Frequently Asked Questions

General Frequently Asked Questions

What will the legal service cost?

You are entitled to know, to the extent that we can reasonably inform you at your first visit, what your fee will be. We encourage a frank, open discussion about our fees with each client at the time of the first interview.

Our lawyers are paid under various fee arrangements:

Hourly fee: On an hourly fee basis, fees are based on an hourly rate for services rendered. A monthly itemized bill will be given to you showing all work done on your case.

Flat fee: On a flat fee basis, your legal fee is a single amount for services.

Contingency fee: On a contingency fee basis, your legal fees will be based on the amount of recovery we get for you plus costs. If you get no recovery, the attorney gets no fee. Not all cases qualify for the contingency basis.

Other potential fees: A pre-payment, also known as a retainer fee, often will be required in order to begin to process your matter. The retainer fee will be placed in a trust account. You will be billed monthly and your retainer fee will be used to pay your bill. You will be advised as to how that retainer is being used.

What about litigation costs or out-of-pocket expenses?

In addition to legal fees, there are various expenses that must be paid to others in order to prepare your legal matter. For example, payments must be made to obtain necessary reports or copies of necessary documents, to employ court reporters to take depositions, to obtain licenses or permits from governmental authorities, to obtain medical records, to file suits in courts of law, to hire experts, in addition to other outside entities that are necessary to help your cause. Generally, the amounts of these charges will be in direct proportion to the complexity of the matter involved. The easier your matter is to solve, the less these costs ordinarily will be.

Personal Injury Frequently Asked Questions

What types of cases are considered personal injury?

Personal injury cases are incidents in which injuries or deaths have occurred as a result of another’s carelessness, recklessness or intentional wrongdoing. The other person’s negligence may be the result of a motor vehicle accident, dog bite, slip and fall, medical malpractice, defective products or many other possible events.

The Insurance Company has offered me a quick injury settlement in my case. I am still hurting, so should I accept it?

You should never accept any personal injury settlement until you have completed all of your medical care and have been released by your doctor. If you settle your case, you are forever barred from getting treatment or getting any other recovery.

Can I settle my property damage claim before my injury claim?

Yes, but you should always consult an attorney before signing a release because it may contain language that also waives other claims like loss wages, pain and suffering, or medical payment reimbursement.

Do I need an attorney to help with my claim?

If you are injured in an accident, you should always consult an attorney. There are many things that play into a fair settlement such as Medicare, Medicaid, and health insurance subrogation interests and hospital liens, which can be asserted against you individually if not handled correctly and timely. Recovering damages for your accident is often a difficult and complicated process. Dealing with medical bills, insurance adjusters, and maximum coverage thresholds when you are struggling with an injury can be overwhelming. The insurance companies have an army of adjusters and lawyers on their side, so why would you want to fight them alone? Our seasoned attorneys have the skills and experience to deal with insurance companies.

What is Personal Injury Protection (PIP) or Medical Payments (MedPay) insurance?

Personal Injury Protection (PIP), also known as Medical Payments (MedPay), is a form of no-fault insurance available to auto insurance policyholders and other qualifying people who are injured in auto accidents. This insurance covers medical treatment expenses, wage loss, and death benefits, among other benefits. If you are injury in an accident, it is important to determine whether you qualify for these benefits.

Should I talk to the insurance companies if they call?

Because you are pursuing an attorney, we would recommend that you simply let them know you are seeking an attorney to represent you in regards to your bodily injuries.

Family Law Frequently Asked Questions

What are grounds for divorce in South Carolina?

Adultery, habitual drunkenness, physical cruelty, abandonment, and living separate and apart for at least one year (no fault).

How much does a divorce cost?

The Family Court charges a filing fee of $150.00. Attorneys charge by the hour. The number of hours required by the attorney depends upon the issues involved. For example, if custody is an issue or if there are complicated asset issues, the attorney will need to spend more time on the case and the fees will increase. The parties can avoid fees by cooperating and negotiating a reasonable settlement.

Is mediation required for a divorce in South Carolina?

Mediation is mandatory if there are any contested issues.

Do you have to have a lawyer to get a divorce?

Although you are not required to hire an attorney in South Carolina, you should. Going through the divorce process on your own can be frustrating and difficult. The advice and knowledge of an attorney is most important to protecting your interests.

Construction Litigation Frequently Asked Questions

What should I do if my home has a construction defect?

If a contractor or builder performs defective construction on your property, you may be able to recover the cost of repairs and completion under South Carolina law. Contractors have a duty by law and often by contract to perform construction in a workmanlike manner that is in accordance with industry standards. Having an experienced construction attorney will help you avoid common legal pitfalls and ensure that you are afforded your full legal rights. 

What do I need to know before signing a home building or contracting agreement?

It is very important to understand a building/contracting agreement before signing it because the agreement often will establish the rights and obligations of the parties. The language in the contract can determine whether the builder can adjust the price of a project, who is responsible for paying subcontractors, the deadline of a project, limitations of liability, how any disputes will be handled, whether a party may terminate the project, and many other essential components. You especially should consider how the contract will affect your rights in the event that a project falls apart. Too often, homeowners will not read a building agreement until an issue happens. Make sure that you know what you are agreeing to upfront.  

How long do I have to bring a construction lawsuit? 

South Carolina law allows a party to bring a legal action up to three years after a contract is breached. In regard to construction defects, this time typically begins when a homeowner discovers, or should have reasonably discovered, an existing defect. It is imperative that you do not the exceed three-year time limit or you will be barred from bringing the action. South Carolina law also prevents a party from bringing an action on a construction defect that has existed for over eight years, regardless of when the defect was discovered. 

What should I do if subcontractors are asking me for money that I’ve already paid to the contractor? 

There are occurrences where a contractor will collect the full contract price from a homeowner for a building project, then the homeowner subsequently discovers that the contractor did not pay the subcontractors. When this happens, subcontractors often will approach the homeowner seeking payment for their services. The homeowner first should look to the building agreement with the contractor to determine who is responsible for paying the subcontractors. If the contractor is responsible, and the homeowner has paid all money owed to the contractor, South Carolina law generally will protect the homeowner from payment claims brought against them by the subcontractors. But if the homeowner owes any outstanding balance to the contractor, the subcontractors may be able to collect from the homeowner directly, up to the amount of the balance owed to the contractor. 

What if a subcontractor files a Mechanic’s Lien against my property?

If a subcontractor has not been paid for its services,  it often will file a Mechanic’s Lien against the homeowner’s property. Whether the homeowner is liable to the subcontractor depends on the terms of the contract or if the homeowner has made all payments owed to the contractor. It is not uncommon for a subcontractor to file a lien against the property, even when the homeowner is not responsible for the payments. A Mechanic’s Lien clouds the title to a property and may prevent the homeowner from selling the property or being approved for a mortgage. It is important for a homeowner to respond to a Mechanic’s Lien filed against his/her property, even if not at fault, to have the lien removed. Call Burnette & Payne, PA to help you with matters regarding Mechanic’s Liens.

What if I discover that my general contractor/builder is not licensed? 

A professional contractor in South Carolina must be licensed to perform general contracting work for any project that costs five thousand dollars or more. Homeowners always should check to be sure that any contractor with whom they contract is licensed to perform residential general contracting work in the state of South Carolina. However, homeowners often will trust a builder’s “expertise” or reasonably rely on a builder holding itself out to be a general contractor. Performing unlicensed general contracting work is unlawful, and a homeowner may have actions against the contractor.  The attorneys at Burnette & Payne, PA can assist you with matters regarding unlicensed contractors.

Can I get my money back if I’m not satisfied with my contractor/builder?

Another common situation during the pendency of a project is that a homeowner will become dissatisfied with the quality or the progress of the work being performed. If the work is significantly below the level of the homeowner’s reasonable expectations, the homeowner no longer may want the contractor to continue working or wish to hire another contractor. In this situation, it is important for the homeowner to review carefully the terms of the building agreement to determine whether the contract may be terminated and what costs, if any, may be recovered from the contractor. If the work is defective to the point that no reasonable homeowner would allow the contractor to continue, a Court may find that the contractor has breached the contract. This can allow the homeowner to recover the costs to remedy the defective work and complete the project using a different contractor. 

What if my contractor/builder abandons my project?

If a contractor abandons a project, the homeowner should document the abandonment to the best of his/her ability. Construction cases often are decided by the question of whether a contractor abandoned the project or was fired. This issue can determine which party breached the contract. It is best to hold discussions in writing with a contractor who is showing signs of leaving a project, or follow up any important conversations with a written confirmation.  

Can I recover court costs and attorney fees from a builder/contractor? 

Homeowners who have had their property damaged by a contractor often feel that they should be entitled to recover the costs and fees necessary to bring an action against a party who clearly has wronged them. Whether these fees may be recovered is usually determined by the language of the contract. It is common for building agreements to contain a provision that in the event of a dispute, the prevailing party is entitled to costs and attorney fees. The construction lawyers at Burnette & Payne, PA can advise a potential client on whether the likely recovery in a case will justify the costs involved. 

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