A motor vehicle accident in Charleston County, South Carolina brought up some interesting issues regarding liability for defendants in a civil lawsuit where the victim experiences some kind of abnormal injury.
A family from Seneca, South Carolina was awarded a large amount of damages due to the death of their young boy who had some rare health problems. The defendant’s vehicle violated a traffic law by continuing through a stop sign in Charleston, when he should have yielded to the victim’s vehicle. Most of the damage was done to the vehicle, and the occupants escaped without any kind of significant injuries.
Jury agrees with plaintiff that lost time with their child had a significant monetary value
The plaintiff’s family had a very young son who was diagnosed with myelomonocytic Leukemia in 2014, then died at the age of 2 while staying at the Medical University of South Carolina. This is a rare form of the disease that only affects about 80 children throughout the entire United States each year.
However, the family was also involved in a car accident in the months before his death. They were using a rental car and dealing with various issues caused by the accident on the day their child died.
A jury in Charleston County awarded just under $150,000 worth of damages related to the time that the family lost with their child.
The initial crash happened in a coastal part of South Carolina when the family was on the road to take their child for medical treatments related to his condition. A man from Isle of Palms collided with their vehicle, and the lawsuit claims that the process of having to deal with State Farm and other problems caused by the accident took away from the valuable time that the family had together before the child would pass from his rare illness. The jury eventually agreed with this argument made by the plaintiff’s attorney.
State Farm was not joined as a defendant, because under South Carolina law, only the party who is actually at fault can be brought to civil court, not the insurance provider. This is commonly called the at-fault rule in states that follow this doctrine, which means that the insurance company cannot become the defendant in a civil lawsuit related to any motor vehicle crash. This puts the entire burden for all damages on the defendant.
The attorney for the plaintiff’s family convinced the jury that by running through a stop sign and hitting the family’s vehicle, part of their losses were the time that could have been spent dealing with their dying child rather than the insurance and legal processes. The attorneys for the defense did not respond to any comments or media requests. State Farm also declined to issue any statements related to the lawsuit.
The underlying reason for the case was the time consuming and tedious nature of the property damage claim that resulted from the accident. The amount of money that they received related to this damage claim turned out to only be 37 cents a minute based on the time they spent on the phone and filing paperwork. Their attorney brought this data point to the jury’s attention and made them realize how absurd it was that they spend their time with these tedious tasks rather than with their dying son.
The family did not actually sustain any serious or noteworthy injuries in the crash. The damages were mostly related to inconvenience. The jury quantified the amount of time they lost with their son over about 250 days to come up with their damage award that was close to $150,000.
Another important point related to the accident was the sudden change in the young boy’s health. The family’s son had been receiving positive feedback in the months before the collision, then those diagnoses abruptly changed after the accident.
The family released a statement that they were thankful that a local news network in Greenville took their story and that justice was served through the local court system.
Liability for a plaintiff who has exceptional injuries and health problems
In tort law, there are a number of cases related to the “eggshell skull” theory. This means that the defendant is responsible for all losses caused by their negligence, even if the victim is exceptionally fragile or subject to injury, because they are ultimately at fault for the accident regardless of the damages. Damages are normally the most important element of a civil negligence case because someone who is severely injured or incapacitated will require permanent medical care, and the defendant has to pay for all of the costs associated with these losses.
Talk to a local attorney after an accident
There are lawyers in Charleston and nearby parts of South Carolina who serve local people with representation related to motor vehicle collisions and related problems that may factor into a civil lawsuit. To learn more, contact The Clekis Law Firm.