The term “claim” is commonly used two different ways with respect to personal injuries. The first way is to file a claim with an insurance company and the second way refers to filing a claim in court via a lawsuit. This article will focus on filing a lawsuit for personal injury around the Greensville, South Carolina area.
What is the Definition of Personal Injury in South Carolina?
To begin the conversation as to who can file a personal injury claim in a South Carolina court, it is important to first look at how South Carolina defines Personal Injury. “‘Personal injury’ means injuries to the person including, but not limited to, bodily injuries, mental distress or suffering, loss of wages, loss of services, loss of consortium, wrongful death, survival, and other noneconomic damages and actual economic damages.” (S.C. Code § 15-32-210(11))
This legal definition will serve as the basis for this article’s explanation of who can file a personal injury claim in South Carolina.
What is the Statute of Limitation for Personal Injury in South Carolina?
Before addressing who can file a personal injury claim, it is important to note that if the statute of limitation is missed in a personal injury claim, wondering who can bring a claim for personal injury is moot. In South Carolina, a claim for personal injury must commence within three years of the occurrence of said injury. (S.C. Code § 15-3-530(5)) If this deadline is missed, the person suffering personal injury will likely forever lose the ability to seek compensation for their personal injuries via the court system.
What Does Negligence Have to do with Personal Injury Claims?
Whether someone twists their ankle getting out of a car or suffers mental distress due to family issues, people are suffering the type of personal injuries defined above every day. However, the vast majority of everyday personal injuries cannot be used as the basis for a personal injury claim in South Carolina because there is no negligence on behalf of another party.
Let’s say that Mark walks into the street and gets hit by a car because he is distracted by a woman walking on the sidewalk that looks just like Mark’s mother. Mark could argue that had that woman not been walking down the street at that time that he would never have walked into traffic and suffered injuries after being hit by a car. However, common sense tells us that Mark should not be able to sue that woman for his personal injuries just because she looked like his mother.
Thankfully, South Carolina law agrees with common sense in this case. For another party to held responsible for causing someone personal injury, that party’s actions or inactions must be negligent. Otherwise, our legal system would allow for people to be sued for just walking down the street.
What Does the Duty of Care Have to do with Personal Injury Claims?
It is paramount to understand Duty of Care in order to comprehend South Carolina law with regards to negligence. If you are the operator of a vehicle, you have a responsibility not injure or damage pedestrians, cyclists, motorists, and other people’s property. This responsibility is legally referred to as Duty of Care.
To one extent or another, everyone owes a duty of care to someone else. If you are a business owner, you owe a duty of care to your customers to have a safe store. If you are a dog owner, you owe a duty of care to protect others from your dog if your dog is known to be vicious. If you are a doctor, you owe your patients a duty of care not to harm them.
However, it is not enough for a party to owe the injured person a duty of care before they can file suit. Personal injury claims in South Carolina require that the injuring party breaches their duty of care to the person who was injured. For example, it was already discussed above how an operator of a vehicle owes a pedestrian a duty of care. Let’s say that Angela is operating a car and is stopped at a crosswalk. Let’s further say that Angela was then hit from behind by another vehicle causing Angela car to hit people in the crosswalk. Common sense says that Angela is not to blame and the law of South Carolina agrees because Angela did not breach her duty of care to those pedestrians. The one who breached that duty was the operator of the vehicle that hit Angela.
Understanding who owes who a duty of care is usually the easy part when it comes to a personal injury claim. The part that gets argued most often pertains to whether or not a party breached their duty of care. Understanding if personal injuries can legally be blamed on another party is one of the reasons why injured individuals should seek a Greensville, South Carolina experienced personal injury lawyer.
Now that the Statue of Limitations and whether or not an injured person was the victim of negligence has been explained, this article will discuss who can file a personal injury claim.
Can I File a Personal Injury Claim if I suffered Bodily Injuries?
The first part of South Carolina’s definition of Personal Injury is about bodily injuries. The term “Bodily Injury” is self-explanatory, as such, there is rarely any arguments in a personal injury claim as to what injuries fall into this category. As such, anyone who has suffered any injury to any part of their body as a result of someone else’s negligence can file a personal injury claim in the state of South Carolina.
Can I file a Personal Injury Claim if I Suffered Mental Distress?
South Carolina’s definition of personal injury allows anyone who has suffered mental distress as a result of negligence by another party to file a claim for personal injury. As discussed above, an injured party can collect for harm to their body. However, the injury of mental distress allows an injured party to receive compensation for the emotional torment they experienced as a result of another party’s negligence.
While many times an injured party has suffered both bodily and mental distress injuries in their accident, it is not uncommon for an injured party only to suffer mental distress. In other words, it is not necessary for an injured party to have suffered bodily injuries before they can file a claim for personal injury. Moreover, the state of South Carolina allows in some instances for a bystander who was not involved in the accident to file a personal injury claim on the basis that the bystander suffered mental distress.
For example, let’s say that a grandmother and granddaughter are playing in the front yard when a vehicle loses control and runs over the granddaughter pinning her under the vehicle. The granddaughter suffers multiple broken bones and obviously has the right to sue the driver of the car for bodily injury. However, any grandmother witnessing their granddaughter get run over by a car will experience an emotional trauma. In this case, the grandmother may or may not have a legitimate bystander claim for personal injury. Nonetheless, an experienced personal injury lawyer in Greensville, South Carolina should be able to evaluate if the grandmother can file a personal injury claim as a bystander.
Can I File a Personal Injury Claim on Behalf of Someone Who Has Died?
Unfortunately, it is common for people in South Carolina to die as a result of someone else’s negligence. While these instances are considered personal injury claims, they are more commonly referred to as a wrongful death action. Nonetheless, in cases where someone does not survive their accident, another person or representative may file a personal injury claim aka a wrongful death action on behalf of the deceased.
The laws of South Carolina allow for the estate of the deceased to file a wrongful death action. Most of the time this means that the family will be filing the claim. Normally, a spouse will file on behalf of the other spouse who suffered death, as a result of another party’s negligence. However, if the decedent is not married, parents can file on behalf of their deceased child or children can file on behalf of their deceased parent. If the decedent is not married and has no living children or parents, then siblings can file a wrongful death action on behalf of their brother or sister. A seasoned personal injury attorney in the Greenville, South Carolina area can assist in decided which family member(s) can file a wrongful death claim if someone has died as a result of negligence.
Can I File a Personal Injury Claim on Behalf of Myself if a Family Member Has Died?
The state of South Carolina allows for people to seek compensation if a family member has died as a result of another party’s negligence. Note, this is different than a bystander claim because the injured party here is not seeking compensation for the emotional torment they endured as a witness to an accident. Rather, the injured party is seeking compensation for the loss of a loved one.
The definition for Personal Injury above lists loss of services and loss of consortium as part of its definition. While these two theories of recovery are different, they are similar enough to be treated as one in this article.
The state of South Carolina recognizes that the dependence and relationship between family members go beyond economics. Naturally, economics is a big part of one family member’s reliance on another, as such, South Carolina recognizes theories of recovery for losing a spouse’s income for example. The theories of loss of services and consortium seek to compensate family members for non-economic damages. Typically these damages apply only to a parent and child relationship or spousal relationships.
For example, it is common for a single mother with three kids to rely heavily on her mother for not only child care duties, but for advice and comfort. As such, should the mother die as the result of another party’s negligence, the state of South Carolina will allow for the single mother to seek compensation from the negligent party. A skilled Greensville, SC personal injury attorney will be able to explain the single mother’s story to a jury or court. No amount of money will ever compensate that single mother. However, an experienced personal injury attorney will help this single mother receive compensation for the loss of her mother.
Loss of services and consortium especially apply when a spouse has unexpectedly died as a result of another’s negligence. It is very common that married couples depend on each other for companionship, advice, sexual relations, and much more. As such, it is very common for a wife or husband to file a personal injury claim seeking compensation when their spouse has suffered a wrongful death.
Why do I Need a Personal Injury Lawyer?
There are so many other legal options available that this article did not address. Many times, a personal injury claim is very straightforward. For example, when there is no doubting who is to blame, and only one person suffered small injuries. While it is always recommended that you seek the advice of an experienced personal injury South Carolina attorney, this example is not complicated and perhaps can be handled without the aid of a qualified personal injury lawyer.
However, life is not always so simple. Take for example an elder couple that died one night in a fire caused by negligent wiring in their apartment complex. Let’s further say that this couple had five children and 12 grandchildren. Moreover, that night one daughter and one grandson were visiting. Furthermore, the daughter suffered severe burns as she tried to save her parents and the grandson did not suffer any bodily injury but witness everything. In this situation, who can file a claim?
Any qualified personal injury attorney in the Greenville, South Carolina area will visit with a potential client without charging a fee. This initial consultation is the injured party’s opportunity to seek professional advice risk-free. As such, if you just think you might be able to file a personal injury claim, you should make an appointment with an experienced personal injury lawyer today.