What Is Comparative Negligence in South Carolina?
Fault for a personal injury accident is not always black and white. Sometimes, fault falls in a gray area of shared fault between both parties. Rather than one party being entirely responsible for another’s damages, both parties – or three or more parties – may share some proportion of fault for an accident. In these cases, South Carolina’s comparative negligence law may play a role in the amount of compensation available to the claimant, if any.
South Carolina’s Modified Comparative Negligence Law
Most states in the U.S. use either comparative negligence, modified comparative negligence or contributory negligence laws. Some have hybrid laws. South Carolina is a modified comparative negligence state, meaning it uses a comparative negligence rule with some state-specific modifications. Comparative negligence laws enable a claimant to receive compensation despite being partially responsible for causing an accident. Contributory negligence laws, however, bar a claimant entirely from recovery if he or she contributed to the injuries in question at all, even by 1%.
South Carolina’s comparative negligence law, section 15-38-15 of the Code of Laws, states that as long as the plaintiff is less than 51% responsible for an accident, he or she will be eligible for financial recovery from the defendant. It will still be possible for an accident victim in South Carolina to obtain compensation for damages even if the victim contributed to the accident, as long as the victim can prove that he or she does not have the majority share of fault.
The courts will reduce a compensatory award for a plaintiff who shares fault for an accident by the plaintiff’s percentage of fault. If the plaintiff was 10% at fault for stepping into the road when it was not safe to do so, for example, but the defendant was 90% at fault for running a red light, the plaintiff would receive 90% of a compensatory award (e.g. $90,000 of a $100,000 settlement). If the judge or jury finds the plaintiff 51% or more at fault, however, the plaintiff’s total recovery will be $0.
It may be possible for an insurance company or defendant to assert a comparative negligence defense during an accident claim. An insurance company may try to say the claimant was comparatively at fault after an investigation of the accident to reduce its own liability for damages. A defendant may use the same argument during a personal injury lawsuit to reduce the amount he or she may have to pay the plaintiff for his or her injuries. If someone tries to use the comparative negligence rule against an injured party, the plaintiff should seek legal counsel for a strong rebuttal.
Does Your Case Involve Comparative Negligence?
If you were recently involved in a vehicle collision or another type of accident in South Carolina in which the defendant is alleging your comparative negligence, an attorney may be able to help you obtain fair compensation. A lawyer may be necessary to help you prove the other party was mostly at fault using available evidence, so you can remain eligible for financial recovery. If you suspect that the defendant may try to use a comparative negligence defense against you, consult with a lawyer for assistance.
- Broken laws or criminal convictions
- Photographs or videos of the accident
- Statements from eyewitnesses
- Accident reconstruction
- Accident reports
- Police reports
- Expert testimony
- Cellphone records
- Vehicle black boxes
Without legal representation, the defendant may succeed in establishing you were 51% or more at fault for the accident – effectively removing your right to any compensation. Hiring an attorney, on the other hand, could make it easier to gather evidence of the other party’s majority fault. An accident attorney can help you understand all the factors that may have contributed to your injuries, correctly identifying the defendant(s) and improving your odds of securing compensation. A Greenville personal injury lawyer can also help you rebut a comparative negligence defense from the other side of the case to maximize your recovery award.