South Carolina follows a modified comparative negligence rule. This means that your recovery in an auto accident case can be reduced by the percentage that you were at fault in the accident up to 50%. Your comparative negligence must not exceed 50%, and, if it does, you are barred from recovering any damages from the other driver. If your comparative negligence as found by a jury is less than 50%, then you can still recover damages, but your compensation will be reduced by the percentage of negligence that a jury assigns to you.
What is Comparative Negligence
The rules as to comparative or contributory negligence differ from state to state. Contributory negligence is the traditional rule that was developed under English common law and adopted by the United States. Under the contributory negligence rule, which is still in effect in five U.S. states, any negligence on the part of the plaintiff will bar recovery in an auto accident case. Other states have adopted variations of the comparative negligence rule, including:
- Pure comparative negligence. The plaintiff will recover a percentage of their damages based on the percentage of negligence found by the jurors, and it is not capped at 50%.
- Modified comparative negligence with a 50% cap. If the plaintiff in a car accident is 50% or more negligent they are not permitted to recover.
- Modified comparative negligence with a 51% cap. This is the rule in South Carolina auto accident cases which allows a plaintiff driver to recover if they are found to be up to 50% negligent.
This applies to any situation where the plaintiff driver's conduct could be found to be negligent. For example, if you are exceeding the speed limit when another driver disregards a yield sign and hits your car, the other driver's insurance company may attempt to deny or discount the amount that they pay for your damages by saying that you were breaking the law by speeding and that you could have reacted more quickly to prevent the accident if you had been driving the speed limit. If a pedestrian is crossing the highway at night and a speeding car hits them, the driver's insurance company may try to say that the pedestrian was at fault because they were not in a cross-walk or because they were intoxicated at the time of the accident.
Why Does it Matter?
Soon after an accident, the at-fault driver's insurance company will begin to seek information and statements that they can later use to show comparative negligence on your part. This is why you should never give statements to the insurance companies before you have consulted with your auto accident lawyers at Axelrod & Associates, P.A. The insurance company's claims representative is not going to explain comparative negligence to you, and they are not going to tell you that they are fishing for statements that they can later use against you to deny coverage or to reduce the compensation they will pay.
If you or someone you know has been injured in an auto accident, schedule a free consultation with a Myrtle Beach personal injury lawyer on the Axelrod team. Call us at (843) 916-9300 or fill out our contact form today.