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!
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.
Earlier this week, on Wednesday, November 18, 2015 a severe auto accident involving a motorcycle happened at one of Columbia’s intersections. The accident happened at the intersection of Assembly St. and Gervais St. just after 7:00 A.M. during peak morning commute hours.
The accident occurred when an SUV pulled out in front of the motorcycle. The Columbia Police Department reports that an SUV was cited for failure to yield to right-of-way. Tragically, the driver of the motorcycle was taken to the hospital and later died as a result of this accident.
If you are familiar with the Columbia area, you know that morning commutes and city traffic can often be treacherous. At the Goings Law Firm, LLC we understand the difficulties that are often involved when you or a loved one are involved in an auto accident. If you or a loved one has been injured or killed as the result of an auto accident or motorcycle accident, then call Robert F. Goings at (803) 350-9230 to find out how we can help.
On Tuesday, July 21, a deadly accident on South Carolina Highway 17 in Myrtle Beach has left two people dead and six people in the hospital. The crash happened when the driver of a black Mercedes collided with a red Dodge minivan while the van was making a left turn at an intersection.
According to the South Carolina Highway Patrol, the driver of the Mercedes that caused the auto accident has been charged with two counts of reckless homicide. The driver has also been charged for driving with an open container. The minivan was carrying a family from North Carolina, and the driver of the Mercedes was from Louisiana. On July 23rd, a South Carolina court denied bond for the Louisiana man causing the accident. For further developments in the story, click here.
At the Goings Law Firm, LLC, we believe that reckless drivers and people who drive under the influence of alcohol in South Carolina should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. While the law in South Carolina affords criminal penalties in cases like this one, victims and their families may also be able to seek civil penalties against reckless drivers for the damage that they have caused. Like in this case, when a tragic wrongful death occurs as the result drunk driving, we seek punitive damages to punish and deter further wrongful conduct in the state of South Carolina. If you or a loved one has been the victim of this or a similar accident, then contact the experienced legal team at the Goings Law Firm, LLC today for a free case consultation. Contact us by clicking here, or calling (803) 350-9230.
A Hartsville man was killed in a motorcycle accident when he was struck by another car. The motorcyclist was riding in a parade that took place over the July 4th holiday. We are deeply saddened by this tragic accident, and our thoughts and prayers go out to the victim and his family.
The July 4th holiday is a wonderful time to celebrate our country’s independence. Many people use the holiday as an opportunity to travel or participate in outdoor recreational activities. Unfortunately, it can also be a very dangerous time of the year. We often hear about tragic accidents like this one that happen over the holiday season. Whether you have been injured in a motorcycle accident, boating accident, or auto accident, if you were injured in an accident over the recent Fourth of July holiday, the Goings Law Firm, LLC is here for you. We are experienced in handling cases all over South Carolina. Call us today at (803) 350-9230, for a free case consultation.
An auto accident can be overwhelming, confusing, and terrifying. As we have already noted several times, auto accidents are on the rise this summer in South Carolina. At the Goings Law Firm, LLC, we want you to be prepared if you are the unfortunate victim of a South Carolina auto accident. By taking certain key steps immediately after an accident you will be in a better position to hold the responsible party accountable for the damage they have caused you.
One of the fist things you should do after an accident is to take a deep breath and remain calm. This is not the time to loose your cool. Once you have collected yourself, put your hazard lights on.
Check for injuries.
First, make sure that you are ok, and then check with the passengers in your car to make sure they don’t have any serious or life threatening injuries. After checking everyone in your own car, check your surroundings, make sure it is safe to exit your car, and then check for serious or life-threatening injuries with the driver(s) or passenger(s) of other cars involved in the accident. If you believe that anyone has sustained serious or life-threatening injuries, then call 911 immediately.
Many injuries as a result of an auto accident are not immediately apparent. Because of the adrenalin and initial shock that often come with an auto accident, pain from back and neck injuries often manifests in the days or weeks following an accident. For this reason, it is always a good idea to call an ambulance to the scene of the accident and get checked out by a medical professional.
For minor accidents, move your car to safety.
Traffic surrounding an accident scene can often lead to further accidents or create further hazards for cars already involved. If your car is movable, then consider moving to the side of the road or a safer location. If you move your car, be sure to take pictures of your car as it is in the accident scene before moving it.
Call the police. Get an accident report.
An accident report can be very helpful for establishing liability. An officer will come to the scene and talk to both parties and fill out an accident report. In South Carolina, the accident report you receive at the scene will be called a form FR-10, be sure to save this form. You should call the police, even for the most minor accidents. The other driver may suggest not calling the police, but do not listen to them. Call the police anyways. Again, if there is an emergency, call 911. If it is a minor accident, police departments have non-emergency numbers.
In the City of Columbia, the non-emergency number for car accidents is: (803) 252-2911
Exchange information with the other driver and all witnesses.
You should get the other driver’s name, phone number, and address. You should also collect the insurance information. Be sure to get the insurance company name and the policy number. If there are any passengers in the other car, or if there are any witnesses to the accident, be sure to also get their name, address, and phone number(s).
This is your best chance to collect information about the accident. Take as many pictures as possible. Cell phone cameras are very handy in this situation. Be sure to get pictures of all cars involved in the accident. Also take pictures of the area of road or intersection where the accident occurred. If there are skid marks or any other evidence of the accident at the scene, be sure to take pictures of all of this.
Do not admit fault or apologize.
Even though the accident may not be your fault, you may be tempted to apologize for the accident. This could be viewed as an admission of fault. Often, fault for an accident is not clear, and you should refrain from any statement that could be viewed as an admission of fault.
Contact your insurance company.
Even when the accident is not your fault, you should report the accident to your insurance company as soon as possible after the accident. Give your insurance company the information (name, address, insurance policy, etc.) of the other drivers involved.
If you are injured as the result of an auto accident, then contact the Goings Law Firm, LLC
Dealing with the aftermath of a car accident can be very long and difficult process. If you believe you have sustained injuries, things can become even more complicated. Enlisting the help of an experienced Columbia personal injury attorney early in the process can go a long way in helping you deal with the complex aftermath of an auto accident. The South Carolina legal team at the Goings Law Firm, LLC has experience working with insurance companies to help ensure you get the best possible result for your injuries. If you have been injured by another driver’s negligence, then you deserve to be compensated for your injuries. Contact the Goings Law Firm, LLC today at (803) 350-9230, for a free case consultation.
On Saturday, June 27, 2015, a crash in Spartanburg, South Carolina shut down I-26 for over twenty-four hours while crews worked to clean up the wreckage. This horrific crash happened when a tanker truck carrying diesel fuel and gasoline was involved in a wreck with two other vehicles. The crash caused a massive fire to engulf the interstate just outside of Spartanburg. There were three people killed in the crash and another victim was airlifted to the hospital in critical condition. Crews worked for over 24 hours to repair the interstate, and the road reopened around 7:00 p.m. Sunday evening.
In the wake of this terrible accident, South Carolina Highway Patrol is warning citizens to use extreme caution on the roadways- especially with the July 4th holiday approaching. As we have reported several times on our website, the Deadly Days of Summer are a very dangerous time on South Carolina roadways. This is the third fiery accident involving a tanker truck that has shut down Interstate 26 in South Carolina. The first two happened in Columbia and Charleston. This most recent accident in Spartanburg makes the third major I-26 tanker truck accident to happen since Memorial Day. South Carolina State Troopers have reported that 9 people have died in the past month within this 25-mile stretch of road on I-26. Additionally, the troopers are reporting that South Carolina auto accidents have increased by 50 over this time last year.
With the increasing danger on the South Carolina roadways during the summer moths, please use extreme caution as you travel on this upcoming July 4th weekend. The effects of truck accidents like this one can be devastating. The Goings Law Firm, LLC is South Carolina’s Truck Accident and Auto Accident specialist. If you or a loved one have been injured or killed in a tragic accident like this one, it is important to hire a skilled attorney who can help your family navigate this often difficult and complicated process. Contact us by calling (803) 350-9230 today for a free case consultation.
On Saturday evening, June 20, 2015, a Richland County man was killed while riding his motorcycle on Leesburg Road. Another Columbia area driver, who was driving under the influence, caused the crash. Reports state that the at-fault driver has been arrested for felony DUI involving a death. The victim of this motorcycle accident leaves behind a wife and two children. To read more on this story from WIS TV, please click the link here.
The Goings Law Firm, LLC is deeply saddened by this truly terrible accident. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victim’s family during this difficult time. In South Carolina, when a driver causes an accident resulting in wrongful death, there can be major criminal consequences. But, the driver can also be held responsible in civil court for the irreparable damages they have caused. At the Goings Law Firm, LLC we understand the significant suffering that a wrongful death accident can cause. Our Columbia Personal Injury Lawyers help prevent injuries as a result of tragic drunk driving accidents like this by seeking punitive damages for the gross reckless and negligent conduct of other drivers. Please contact the Goings Law Firm, LLC in Columbia today at (803) 350-9230 to discuss your case with us for free!
WIS News reported on Wednesday, June 10, 2015 that a deadly car accident happened on Highway 378 just outside of Lexington, S.C. The two-car accident happened when the driver of a truck lost control of his vehicle and collided with the West Columbia woman’s car. The accident shut down all lanes of travel on South Carolina Highway 378. The West Columbia woman was pronounced dead at the scene while the driver of the truck was transported to the hospital for injuries sustained during the crash. The South Carolina Highway Patrol is still investigating the cause of the accident.
At the Goings Law Firm, LLC our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of the victim in this accident. We believe that nothing can ever truly prepare a family for the loss of a loved one. This tragic experience is often compounded when that loss is the unexpected result of an auto accident caused by someone else’s negligence. While we realize that wrongful death is something that can never be truly justified, but when the death is the result of another person’s negligence, their loved ones can often get the closure and sense of justice they need by holding that party responsible in a wrongful death lawsuit. Robert F. Goings and his staff at the Goings Law Firm, LLC are here to help you through this difficult time and are experienced in helping your family navigate the complexities of a wrongful death suit. To find out how we might be able to defend your rights and seek the justice, closure, and compensation you need after losing a loved one, call (803) 350-9230.