When you get injured in a car accident in South Carolina, you are entitled to receive just compensation for all of your financial and non-financial losses. Similar to financial losses, non-financial losses can fall into a variety of different categories, one of which is “pain and suffering.”
But, what does it mean to experience pain and suffering? Equally important, how do you place a dollar value on your non-financial harm? While you will need to discuss the specifics of your accident with a personal injury lawyer, here is a basic overview of what you need to know:
Seeking Financial Compensation for Pain and Suffering After a Car Accident in South Carolina
1. What Constitutes Pain and Suffering?
“Pain and suffering” is a general term that encompasses various forms of non-financial harm. Generally, “pain” refers to physical pain resulting from a traumatic accident-related injury, while “suffering” refers to psychological harm such as anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress, and the emotional effects of physical limitations and permanent scarring. Both can be temporary or chronic in nature, and both can impact your life in varying degrees. Everyone’s experience of pain and suffering is unique; and, while this creates the potential for significant financial recoveries, it also means that accident victims must present convincing evidence to prove that they are entitled to financial compensation.
2. How Do You Prove Pain and Suffering?
So, how do you prove that you have experienced pain and suffering (and that you will continue to experience pain and suffering in the future)? The primary method is to present thorough medical documentation prepared by expert doctors and medical professionals. Physical pain and the various forms of psychological harm discussed above are all capable of being diagnosed, and orthopedists, psychologists, psychiatrists, physical therapists, and other medical professionals can all help to quantify the immediate and long-term effects of physical and emotional trauma.
As an accident victim, there are steps you can take to help demonstrate the effects of your pain and suffering as well. One of the most-effective ways to do this is to keep a daily log in which you record all of the ways that your pain and suffering impact your life. How severe was your pain on a scale of one to ten? What activities did you miss (such as exercising, doing yard work, or attending your children’s events)? The real-world impacts of your injuries are all highly relevant to your claim for compensation.
3. How Do the South Carolina Courts Calculate Damages for Pain and Suffering?
When placing a dollar value on car accident victims’ pain and suffering, judges and juries in South Carolina consider a variety of different factors that take into account the victim’s unique personal and financial circumstances. This includes factors such as:
- The victim’s age
- The victim’s health condition prior to the accident
- The extent of the victim’s physical injuries
- The extent of the victim’s medical needs
- The duration of the victim’s recovery
- The day-to-day limitations the victim experienced as a result of the accident
- Any impact on the victim’s ability to spend meaningful time with friends and family
- Any impact on the victim’s ability to engage in activities enjoyed prior to the accident
No single factor is determinative, and individual factors will weigh more heavily in some cases than others. In order to maximize their financial recoveries, car accident victims must focus on accurately portraying the long-term effects of their injuries in a way that resonates with the judge or jury.
4. How Do the Insurance Companies Calculate Damages for Pain and Suffering?
While these same factors are relevant in insurance claims, the insurance companies tend to take a more formulaic approach to calculate pain and suffering damages (although the methods discussed below may be used in court cases as well). There are two different methods that are commonly used, and it will be up to your attorney to convince the insurance company to pay full compensation for your losses. These two methods are:
- Multiplier Method – With this method, non-financial losses are calculated by multiplying the victim’s financial losses by a number that is typically between one and five.
- Per Diem Method – With this method, the victim receives compensation based on a daily rate that is applied to the number of days he or she is expected to experience pain and suffering.
5. Can You Seek Compensation for Pain and Suffering if You Were at Fault?
Yes, as long as you were not more at fault than the other driver. Under South Carolina’s “comparative negligence” law, if you were 50 percent or less at fault in the accident, then you are entitled to recover a portion of your damages that is equal to your total losses multiplied by the other driver’s percentage of fault. For example, if your losses are $100,000 and the other driver was 75 percent at fault in the accident, then you would be entitled to recover $75,000.
6. How Do You Know When It’s Time to Settle Your Insurance Claim?
Knowing when to settle requires a thorough assessment of the circumstances of your claim. This includes any legal issues involved with your claim (such as contributory negligence), how close the offer is to provide full compensation for your losses and the likelihood that you could recover more by continuing to negotiate or taking your case to trial.
7. What Else Do South Carolina Car Accident Victims Need to Know?
While compensation for your pain and suffering may constitute a significant portion of your claim, it is still just one type of non-financial loss. You may be entitled to significant compensation for loss of consortium and various other non-financial losses as well (and, remember, these are in addition to your current and future financial losses such as medical expenses and loss of income). To make sure you are seeking full compensation for your accident-related losses, you should discuss your claim with an experienced South Carolina personal injury lawyer as soon as possible.
Contact the Personal Injury Lawyers at Lewis Law Firm in Rock Hill, SC
If you have been injured in a car accident and would like more information about your legal rights, we encourage you to contact us for a complimentary initial consultation. To speak with one of our experienced personal injury lawyers in confidence, please call our Rock Hill, SC law offices at 803-327-1103, or request an appointment online today.