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Types of Car Accident Injuries Cases We Handle
No matter how your accident happened, if you were injured in a motor vehicle due to someone else’s negligent—or careless—actions, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries and other damages. Our car accident lawyers will fight to get you fair compensation after being in a life-altering car wreck. Types of cases we handle include are listed below.
A soft tissue injury that stretches tendons, muscles, and ligaments of the neck and upper spine, causing severe pain, possible nerve damage, and a limited range of motion.
Concussion/traumatic brain injury (TBI):
When a victim’s head hits the windshield, the steering wheel, or another part of the car’s interior, the brain can be jarred inside the skull, causing a variety of injuries:
Blood vessel lacerations/brain bleeding
Hematoma/blood clots (epidural, subdural, or intracerebral)
Shearing/tearing of white matter when the brain bounces back and forth inside the skull after impact
Nerve damage from tearing of the brain’s axons (nerve cells)
Symptoms of minor concussions can include headaches, sensory problems, and confusion or disorientation. More severe brain injuries can result in memory loss, loss of physical or cognitive function, and permanent brain damage.
Vehicle accidents can result in ruptured or herniated discs as well as more serious spinal cord damage, which is classified as complete or incomplete.
Incomplete spinal cord injuries
Incomplete spinal cord injuries include:
Central cord syndrome, which results from damage to the center of the spinal cord and often causes loss of arm function.
Anterior cord syndrome, which is caused by trauma to the front of the spinal cord and affects feeling, pain, and body temperature below the point of the spinal cord injury.
Posterior cord syndrome, which is caused by injury to the back of the spinal cord and generally affects physical coordination.
Cauda equina lesion, which results from nerve damage between the first and second lumbar areas of the spine and causes partial/total loss of sensation.
Brown-Sequard syndrome, which is the result of damage to one side of the spinal cord and leads to impaired movement/loss of sensation on one side of the body.
Complete spinal injuries include:
Paraplegia, which is a complete lack of sensation/loss of function in the trunk and legs, though arm and hand function is normal.
Tetraplegia, which results from damage to the neck/cervical region of the spinal cord and paralyzes the arms, legs, and trunk.
These complete spinal cord injuries are permanent and generally require lifelong care leading to astronomical medical bills.
Organ damage/internal bleeding:
These injuries, which can result from impact with the interior of the car or from seat belts/air bags, might not be apparent immediately after a wreck; nonetheless, internal injuries to certain organs such as the liver, spleen, or heart can be life-threatening.
A bruised sternum or broken ribs can result from a hard impact with a steering wheel or dashboard. Just breathing can be very painful if you’ve suffered rib damage.
Victims of car crashes can suffer two types of nerve injuries. Neuropathy is burning pain due to inflamed, irritated nerves in any body part, and radiculopathy can leave the victim debilitated due to inflammation of nerves in the spine.
Not only a fire or gas tank explosion but also contact with hot parts of the car like the engine or muffler can cause serious burn injuries.
Fractured, broken, or crushed bones:
Bone injuries, which are common in car crashes, must be properly treated in order to heal correctly and may require surgery.
Damage to knees, shoulders, wrists, ankles, or elbows can include strains, sprains, and breaks, which are very painful and debilitating if not treated promptly and properly.
Cuts from glass or sharp objects inside the car are often minor, but they can be very serious if you’re cut deeply, or a sharp object penetrates the brain or the heart.
The experience of having a bad wreck can have long-term effects on your daily life, occupational performance, and personal interactions. A car crash victim might be left with a fear of driving/riding in a car or intense anxiety when a loved one travels by automobile.
An arm, leg, hand, or foot might be too badly damaged in the accident to be saved.
Unfortunately, many car crashes on South Carolina’s highways are fatal.
The Importance of an Official Police Report
Meeting Your Burden of Proof
As the injured party (or plaintiff in a personal injury suit), you have what is called the burden of proof. In order to receive fair compensation for your damages, you must prove that the other driver was negligent. This means that:
- The at-fault driver had a duty to operate safely and obey traffic laws.
- The driver breached that duty.
- The driver’s breach of duty caused an accident.
- You were injured in that accident and suffered physical and/or financial damages.
In order to meet your burden of proof, you have to show evidence of the other driver’s fault. The police report helps you accomplish this, along with evidence such as:
- Photos of the cars involved in the crash
- Testimony of witnesses to the wreck
- Video footage from any nearby cameras
- Documentation of all injuries, medical expenses, and wage losses you’ve incurred as a result of the accident
- Cell phone records
- “Black box” data recorder information if you’re struck by a commercial vehicle
Reporting the Accident
South Carolina law requires any driver involved in an accident causing bodily injury or death to stay at the scene, call 911, and report the accident to the police, who will come to the scene and fill out a form FR-10 from the SC Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). The completed form serves as an impartial third-party narrative of how the crash occurred and includes the following information:
- The time, date, and location of the accident
- Names, contact information, and insurance details of drivers involved
- Names/contact information for any witnesses to the crash
- A diagram of the accident
- Notes on weather, visibility, and road conditions
- Witness statements from anyone at the scene who saw the crash or from passing motorists who might have called the police and reported what they saw
- Details of the damage to the vehicles involved, which could help prove who caused the accident
- Visible evidence of injuries suffered by occupants of the cars involved in the crash
- Any charges against either driver (DUI, a suspended license, or speeding, for example)
- Which drivers(s) the officer believes to be totally or partially at fault for the wreck
If the officer finds that either driver has violated the law, that driver could be cited or arrested at the scene. Even if your accident is minor, with no bodily injury or death, it’s still a good idea to call the police and get an official report, which will help you prove your insurance claim for the damage to your vehicle. If you’re interviewed by the police, you should:
- Give only factual details of the crash
- Sign only the documents required by the police
- Not admit any fault to anyone
- Notify your insurance company
- Consult a car accident attorney
The form FR-10 must be submitted to your insurance company immediately after your accident, but it is not the official police report of your crash. For a small fee, you can request and obtain a form FR-50, which is the official accident report, from the DMV or from the law enforcement agency that responded to the accident and completed the FR-10. Your attorney can also help you to get a copy of the official report and go over it with you to verify the information is all correct.
While the police report is not actually admissible evidence in a personal injury case, it is an important tool in proving your claim against the liable motorist. Your lawyer will be able to identify and address any discrepancies, omissions, or misinformation in the report.
The report also gives the insurance company an idea of how strong your claim against its policyholder is and affects the settlement you’re offered. The company’s adjusters and attorneys know, if your case goes to court and the responding officer testifies, the details from the report can be cited as part of the testimony to prove the liability of the at-fault driver. If the report states that the at-fault driver was cited or arrested for a violation of traffic laws, that information:
- Strengthens your claim
- Motivates the insurance company to deal with you fairly
- Significantly increases your chances of getting a fair settlement to compensate you for your damages
Self-Reporting Rules for Minor Accidents
If your accident results in neither physical injury nor death, you’re not required to call the police. You are, however, required to complete form FR-309 and self-report the crash to the DMV within 15 days if the wreck caused property damage of $1,000 or more.
Creating Your Own Report Following A Charleston Car Accident
Even when there is an official police report, it’s still a good idea to make your own detailed report of the accident while it’s fresh in your mind. If there’s an important discrepancy between your report and the official report, your attorney can investigate to correct misinformation, which sometimes does find its way into police reports. Your self-report should include all the information listed above, as well as details about your injuries, pain and suffering, diagnosis, prognosis, and medical treatment (with documentation).
Steps in a South Carolina Car Accident Settlement
If you’re injured by a negligent driver in a Charleston car accident, South Carolina law allows you to file a claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance company for your damages:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Property damage
- Pain and suffering
Some claims resulting from minor accidents and injuries can be handled without an attorney. If, however, your accident was serious and caused severe injuries, your claim for damages is likely to be an expensive one for the insurance company. Its adjusters will probably try to dispute your claim and/or offer you a quick settlement that’s far too low to account for your expenses. In such a case, it’s a good idea to consult a lawyer as soon as possible. The steps of the settlement process are outlined below.
Your Medical Treatment and Recovery
Recovering from your injuries is your first priority, just as getting you fair compensation is your lawyer’s first priority. Your attorney will probably want to wait until your doctor feels you’ve reached maximum medical improvement (MMI) before filing your claim. The settlement you’ll demand depends not only on your damages since the time of your accident; it also depends on damages you might suffer in the future:
- Medical care for long-term impairment/disability
- Lost earning capacity
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Psychological trauma
While you’re working toward MMI, your attorney will take the following steps to secure fair compensation for your damages.
Identifying Liable Parties
In most cases, your lawyer obtains copies of the at-fault driver’s insurance policy limits and files a claim on your behalf against the insurance company. It’s possible that a claim might also be filed against:
- Your own insurance company if:
- You’re the victim in a hit-and-run crash
- The negligent driver has no insurance
- The negligent driver’s insurance has low coverage limits
- Insurance companies of other liable parties if you were hit by a commercial vehicle:
- The at-fault driver’s employer
- The company that owns the at-fault vehicle
- The manufacturer of the at-fault vehicle or a repair service
An attorney will oversee a full-scale investigation of your case by:
- Obtaining a copy of the police report
- Hiring an independent investigator if necessary
- Collecting photographs of the accident scene and the damaged vehicle(s)
- Gaining access to any video footage of the wreck taken by nearby security cameras
- Obtaining statements from any witnesses
- Securing documentation of wages you’ve lost and will lose due to your injury
- Collecting/organizing your medical documentation:
- Your doctor’s diagnosis/prognosis
- Your daily journal of recovery/pain and suffering
- Family members’ accounts of your inability to engage in normal activities
Once you’ve reached MMI, your attorney can put a dollar amount on your damages and send the insurance company a demand letter with the specifics of your claim. The demand letter will:
- Show proof of the at-fault driver’s negligence
- Itemize your damages
- Demand a reasonable settlement
An insurance company does not stay in business by simply giving claimants the settlements they want. It will generally respond with an offer lower than your demand. Its adjusters and lawyers are paid to dispute and deny claims, especially those for serious long-term injuries or disabilities, which are costly. Only an experienced personal injury attorney knows how to stand up to these well-trained negotiators by:
- Introducing additional evidence
- Obtaining the testimony of expert witnesses if necessary
- Retaining an accident reconstruction worker to prove the negligent driver’s fault if needed
- Negotiating to get the award you deserve
If the insurance company still does not offer a fair settlement, mediation might be necessary. A neutral, third-party mediator could be called in to bring the two parties closer to an agreement on an acceptable award.
If negotiation and/or mediation results in an offer that your lawyer feels is acceptable, you’ll have the opportunity to look at it closely and ask questions. If you and your attorney agree that the award offered is reasonable, you will accept the offer and sign a release form stating that you won’t seek any more compensation for your accident.
The insurance company will process your check and send it to your attorney, who will deduct the fees and other costs you’ve agreed to and forward the remaining money to you.
Going to Trial
If neither negotiation nor mediation results in the offer of an acceptable award, your attorney can file a lawsuit against the insurance company. This does not necessarily mean that your case will go to court. When the insurance company receives notice of the suit, it might offer you a settlement in order to save the expense of a trial.
If a trial does begin, your case still might be settled before the trial concludes. Many car accident cases are settled out of court at some point in the process described above. It’s important to remember that:
- The outcome of a trial is not certain.
- You might get a larger award than the insurance company is offering.
- You could possibly get less than the current offer, depending on what happens in court.
How Long Will it Take?
A Charleston car accident case could be resolved in a matter of months, but some cases do drag on longer, depending on:
Whether you settle or go to trial.
An out-of-court settlement is faster, less expensive, and less stressful for all concerned.
Difficulty of determining fault.
If the negligent driver’s fault is clear, obtaining a settlement is typcially faster than when fault is disputed.
Evaluation of your damages.
Some damages are easily calculated, while others might require extensive negotiation.