, SC — A Richland County jury has awarded an Iraq veteran $897,500 in damages stemming from a rear-end crash on I-26 while he was on active duty at Fort Jackson.
According to a civil lawsuit filed by ex-soldier James Smith, now 28, he was driving on I-26 March 10, 2012, when a vehicle driven by Joseph Giordano ran into the back of another vehicle, causing that vehicle “to violently collide” into the rear of Smith’s car.
Smith didn’t “cause or contribute to the collision” and had no ability to avoid the crash, his lawsuit said.
According to court records, Giordano was underinsured, and Smith’s insurer, GEICO, declined to pay Smith damages for injuries he claimed he sustained in the crash. Those injuries severely affected his shoulder, back and neck, causing him permanent disabilities that will incur future medical expenses, Smith’s lawsuit alleged.
During the trial, Smith – who had wanted to make the military his career – testified he had to get a medical discharge from the Army because he was no longer up to the demands of the job. Smith had been a military police officer whose job in Iraq was guarding troops who disarmed IEDs, the hidden explosive devices designed to blow up U.S. vehicles, according to his lawyer, Robert Goings of Columbia.
Evidence in the case came from two doctors, who gave medical evidence favorable to Smith. Smith also testified.
Under S.C. law, facts about insurance were not presented to the jury at trial. The jury returned its verdict after 30 minutes, Goings said. Of the $897,500 total verdict, $359,000 was for actual damages and $538,500 was for punitive damages.
Smith paid premiums to GEICO to compensate him for damages if an underinsured driver was at fault in causing an accident.
But, according to the answer to Smith’s complaint, GEICO’s lawyer, Anthony Livoti of Columbia, argued that the underinsured driver was not negligent in any way.
Under S.C. law, a motorist can’t directly sue his own insurer – he has to sue the person alleged to have caused the accident and, at that point, the motorist’s own insurance company takes over defense of the case. Also under S.C. law, the jury is not permitted to know the insurer will pay any award.
Goings said, “This fine solider paid for insurance. GEICO had no problem accepting his premium each month, but after this collision, it refused to compensate him for his injuries. Although this jury was unable to know about insurance, this jury saw that justice was done.”
Judge DeAndrea Benjamin presided.
On October 29 around 5:00 in the morning, Vincent Omear Thomas, 33, was killed when another car drove off of the road and slammed into two other cars. The car that ran off the road was driven by Kyeon Glover, 19, who was charged with DUI involving death.
The accident happened near McLeod Hospital at East Cheves and South Church Streets in Florence, S.C. Authorities report that when the accident occurred, Glover was in a high-speed chase with police because Glover fled the scene of a domestic dispute. In addition to his felony DUI charge, Glover was charged with simple possession of marijuana, failure to stop for blue lights, burglary first degree, assault and battery first degree, assault and battery second degree, possession of a weapon in a violent crime and discharging of a firearm in city limits.
The victim, Thomas has served in the S.C. National Guard since 1998, including one tour of duty in Afghanistan.
This is truly a tragic incident, and our deepest sympathies and condolences go out to all friends and family members affected by this accident. While the law imposes criminal penalties against utterly reckless and avoidable acts like drinking and driving, there are sometimes civil remedies available to victims and their families. Though nothing can undo the pain that you have already faced in a drunk driving accident, with the help of the Columbia legal team at the Goings Law Firm, LLC, you may be able to secure compensation that will help you move forward. Our drunk driving accidents lawyers are ready to handle your specific situation today. Call our Columbia offices at (803) 350-9230.
On September 29, actresses Leah Remini and Jennifer Lopez were hit by a drunk driver while driving along Pacific Coast Highway in California. The two celebrities were stopped at a red light when a small pick-up truck hit them from behind and then sped off. They called police and provided a description of the car. Authorities located and apprehend the driver shortly after the incident. The driver of the pick-up truck was under the influence and arrested for DUI and hit-and-run.
Lopez and Remini had two children with them in the back seat of the car. Thankfully, in this case, no one was injured. Yet, oftentimes injuries resulting from accidents caused by drunk drivers can be very severe and oftentimes can even result in wrongful death. Further, this case is an example that anyone can be the victim of an accident caused by a drunk driver.
If you have been injured in an auto accident, our legal team at the Goings Law Firm, LLC, believes that you may be owed financial compensation. To find out how we may be able to help you take action in order to get the compensation you are seeking, call (803) 350-9230 today.