Do I have a Personal Injury Case, Civil Case, or a Business Complaint?
Recently we received a call from a someone who had visited a popular jewelry chain for a piercing. The person doing the piercing missed the exact location and had to do the piercing a second time. The caller wanted us to take this as a personal injury case and when we could not help, they left us a negative review.
Unfortunately, not every offense rises to the level of an injury case. The rule of thumb for any type of injury or civil case is that there must be damages and injuries. The four considerations when an attorney looks at a potential case are:
- The victim was owed a duty of care by the negligent party
- The negligent party breached that duty of care.
- The victim was injured and suffered financial loss.
- The victim’s injuries were a result of that breach.
An example of a personal injury case is a driver sitting at a red light and is rear-ended by another driver going 50 miles an hour while texting. The injured party has whiplash, a broken knee and severe back pain preventing them from working their normal job. The financial loss includes documented medical bills, ER visits, therapy expenses, future medical expenses, and lost wages.
For a civil case (not a personal injury case), there would need to be damages of some sort including out of pocket expenses, the cost to fix or repair something that is not being addressed, or the need for something to stop or start. An example of a civil case would be a neighbor who had a fence built and it encroaches on your property, and they refuse to remove it. The legal case might be to get them to move the fence off your property.
An attorney taking an injury case will earn their fee by securing compensation for the injured victim. In the case of the piercing above, there were no damages, injuries requiring medical treatment or lost wages. The person paid less than $200 and received the service they purchased, albeit with a bit more discomfort than they signed up for. What, if any, remedy do they have available to them?
Be a Squeaky Wheel
The first course of action should be to raise your complaint with the manager of the business. If you do not get satisfaction in the form of a credit or refund, you can start to escalate your complaint to the corporation’s hierarchy. In larger companies, the President’s Office may even have people dedicated to handling complaints that make their way to that level.
Another option is to take to social media and review sites. While this might give you some satisfaction in venting, it may not result in anything other than warning future buyers to beware.
Contact the BBB
Another option and one that many people do not immediately think of is to file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau (BBB). If a business is accredited by the BBB, they will be invested in resolving the matter with the assistance of the BBB. Even if a business is not accredited, the BBB will accept a complaint and try to assist in resolving it to your satisfaction. You can start by visiting their website at https://www.bbb.org.
Magistrate or Small Claims Court
The last option, if you find that an attorney cannot assist with your case, is to file a small claims lawsuit in the county Magistrate Court where your issue occurred, where the business is located or where you live. The clerk of court can direct you as to whether their county is the correct place to file. You will bear the cost of the court filing fees, usually about $150.00, so you will want to consider how much you want to spend out of pocket to resolve this issue. The current maximum dollar award for a small claims case is:
- Berkeley County: $7500
- Charleston County: $7500
- Dorchester County: $7500
Filing your own case, called “pro se”, requires you to be detailed and have the documentation necessary to prove your case to a judge. While we do not recommend this in injury and workers’ compensation cases or when insurance companies with defense attorneys are involved, it can bring relief in certain situations.
Consult an Attorney
Remember, it is always best to consult an attorney to understand your rights and the legal options available to you. Many attorneys offer free consultations, including Steinberg Law Firm. We are always happy to speak with people to find the best solution to their case, even if we are not the right fit for them. We have a network of attorneys we can refer you to or provide you with information about how best to resolve your issue. Call us today at 843-720-2800 or reach out through our online form.