When Should You File an Auto Accident Lawsuit?
Nobody in South Carolina gets behind the wheel of a car or climbs into the passenger seat in an automobile with the expectation of getting hurt in a crash. However, car accidents happen more often than most of us think.
When you are injured in an auto accident, it is extremely important to begin thinking about seeking financial compensation for your losses.
For most people who sustain injuries in a motor vehicle crash, the first step in seeking compensation involves filing an auto insurance claim. Yet for many claimants, an auto insurance claim does not provide sufficient compensation.
Are you wondering: when should you file an auto accident lawsuit? In most cases, you should file a car accident lawsuit if you are unable to obtain the financial compensation you deserve by filing an auto insurance claim. There are numerous reasons that an auto insurance claim may not pay out enough money, necessitating an auto accident lawsuit.
Auto Insurance Limits in South Carolina
One of the most common reasons that an auto insurance claim will not pay out enough money is auto insurance limits. Under South Carolina insurance law, all drivers must have the following minimum amounts of auto insurance coverage:
- $25,000 per person for bodily injury;
- $50,000 for all persons injured in a single accident;
- $25,000 for all property damage in a single accident; and
- Uninsured motorists coverage that equals the minimum amounts of liability coverage specified above.
In addition to the required minimums stated above, drivers have the option of purchasing what is known as “underinsured motorists coverage.” This type of optional coverage provides you with additional insurance in the event that you run up against insurance limits.
Whether you file a first-party claim (through your own insurance company) or a third-party claim (through the responsible driver’s insurance company), the issue of auto insurance limits could prevent you from getting complete compensation.
What do we mean when we say that you could have a problem with auto insurance limits? We will explain with a hypothetical example. Imagine that you are involved in a multi-vehicle car accident caused by Driver A. Driver A failed to follow the rules of the road and struck your vehicle after striking two other vehicles.
All drivers and passengers in those vehicles sustained injuries. Driver A only has the minimum amounts of liability coverage under South Carolina law.
The cost of your medical bills alone total $40,000, not to mention noneconomic damages like pain and suffering. The other injured parties also experienced substantial losses. Driver A’s policy cannot pay out more than $50,000 for all persons injured in a single accident.
Even if you were to file a first-party claim and you have only the minimum amounts of coverage, your damages could total more than the coverage you pay for. In either scenario, you would need to file a lawsuit against the responsible driver in order to seek compensation beyond the insurance limits.
Insurance Company is Not Offering a Reasonable Settlement
Even if insurance limits are not an issue, you could still run into the problem of the insurance company refusing to negotiate a reasonable settlement.
Typically, this issue arises in cases where the injured party has sustained substantial noneconomic damages that are difficult to quantify.
Under South Carolina law, economic damages include any “pecuniary damages arising from medical expenses and medical care, rehabilitation services,” and so forth. Given that you have hospital bills and medical bills with specific dollar figures, economic damages are not usually difficult to quantify.
However, noneconomic damages can be more complicated. This type of damages refers to those “arising from pain, suffering, inconvenience, physical impairment, disfigurement, mental anguish, emotional distress,” and other harms that do not have an objective dollar figure.
Insurance companies may try to lowball your noneconomic damages and may attempt to settle for an amount that is far less than what you deserve. In this type of situation, you may need to file a lawsuit with the help of your attorney to seek compensation.
In some cases, when an insurance company knows that you plan to file a car accident lawsuit, it will negotiate a more reasonable settlement offer. You should always speak with your attorney about whether it is in your best interest to accept a settlement offer or to move forward with a lawsuit.
Know the Statute of Limitations and How It Can Affect Your Case
If you are involved in a collision with a government vehicle or a governmental employee, then your statute of limitations will be shorter. City, county, or state vehicles are subject to a two-year statute of limitation, and a U.S. government vehicle is subject to a one-year statute of limitation.
Auto insurance claims can take a long time depending upon the specific facts of the case. If there is a possibility that you will need to file a car accident lawsuit, it is extremely important to be aware of the statute of limitations.
The statute of limitations is the amount of time that you have to file a lawsuit. Under South Carolina's personal injury statute of limitations, most injury victims have three years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit. If you fail to file a lawsuit within that three-year time window, the claim can become time-barred.
When you are injured in a car accident, you should begin working with a personal injury attorney as soon as possible on your insurance claim to make certain that you still have time to file a lawsuit if necessary before the clock on the statute of limitations runs out.
Contact an Auto Accident Lawyer in South Carolina
If you need assistance filing a lawsuit to seek compensation after a motor vehicle collision, you should get in touch with an experienced South Carolina auto accident lawyer as soon as possible. If you have already gone through the insurance claims process, you may be nearing the end of the statute of limitations.
If you do not file your lawsuit in a timely manner, you may be barred from filing a lawsuit to obtain the compensation you deserve. Contact Peace Law Firm today to get started on your lawsuit with an aggressive personal injury attorney.