Can I Sue For An Accident In South Carolina If I was Partly Responsible?
This is a question that we hear a lot. Despite common misconceptions, many accidents are not so clear cut that all blame can be squarely placed on one driver. Although some states do require a pure form of negligence where there is no margin for error with regard to the impacted parties, South Carolina is not one of them. South Carolina applies comparative negligence, in which the actions of all parties are assessed in determining which parties contributed to the ultimate occurrence of the harm and to what degree. While it is possible that all of the blame will fall on one party, this is more rare than you may think. Accidents are chaotic and often we rely on our reflexes, which may lead us to act negligently or recklessly. Although they did not precipitate the harm and are not the primary cause of the accident, they can contribute to the overall damage caused, and thus result in a small assignment of liability. However, the good news is that this will not be a bar to recovering in South Carolina civil court.
Understanding Negligence in South Carolina
As noted above, South Carolina courts assess the liability of all parties in making assignments of fault. Provided that you are not found to be primarily liable for the accident, you have standing to sue and recover damages for the physical harm, property damages, and related financial harm that you suffered. If you are found by the court to be partially liable, you can still recover damages. However, the damages will be reduced in proportion to the amount of fault you have been assigned.
It is important to understand that initial assignments of liability made by insurance companies are not set in stone and are subject to be challenged and argued in court. This works both ways, in that if one party was initially assigned full liability (or a high percentage of liability) they will likely try to reduce their overall fault by arguing that you or other parties should be allocated a higher percentage of fault. Likewise, a lawyer will help your case by arguing that the other party holds all or the majority of the responsibility for causing the crash.
Comparative Negligence in Practice
To illustrate this concept, consider that Driver A is texting while driving, causing them to drive about 20 miles below the speed limit. Driver B is speeding and driving while intoxicated, and fails to slow down or stop when approaching Driver A, resulting in a collision. The court may find Driver A 30% responsible and Driver B 70% responsible. Because Driver A was not found to be the primarily responsible party, Driver A can sue Driver B to recover damages. If the court awards Driver A $10,000 in damages, the damages will simply be reduced by a percentage proportionate to the amount of fault assigned, so Driver A will receive $7,000 of those damages ($10,000 -30%).
Talk to a Lawyer
If you have been seriously injured in an accident, Gus Anastopoulo Law Firm can help you get the compensation that you deserve. Call today and schedule a free consultation with a Charleston car accident lawyer.