When you are involved in an auto accident that is someone else’s fault, you are entitled to just compensation for your accident-related losses. But, what happens when you are partially to blame for your own injuries?
The answer to this question varies by state. Some states allow accident victims to recover compensation regardless of their percentage of fault, while others deny compensation to victims who are even one percent to blame for their own injuries. South Carolina falls in the middle—following a rule known as “modified comparative fault.”
WHAT IS “MODIFIED COMPARATIVE FAULT”?
Under the rule of “comparative fault” (followed in some states, but not South Carolina), auto accident victims can recover partial compensation when they are partially at fault for their own injuries. The percentage of losses that the victim can recover is inversely proportional to his or her percentage of fault.
So, for example, if an accident victim is 10 percent at fault, then he or she is entitled to recover 90 percent of his or her losses. Conversely, if an accident victim is 90 percent at fault, then the victim can still pursue a claim for 10 percent of the financial and non-financial losses he or she endures.
The rule of “modified comparative fault” places a limit on the extent to which an auto accident victim can be at fault and still recover partial compensation. In South Carolina, this limit is 51 percent. In other words, if you are deemed to be 51 percent or more at fault in your collision, then you are barred from seeking financial recovery.
HOW DOES SOUTH CAROLINA’S “MODIFIED COMPARATIVE FAULT” RULE WORK IN REAL LIFE?
To see how South Carolina’s “modified comparative fault” rule works, let’s look at a hypothetical real-life example:
You were driving 55mph in a 45mph zone when you were hit head-on by another vehicle. The other vehicle drifted across a double-yellow line into your lane. An investigation reveals that the driver who hit you was texting behind the wheel at the time of the crash.
In this scenario, the other driver was clearly at fault. He or she was distracted and crossed a double-yellow line into oncoming traffic. However, you were speeding, which means that you could potentially be deemed partially at fault as well.
Given that the other driver clearly made the bigger error, let’s assume that a jury would determine that you were only 10 percent at fault. Maybe your injuries would have been slightly less-severe had you been going the speed limit, but the evidence suggests that there was nothing you could have done to avoid the collision. If your total losses from the accident are $100,000, this means that you would still be entitled to recover $90,000.
Now, let’s consider a different scenario:
You were late for work, so you decided to speed up to try to “beat” a yellow light. Another driver approaching from the opposite direction did the same thing. When you turned in front of the other driver in the intersection, he or she hit the side of your vehicle head-on.
This situation is far more challenging than the previous example. Here, both you and the other driver made reckless decisions, so it is clear that you both share blame for the collision. But, how much blame deserves to be placed on your shoulders? Is it 50 percent? If so, you can at least recover half of your losses. However, if it is 51 percent or more, you would not be entitled to financial recovery.
As this scenario demonstrates, even one percent can make a major difference under South Carolina’s “modified comparative fault” law. With this in mind, when both drivers appear to share blame for a collision, the insurance companies will often try to deny coverage based on partial fault. If this is a concern with your insurance claim, it will be especially important for you to work with an experienced attorney. Your attorney will need to conduct a thorough investigation, and he or she will need to be able to use evidence to prove that you are still entitled to partial compensation.
SHOULD I FILE AN INSURANCE CLAIM IF I WAS PARTIALLY AT FAULT IN MY AUTO ACCIDENT?
If you were partially at fault in an auto accident in South Carolina, should you still file an insurance claim? Yes, absolutely.
First, as a practical matter, you may have an obligation to report the accident under the terms of your auto insurance policy; and, if you do not report the accident, this could have a negative impact on your coverage. Second, and more importantly in many respects, you should never assume that you were at fault in a collision.
There are many things that can go wrong on South Carolina’s roads. Distracted driving and intoxicated driving are both pervasive issues, and issues with the road, issues with your vehicle, and numerous other issues can lead to accidents as well. Drivers make mistakes all the time; and, even if you made a mistake, this does not necessarily mean that it was your mistake that led to your collision.
Before you assume that you were at fault in your accident, you should discuss your accident with an attorney. Your attorney will be able to assess all of the circumstances involved in your accident and determine whether the partial fault is likely to be an issue. If it is, your attorney can work to prove that your role in the collision was minimal, and he or she can fight to recover maximum compensation on your behalf.
DISCUSS YOUR AUTO ACCIDENT WITH A ROCK HILL, SC INJURY ATTORNEY FOR FREE
Are you concerned that you may have been partially at fault in your auto accident? If so, we encourage you to speak with one of our Rock Hill auto accident attorneys before you make any decisions about filing (or not filing) an insurance claim. To schedule a free, no-obligation consultation as soon as possible, call (803) 327-1103 or contact us online now.