As an experienced Spartanburg, South Carolina personal injury attorney, I can tell you South Carolina personal injury claims occur in a variety of ways. To name a few, there are:

  • Car, truck, and motorcycle accidents
  • Slip and falls or trip and falls
  • Injuries caused by substandard care or neglect at assisted living facilities or nursing homes
  • Medical malpractice
  • Injuries caused by defective products

Also, in some workers' compensation cases, you might have a personal injury claim in addition to your workers’ comp claim.

One question any personal injury victim in South Carolina should rightfully ask is, how long will my case take? The reason you need to know is, as GI Joe said at the end of every cartoon episode, “Knowing is half the battle.” Personal injury claims are stressful for victims because they’re inexperienced amateurs. Inexperienced amateurs don't know what they're doing, and anxiety is always created by the prospect of an unknown future. Knowing how long your case might take gives you one less thing to stress about.

You don't need to stress out about your personal injury case. If you've got a South Carolina personal injury claim you are stressed about, worried about, or have any questions about, stop and contact me to get your questions answered in a free, no-pressure strategy session. Call toll-free at 888-230-1841 or fill out a Get Help Now form

Now, I'll go over some of the factors that can impact how long a South Carolina personal injury claim can last, including an estimate of how long they can take.

Key Factors for How Long a South Carolina Personal Injury Claim Can Last

In my years helping folks get settlements for South Carolina accidents, here are the main factors determining the duration of a claim, including:

1. Injury severity. This directly impacts two key factors in evaluating a South Carolina personal injury settlement: (1) the amount of your medical bills, and (2) pain and suffering, which I call human loss. I call it human loss because it includes more than just pain and suffering. You can't fully value the compensation you should get in a personal injury settlement until you've got a solid idea of these two factors. And you won't know them until you've reached maximum medical improvement. That's a term used by doctors to state you're as good as you're going to get.

But understand this: for the seriously injured, maximum medical improvement doesn't necessarily mean you've been released by the doctor. You might need long-term extensive care. A cost estimate of your future medical care should be included in your settlement evaluation. However, there is a catch. You have to be sure it satisfies South Carolina legal requirements, yet another reason to hire an experienced South Carolina personal injury attorney.

Obviously, the worse you're hurt, the longer you are treated before reaching maximum medical improvement. Unfortunately, that requires you to let go of the need for what the insurance company wants you to do, which is settle fast. Settling fast means settling cheap and shortchanging yourself. You can’t afford to do this. This is a time for you to let go of the things you cannot control and focus on the things you can, like getting better and getting back to your life as much as possible as fast as possible.

Impact on case duration: A minor injury may take weeks. More serious injuries may take months or even over a year. Good or bad, the severity of injuries can short-circuit the duration of a South Carolina personal injury claim due to the next factor.

2. Amount of insurance to pay a settlement.  South Carolina personal injury settlements are generally paid by liability insurance owned by the at-fault party. Obviously, more insurance is a good thing. 

Most businesses carry liability insurance for accidents of around $1 million or more. In cases involving injuries or death from medical malpractice or nursing home or assisted living facility neglect, amounts you can recover are often limited by state law, but facilities and providers generally have adequate insurance to cover it, Depending on the case, it can range from $300,000 to $1 million or more per provider or facility. 

South Carolina car, truck, or motorcycle accident victims may benefit from extra insurance for bigger settlements from an unexpected source. For the seriously injured crash victim, there's often not enough insurance from the at-fault driver. State law only requires drivers to carry $25,000 in liability insurance. But don't overlook this: you might be able to use insurance from your own policy and even from policies of relatives that you live with to give you an extra settlement. This is called underinsurance. If you don't have this now, get it before it's too late. Before using it, you need to know two things: your underinsurance isn't going to volunteer to help you and your own insurance company will turn against you to defend the at-fault driver. There's a lot at stake here. You'll need help from an experienced South Carolina car accident attorney to help you verify you have underinsurance, navigate the complex process of determining how much you can use, and convince your insurance company to pay you a settlement. 

A weird thing happens with insurance companies: the more serious your injuries are and the more insurance that exists, the harder the insurance company may fight to pay you a settlement. They hope to wear you down, outlast you, and force you into a cheap settlement. You can't afford to let that happen.

Just finding out how much insurance exists to cover a personal injury claim in South Carolina requires legal know-how. The insurance company generally won't volunteer that information. In car accident cases, we can find out how much liability insurance the at-fault driver has because we know how to ask the right way. For any other personal injury case, there's no legal requirement for the insurance company to tell you unless you file a lawsuit and begin the discovery process, where you can legally require them to disclose it.

Impact on case duration: Sometimes, even when there's a lot of insurance, it's not enough. If we can build a case that's overwhelming enough to convince an insurance company to pay, this can help your case end faster. But if we can't get solid answers about how much insurance exists and you've got severe injuries, we have no choice but to file a lawsuit to find out how much we have to work with. A lawsuit brings the litigation process, which can end in a trial often around 18-24 months later. Keep reading, as I discuss it in more detail below.

3. Complexity of the case. Cases can get far more complicated in a hurry. For example:

  • Cases involving 18 wheelers or semitrucks involve highly experienced, hard- nosed insurance companies that fight claims tooth and nail. These cases are governed by a maze of state and federal laws and regulations, making them extremely complex. You should not take on one of these cases unless you're willing to file a federal lawsuit because that's usually what it requires to get a settlement.
  • Medical malpractice, nursing home, and assisted living facility cases require an expert. This is another case you can't take on unless you're willing to file a lawsuit. Your expert will be a trained medical professional with experience in the type of care resulting in your injuries or the wrongful death of a loved one. That expert must review the medical records and be able to pinpoint how substandard medical facility care caused the injuries or death.
  • Cases where multiple parties may be at fault complicate things. Because we've got to prove fault, we've got to prove how each potential party contributed to the cause. This is especially true in fall cases. For example, I've had a case where someone fell in a concealed hole on the grounds of a condominium complex. Potential at-fault parties included the complex owner, the landscaper who maintained the grounds, and the property manager who oversaw day-to-day operations at the complex. To prove fault, we had to file suit to figure out which party had what responsibilities and how those responsibilities created legal obligations to keep people like my client safe. Then, we had to prove how each one failed in their obligations.

Impact on duration: We work to speed your case through the phases of finding at-fault parties, assessing their potential fault, and hiring experts as fast as possible. If you're seriously injured, much of this work can be done while you're still treating, reducing the time you have to wait. Complex cases most often result in a lawsuit being filed, which can add up to 18-24 months to your case.

4. How easy is it to prove fault? To get a settlement, South Carolina accident injury victims have to prove someone is at fault for their injury. Ideally, you want a case with “clear liability,” meaning fault is virtually indisputable. In many car or motorcycle accident cases, that's relatively simple- the police report can do it for you. 

But sometimes, you can't even count on the police in a crash case. Occasionally, they fault you for a crash you didn't cause. No insurance company can be expected to back down from a mistaken police report, but I have overcome them with solid evidence developed from my investigation.

Slip and fall or trip and fall cases are usually hotly contested. The insurance company will strongly deny fault. You've got to overcome some tough defenses, including one I call the “why didn't you look where you were going defense.” It may require an expert like a safety engineer or a human factors expert to explain how the area where you fell was made unsafe and why you shouldn't have been expected to detect it.

The same holds true for medical malpractice or assisted living facility neglect. Medical providers and facilities fight hard against any notion they gave poor care. The cases are usually scientifically complex, requiring an expert to prove fault on your behalf.

The more complicated your case is, the longer it takes. You'll need an attorney to guide you through gathering the proof of fault and, if needed, hiring experts to give you the best shot at a good settlement.

Impact on duration: The more complex your case is, the more likely it is to end up in a lawsuit, which can add 18-24 months to your case.

5. Insurance company claim processes. The most frustrating thing for South Carolina personal injury attorneys is that no matter how hard we work or how experienced we are, we often cannot make an insurance company work faster. There are ways to spur quicker consideration, like demand letters with deadlines. But even then, you've got to give the insurance company adequate time to evaluate the claim. And if they respond by saying they need more time to evaluate it, it's often against a client's best interest to tell them no. The goal is to give yourself the best shot at a good settlement. Denying the insurance company time without good reason just cuts off your nose to spite your face.

I've found ways to expedite settlement in serious injury cases. One of the key aspects of that process for me is updating the insurance company periodically with your medical care. That doesn't mean just dumping medical records on them. I send a detailed letter summarizing what they say, so the insurance company knows I know. If they suspect you or your attorney don’t read medical records, they will “cherry pick” tiny little bad facts out of them to try to get you to accept a low settlement. And my job is to prove your case, including the treatment you needed and the harm sustained, so it helps me argue for a better settlement for you.

Impact on duration: One to three months. If the insurance company won't settle by then, I advise filing a lawsuit unless there's a really good reason not to.

6. The lawsuit process. If the insurance company won't do the right thing, you've got to file suit to protect your rights. It slows things down because all parties engage in the discovery process, where everyone discloses the evidence they have in the case so it can be fully evaluated. 

The discovery process starts with written requests for evidence, which can take a few months to complete. Again, we struggle with getting other people to work, which is often beyond our control. Our requests go unanswered, or answers are incomplete. We have to hound opposing parties to get the information we need to pursue your case properly.

After that come depositions, out-of-court sworn testimony so all sides know what key witnesses will testify to. This can take another several months. It gets especially complicated if there are multiple parties in the case because scheduling these sessions which can last several hours or all day, requires setting aside time for multiple lawyers who have competing schedules.

Once discovery is complete, most cases must be mediated. That's where the parties hire an experienced lawyer who works to help both sides agree to a settlement. This can be an extremely helpful process, and it often ends in settlements. Even if it doesn't work, it can get cases settled later as both parties reevaluate their arguments and reassess case evaluations as trial looms. 

If the case can't be settled, it's usually called for trial about two years after it's filed.

Impact on duration: It depends. It could stretch from a few weeks to over a year. I've had cases settle shortly after we filed them. I've had others settle in the middle of discovery. I've had many, many settle at mediation. I've had others settle after mediation. I've had some settle just before trial. You can settle in the middle of the trial. And, of course, I've had some cases settled by a jury through a verdict. 

7. Quality of your attorney. This can play a major role. If you've got an unmotivated, lazy lawyer, expect delays and sluggish or no response to requests from you for updates or moving toward settlement. Two things I'm committed to doing are moving cases to settlement as fast as I can and keeping my clients updated with the progress of their cases. While I always welcome clients to ask where we are with their cases, my overriding goal is to tell you what's going on before you have to wonder. 

If You're Seriously Hurt in a South Carolina Accident, Show the Insurance Company You're Serious About Your Recovery

The best way to prevent undue delay in your South Carolina personal injury case is to hire an experienced personal injury lawyer you can trust to move your case as fast as possible. My commitment to doing that is why I've developed processes designed to move cases as fast as I can. In my years as a Spartanburg, South Carolina personal injury lawyer, I've realized the most important result I can bring to any client is peace of mind - Peace of mind your case is being handled properly and peace of mind you got the right settlement in the end, with little or no delay.

It won't cost you anything to get your questions answered. Even if you don't hire me, I'll give you tips to help prevent your case from dragging out. Call me toll-free at  888-230-1841 or fill out a Get Help Now form.

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