If you’re injured in an auto accident caused by someone else in South Carolina, you may be entitled to recover both economic and non-economic damages from the at-fault driver. Economic damages provide compensation for financial losses:
- Medical expenses
- Property damage
- Lost wages/reduced future earning capacity
Non-economic damages compensate you for losses that are not monetary and are often referred to as pain and suffering damages. They include:
- Physical pain and suffering
- Inability to participate in normal activities/loss of enjoyment of life
- Psychological or emotional trauma
Of course, the compensation for both economic and non-economic damages is financial. If your claim is successful, you could receive money for both. While it’s easy to determine the cost of your medical bills, damage to your vehicle, and wages you’ll lose while you’re recovering and unable to work, putting a dollar amount on your pain and suffering damages is not so simple.
How Pain and Suffering Damages Are Calculated
Non-economic damages could be as much as half your award in a car accident case, so it’s very important to get fair compensation for pain and suffering. Some factors normally considered in determining the monetary value of non-economic damages are:
The type of injury suffered.
The more severe your injury, the more pain and suffering you’re likely to endure. A permanent disability, disfigurement, or paralysis would justify a higher non-economic damage award than a broken bone or burn, which in turn would justify a greater award than a contusion or laceration.
The type of treatment you require.
Hospitalization, surgery, and physical therapy are generally associated with more pain and suffering than you would endure in a one-time emergency room visit for stitches.
The length of recovery time.
The longer your recovery, the longer you’re likely to be in pain and unable to engage in normal activities.
Whether you’ll recover completely or be left partially or completely disabled.
The psychological impact of a disability can be severe.
The medication you’re taking now and will take in the future.
Long-term use of certain prescription medications can put you at risk of drug dependency, which could have a significantly negative impact on your life.
The strength of your evidence.
Documented evidence of your injuries and proof they were caused by your accident is crucial to your case.
The older you are, the more severely you might be affected by your injuries. The younger you are, the more years you might have to endure chronic pain and suffering.
Your family circumstances.
The size and socioeconomic level of your family could have an impact on how much discomfort you suffer as a result of your injuries.
Your medical history and health prior to the accident.
If you were significantly healthier and more active before your accident than you are afterward, your loss of enjoyment of life is greater.
Your education and job qualifications.
If your only way to make a living involves physical work that causes you daily pain after your crash, you’re entitled to compensation for long-term suffering.
The impression you and your attorney make on the insurance company or the judge and jury.
A professional and convincing presentation of evidence and sincere, honest testimony about your pain, suffering, and loss of enjoyment can go a long way in your quest for fair compensation.
A daily log that you’ve kept to record your level of pain and suffering since the accident and document the impact of your injuries on your daily activities (exercise, sports, gardening, playing with your children, or attending their school functions) can be powerful evidence supporting your right to compensation.
The testimony of expert witnesses.
Doctors, therapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists can give informed opinions about your likelihood to suffer ongoing discomfort, anxiety, etc.
The location of your accident.
Juries in some South Carolina counties tend to award more or less money for non-economic damages than others do.
Because there is no universal standard of financial measurement for non-economic damages, the determination of your award is a very subjective process. While complex mathematical formulae are sometimes utilized (especially by insurance companies), the amount you’ll receive can depend on an organized and convincing presentation of your evidence to either the at-fault driver’s insurer or the court if your case should go to trial. For the average person recovering from injuries after a car crash, making such a persuasive presentation could be quite difficult. That’s why the services of an experienced car accident lawyer are highly recommended if you’re recovering from serious injuries after a wreck.
Although the state of South Carolina does place a cap on non-economic damages for some personal injury cases, there is no cap on non-economic damages in a car accident case, so the court is free to award any amount it’s convinced you deserve. A convincing presentation of evidence by an experienced car accident lawyer may make all the difference when it comes to receiving fair compensation.
How Comparative Negligence Affects Your Compensation
The comparative negligence rule followed by South Carolina in personal injury cases makes it possible for you to be found partially at fault for your own accident. If this happens, you may still collect compensation for your economic and non-economic damages, but your award could be reduced on the basis of your percentage of fault. If you’re found 51% or more responsible for your damages, you may not collect any compensation at all. If you’re partially responsible, it’s very important to have an attorney presenting your case as persuasively as possible to keep you below the 51% level of responsibility, so that you can collect some compensation for your damages.