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Personal Injury Law Blog

What Happens if I Am Partially at Fault for an Accident in Charleston?

Even if you can prove your injuries following an accident, you are not always entitled to compensation. In some states, if it can be shown that you contributed to the accident, even just 1%, you will be barred from recovering damages.

Keep reading to learn about the history of South Carolina’s negligence laws and when you may be eligible to receive compensation.

Prior to 1991: Contributory Negligence in South Carolina

Prior to 1991, South Carolina followed the doctrine of contributory negligence. This prevented a plaintiff from recovering damages if the individual was just 1% responsible for the accident.

Although a harsh approach, some states still adhere to the doctrine of contributory negligence. These states include Alabama, the District of Columbia, Maryland, North Carolina, and Virginia.

Current Law: Comparative Negligence in South Carolina

In South Carolina, the plaintiff’s negligence cannot exceed the negligence of the defendant to recover damages. This is known as the 51% rule, meaning that if the plaintiff and defendant are considered equally liable for an accident (50-50 split), the plaintiff can still be compensated for their losses.

In general, the degree to which the plaintiff is at fault will be reduced by their percentage of liability. Take, for instance, a car accident in which the plaintiff is determined to be 30% at fault. If the plaintiff makes a bodily injury claim for $30,000, the defendant’s insurance will only pay $21,000, or 70% of that claim.

Why Did South Carolina Switch to Comparative Negligence?

In the landmark case of Nelson v. Concrete Supply Company, the Supreme Court of South Carolina was presented with a wrongful death case involving two motorists. The decedent, Mrs. Nelson, drove into the back of a tractor-trailer truck owned by Concrete Supply Company. Concrete Supply Company requested at trial that the judge consider the case based on the law of comparative negligence.

On appeal, the Supreme Court of South Carolina ruled that comparative negligence was the “more equitable doctrine,” overruling Freer v. Cameron, which set the precedent for the doctrine of contributory negligence in the state.

At-Fault versus No-Fault States

Due to the complexity of motor vehicle accidents, each motorist may be partially at fault. In at-fault states, as is South Carolina, you will be responsible for paying damages to the other driver based on your liability in the accident.

In states that have no-fault insurance, drivers are required to carry either Personal Injury Protection (PIP) or Medical Payments (MedPay) coverage. PIP and MedPay differ in what is covered, with the main difference being that PIP covers lost wages if your accident prevents you from working. This additional coverage will kick in no matter who is at fault in an automobile collision.

Injured in a Charleston Car Accident? Contact Parham Smith & Archenhold, LLC Today

Following an accident, receiving compensation for your losses and emotional trauma is crucial to the healing process. Even if you believe you are entirely at fault for an accident, never admit it to the insurance company or the other driver.

Instead, contact our Charleston personal injury attorneys by phone or online to schedule your free consultation and learn more.