If you’re trying to figure out how much to ask for in a South Carolina personal injury settlement, you need to know who gets punitive damages. That includes knowing the answers to questions like: 

You also need to know how evidence of punitive damages gets into court in South Carolina personal injury trials. The short answer is that it’s complicated. I’ll break it down for you. 

If you’re seriously injured in a South Carolina accident that could mean punitive damages, you’ve got a lot at stake, and you’re facing a highly complex law—plus an insurance company that makes money by cheating you. Call toll-free at 888-230-1841 or fill out a Get Help Now form to get your questions answered in a FREE, NO PRESSURE strategy session with a Spartanburg, South Carolina personal injury attorney.   

Here's how punitive damages get into trial in South Carolina.

The “Bifurcated” Trial Process for South Carolina Punitive Damages

South Carolina Code Section 15-32-520(A) allows personal injury cases with punitive damages to be “bifurcated” if requested by the at-fault party, called the defendant. “Bifurcated” means “divided into two parts.”

How the Bifurcated Process Works

The two parts are the actual or compensatory damages stage first, then, if the case survives that, then the punitive damages stage.

  • In the first stage, the jury determines if the victim proved the defendant’s liability for actual or compensatory damages. If so, the jury calculates that settlement in its verdict.  No evidence of punitive damages can be presented here. 
  • If the jury awards actual or compensatory damages, you go to stage two. You can present evidence for a punitive damages award in the second stage. Of course, the defendant will contest it. 

What the Bifurcated Process Means for You

It’s a lot harder to get punitive damages! How do you know what evidence you need to prove fault versus what justifies punitive damages? For example, say you’re hit by a drunk driver. In stage one, doesn’t it seem like the law limits you to only proving that the drunk driver hit you, without evidence he was drunk? But isn’t intoxication part of why the defendant’s at fault? 

The law really throws a wrench in your case here. If you don’t know where to stop putting evidence in—or how to get evidence admitted in court at all—you run the risk of losing or the judge declaring a mistrial. Rest assured, the defendant will have a skilled attorney to fight you, no matter how much you deserve a settlement. 

And you’ve also got to have a professional who can take into consideration the human effect this divided trial will have on the jury. In South Carolina, this is the kind of thing that makes someone say, “Do what?!” The jury has already given you money, and now the judge is telling them you want more. You’ve got to have a talented advocate who can help convince them you’re not greedy and their job is not quite finished—for good reason.

You need a trained legal mechanic who can craft your case to protect your right to punitive damages in South Carolina. Get help now. Call toll-free at 888-230-1841 or fill out a Get Help Now Form to get your questions answered.

Oh yeah, and if the case survives all of this and you get punitive damages, you’ve still got to get past one more hurdle. 

The Judge Makes the Final Decision on Punitive Damages in South Carolina Personal Injury Cases

South Carolina Code Section 15-32-520(F) gives the defendant one last hail-Mary to prevent you from getting punitive damages: it requires the judge to review the award. Even if the jury awards punitive damages, the judge can overturn or reduce it. 

Expect the defendant to go down swinging. They will likely request additional time to get the trial transcript and bombard you with lengthy legal briefs. 

Punitive Damages Are Heavy Dirty Legal Work in South Carolina. Get Professional Help.

Insurance companies hate punitive damages, and the law is stacked against you. But if you’re deserving of punitive damages in a South Carolina personal injury case, it’s definitely worth fighting for. 

We’ll put on the gloves and take the hits for you. Get your questions answered. Call toll-free at 888-230-1841 to get your questions answered in a FREE, NO PRESSURE strategy session with a Spartanburg, South Carolina, personal injury attorney.

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Rob Usry
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Rob is a Spartanburg personal injury lawyer. Rob also practices as a workers' compensation attorney.