This page will provide a brief overview of the types of damages which may be recovered in a successful personal injury claim.
The final element a plaintiff must prove to prevail in their negligence claim is damages. For a negligence action to be successful, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant’s breach of their duty of care caused harm that the jury can quantify into a monetary award.
The plaintiff does not have to prove what exact a specific monetary amount that they should receive. Rather, the plaintiff must provide evidence that will enable the jury to determine the amount of damages with reasonable accuracy. In South Carolina, a plaintiff can recover several forms of damages, including:
Nominal damages are a small amount given when a plaintiff was wronged but not injured. These damages are rare because a plaintiff generally must show some type of injury to prove a negligence case.
Compensatory damages compensate the plaintiff for the injuries they actually suffered. Compensatory damages intend to return the plaintiff to the same place they were before they were harmed by the defendant’s negligent act. In South Carolina, they are broken down into two subcategories, tangible and intangible losses.
Tangible losses, because of their nature, can be easily quantified. Where bodily injury is involved, tangible losses generally include past, present and future medical expenses, lost wages and loss of wage earning capacity.
Plaintiffs can also recover for damage done to their property. There are several different ways to calculate damage to property. Generally, the plaintiff may recover the difference between the market value of their property before and after the injury. Where the market value of an item does not reflect its actual value to the plaintiff, the plaintiff may recover that actual value. Finally, plaintiffs can recover the value of the use of the property while it is being repaired or while the plaintiff waits for a replacement.
Intangible losses are not as easily quantified. In South Carolina, they include the mental health effects that result from an injury. They can include pain and suffering, mental anguish, emotional distress, and other harms that affect the plaintiff’s quality of life but do not have an obvious price tag.
The determination of the value of intangible losses is generally left to the jury. No fixed rule exists for determining their value. Attorneys may suggest methods that the jury can use to determine the value of intangible losses, but those suggestions do not have the force of law.
South Carolina has a statutory limit on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases. Recovery for noneconomic damages is limited in medical malpractice cases to $350,000 for each claimant, regardless of how many claims they may bring. If the claimant sues multiple health-care providers or institutions, their total recovery limit for noneconomic damages is $1,050,000.
These limits do not apply if the defendant was grossly negligent or reckless in their conduct, if the defendant engaged in fraud related to the claim, or if the defendant destroyed records with the purpose of avoiding a claim by the plaintiff.
Loss of Consortium
Loss of consortium is a claim made by an injured person’s spouse to compensate them for the loss of services, society, and companionship they suffer as the result of the injury to their spouse.
South Carolina courts state that recovery for loss of consortium is not based on the replacement costs of hiring a service provider to mow the lawn, raise the children, or clean their home. Rather, the jury determines the value based on their observations, experience, and knowledge.