For years, the diligent lawyers at Peake & Fowler have been focusing their entire practice on representing injury clients. It is what we do, it is all we do and we do it well. We have a deep understanding of the ins and outs of South Carolina personal injury law. More importantly we care about our community. Our accident attorneys have built their lives in the Columbia area. We work hard to make sure our neighbors are afforded every protection of the law.
Handling a wide variety of personal injury cases in and around Columbia, SC
From car crashes to nursing home abuse our knowledgeable injury lawyers have seen it all. We know the devastation a bad accident or serious injury causes a family. We diligently work to secure maximum compensation on our clients’ behalf. Our South Carolina personal injury attorneys handle all the messy legal details so you can focus on rebuilding your life.
We handle motor vehicle cases involving:
- Auto accidents—including T-bone, rear-end, front-end, sideswipe, multi-car, and all other types of accidents. Auto accidents are often caused by driver negligence stemming from speeding, distracted driving, intoxication, and other careless behaviors.
- Motorcycle accidents—including accidents that leave the rider with broken bones, road rash, traumatic brain injuries, and more. Motorcyclists are often at the mercy of drivers of larger vehicles. When those motorists drive recklessly, the motorcyclist’s life could be in danger.
- Truck collisions—including accidents caused by fatigued, distracted, impaired, or otherwise reckless truckers. Incompetent truck drivers can wreak havoc on the road, leaving helpless injury victims to suffer after an accident occurs.
- Pedestrian accidents—including collisions that occur in crosswalks, sidewalks, the side of the road, and other kinds of accidents. Negligent drivers who fail to follow basic road laws leave pedestrians vulnerable to catastrophic injuries that could change their lives forever.
- Bicycle accidents– including collisions that occur on sidewalks, the side of the road, or in other locations. Negligent drivers who fail to follow basic road laws leave cyclists vulnerable to catastrophic injuries that could leave them suffering with long term injuries or even death.
- School and playground accidents– We can help in instances where your child is injured at school or a playground.
- Uninsured motorist claims—including claims involving uninsured or underinsured drivers and hit-and-run accidents. If a driver without adequate insurance caused an accident, please do not fret. We can help you recover compensation under your own uninsured motorist insurance coverage or by other means.
- Boating Accidents – there are plenty of beautiful lakes and rivers nearby. Many of our residents love to go boating, but it can be dangerous. If you’ve been injured in a boating accident, visit us to schedule a free consultation.
- Premises Liability – incidents like slip and fall, or any incident where you have been injured on someone els’e property.
We also handle the following additional types of accidents:
- Workplace accidents—including falls from scaffolding, equipment malfunction, being struck by falling objects, and more. Our workers’ compensation attorneysare well-versed in handling a wide range of workplace accident claims.
- Nursing home accidents—including abuse and neglect cases involving physical, sexual, and financial exploitation. Our elderly loved ones trust us to take care of them—let our lawyers uphold their right to be treated with respect.
- Wrongful death—including deaths caused by auto accidents, slip and falls, workplace accidents, and more. When a loved one is killed by another’s reckless behavior, you deserve to get justice on their behalf.
Types of injuries
Tragically, many of our clients are seriously injured because of another person’s reckless actions. In situations involving catastrophic injuries, your life may be altered forever.
Common kinds of injuries our clients sustain include:
- Brain injuries
- Burn injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Loss of limb
- Internal bleeding
- Severe bruising
Common questions about filing a personal injury claim in South Carolina
Most of our clients come into our office knowing next to nothing about the law. They have never been in this situation before. They have many unanswered questions. We understand and are ready to explain what needs to done.
How long do I have to file my claim?
Throughout South Carolina, you typically have three years from the date of the injury or the date of the discovery of the injury to file a personal injury claim. If the claim is against a government entity, you typically only have two years to file.
My child was injured. Can I file a lawsuit on his/her behalf?
Yes. You generally have until the child turns 19 years old to file a lawsuit on his or her behalf. In a child personal injury case, you’ll generally have two suits. One is for the parents, which compensates them for medical bills, property damage, and cost associated with caring for their child. The other lawsuit would be for the child, to compensate him or her for pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and other non-economic damages.
How much money is my case worth?
While no one can guarantee you a specific dollar amount, the experienced personal injury attorneys at Peake & Fowler can break down what types of damages you may receive. In South Carolina, you may be entitled to economic compensation for:
- Medical expenses — past, present, and future
- Lost wages — past, present, and future
- Loss of earning ability
- Property damage caused by the accident
You could also be awarded “non-economic” damages
- Emotional and mental distress
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Punitive damages
Are there limits on how much money I can win?
In South Carolina, there are limits on the amount of money you can be awarded in a medical malpractice case. This does not apply to a standard personal injury case, such as one stemming from a car accident or workplace accident.
However, as far as a personal injury cases are concerned, punitive damages can be unlimited or capped, depending upon the facts of the case. When capped, punitive damages are limited to either 1) the greater of three times actual damages, or $500,000, or 2) four times the amount of compensatory damages, or $2,000.000. Punitive damages are additional monies given to the victim if the at-fault party acted particularly egregiously.
Negotiating a Full and Fair Settlement for Your Injuries
Here are five keys for successfully negotiating a full and fair settlement with the insurance company:
It is not uncommon to receive a settlement offer from the insurance company very early in the process. Insurers know that finances are usually tight shortly after an accident, and they know that many individuals are motivated to get a settlement check right away. The problem is that these offers are typically for far less than your claim is worth. In fact, at this point in the process, it may not even be possible to know what the claim is worth, because you may not know the full extent of your injuries. Be patient and do not accept the first offer that comes your way.
Fully Document all of your Losses
The insurance company is not just going to accept your word for how much you have lost because of the injury you suffered. You need to keep track of all of your economic losses, such as medical expenses and days missed from work. In addition, it is important to remember that a large part of your claim will be for the physical pain and suffering you have had to endure, the emotional impact the injury has had on you, and the impact the injury has had on your quality of life. For this reason, it is a good idea to keep a daily journal in which you can record how you feel physically and emotionally each day, as well as write down activities that you have not been able to participate in because of the injury.
Follow all of your Doctor’s Recommendations
Be sure to do everything your physician tells you to; such as having tests done, obtaining treatments, visiting specialists, refraining from various activities, etc. You have a duty to mitigate the damages caused by the accident or incident, and this means you need to take reasonable steps to minimize the extent of your injuries as much as possible.
Have an Amount in Mind you are Willing to Settle For
When you enter any type of negotiation process, you should have a minimum amount in mind that you are willing to take as the settlement. This figure is for your information only, and there is no need to share it with anyone except those closest to you. The figure you arrive at should be determined by what you believe the case is worth after calculating both your economic and non-economic losses.
Be Careful about Stalling Tactics
If you reach an impasse with the insurance adjuster, one way they might deal with this is to stop communicating with you for long periods of time. This is usually done for two reasons – to frustrate you into giving up and accepting their lower offer; or if you don’t come back to the table, to “run out the clock” on the statute of limitations for filing a personal injury lawsuit.
In South Carolina, for example, the statute of limitations for most personal injury actions is three years. And while this may seem like a lot of time, it can go by quickly if you are not hearing from the insurance company for several months at a time. If the insurance company “goes dark” during negotiations, get in touch with an experienced personal injury lawyer right away.
Strategies to Protect and Manage Your Personal Injury Settlement
Create a Comprehensive Plan, Whether Your Settlement is Large or Small
You know exactly what your personal injury settlement should pay for and how long it has to last. Before you touch a penny of the money you now have, come up with a detailed plan for it. If it is a small settlement, you may be able to do this without professional assistance. However, if you have secured a life-changing amount of money, you should talk to a financial professional. Your plan should cover the expenses your settlement must cover, how much you should have available for emergencies, how much to put away for the future, and what you have available to spend.
Turn to a Financial Advisor
as we talked about in the previous point, those who win large settlements should make it a priority to talk to a financial advisor. Even the most careful spender can find themselves chipping away at their settlement over time, with no real plan of how to preserve it. Your advisor can help you determine what your goals are moving forward and the best ways to accomplish these goals. They may have you invest a significant portion of your funds, use it to purchase assets that create residual income, or otherwise save it so it is available for future emergencies or medical needs.
Avoid Being Too Open About Your Claim
With social media, it’s tempting to share every facet of your life online. Don’t do that when it comes to a personal injury claim. You may think that you’re just sharing your journey with people who care about you, but when you get a large settlement, it is amazing how many people tend to come out of the woodwork with their hands out. This puts you in the uncomfortable position of spending your settlement on other people or losing friends and family members because of their greed. If you keep it secret, you can use your settlement how and when you want.
Wait on Major Decisions
The process of settling a personal injury claim can be stressful and overwhelming, and getting a fair settlement is definitely cause for relief. But don’t make the mistake of letting your relief dictate how that money is spent. After months of lawyer meetings and phone calls, you may want to go out and immediately treat everyone you love to an extravagant meal or give them a large gift. For your own benefit, please wait on any type of spending.
Do Not Commingle Funds
If you are at risk of bankruptcy or garnishment, take steps to protect your settlement from seizure. This means keeping your settlement funds completely separate from income from other sources. The best way to do this is to open a new account to put the money into. If your other money and your settlement money mix at all, you may be putting these funds at risk.
What to Look for When Hiring a Personal Injury Attorney
Here are some of the most important questions to ask a personal injury lawyer you are considering hiring:
- How many years have you been practicing?
Every lawyer was new at some point, but you probably do not want to put your claim in the hands of someone who is fresh out of law school. Ideally, you want to work with an attorney who has been around for a while. Now, more experience does not necessarily equate to better representation. Be sure to check out their ratings and reviews as well to find out what others say about the representation the firm has provided in the past.
- What percentage of your practice is devoted to personal injury law?
Personal injury is a very complex area of the law that encompasses countless different types of accidents and events. Preferably, you want to work with a firm that focuses primarily (or exclusively) on personal injuries.
- How many cases like mine has your firm handled in the past?
An attorney or firm that is primarily focused on personal injury law will most likely have dealt with a wide range of cases, and chances are, they will have handled a case like yours. Ask this question anyway though so you can find this out for sure. Confirm that they are familiar with your situation, and also be sure to ask about the outcome of prior cases like yours. Ultimately, you are looking for a firm with a successful track record securing favorable outcomes for other clients who have been in your shoes.
- How often do you take cases to trial?
This is a very important question to ask. While it is generally preferable to settle a claim before it goes to trial, your lawyer should have extensive litigation experience and the proven ability to successfully try the case. If a lawyer never goes to trial, then the other side has no incentive to offer you a reasonable settlement. This means that you will probably end up having to settle for far less than you deserve.
- Will you be able to dedicate the resources necessary to bring my case to a successful conclusion?
Along the same lines as the previous question, you need to get a feel for how much energy the firm will put into your case. With some firms, a case may fall to the bottom of the priority list when unexpected complications arise, and this where experience and focus make the difference. You want to work with a lawyer and legal team that understands and anticipates obstacles, knows how to overcome them, and is committed to winning your case.
During the injury claims process, there are a lot of potential pitfalls, and a single misstep can jeopardize your ability to recover the just compensation you deserve. Here are five crucial mistakes you should avoid making while you are pursuing a personal injury claim:
- Delaying Medical Treatment
Any time you are involved in an accident, you should get medical treatment right away, even if you do not feel like you are injured. Sometimes, the adrenaline rush during the heat of a traumatic event masks the effects of an injury, and you may not start to feel it until several hours or even a few days later. Whether your injuries are minor or severe, they must be evaluated by a medical professional and fully documented so you can prove a causal relationship between them and the accident or event they resulted from. You also have a legal duty to mitigate your losses from a personal injury, and this means getting treated for your injuries as early as possible.
During the coronavirus pandemic, getting proper medical care has been an issue. It is not so much that the hospitals and clinics lack the capacity, it is more that injury victims are understandably apprehensive about seeing a doctor with the possibility of COVID-19 patients being in the facility. It is important to understand, however, that medical facilities are taking every reasonable precaution to keep their patients safe. For example, everyone is wearing masks, surfaces are continually sanitized, and patients are kept at least a 6-foot distance from each other. Although there is always a slight risk of catching a virus when you go out, the risks are much greater if you do not get the medical treatment you need.
- Exaggerating or Embellishing your Accident or Injuries
It may be tempting to exaggerate the severity of the accident and/or the extent of your injuries, but this is always a bad idea. If you fail to tell the truth, you will always be trying to keep your story straight, which could come back to haunt you later on. Keep in mind that insurance companies are large organizations whose goal is to pay you as little as possible for your injuries. They have well-funded investigative teams, and they are very good at uncovering any information that is available that might help their case and hurt yours.
- Signing a Release from the Insurance Company
Be very careful about any paperwork you are asked to sign from the insurance company. For example, you may be asked to sign a medical release, and it may be presented to you as a “formality” that is needed to get your medical bills paid and move forward with your claim. The problem is that the fine print within the release might give the insurer the right to look at your entire medical history, and the only reason they would want to do that is to uncover something that can be used to claim that the injury you suffered did not result from the accident their client caused.
- Handling the Case on your Own
At the risk of sounding self-serving, we believe there is a strong case to be made for hiring an attorney to handle your personal injury claim rather than trying to do it on your own. As we talked about earlier, the insurance company dedicates their vast resources toward ensuring that their losses are mitigated, and their interests are not aligned with yours. With so much at stake, it is extremely important to have a strong legal advocate in your corner who is looking out for your best interests. An experienced personal injury attorney will be able to handle all the complexities involved with your case from start to finish and give you advice and counsel along the way. Having a lawyer with proven litigation experience will also show the insurance company that you are serious about going to trial if necessary, and this factor alone will most likely motivate them to give you a much better settlement offer than you would otherwise receive.
- Discussing your Case with Anyone other than Your Attorney
Under no circumstance should you discuss your personal injury claim with anyone other than your lawyer. This includes the other party (or parties) involved, representatives from the insurance company, or even your best friend. One mistake far too many people make is to continue being active on social media while they are in the middle of a personal injury claim. But as we mentioned previously, insurance companies have professional investigators who are very good at uncovering social media posts that might be damaging; such as comments you make about the accident or photos of you and your family relaxing and enjoying a vacation. Take a break from social media for a while, and do not talk about your case with anyone other than your attorney.
Peake & Fowler Law Firm, P.A., is located in Columbia, SC and serves clients in and around Newberry, Lexington, Sumter, Allendale, Orangeburg, St. Matthews, Bishopville, Florence, Blythewood, State Park, Eastover, Columbia, Elgin, Irmo, Hopkins, Ridgeway, Lugoff, Ballentine, West Columbia, Kershaw, Camden, Dusty Bend, and Richland County, Lexington County, Calhoun County, Orangeburg County, Sumter County, Kershaw County, Newberry County, Fairfield County, Lee County, Clarendon County and Florence County.