Understanding Comparative Fault in South Carolina: Personal Injury Lawyers in Greenville, SC Explain Whether You Can Recover Damages if You Were Partly At Fault
When most people think of a personal injury case, they typically think of a defendant running a red light and causing a car crash. Or maybe they think of a truck driver falling asleep at the wheel and causing a catastrophic pile-up. Although these are pretty straightforward cases and do happen far too often, our experienced personal injury lawyers know that in reality, very few cases are as straightforward as these examples.
Most cases actually involve unique sets of facts and multiple parties that could be partially at fault for a crash. This even includes the victim of a crash, who could suffer significant injuries and wonder if they can recover damages if they were partly at fault for a personal injury accident.
Unfortunately, the answer to the question, “Can I recover damages if I was partly at fault for my accident?” is the typical lawyer answer of: “It depends!”
Liability in any personal injury case is complex and difficult—sometimes even making quantum physics seem easier. But that’s why you should call an experienced personal injury lawyer like one of ours at the Hammack Law Firm in Greenville, South Carolina.
Although we can’t help you much with quantum physics, we can help with complex issues in motor vehicle accidents, including comparative fault. Our team of compassionate and experienced lawyers and legal professionals will work to evaluate your claim, investigate the crash, and prove your damages.
If you or a loved one suffered any serious personal injury from a catastrophic or fatal motor vehicle accident in South Carolina, call to schedule a free consultation to learn more about your rights.
For a free legal consultation, call 864-740-8653
Liability in Personal Injury Cases: Parsing Out Who is At Fault
Whether it is a slip and fall, motor vehicle crash, medical malpractice, or a zombie invasion, someone is at fault. And the truth is, oftentimes, multiple people are at fault. Under South Carolina law, a victim may recover compensation from any party who is at fault. Generally, the amount that a victim can recover is based on the percentage of fault that is attributed to the defendant. For example, five defendants who are 20% at fault will each be liable for 20% of the verdict.
There are some exceptions to this general rule. One exception is a concept known as Joint and Several Liability—which says that a defendant who is more than 50% at fault will be jointly and severally liable for all of the damages. That means where two defendants are 20% at fault, and a defendant is 60% at fault, the defendant who is 60% at fault may be required to pay 100% of the verdict to the victim. That defendant can then seek contribution from each other defendant for reimbursement (if they have it!).
Joint and Several Liability makes it easier for a victim to recover a settlement. It also makes it more difficult for a defendant who is the most at fault for the personal injuries.
What are the Concepts of Contributory Negligence and Comparative Fault?
A victim can be partly at fault for a personal injury action. When that happens, there is a hurdle to a successful case. That hurdle is how the fault of a victim is handled in assessing a case.
Historically, that hurdle has been lined with a spiky bear trap known as contributory negligence. Under this legal doctrine, a victim who was even 1% at fault for his or her accident would be barred from recovering any compensation. Yikes!
Fortunately, many states have adopted the concept known as Comparative Fault—including South Carolina. Under the comparative fault doctrine, a victim’s fault will proportionally reduce his or her total recovery. For example, a victim who is 10% at fault will have his or her verdict reduced by 10%. Thus, a $100,000 verdict will be reduced by 10% or $10,000 to $90,000.
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How South Carolina Applies Comparative Fault
Under South Carolina section 15-38-10, a victim’s proportional fault will reduce his or her verdict. However, if that comparative fault is above 50%, a victim may be barred from recovering any compensation. This almost acts like the Joint and Several Liability, where a party that is 51% or more liable for personal injuries is responsible for it all. Except here, a victim who is 51% or more at fault may be barred from recovering anything.
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Examples of Comparative Fault in South Carolina Accidents
There are many possible examples of comparative fault in a South Carolina accident, with the most common including the following:
- Speeding or driving too fast for the weather conditions
- Texting while driving (or mobile phone gaming and helping your clan defend its base)
- Rolling stops
- Hesitating during a yield
- Mechanical issues with your vehicle
- Driving too slow
- Distracted by a passenger
- Not seeing a crack, debris, or another defect on the ground and falling
- Chasing a rare catch on Pokemon Go ®
- Not paying attention, and
- Other types of conduct that may increase your risk of being involved in an accident.
Why it is Important to Retain an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer in Greenville, SC
If that was all confusing to you, that’s totally normal! That’s why we do what we do. If you or a loved one have been involved in any type of serious or catastrophic personal injury accident in South Carolina, it is important to hire an experienced personal injury lawyer like one of ours at the Hammack Law Firm.
Although we don’t specialize in quantum physics, we understand Comparative Fault, and we know that defendants and their attorneys or adjusters will try to maximize your comparative fault in order to snake out of having to pay your damages.
Don’t let this happen to you!
Protect your rights by having a zealous and experienced team fight back against the defendants, while also compassionately handling your claim, answering your questions, and fighting to recover the maximum amount of compensation that you may be entitled to under South Carolina law. Whether you believe that you had no Comparative Fault in a crash or that you may have a significant amount of Comparative Fault, call us for help. We can review your case for FREE to determine your rights.