"Personal Injury" (or "tort") law is the area of law that allows people injured by others' negligent behavior (or, in some cases, by the use of a defective product) to be financially compensation for the harm they suffered. The goal of personal injury law is to make an injured person "whole" again—as much as that can be accomplished through monetary awards.
In order to qualify for compensation, a person must be able to prove that he or she suffered some harm, and that another person (or company) caused that harm. The injured person must also be able to prove the extent of the damage—whether the harm consisted of pain and suffering, medical bills, bills for related property damage, or wages lost due to the injury (including, in some cases, future wages). While some costs can be established with a fair amount of certainty, other amounts are open to interpretation: for example, how does one place a monetary value on the permanent disfigurement of a face, or evaluate how much money a student would have earned in the workforce if not for a brain injury suffered, perhaps, in a car accident?
States place limits on the period of time during which an injured person can seek compensation following an injury. Those time limits, imposed by law, are called "statutes of limitations"; they vary from state to state. Any person who needs and wants to pursue a personal injury claim must be aware that the passage of time not only makes it more difficult to gather the evidence needed to prove that claim, but may even bar their claim completely.
In addition, people accused of negligence or of producing a defective product that injured a user have a number of defenses available to them. One such defense is the argument that the injured party acted negligently as well, and should be held responsible for at least part of the resulting harm. Most states follow the theory of "comparative negligence," which means that if the injured party is determined to have been responsible for a certain percentage of the harm, that party's recovery (the monetary "damages" awarded or reached by settlement) will be reduced by that same percentage. South Carolina follows this rule, provided the person seeking compensation is not more than 50% at fault.
North Carolina, however, is currently one of the very few states in the nation that applies the theory of "contributory negligence." This concept holds that a person whose own negligence contributed (however slightly) to his or her injury will not be allowed to recover anything from another person, even though that other person's negligence may have been the overwhelming factor in causing clearly-proven harm.
At Lee Law Offices, we represent people injured in North and South Carolina. We never work for big businesses or for insurance companies. Our lawyers charge no fee unless a client's case is won. If you have been injured and would like to discuss your case with an experienced personal injury attorney, please check the "Practice Area" pages relevant to your situation, and contact a lawyer at our firm today.