South Carolina, like all states, has various laws that apply to car accident victims’ claims for financial compensation. However, while there are some similarities between states, South Carolina’s Code of Laws is unique in various respects, and, as a result, car accident victims must work with experienced auto accident attorneys to understand their legal rights.
When seeking just compensation for your losses, it can be helpful to have at least a basic understanding of the laws that apply. In this article, we have broken the fundamental laws down into three categories:
- Proving Liability
- Providing Damages
- Protecting Your Claim
Proving Liability (Legal Responsibility) for a Car Accident
1. Drunk Driving, Distracted Driving, and Traffic Violations (Negligence Per Se)
South Carolina law recognizes the doctrine of “negligence per se”. In cases involving negligence per se, the driver’s conduct is itself evidence of liability, and accident victims face a lesser burden than when they are required to establish “ordinary” negligence.
To constitute negligence per se, a driver’s conduct must violate state law. This means that drunk driving, texting behind the wheel, speeding, and other traffic violations all qualify. If you are entitled to just compensation for negligence per se, then the police report from the accident will likely be a crucial piece of evidence in your claim.
2. Other Forms of Negligence
Not all driving errors constitute negligence, per se. However, they can still be dangerous, and accident victims can still seek just compensation in many cases. For example, while South Carolina has not fully outlawed distracted driving, there is no question that distracted driving is negligent. In many cases, car accident victims will have negligence claims against various third parties (i.e., repair shops and road contractors) as well.
3. Strict Liability for Vehicle Defects
In accident cases involving vehicle defects, proof of negligence is not required. Instead, manufacturers, dealerships, and other companies can be held liable under the theory of “strict liability.” The law of strict liability applies to all types of vehicle defects, from faulty brakes to malfunctioning airbags.
Proving Damages After a Car Accident
1. Economic Damages
If you have been injured as a result of someone else negligence or a product defect, you are entitled to compensation for your economic damages under South Carolina law. This means that you are entitled to compensation for the full financial cost of the accident, including your future losses. Economic damages that can be recovered in a South Carolina car accident claim include:
- Property damage (i.e., the cost to repair or replace your vehicle and any personal items that were damaged in the accident)
- Medical expenses (i.e., the direct out-of-pocket cost of your medical care, including diagnosis, surgery, treatment, rehabilitation, and prescriptions)
- Loss of income (i.e., any loss of wages, salary, and benefits due to time you miss from work, as well as your lost earning capacity if your injuries leave you temporarily or permanently disabled)
- Other out-of-pocket expenses (i.e., transportation costs, costs to modify your home or car, and the cost to hire cleaners, landscapers, babysitters, and other service providers)
2. Non-Economic Damages
In addition to economic damages, car accident victims can also recover non-economic damages in South Carolina. Unlike many other states, there is no cap in South Carolina (unless you have a claim against the government). Non-economic damages that can be recovered in South Carolina include:
- Emotional trauma
- Pain and suffering
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of society, companionship, and enjoyment of life
3. Punitive Damages
In certain cases, auto accident victims can also recover punitive damages. For punitive damages to be available, there must be “clear and convincing” evidence that the at-fault party acted willfully, wantonly, or recklessly. Unlike economic and non-economic damages, South Carolina law does place a cap on punitive damages in most cases. The standard punitive damages cap is the greater of three times the victim’s compensatory damages or $500,000. However, this can increase to the greater of four times the victim’s compensatory damages or $2 million in some cases, and, in the most egregious cases, the cap does not apply.
Protecting Your Claim for Just Compensation
1. Optional and Required Auto Insurance in South Carolina
Most car accident cases involve auto insurance claims, and South Carolina law requires all drivers to be insured. The mandatory auto insurance coverages in South Carolina are:
- Bodily injury liability (BIL) coverage of $25,000 per person/$50,000 per accident
- Property damage (PD) coverage of $25,000 per accident
- Uninsured motorist coverage equal to the BIL and PD minimums
Unlike many other states, South Carolina does not require drivers to carry persona injury protection (PIP) coverage. However, this can be important coverage if you have it. When seeking just compensation after a collision, it is essential to take all of the necessary steps to preserve all of the claims you have available.
2. South Carolina’s Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury Claims
One of these steps is ensuring that you file your claim on time. In South Carolina, the statute of limitations for personal injury claims arising out of car accidents is three years. However, you do not want to wait anywhere near this long to file your claim. You should discuss your legal rights with an attorney immediately, and you should make sure your attorney has the information he or she needs to file your claim as soon as possible.
3. Arguing Against Allegations of Comparative Fault
Finally, in many cases, car accident victims will find themselves facing allegations of comparative fault. Under South Carolina’s “modified comparative fault” law, if you are up to 50 percent at fault in an accident, your financial recovery will be reduced in proportion to your percentage of fault. If you are 51 percent or more at fault, your claim will be barred entirely.
Discuss Your Car Accident Claim with a Rock Hill, SC Auto Accident Lawyer Today
Due to the complexities of South Carolina’s car accident laws, if you have been seriously injured in a collision, it is strongly in your best interest to speak with an experienced auto accident lawyer. To schedule an appointment at Lewis Law Firm LLC, call us at 803-327-1103 or request a free consultation online today.