When Does a Car Accident Go to Court in South Carolina?

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Car accident cases usually settle outside of court, typically in a process known as mediation that involves the at-fault party, the victim, insurance companies, and lawyers.

Occasionally, however, car accident cases end up going to trial. If you or a loved one has been in a wreck, you may be asking: how often do car accident cases go to court? The Rock Hill auto accident lawyers of Schiller & Hamilton are here to seek the compensation you deserve, regardless of whether that is through settlement or trial. Here, we explain what you need to know about both.

How Often Do Car Accident Cases Settle Out of Court?

There are millions of car accidents each year throughout the country. Many of them involve serious claims of catastrophic injury and significant damages such as medical bills, lost wages, property damage, and more.

If all of these lawsuits went to trial, the court system would be overwhelmed. Insurance companies would have to pay large sums of money awarded by juries who are sympathetic to the victim. Lawyers on both sides would be entangled in litigation for months or even years, not counting appeals. Victims would be stuck waiting for trial dates to be added to already-packed court dockets.

For these reasons, car accident trials are notably rare. It is in everyone’s interests — the victim, the defendant, the lawyers, the insurance companies, and the general public who need access to the courts — to settle cases where possible.

Settlements usually bring the car accident claim to a definitive end, because in exchange for accepting compensation, the victim waives the right to pursue further legal action.

Insurance companies and personal injury lawyers also have extensive experience handling these matters. They can usually determine fairly early on whether and under what conditions a settlement is likely. Their ability to weigh the benefits of settlement versus the risks of trial is almost second nature.

In the vast majority of cases, a fair settlement is possible because the attorneys and insurers can evaluate the evidence, determine the value of the case, and negotiate accordingly. The accident victim is encouraged to accept a fair settlement rather than spend time, money, and stress with protracted litigation.

When Do Car Accidents Go to Court?

Despite the benefits of settlement and the best efforts of lawyers and insurers, a small percentage of car accident claims do end up in court. A trial is more likely to happen if any of the following factors are present:

  • Significant damages: If the victim has incurred exceptionally high damages such as hospital bills and months of lost wages, he or she is going to rightly expect to be compensated for these losses. High stakes such as these can make a trial seem more attractive.
  • Significant non-economic damages: Pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of life are examples of non-economic damages. Because the value of these is more subjective, insurance companies are usually more reluctant to agree to pay them.
  • Disagreement over fault: The defendant may not only dispute his or her fault but might try to pin blame for the accident on the victim. Indeed, if the victim was partially liable for the crash, his or her damages can be reduced. This gives the defendant’s lawyers and insurers an incentive to resist settlement.
  • Complex questions of liability: Not all car accidents involve simply a victim and an at-fault driver. There may be multiple parties who could share blame such as other motorists, vehicle manufacturers, and even government entities. A court may need to resolve these questions.
  • Novel legal issues: Either the attorney for the victim or for the defendant may push an unusual legal theory in defense of their position in the case. Since the success or failure of such a theory could impact other cases, the lawyers may want the judge to set a precedent by issuing a ruling.
  • At-fault driver has no insurance: If the driver who caused the wreck has no insurance, the victim may need to take court action to seize the driver’s assets. Moreover, the victim may explore whether other parties might share fault, which could cause those parties to push back.
  • Stubborn or unrealistic expectations and attitudes: The victim may incorrectly believe that the accident is worth far more than it is, and therefore refuse to accept a reasonable settlement offer. Conversely, the at-fault driver may not want to accept any responsibility or the consequences that come with it, like higher insurance premiums.
  • Bad faith insurance negotiations: Insurers are known for using various tactics to try to pay the victim as little as possible or even deny the claim altogether. If the defendant’s insurance company refuses to negotiate in good faith, a trial may be inevitable.

Our Car Accident Lawyers Are Ready for Trial

At Schiller & Hamilton, we work hard to settle car accident cases in amounts that are fair and reasonable for our clients. Our approach involves:

  • Conducting a thorough investigation to uncover the relevant evidence and identify all at-fault parties
  • Taking the necessary steps to assign a fair dollar value to your case
  • Accounting for future damages you may reasonably be expected to incur, such as decreased earning ability
  • Relying on expert witnesses to substantiate your allegations and the amount of damages demanded
  • Putting our considerable experience to work for you to negotiate and hopefully settle in mediation

Settlement is always preferable because trials take longer and there’s an element of uncertainty as to what a jury may decide. Nonetheless, we stand ready to litigate aggressively on behalf of our clients to win them every dollar of compensation they deserve. We understand the laws, the court process, and what it takes to present a compelling argument.

Contact Our Auto Accident Attorneys in South Carolina

When you work with Schiller & Hamilton, if a settlement is not possible in your case, then we are not afraid to take it to court and stand up against the insurance companies and lawyers on the other side. That’s the level of service you can expect from our dedicated legal team.

To learn more about when a car accident goes to court or to get started on your claim, give us a call at 843-379-5006 or complete our online form.

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