In some auto accident cases, it’s not immediately clear which party was at fault. The answer is critical to determining whether and to what extent the victim can seek damages from the responsible driver. So, is South Carolina a fault or no fault state? The Lancaster, SC, car accident lawyers at Elrod Pope Accident & Injury Attorneys take a look.
Is South Carolina a No-Fault State?
No, our state has not adopted the no-fault model. South Carolina is an at-fault state, which means a driver who causes a car accident is responsible for paying monetary damages to the victim, including for injury-related expenses (e.g., medical bills) and property damage.
At the heart of the question of fault is the legal doctrine of negligence, which occurs when someone violates a duty of care. An example would be a driver violating the duty to obey traffic laws by speeding and causing an auto accident.
South Carolina is more specifically known as a comparative negligence state. What this means is that if the victim is found to share some percentage of responsibility or fault for the accident, his or her damages will be reduced by that percentage.
Both negligence and comparative negligence are discussed in more detail below.
What Exactly Are No-Fault Laws?
In a no-fault state, although the at-fault driver is still responsible for the property damage he or she caused, personal injuries are covered by the victim’s own insurance policy. That means the victim’s insurance company has to compensate the victim for his or her injuries, no matter which driver caused the wreck.
But whether the state is an at-fault or no-fault jurisdiction, the responsible driver must always pay for property damage stemming from the accident.
No-fault states require drivers to purchase a minimum amount of personal injury protection (PIP) insurance, typically on top of bodily injury and property damage liability coverage. In the event of an accident, an injured driver in a no-fault state will need to file a claim with his or her own insurance company to recover compensation for the costs of their injuries, regardless of who was responsible for the wreck.
No-Fault vs. At-Fault States: What’s the Difference?
The no-fault system generally reduces the need to file a personal injury lawsuit since the victim’s insurance policy has to pay anyway.
With few exceptions, a victim typically won’t be allowed to sue the at-fault driver for injuries that were incurred in an accident. The at-fault driver still has to pay for property damage, but the victim’s injuries will be covered by the personal injury protection (PIP) provisions of his or her insurance policy.
In an at-fault state, the question of liability is far far more important since the party who actually caused the crash (or, more likely, his or her insurance company) has to pay for injuries and property damage. This is where the legal doctrines of negligence and comparative negligence mentioned above become relevant. And it also makes having an experienced personal injury attorney essential to recovering the maximum compensation.
Impact of South Carolina’s At-Fault Laws
Proving fault is critical if you’ve suffered an automobile accident in South Carolina. It is the victim’s responsibility to establish fault by showing the necessary elements of a negligence lawsuit, which are:
- Duty of care: All drivers owe everyone else on the road the duty to conduct themselves in a certain way. This generally means obeying traffic laws and driving safely.
- Breach: A breach occurs when, by some act or omission, the at-fault driver violates the duty of care. A couple of examples are driving under the influence of alcohol and texting while driving.
- Causation: The at-fault driver’s breach must directly harm the victim. If some intervening cause, such as another negligent party, was to blame, causation becomes more complicated.
- Damages: Finally, the victim must demonstrate the nature and extent of the damages he or she has suffered. Included are medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more.
Because South Carolina is a comparative negligence state, the victim’s damages may be lessened if he or she was partially responsible. Therefore, the at-fault party can try to turn the case around by pointing blame at the victim. For instance, if the victim is found to be 10% responsible for causing the accident – perhaps by failing to use a turn signal – then the damages award will be reduced by 10%.
The victim must be no more than 50 percent responsible for the accident to still recover compensation. If fault exceeds 50%, the victim cannot recover.
Our Lawyers Can Help You Pursue Compensation From an At-Fault Party
If you’ve been injured in a South Carolina automobile accident, you need a law firm that is well-versed with the state’s negligence laws. Not only must your lawyer prove the required elements of a negligence claim, you must be prepared to refute any allegations that you shared blame for the accident. The value of your damages claim will, therefore, depend on the quality of your legal counsel.
Count on the dedicated car accident lawyers of Elrod Pope Accident & Injury Attorneys. We have extensive experience representing the interests of car accident victims. If possible, we will negotiate a settlement with the insurance company that fairly compensates you. However, we are prepared to take your case to a jury if necessary. Reach out to us today to learn more.