What Lawyers Use to Evaluate Your Auto Accident Injury Case (3 Most Important Criteria)
- André Rembert
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In South Carolina, personal injury attorneys, across the board, use three main criteria to determine if your case is worth taking when they review your car wreck case. Knowing if you meet those criteria will help you get an idea of the potential success of your case
Were You at Fault?
Simply put, if you were at fault in the accident, that most like prevents you from having a case. Fault is not determined by you though, nor by the other driver. A preliminary way it is determined is by the police officer at the scene. Never admit fault to him. Not only can doing so potentially increase your liability, but, often times you may not be aware of all the facts of the accident (e.g. they were looking down at their phone, perhaps), or simply have gotten them wrong (e.g. you may have had the right of way but thought you didn't). The police officer's job is to know how to reconstruct the conditions of the accident to determine who was at fault. He will issue a form to you and the other driver called an FR-10. On it, he will indicate who he believed to be at fault (highlighted yellow in the photo below).
If you are listed as not contributing to the collision, you potentially have a case (depending on the next question below). While there are times that the officer makes a mistake and incorrectly names a driver at fault when he was not, being listed as at fault on the FR-10 usually means you do not have a case.
On the other hand, if you’re certain you were not at fault despite what the officer put on the FR-10, you definitely want to talk to a lawyer to get it resolved. The insurance company is going to stick to the FR-10 determination.
Were You Hurt?
If you were hurt in an accident you didn't cause, then you most likely have a case. It's as simple as that.
If you were not hurt in the accident and didn't go to get yourself checked out by a medical professional afterwards, most lawyers will not take your case, even if someone else caused the accident. South Carolina law does not permit you to recover if someone runs into your car and you are fine afterwards. Their insurance does have to pay for the damage to your vehicle, but in order for you to receive additional payment, you must have been injured in the accident.
Regardless of if you were hurt or not, it is only prudent to get yourself checked out as soon as possible by a medical professional if you were in an accident. Injuries are not always immediately evident and can take days or weeks to become noticeable. If you get checked out and get a clean bill of health, then the at-fault driver's insurance company will pay for the medical treatment you received. If they refuse to do so, an injury attorney may be able to help you.
Is There Visible Damage to Your Vehicle?
While the other two criteria are necessary to determine if you have a case, a lawyer will often want to see the damage to your vehicle. This is because, ultimately, he needs to be able to prove your case to a jury, should it proceed to trial. Where someone is claiming significant injury, but there is not visible damage to the car, juries will often find for the defense instead, believing that the plaintiff is faking his or her injuries in order to get paid. While that may not be true, that's a bias that juries have tended to show and so must be taken into account. A lawyer may take your case, even if there isn't significant damage to your vehicle, but in doing so, he may tell you that not having significant damage will probably reduce the amount he can recover for you.
While the three criteria above are by no means the only criteria personal injury lawyers use to evaluate your case, they are the most critical. Not all lawyers weigh the criteria the same, so just because one lawyer decides not to handle your personal injury case, that does not mean that you do not have a case.
At the Rembert Law Firm, we represent you and make sure you get every penny you deserve for your pain and suffering. We have handled cases where we were able to reverse the investigating officer’s preliminary determination of fault. We have handled cases where we were able to recover all the insurance coverage available when there was minimal property damage. Each potential claim or case is different, so call us at 833-REMBERT to have your case reviewed for free.