Few things can unexpectedly disrupt your life like a car accident. One moment you are commuting to work, running errands, or on your way to or from some kind of leisure activity. The next, you find yourself with injuries, sometimes serious, medical bills piling up, and a damaged vehicle. You might miss work, deal with pain and suffering, and potentially even face lifelong consequences. Those who find themselves in this kind of circumstance as a result of someone else’s carelessness, recklessness, or negligence are owed compensation for what they’ve had to deal with. That might involve a fight, to be sure, but with the Tatum Law Firm by your side, you’ll stand a solid chance of getting what you’re owed.
Understanding who is liable is the first step in any potential car accident case. If you aren’t targeting the right parties to bring a claim against, then there is a good chance the claim will fail, leading to a waste of time and money. For most people, there may be an assumption that the only option is another driver in the accident. While that may be true in most cases, there are still a number of other possible defendants. Some of the most common defendants include:
The process of proving liability in a car accident claim follows the same general process as most any kind of personal injury claim. To make the case for you, your lawyer is going to call upon whatever the most ideal evidence available is. It could be photographs or a video of the accident itself if that’s available, documentation of the scene, interviewing witnesses, or even calling up a car crash professional to give their informed opinion of what occurred. The process, though, of proving full liability occurs in four steps:
The compensation you receive from a car accident is referred to as damages, and these damages must be proven in court. Your lawyer must be able to defend the reason certain damages are requested, and the costs you are requesting compensation for must be directly tied to the accident that occurred. In most car accident cases, there are two forms of damages that are paid out:
Punitive damages are a third category of damages that are rarely awarded in car accident cases. These damages are usually meant to serve as a punishment and deterrent for particularly egregious behavior. In most cases, car accidents aren’t a result of something malicious or excessively reckless. However, there may be some instances in which these damages are awarded.
Another important element of damages to consider is that South Carolina operates under comparative negligence rules. According to these rules, the defendant can make the case that the plaintiff was also at fault for the accident. They must prove that negligence on the part of the plaintiff contributed to the injuries they suffered. If this can be demonstrated, a percentage amount will be assigned to the plaintiff’s role in the accident. If it’s determined that the plaintiff actually had a greater responsibility than the defendant, then the plaintiff will be unable to collect any damages. If not, then the plaintiff’s damages will be reduced proportionate to their share of the fault. In other words, if the plaintiff is deemed to bear 25% of the fault for the accident, they will only be able to collect 75% of the damages awarded.
The statute of limitations determines how long after an incident someone can bring a claim against another party. Like most personal injury cases, car accidents have a standard statute of limitations of three years, so any claim must be brought within three years. There are a few narrow exceptions to this rule, but it’s generally better to operate under the assumption that your case must be filed within three years. While three years may seem like a long time, there is a lot that usually needs to be done to prepare for and before a claim is finalized, so be sure to contact a lawyer quickly. The more time they have to prepare for your case, the stronger your case will be.
As soon as an accident happens, anything surrounding the situation can potentially be involved in the claim process by any of the parties involved. What you say, what you do, and what information you gather could all be a critical part of your case. This means everything you do following a car accident could be tremendously important. Obviously, given the shock and potential injuries after a car accident, you might not be able to handle everything perfectly. That’s okay, though, and it’s important to only do whatever your injuries and state of mind will allow. If you are able to, there are a few things that are essential to do after a car accident.
If you have any traumatic injuries, the paramedics are going to begin treatment immediately and likely transport you to the hospital. Even if you don’t think you have injuries, adrenaline and shock might be causing you to miss what’s really going on. It is crucial to let the paramedics at least check you out, as they are trained to spot signs of traumatic injuries.
If your injuries aren’t particularly serious, you still should get a medical examination soon after the accident in case something reveals itself after the adrenaline wears off or if the injuries were something more mundane. Doing this in a timely fashion is important. The defendant’s team may try to argue against the seriousness of the injuries or even that they are the result of a different incident if there is too much delay.
The more information and facts that are available to your lawyer, the more comprehensive a case they can put together. Documentation is one of the more important elements of the process. Documenting the scene of the accident can be very helpful to your case. This may not always be possible, but to the extent that your injuries allow, it can be helpful to take photos and video of the scene. In particular, photos of the vehicles involved, injuries, the full scene including any skid marks, relevant signs, and anything else of interest can help your lawyer later recreate the scene in court. At the scene, it’s also important to get the contact information for other drivers involved and eyewitnesses, if there are any. You also want to be sure to keep good records of things like what doctors say about your injuries and any bills or other costs associated with the accident.
When you’re discussing the accident, be careful about what you say, especially when speaking to anyone from an insurance agency. While you might not mean to, it’s possible that something you say could be misconstrued by the defendant’s lawyers as you taking the blame. Insurance agents, in particular, are able to identify these kinds of statements. Generally, you’re better off saying as little as possible and allowing your lawyer to handle the situation as they understand what the other parties are looking for.
It is also vital to your case to get in touch with a legal team, like the Tatum Law Firm, as soon as possible after your accident. In part, this is to allow us to help you avoid saying something that could later be used against you. It’s also so that we help you with documenting all of the things you need to. We will also ensure you understand the process moving forward. We can begin our investigation soon and even negotiate with the insurance companies on your behalf.
Something might seem pretty straightforward, but in a car accident claim, it can often end up being complex. Especially when the defendant in a case has lawyers from insurance companies, working with the right lawyer can be essential to making sure your case is given a fair chance. At the Tatum Law Firm, we have years of experience fighting for our clients and taking on the stingiest of insurance firms.
Typically, the first thing we do is a thorough investigation of the accident that our clients were involved in. This is important for several different reasons. First, we want to make sure we identify the parties that should be held liable. In many cases, this may be another driver, but there are a fair number of cases where it is another party. In the course of our investigation, we need to make sure we have enough evidence and a strong argument that can identify the other party as meeting all the requirements for liability.
A portion of our investigation also looks at your role in the accident. Given that the comparative negligence rules offer a pathway for the defendant to reduce or even eliminate the damages that they owe, it’s likely they are going to attempt to argue that you share some level of fault for the accident. To be prepared for that possibility, we gather evidence that can be used to defend you and argue against those claims.
Even while we are investigating the situation, it’s likely that we will be in communication with the insurance companies on your behalf. There can be some advantages to working out a settlement that avoids the expense and lengthy time requirement of taking a case to court. We have an understanding of how to work with the insurance companies, if possible, to try to work out a deal that is favorable.
The possibility of taking a claim to court, though, should usually be on the table. It gives more weight to your side of the negotiations. If no agreement can be found, we are ready to go to court. We also prepare to put up a substantial defense against accusations of your liability. We make the case for a comprehensive damages package to get you what you’re owed.
Car accidents can leave you with a lot to figure out. If your injuries are serious, you’re left with determining how to get them treated and get back in working order. In some cases, the injuries are so serious that you have to figure out how to adjust to not being able to do what you used to. There’s also damage to your vehicle that needs to be fixed, and, in some cases, you may need to get a new vehicle. For many, the damage the accident does continues beyond the material and can disrupt their emotional and psychological state as well. The pain and suffering of injuries or the trauma of having experienced a frightening accident can leave mental scars along with the physical.
The law provides options for those who are injured in a car accident that was someone else’s fault to receive compensation. However, it’s not usually the at-fault individuals themselves who are paying — it would be the insurance company of the at-fault party. That inevitably means having to fight the insurance company who’s protecting their profits. Often, when you’re dealing with the aftermath of a car accident, a fight with an insurance company sounds like the last thing that you need. With the Tatum Law Firm, you can have someone else take on that fight. Contact us today and let us fight for the compensation you’re owed.