Comparative vs. Contributory Negligence in South Carolina

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Since an important South Carolina case in 1991 known as Nelson v. Concrete Supply Company, the state has used modified comparative negligence – as opposed to contributory negligence – in personal injury cases. While it may sound like legal jargon, the distinction can make a significant difference in the outcome of your claim if you suffered an injury in an accident that is caused by someone else’s negligence.

If you do find yourself in this difficult position, reach out for the professional legal counsel of an experienced South Carolina personal injury attorney.

Modified Comparative Negligence

Because South Carolina currently uses modified comparative negligence, it’s important to have a handle on what comparative negligence means. South Carolina modified comparative negligence allows you to seek compensation for the percentage of your losses that the other party is responsible for in personal injury cases, even if you are up to 50 percent responsible for the injury-causing accident in question.

Consider the following example:

  • You were hit by a drunk driver who was speeding through a red light.
  • Because you were also exceeding the speed limit somewhat at the time, you are determined to share 10 percent of fault in the matter.
  • As such, the other driver is responsible for the other 90 percent of your related losses – or legal damages.
  • If your losses add up to $100,000, for example, the compensation to which you are entitled is 90 percent of this amount – 100 percent minus the 10 percent for which you are responsible – which leaves you with $90,000.

If, however, your liability is determined to exceed 50 percent, it bars you from seeking compensation in a personal injury claim in South Carolina.

Contributory Negligence

Prior to 1991 and the Nelson v. Concrete Supply Company case, a claimant who shared any amount of liability for an accident that caused them to be injured was barred from obtaining compensation, meaning that any fault on your part – even 1 percent –left you with no means of obtaining compensation for the losses you incurred as a result of someone else’s negligence.

When More Than One Party Is at Fault

Sometimes, the claimant in a personal injury case can cite more than one party as being responsible for causing their losses.

For example, if a driver’s distraction prevents them from stopping in time to avoid slamming into the back of your car at a red light, but the driver’s brakes were also faulty due to a manufacturing defect, you can seek compensation from both the negligent driver and the negligent car manufacturer.

Under these circumstances, total liability will be apportioned between both parties in accordance with the percentage of fault for which each was responsible.

Joint and several liability in South Carolina

In the past, South Carolina used the legal doctrine of joint and several liability, which means that when more than one party was responsible for a claimant’s losses, each party can be held accountable for 100 percent of the claimant’s legal damages. As such, the claimant had the option of seeking total compensation from either party.

In 2005, however, South Carolina did away with this approach, and now – when multiple parties are involved – each is responsible only for the percentage of fault apportioned to them.

The matter of fault

When more than one party is deemed responsible for an injury-causing accident, the matter of assigning fault between them can be exceptionally challenging. Because the determination of fault can be highly subjective, detailed evidence tends to play a pivotal role in how fault is apportioned in cases involving multiple parties.

Your Losses

In South Carolina, you can seek compensation for the covered losses you incur as a result of someone else’s negligence – for the percentage of responsibility the other party bears.

Property damage

If the accident that causes you to be injured is a car accident, property damage to your car and its contents is likely.

Medical expenses

The medical costs you face in the immediate aftermath of the accident in question can be immense, but that may not be the end of the matter. Serious injuries can require ongoing medical needs to address complications, secondary health concerns, and beyond. Ensuring that you have a handle on your healthcare needs before accepting a settlement is paramount.

Lost income

In addition to mounting medical bills, you may face lost income related to being off the job. This financial loss will be even more significant if your ability to do your job or your overall earning potential is thwarted. Job-related losses can have an emotional as well as a financial component.

Pain and suffering

A major category of loss is often the emotional and physical pain and suffering endured, which can complicate the recovery process considerably.

Turn to an Experienced South Carolina Personal Injury Attorney for the Help You Need Today

If you or someone you care about suffers an injury as a result of someone else’s negligence, the path forward can be exceptionally complicated without the compensation to which you are entitled. Trey Harrell Auto Accident and Personal Injury Attorney in Charleston, South Carolina is a trusted lawyer who dedicates his practice to helping clients like you prevail with just compensation that supports their complete recoveries.

Our legal team recognizes how difficult situations like yours can be and is here to help. To learn more, contact us online or call us at 843-636-8739 today.

Personal Injury Case FAQs

If I’m partially responsible, do I have a case?

Even if you are found up to 50 percent liable for the accident that leaves you injured, you can seek compensation for the percentage of your losses that the other party is responsible for in South Carolina.

Is an attorney necessary?

Having an attorney’s skilled legal guidance on your side can make a considerable difference in the outcome of your case.

Will my case go to trial?

The vast majority of personal injury claims are settled out of court, and yours is likely to do the same. There are, however, situations in which taking the matter to court is the best mechanism for obtaining just compensation.

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