Articles Posted in Car Accidents

Most issues arising in a South Carolina automobile accident case can be handled in state court. Sometimes, however, a case is filed in federal court. When this happens, a state court may be asked to weigh in on a particular issue of South Carolina law.

This is especially likely in cases involving issues which have not previously been addressed specifically by the state courts.

Facts of the Case

In a recently considered declaratory judgment case, the defendant was a man who, along with his late wife, had been involved in an automobile accident caused by a drunk driver. At the time of the accident, the couple was traveling in a car owned by the late wife’s mother. After the wife passed away from injuries suffered in the accident, the drunk driver’s automobile liability insurance company tendered policy limits to the man as compensation for his personal injuries and his late wife’s injuries and wrongful death. The mother’s uninsured/underinsured motorist carrier also paid policy limits to the man. The man’s own UM/UIM carrier tendered UIM bodily injury limits, but it refused the man’s request for additional funds (to be paid from property damage coverage of the “split limits” policy) for potential punitive damages against the drunk driver. Continue reading

The amount of insurance coverage available in a South Carolina car accident case is one of the most important considerations in determining the overall value of a claim filed by an injured person or the family of an accident victim.

As a practical matter, if there is no insurance, recovery of fair compensation is next to impossible. (Hence the expression, “You can’t get blood out of a turnip.”) But, what happens when the defendant does have liability insurance but the insurance company becomes insolvent?

Facts of the Case

In a case recently considered on appeal, the plaintiffs were the personal representatives of the estate of a truck driver who was killed in a fatal, multi-vehicle accident that occurred in 2008. After a decade of litigation involving several different defendants and multiple theories of liability, the issue before the Bamberg County Circuit Court was the amount of money damages that the defendant insurance guaranty association owed the plaintiffs after one of the insurance companies involved in the case became insolvent. Continue reading

A popular idiomatic phrase goes something like, “Don’t make a federal case out it!” Generally, “making a federal case” out of something means that it has been built up or exaggerated beyond what is reasonable, but, like most common phrases, there is a nugget of truth behind the words.

For instance, a lawsuit arising from a South Carolina truck accident will tend to be more expensive, more time consuming, and more difficult than a similar action filed in state court. For this reason, it is not unusual for a defendant to “remove” a state case to federal court if the federal court has concurrent jurisdiction. Under certain circumstances, the plaintiff may ask the federal court to remand the case to state court.

As one might expect, all of these legal shenanigans can add months, or even years, to the time it takes the plaintiff to recover fair compensation for personal injuries or a loved one’s wrongful death caused by the negligence of the defendant(s).

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In a South Carolina automobile accident case, the plaintiff has the burden of proving that the defendant was negligent – that is, that the defendant’s failure to act in a reasonably prudent manner resulted in damages to the plaintiff.

Once this has been done, the defendant may seek to reduce the jury’s verdict by pointing the finger back at the plaintiff, accusing him or her of also being negligent in causing the accident. It is ultimately up to the jury to decide which side to believe and how much money to award the plaintiff if it finds in his or her favor.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case (unreported), the plaintiff was a woman who was struck by a vehicle as she walked alongside the road. She filed suit against the defendant sheriff department and its employee (who was driving the vehicle that struck her), seeking compensation for her injuries. The Marion County Circuit Court dismissed the employee from the case after finding that he was acting within the course and scope of his official duties as a reserve officer with the defendant sheriff’s department at the time of the accident.

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In a typical South Carolina car accident lawsuit, it is the injured driver or passenger who files suit. However, this is not always the case. Sometimes, an insurance company files what is called a “declaratory judgment action” in order to seek the court’s guidance as to the applicability and/or extent of coverage of a particular claim or set of claims. Such was the situation in a recent appellate case involving a fatal crash that allegedly followed a police chase in Anderson County, South Carolina.

Facts of the Case

In a case filed in the Anderson County Circuit Court and considered by the South Carolina Court of Appeals, the plaintiff was an automobile accident liability insurance company that sought declaratory relief following a fatal, one-vehicle accident that occurred in 2008. According to the plaintiff, its insured and two other individuals were riding as passengers in the vehicle at the time of the crash; one of the passengers was killed, and the insured and the other passenger were catastrophically injured. The driver, who was apparently not a party to the civil lawsuit filed by the plaintiff insurance company against the defendant insured and passengers, was the defendant in a separate criminal case in which he pled guilty to reckless homicide (a felony offense in South Carolina).

According to the plaintiff, the insurance policy in effect at the time of the accident had an exclusion for bodily injury caused by anyone who was operating the covered vehicle while committing a felony or fleeing from a law enforcement officer. The trial court found that the provisions at issue were unenforceable because (1) the insurance company had failed to inform the insured of the exclusions or otherwise place them conspicuously on the insurance policy; (2) the exclusions were ambiguous; and (3) the exclusions violated the state’s public policy of protecting innocent insureds,
namely the three passengers who were deemed not at fault in causing the collision.
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One of the most important types of insurance that is available to South Carolina vehicle owners is uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. When such a policy of insurance is in place, it protects the insured individual in the event of a serious injury collision caused by someone who doesn’t have automobile accident insurance or who has only minimum policy limits.

Unfortunately, insurance companies resist paying uninsured/underinsured motorist claims whenever they can. Sometimes, the denial of coverage is held to be valid by a court, but, other times, it is not. Ultimately, it is up to a judge to decide whether the coverage is applicable given the particular set of facts presented by a given case. If you have sustained injuries in a car crash and wonder whether the driver at fault is either uninsured or underinsured, it is worth your time meeting with a South Carolina car accident attorney as soon as possible.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case arising in the Greenville County Circuit Court, the plaintiff was an insurance company that sought a declaratory judgment as to whether underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage existed under an automobile insurance policy taken out by the defendant, who was the wife and personal representative of the estate of a man who died in a 2016 motorcycle accident caused by another driver. The defendant applied for the policy in 2014, about a year and half prior to her marriage to the decedent. At the time of the application, the defendant completed an “excluded driver endorsement” and listed the decedent as someone who was excluded from coverage under the policy.

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In many South Carolina car accident cases, there is only one real issue: the amount of damages to which the injured party is entitled to receive from the at-fault defendant’s motor vehicle liability insurer.

Sometimes, however, there are other issues, such as how the payment of benefits under other insurance policies – including workers’ compensation insurance, personal injury protection, etc. – factor into the equation. When such dispute cannot be settled among the parties, it is up to the courts to decide.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case, the plaintiff was a woman who was reportedly injured in a work-related motor vehicle accident. Her employer’s workers’ compensation insurance carrier paid some $40,000 in medical expenses related to the accident. After the defendant automobile accident insurance company refused to pay the plaintiff’s personal injury protection (PIP) limit of $5000, the plaintiff and her husband filed suit, asserting claims for breach of contract and bad faith refusal to pay insurance benefits.

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In an ideal world, every consumer would have a thorough understanding of the many different types of car, truck, and motorcycle insurance that may be available to them and be able to make an informed decision about coverage.

Unfortunately, it sometimes takes a South Carolina motor vehicle accident to make people realize that they don’t know as much as they thought that they did about their insurance coverage – and that they don’t have nearly as much coverage as they thought they had.

Realizing that the “full coverage insurance” that you thought you had does not include optional coverage like uninsured motorist coverage can be a very unpleasant discovery, especially if you have been hurt by someone else’s negligence and have medical bills mounting up due to the wreck.

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Proving a case of negligence in a South Carolina car accident case is a four-step process. In order for the defendant to be held liable, the plaintiff must prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care, that the defendant breached that duty, that the plaintiff was harmed, and that there was a link of proximate causation between the breach of duty and the injuries.

If any of the elements is missing, the plaintiff cannot recover money damages against the defendant. Sometimes, disputes arise regarding the admissibility of evidence that the plaintiff proposes to submit on one or more of these issues. When this happens, it is up to the trial court to determine the admissibility of the evidence. If the opposing party so desires, he or she has the option of appealing the trial court’s ruling.

Facts of the Case

There are many scenarios through which a claim for uninsured or underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) insurance benefits may arise. Typically, such a claim happens as a result of a South Carolina car accident in which the negligent driver either had no insurance at all or had only minimum coverage.

However, UM coverage can also apply in other situations, including an occasion in which the claimant is struck by another vehicle while walking as a pedestrian.

Facts of the Case

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