Car accidents are not only physically and emotionally distressing but can also be legally complicated. If you’ve been involved in a car wreck in South Carolina, you may wonder how long it will take for your case to be resolved in court. Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question.
The timeline of your car accident case can vary depending on several factors, including the complexity of the case, the court’s caseload, and the parties’ willingness to negotiate.
In this article, we’ll provide a general overview of the car accident case timeline in South Carolina, so you’ll know what to expect.
Taking the First Steps at the Accident Scene and Beyond
After a collision, taking certain steps will help protect your rights. Contact the police to report the accident, identify witnesses, exchange information with the involved parties, and seek medical attention.
Even if you don’t think you are seriously hurt, getting checked out is important since your injuries may not be as minor as they seem.
In addition to receiving emergency medical treatment from the paramedics or at the emergency room, following up with your regular doctor is important. Your follow-up visit may include X-rays, MRI scans, and additional testing.
Contacting a South Carolina Auto Accident Lawyer
If a negligent party caused your injuries, it’s best to contact a South Carolina car accident attorney as soon as possible. Barring extenuating circumstances, most insurance companies require you to report your claim right away, often within 24 hours.
Your attorney can help you file a claim if you have not already done so. They can also prevent you from agreeing to a lowball settlement or saying something to a claims adjuster that could damage your case.
If your lawyer determines that you have a viable claim and are entitled to compensation, they will accept your case and have you sign a contract for legal services. Since our law firm handles cases on a contingency-fee basis, you won’t pay us anything unless you receive compensation.
Gathering Evidence to Build Your Case
Your attorney can file a claim alleging the other driver’s negligence in causing your injuries. In addition, our legal team can gather expert testimony from medical professionals and evidence from the accident scene to argue for fair compensation.
The police officer at the accident scene must collect information and submit an official accident report. These reports contain details about the parties involved, a depiction of the accident scene, and the consequences of the collision.
This report is critical for a successful insurance claim and can be a starting point for preparing a lawsuit. Your lawyer can help you obtain an official copy of the police report, medical records, and other key evidence.
Negotiating a Fair Settlement
After identifying the negligent party in your case, your attorney will contact their insurance company to present the case for their liability for your injuries.
However, it is important to note that insurance companies typically offer a quick settlement. These initial offers may be significantly lower than the policy limits and fail to cover all your losses. Your lawyer can help you calculate the full value of your case and counter with a higher amount.
If Negotiations are Successful
If both parties agree on a compensation amount, a settlement agreement will be drafted to detail the payment terms. These agreements typically include a release provision that absolves the at-fault party of any future legal responsibility.
Once all conditions are met, including signatures from both parties, their respective attorneys, and the involved insurance companies, the settlement is finalized.
If Negotiations are Unsuccessful
If negotiations between your attorney and the other party’s insurance company fail to result in a fair settlement, your lawyer may advise filing a lawsuit and proceeding with a court case.
Fighting for compensation in court can be a lengthy and complex process, but it may be necessary to ensure that you receive adequate compensation for your losses.
Filing Your Complaint on Time
Please remember that each state has a time limit for filing a personal injury lawsuit, and South Carolina is no different. South Carolina Code §15-3-530 gives you three years from the accident date to file a lawsuit. However, certain exceptions could shorten or lengthen this deadline.
Waiting too long to file could result in your case being dismissed, and you may be left without recourse for recovering damages.
Waiting for the Defendant to Respond
Once you file your complaint, the discovery period begins, and you and your attorney will continue to collect evidence on the accident.
In South Carolina, the defendant generally has 30 days from being served to file an answer.
After receiving the defendant’s answer, the court will create a scheduling order, setting forth important litigation steps and deadlines. Settlement negotiations may continue even after you have filed with the court.
Proceeding to Litigation
Most insurance companies will agree to settle for a reasonable amount rather than take their chances in court. However, your attorney can fight for you in court if a fair settlement agreement cannot be reached.
If you cannot agree with the other party, your case will proceed to litigation. A lawyer will then present your case to a jury during a trial.
Some trials can go on for months, while others quickly reach a verdict. Unfortunately, there is no telling how long your case will take to resolve.
Getting Started Right Away
Understanding the steps in your car accident case can make the wait more bearable. However, it’s best to get started immediately while evidence remains available and memories of the accident are fresh. Also, the sooner you contact a lawyer, the sooner you can collect the compensation you need to move forward.
If you have been involved in a car accident in South Carolina, don’t let the insurance company take advantage of you. The Thumbs Up Guys at Miller, Dawson, Sigal & Ward are here to protect your rights and get you the compensation you deserve, whether through an insurance settlement or court verdict.
Contact us today for a free consultation.