Each state in the nation is autonomous in its ability to develop rules and regulations pertaining to how financial recovery works after a car accident. States typically follow either a no-fault system or a fault-based system, although a few states have a mixed system in place. Understanding fault vs. no-fault rules is important following a crash in South Carolina, where fault does make a difference, as South Carolina is not a no-fault insurance state.
Here’s an overview of what you should know about South Carolina’s tort liability laws. If you have more questions or if you’ve been in a car crash, reach out to the Marc Brown Law Firm for a free consultation.
What Is a No-Fault Car Insurance State?
In a no-fault car insurance state, all drivers are required to carry personal injury protection (PIP) coverage. In the event of an accident, it is this type of insurance that pays for a driver’s or passenger’s injuries, regardless of fault. In other words, each driver involved in the crash will file a claim with their own insurance company rather than filing a claim against the other driver’s insurer. Typically, each party is barred from filing a lawsuit against the other unless the serious injury threshold has been met. The no-fault system is designed to streamline the claims process and reduce litigation.
This is not the system for South Carolina. South Carolina is considered a fault-based state.
What Is a Fault-Based State?
In a fault-based system, also called a tort liability system, all drivers are required to carry liability insurance coverage (bodily injury liability and property damage liability). If an accident occurs, the driver who is at fault for the crash is responsible for paying for damages sustained by the other party. Typically, their liability insurance policy will kick in, protecting the driver from personal liability. In other words, in a fault-based state, drivers are responsible for paying for the accidents that they cause. South Carolina follows a traditional tort liability/at-fault system.
Recovery Options After an Accident in South Carolina
Because South Carolina follows an at-fault system, drivers who are involved in accidents in our state typically have three different options for recovering compensation. These include:
- Filing a lawsuit against the at-fault party. A driver (or another party) who causes an accident can be held liable for the damages that result. An injured party maintains the right to file a lawsuit for compensation directly against this party, although this is typically not pursued unless other options are exhausted first.
- Filing a claim against the at-fault party’s liability insurance. While an injured party may have the right to file a lawsuit against the at-fault party, typically, the first step will be to file a claim against the at-fault party’s liability insurance policy. Usually, only if a settlement cannot be reached will a lawsuit be filed.
- Filing a claim against one’s own insurance. For drivers who carry certain coverage types, such as comprehensive or collision coverage, or uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, filing a claim against one’s own insurance policy for compensation may make sense.
If you’re unsure what route you should take to financial recovery after being involved in an accident, call our law firm for a free consultation.
Understanding Fault in South Carolina – Modified Comparative Negligence
Another very important element of South Carolina’s tort liability system is the idea of modified comparative negligence. In a modified comparative negligence system, a driver who contributed to the accident by an act of negligence will not be barred from recovery so long as their percentage of negligence was less than the defendant’s. This means that if a jury determines that a driver was 50% or less at fault for causing the accident, that driver can still recover compensation. Their recoverable damages award would be reduced in proportion to their degree of fault.
For example, if a claimant involved in a car crash has suffered $100,000 in damages but is found to be 10% to blame for their injuries, then the party against whom they are filing the claim will only be responsible for 90% of their damages, or $90,000.
Elements of a Car Accident Lawsuit
In the event that a claim doesn’t settle in negotiations and a lawsuit is pursued, a plaintiff will need to be able to prove four major elements in order to win. These elements specifically relate to fault and damages, including:
- Duty of care. A plaintiff must provide evidence that establishes that the defendant owed them a duty of care. In car accident cases, this is often implied, as all drivers owe others on the road a duty of care.
- Breach of duty of care. The second thing that a plaintiff will need to prove is that the duty of care was breached by the defendant. This means that the plaintiff will need to provide evidence highlighting the defendant’s negligence. Actions like speeding, driving while intoxicated or distracted, driving aggressively, and performing illegal maneuvers are all examples of negligence. Vehicle event data recorders, witnesses’ statements, police reports, and more can all be submitted as evidence types that help to prove that the defendant breached the duty of care.
- Causation. The third element is very important—causation. It is not enough for the plaintiff to prove that the defendant acted negligently and breached the duty of care. They must also prove that the breach was the proximate cause of the accident and that the accident would not have occurred but for the defendant’s negligence.
- Damages. Finally, a plaintiff will need to submit proof of the damages they have suffered, including both economic and non-economic damages.
Get Legal Help Today
South Carolina is not a no-fault car insurance state. This means that after a crash, you’ll need to prove the fault of the other driver or responsible party in order to recover compensation for the harm that you’ve suffered. If you’re seriously injured, this can be difficult. You may not know what types of evidence to collect or how to negotiate your claim, and your injuries may preclude you from taking action.
An experienced lawyer can be a great asset in pursuing your claim. When you call attorney Marc Brown, you can count on competent legal counsel and a team that will work hard for you. We care about your recovery and want to make sure you get a fair settlement. To schedule your free case consultation, contact us today.