Are Personal Injury Settlements Considered Marital Property in a South Carolina Divorce?

During your marriage – or perhaps at some point in the separation process – you suffered from an injury from an accident. Now you’re dealing with a divorce and a personal injury case at the same time.

You are wondering what will happen if you win your personal injury lawsuit. Will you have to give half of the settlement to your soon to be ex-spouse?

The short answer is – it depends. Learning about the law and hiring a family lawyer to help you with your divorce will help clarify what will happen to you and your settlement.

Dividing Personal Injury Settlements in a Divorce

If you win a personal injury lawsuit, then the economic damages you receive in your settlement can be divided in South Carolina, though not necessarily equally. Your economic damages include compensation for losses such as:

  • Medical bills
  • A car repair
  • Travel expenses
  • Lost income

Even if you are separated, your spouse may still have a claim to part of your economic damages. However, noneconomic damages are a different story.

Noneconomic damages include losses for intangibles such as:

  • Physical pain-and-suffering
  • Mental anguish
  • Psychological distress
  • Loss of enjoyment
  • Disfigurement
  • Permanent injury

It would be far more difficult for your spouse to make a case that they should be entitled to any of your noneconomic damages. After all, these are losses that you alone experienced, and although there is the possibility of recovering damages for loss of consortium/loss of companionship (which would apply to a spouse), this category of damages is far less likely to be awarded in a case in which the couple is divorcing.

The issue of noneconomic damages and the division of property in a divorce comes with a cautionary note. If you were to receive your settlement before the divorce is finalized and comingle the money with other marital funds, then it may become part of the marital estate simply because it is too difficult to separate it out.

For example, let’s say you received a $100,000 personal injury settlement and you decided to use these funds to pay off the mortgage on the marital home and the remaining balances on your auto loan and joint credit cards. Seems like a good idea to get rid of these debts, right? Except that once you have paid off joint debts, your settlement money is spent in all that is left in its place is jointly owned (i.e., marital) property.

Along these same lines, you also need to make sure that your personal injury settlement is itemized, so that you know which damages are for economic losses, and which are noneconomic. Settlements are not always broken down this way, so be certain to ask your attorney about this issue and the best way to handle it.

What if I Conceal My Settlement Money from My Ex-Spouse?

As you might guess, it is never advisable to conceal any assets during a divorce, including funds received from a personal injury settlement. Any type of dishonesty during the divorce proceedings will open you up to a perjury charge, the penalties of which could include monetary fines and even the possibility of spending time in jail for contempt of court.

It is also not a good idea to try and delay your personal injury lawsuit so that you get a settlement after your divorce is finalized. You need to show the court that you’re being honest and straightforward throughout the divorce process. Otherwise, they may have a negative perception of you and you might not get what you deserve from the proceeding.

How Marital Assets Are Divided in South Carolina

In South Carolina, marital assets are divided based on equitable division. Unlike community property states where assets are divided equally, the court will decide how the assets are divided based on a number of factors. For instance, the court will examine your marital assets and debts, your future earning potential and the role each of you played in the marriage (i.e. if one spouse worked while the other took care of the kids).

Only the assets that were earned and accumulated during the marriage will count (with a few exceptions). That would your shared home and car. Any debts you accumulated throughout the marriage would also be part of the marital estate.

If you had assets and debts prior to the marriage, such as a home and student loans, these would generally not count towards equitable division, although many married couples put the home into both spouses’ names, which would then make it part of the marital estate.

You may also need to pay your spouse alimony or child support. Again, the court will weigh a number of different factors to decide who gets what and what the agreements will look like.

Contact Mark Nowell Law Firm

If you’ve been involved in a personal injury case as well as a divorce and are looking for a lawyer with extensive knowledge of both areas of the law, the Mark Nowell Law Firm is here to help. Message us online or call our office today at (864) 469-2481 to schedule a free initial consultation.

What Are the Most Common Types of Car Accidents?

When people are out driving these days, their phones, GPS and other devices could be distracting them from paying attention to the road. They may also try to multi-task and eat a bagel and drink a piping hot coffee while driving to work, or they could be focused on what is happening outside instead of practicing safe driving.

Car accidents happen all the time; in fact, there are about 6 million car accidents in the U.S. each year, which equates to more than 16,000 per day. About 3 million people are nonfatally injured in car accidents each year. Additionally, in South Carolina, there are approximately 1,000 annual traffic fatalities.

Some types of car accidents are more common than others. If you were involved in one of these accidents and got injured, then you should consider hiring a personal injury lawyer who can get you the compensation you deserve.

Single Vehicle Crashes

Single vehicle crashes tend to happen when people run off the road and slam into something, like a telephone pole, or when they turn too fast or start to hydroplane in bad weather. These types of accidents can be very dangerous, especially if the driver is speeding.

Rear-End Collisions

Sometimes drivers don’t slow down fast enough and they end up hitting the car in front of them. Maybe when a light turns green, they instinctively hit the gas instead of waiting for the car ahead of them to go. If a driver is caught in stop-and-go traffic, they may get too close to the car in front and end up slamming into it. No matter what the circumstances are, rear-end collisions are pretty common.

T-Bone Crashes

T-Bone crashes are more dangerous than rear-end collisions because a driver or passenger may feel a direct impact from another car. They usually happen when two drivers decide to go at the same time at a stop sign, or one car speeds through a red light and hits another car going through a green light. A car may also try to go into oncoming traffic but misjudge how much room they have and get into a crash. Depending on how fast the other car is going, this kind of accident could result in a serious injury or fatality.

Multi-Vehicle Crashes

When three or more cars collide, then they are involved in what is called a multi-vehicle crash. These tend to happen on highways where people are speeding and suddenly have to make a stop. Multi-car crashes are extremely dangerous, especially if a truck is also involved in the accident, which often happens if the collision occurs on the highway.

Low-Speed Collisions

Low-speed collisions happen when people are driving at slower speeds and may need to maneuver their car in order to fit into a parking space, for instance. They tend to occur in parking lots where a lot is going on and people may not notice everything happening around them. Typically, these types of car accidents do not cause serious injuries, but they could cause minor pain or whiplash.

What to Do if You’re in a Car Accident

If you got into an auto accident in South Carolina, then you may be entitled to a settlement depending on the circumstances of the case.

When you got into your car accident, you should have filed a police report, taken pictures of the accident scene, obtained witness contact information and taken down the other driver’s insurance and contact information. Then, you should have gone to a medical facility for a full examination and let the doctor know about any injuries you think you sustained.

If your insurance company or the other driver’s insurance company called you to offer you a settlement, you should not accept the initial offer, because they typically offer far less than a plaintiff deserves.

Hiring a Personal Injury Lawyer

A personal injury lawyer will collect your medical and police records for you as well as ensure that you get the right treatment for your injuries. They will fight for you and seek a settlement that will cover your medical bills, car repair bills, loss of income and any pain and suffering you may have experienced. If you were seriously injured, you could receive a substantial sum of money to cover all of your losses.

Your experienced personal injury lawyer will let you know how to proceed with your accident injury claim. This way, you can direct all your focus on getting better and treating your injuries, so you can get back to normal life as soon as possible.

Contact Mark Nowell Law Firm

If you have been involved in a car accident and you are looking for an attorney who will fight for you and your best interests, the Mark Nowell Law Firm is here to help. To get started, call our office today at (864) 469-2481 or message us online for a free consultation and case assessment.

 

 

The Basics of Personal Injury Law

When you get into an accident, you may be entitled to compensation depending on the circumstances of the case. For instance, if another car crashed into yours while you were driving, you could bring a claim for damages, which could include damage to your vehicle and other economic costs, and pain-and-suffering.

If you think you may have an accident injury claim, then you will need to decide whether or not to pursue the claim on your own or hire a personal injury lawyer.

What Is Personal Injury Law?

Personal injury law, which is also referred to as tort law, protects you if you or your property are damaged or injured because of another party’s actions or failure to act. If you initiate a personal injury claim against another party, in the best-case scenario, that party will compensate you for your losses.

The party may also compensate for pain and suffering, which are non-economic damages like emotional and physical stress caused by the accident and/or injury. For example, if you’re a dancer and you suffered a severe injury in a car accident that caused you to put your career on hold, you could collect compensation for the physical pain and the emotional suffering you may be going through along with your medical and car repair bills.

When Would You Need a Personal Injury Lawyer?

If you got into an accident – whether you think it was your fault or not – you should consider hiring a personal injury lawyer to help you pursue the claim. Some of the most common types of accidents and events these lawyers handle include:

  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Slip and fall accidents
  • Medical malpractice
  • Animal bites and attacks

You may also file a personal injury claim if you:

  • Bought a defective product and it caused injury.
  • Someone intentionally harmed you.
  • Another person defamed you.

What Kind of Proof Do You Need to Win a Personal Injury Case?

To ensure the success of a personal injury case, you should have photos and documentation of the accident, including police and insurance reports, as well as your medical records from any doctors you went to who treated your injury. If you spoke to any witnesses, you should have their accounts of the incident as well. Your lawyer will work with you to gather all of the important facts and pieces of evidence to help substantiate your claim.

How a Personal Injury Case Typically Goes

Once Person A injures Person B, Person B will find a personal injury lawyer to represent them as a plaintiff against Person A, the defendant. The plaintiff’s lawyer will work to come up with proof that the defendant is responsible for the injury.

If it is determined that the plaintiff is indeed responsible, then usually, the plaintiff/their insurance company, if applicable, will settle out of court for a sum of money. There are times, however, when a reasonable settlement cannot be reached, and the best course of action is to bring the case to trial.

Even if the case does end up going to court, they can still reach a settlement before the trial begins. Litigation is costly, time consuming, and unpredictable. For this reason, it is generally in everyone’s best interests to settle a case before a trial starts. Sometimes, however, it takes the credible threat of trial for the other side to make a fair offer.

Hiring a Personal Injury Lawyer

Many people wonder when it is appropriate to hire a personal injury lawyer, and when is it better to handle the case on their own. First of all, it never hurts to at least speak with an attorney to review the specifics of your case. Most personal injury attorneys provide free consultations, so this is a good opportunity for you to find out what your legal rights and options are, so you can make the most informed decision on how you wish to proceed.

If you have minor injuries and the insurance company has made you an offer that you believe is fair, then you might be fine just to accept the offer and move on with your life. However, if you have moderate to severe injuries and/or there are any complicating factors in your case – such as multiple parties involved or a question over who was at fault – then you are probably better off hiring a lawyer.

A personal injury lawyer will help you navigate the complexities of the case and work toward recovering the maximum compensation available. Most of them work on a contingency fee basis, meaning you do not have to pay them any upfront fees to take your case – they only get paid if they win your case.

Although your lawyer will take a percentage of the settlement for their fee, studies show that injured parties who are represented by a lawyer recover more than four times more in compensation (on average) than those who handle claims on their own.

Contact Mark Nowell Law Firm

If you or a loved one got injured because of the negligent or reckless actions or omissions of another party in South Carolina, the Nowell Law Firm is here to help. Message us online or call our Spartanburg office today at (864) 469-2481 for a free consultation and case assessment.

 

 

What Is a Personal Injury Journal and Why Should I Use One?

If you are injured in a vehicle accident or suffer any other type of injury at the hands of another party, you will need strong evidence to prove the extent of the losses you have suffered. This may include not only direct monetary losses such as medical expenses, lost earnings, and property damage, but also noneconomic losses such as pain-and-suffering, psychological distress, and loss of enjoyment.

Economic damages are fairly easy to prove, there are receipts for medical bills and car repairs, and you will usually have a pretty good idea of how much earning capacity you have lost during the time you missed from work. Noneconomic damages, however, are more intangible and difficult to quantify.

For example, in order to show the extent of the physical pain you are experiencing and the emotional trauma you are dealing with as you face an uncertain future, it is important to describe it in detail. The challenge is that most of us have a hard time remembering how we are feeling from day to day, and because recovering from an injury is a roller coaster ride full of ups and downs, it may be difficult to recall everything you have gone through after some time has passed. This is where a personal injury journal can be very helpful.

What is a Personal Injury Journal?

A personal injury journal is an account of your injury, how it happened, what has happened since your injury, and how it has affected your life. This could be a written journal or an electronic journal that you keep on your computer. If you are physically unable to use either of these formats, you can record an audible journal using the voice recorder on your smartphone. Your personal injury journal should be as detailed as possible and describe the most important things about your injury and recovery process. You should make journal entries regularly, daily if possible, or as often as your lawyer advises you to.

What Should I Include in My Personal Injury Journal?

Here are some of the most important things you should document in your personal injury journal:

  • Details About How the Injury Happened: Document the time, date, and location of the accident or event that caused the injury. Describe what happened immediately before, during, and after the event, who was involved, who witnessed the event, contact information of witnesses, contact information of the police officer who came to the scene and created a report, and any statements and/or actions you observed the responsible party making.
  • Medical Appointments: You may be seeing multiple health professionals as you try to recover from your injury, such as an ER doctor, physician, surgeon, chiropractor, physical therapist, and psychologist. Note in your journal the date you saw each professional and the details of each visit.
  • Medications and Treatments: The health professionals you are seeing will most likely prescribe various medications and treatments. Take note of each of these, dates they were prescribed, dosages, and other important details.
  • Time Out of Work: If your injury has kept you from going to your job, note each day that you have missed work and approximately how much you have lost in earnings and benefits as a result.
  • Pain and Discomfort that you have Experienced: Take note each day or as often as you can how you are feeling both physically and emotionally. Describe in as much detail as possible the pain, discomfort, and psychological distress that you are experiencing because of the injury.
  • How the Injury has Affected your Life: Take note of the ways in which your injury has diminished your quality of life. How has it inhibited your mobility? What favorite activities are you no longer able to enjoy? What tasks that used to be simple and easy are now difficult or impossible? What special events have you missed out on because of your injury? How has your injury burdened your loved ones or prevented you from taking care of them?

How Will a Personal Injury Journal Help my Case?

If you have suffered any type of personal injury, keeping a journal will provide a first-hand account that documents the full extent of the losses you have suffered in an organized manner. Having a personal injury journal will strengthen your case, because it will allow your legal counsel to demonstrate in great detail the many ways that the injury has impacted your life.

Contact a South Carolina Personal Injury Lawyer to Discuss Your Case

If you or a loved one suffered injury because of the actions of another party, it is best to speak with a skilled and knowledgeable personal injury attorney as soon as possible, so you understand your rights and options, and so they can get to work right away on your case. Your attorney can advise you on important matters such as keeping a personal injury journal, and they can provide the strong legal guidance you need to bring your case to a successful conclusion.

In Spartanburg, SC or the surrounding communities, contact the Nowell Law Firm for assistance. Call our office today at (864) 469-2481 or message us online for a free consultation and case assessment.

 

 

How will the COVID 19 Pandemic Impact Accident Injury Claims?

The coronavirus outbreak that has ravished our country and the world will impact every area of our society in one way or another. Although some people may be immune to the virus, no one is immune to the effects of it. And this includes those who have been injured in a car accident or suffered some other type of personal injury.

The South Carolina courts have temporarily suspended all jury trials until the COVID-19 situation subsides, and emergency hearings and other proceedings are being done at the discretion of each local court. Many of these can be done by telephone or videoconferencing, and with anything that happens in a live courtroom, only the participants, their attorneys, and the judge are allowed to be present.

At the Nowell Law Firm, we want you to know that, although the court processes have been delayed, we are still here, and we are well-equipped to successfully represent our clients just as we have been prior to this unprecedented outbreak. We are taking all of the precautions and following all of the social distancing guidelines, and we are performing many of our tasks remotely these days. But rest assured, we have the technology and resources to continue pursuing justice on behalf of each client we serve.

How the Coronavirus Outbreak may Affect Personal Injury Cases

With most of the country under a “stay-at-home” order, there are far fewer cars on the road, which we presume will result in a drop in car crashes while all of this is ongoing. At the same time, however, there are more people out walking and riding their bikes since the gyms are closed and these are among the physical activities that are still allowed. This could heighten the risk of bicycle and pedestrian accidents, which can often result in more serious injuries.

There are still as many (or perhaps more) large commercial trucks on the roadways carrying groceries and other essential supplies to the stores. In addition, many of these drivers are overworked and under a lot of stress, which could heighten the risk of trucking accidents.

COVID-19 might also present some challenges to personal injury victims that they might not otherwise have to deal with, particularly with regards to obtaining medical treatment and securing fair compensation for their injuries.

Medical Treatment

When someone is injured in an accident, they should get immediate medical attention for their injuries. In a traumatic event like a car accident, an ambulance is usually called to the scene to tend to those who are hurt. And if the injuries are serious, they may need to be taken to the hospital. The initial medical help you receive should not be disrupted by the coronavirus outbreak, at least not in South Carolina, but there could be issues with follow-up visits, tests, and treatments.

For one thing, accident victims may be apprehensive about going into doctor appointments with the risk of coming in contact with someone who is COVID-19 positive. It is important to understand, however, that hospitals and medical clinics are doing everything possible to keep their facilities sanitized and keep patients properly distanced from each other. There may still be a slight risk of contracting the virus, as there is if you go anywhere in public, but the risk to your health is much greater if you do not follow the treatment plan prescribed by your doctor.

Another issue could be the need to redirect medical resources to treat coronavirus patients, which may cause your treatment plan to be delayed. You are supposed to do everything possible to mitigate the effects of your injury, but we are living in extraordinary times, and these would definitely be considered extenuating circumstances. If something is delayed, there is not much you can do about it. However, do your best to keep the appointments you have and follow doctor’s orders as much as possible.

Settling Personal Injury Claims

With COVID-19 going on and the wheels of justice turning slower, accident injury victims may feel more pressure to settle their claims. Many will no doubt be financially impacted by the shutdown, and insurance companies may also try to take advantage of the situation by making a lowball settlement offer for far less than what the claim is really worth. In times like these, it is more important than ever to have a skilled attorney in your corner who has the proven ability to secure maximum compensation on behalf of their clients.

The Nowell Law Firm is Here for You

If you or someone close to you suffered injury because of the actions of another party, do not put your claim on hold because of the coronavirus situation. Waiting will only make it more difficult to recover the full and fair compensation you deserve. At the Nowell Law Firm, we are here for you, and we are ready to serve your legal needs. For a consultation with one of our attorneys, message us online or call our Spartanburg, SC office today at (864) 469-2481.

How a Criminal Record can Affect a Personal Injury Case

There are many good people out there who have had some kind of blemish in their past. For example, you may have a DUI conviction from several years ago or some other kind of criminal conviction that happened because of a mistake or lapse in judgment. Or maybe you were arrested and charged with a crime, but the case was resolved without a conviction.

If you have a criminal history and you become injured because of someone else’s negligence or reckless actions, your criminal record does not disqualify you from recovering the compensation you deserve for your injuries. In fact, in a perfect world, a past criminal charge and/or conviction that is not directly related to your personal injury claim should not have any effect on your claim at all. But unfortunately, we do not live in a perfect world.

When you file a personal injury lawsuit, you are trying to recover monetary damages from the responsible party and/or their insurer. This, of course, is an adversarial action, and the other side will use whatever information they can to try to undermine your claim. So, even if your criminal history has nothing to do with the fact that somebody injured you, the other side is still likely to bring it up if they believe it will be damaging to your case.

How will my Criminal History be Used Against Me?

The good news is that your criminal background may not come up at all in your civil claim. If you are working with an experienced personal injury lawyer, he/she will certainly do everything possible to help ensure that this is the case. In addition, the other side is only supposed to reference your criminal history if it is relevant to the case at hand.

So, using one of the examples mentioned earlier, if you had a DUI conviction on your record from 10 years ago and another driver ran a red light, crashed into your car and left you with moderate to severe injuries, the fact that you were once convicted for DUI should have no bearing on your case. And since most auto accident injury claims are settled out of court without a trial, your prior DUI conviction may never be a factor during negotiations.

When a personal injury case goes to trial, however, it might be a different story. If you take the witness stand during a trial, the other side may bring up your criminal history by claiming that it is relevant because it speaks to your credibility and trustworthiness as a witness.

People tend to view someone with a criminal record more negatively, and a jury may be inclined to award a significantly lower amount in damages as a result. This is especially true if you had a conviction for something that involves fraud or dishonesty, such as writing a bad check. In a case like this, the defense lawyer for the other side may be able to gain an advantage by making an emotional argument to the jury based on a mistake you made in the past.

What to do About your Criminal History in a PI Case

If you have a criminal record and you are involved in a civil claim, the best way to deal with this is to retain strong legal counsel and be honest and upfront about your background with your attorney. There are a number of ways your attorney may suggest that you deal with this, depending on the situation:

  • Thoroughly Review your Criminal History: The first thing you will want to do is make sure there are no surprises that the other side brings up later on. For example, if their lawyer asks you if you speed and you answer “no”, you could end up being caught in a lie if you forgot about the speeding ticket you received a few years ago. Go through your entire background and make sure you are ready for whatever the other side might bring up.
  • Discuss your Criminal Record during your Testimony: One possible way to preempt questions about your background from the other side is to be proactive and tell the court about it upfront. This way, you will have the first opportunity to present this information to the jury and put it in proper context before the other side brings it up. Your lawyer will work closely with you to help determine whether or not this is a viable strategy.
  • Waive your Right to a Jury Trial: If you have a more serious criminal record, your lawyer might suggest that it is in your best interest to waive a jury trial and have your case decided by a judge. Judges tend to be more logical and dispassionate about legal cases, and they are less likely to be swayed by emotional arguments.
  • Have your Criminal Record Expunged (if possible): You might be able to have your criminal records expunged before you go to trial, depending on what the crime was and how the case was resolved. For example, in South Carolina, any criminal charge that was dismissed or where the defendant was found not guilty can be expunged. Certain convictions are also eligible for expungement; these are generally first-offense convictions for more minor crimes such as simple possession of marijuana or failure to stop for a law enforcement vehicle after being signaled to do so.

Work with a Skilled and Knowledgeable South Carolina Personal Injury Lawyer

If you or someone close to suffered injury and it was someone else’s fault, you should not give up on your right to recover compensation just because you have a criminal history. Your first step should be to work with an attorney who has extensive experience not only with personal injury law, but ideally someone with criminal law experience as well. An in-depth understanding of how these two areas of law converge is very helpful in cases like these.

At the Nowell Law Firm, two of our major areas of focus are personal injury and criminal law. We work closely with our clients, putting our experience to work and exploring every potential legal avenue toward obtaining the most favorable result possible. Message us online or call our Spartanburg, SC office today at (864) 469-2481 to schedule a complementary consultation with a member of our legal team. We look forward to serving you!