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How is Liability Determined in a Car Accident?

How is Liability Determined in a Car Accident?
Axelrod & Associates, P.A.

Under South Carolina law, the driver who is at fault in an auto accident is liable for all damages that were proximately caused by their negligence. Auto accident lawyers often look at this as the three-legged chair approach to whether you have a case. You must be able prove:

  1. Negligence: The other driver breached a duty of care that they have to you as a motorist.
  2. Damages: You were injured and there are sufficient damages to justify filing suit.
  3. Causation: Your damages were proximately caused by the other driver’s negligent actions.

If any one of the three chair legs are missing, the chair will fall over and you do not have a case. When all three are present you have a case and you should be able to recover full compensation for your injuries.


Negligence is where a person: 1) Has a duty to another person or people, and 2) They breach that duty. All of us have a duty to exercise reasonable care when we are driving a motor vehicle on the highways, and, when we breach that duty by not following the rules of the road, we are responsible for any damage that we have caused through our negligent actions.

The additional requirement of proximate cause says that the defendant is only responsible for damages that were proximately caused by the defendant’s negligence. You can recover medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and any other compensable losses that you suffered because of the defendant’s negligence, but you cannot recover for any losses that were not caused by the accident.

Per Se Negligence

Per se negligence occurs when the defendant violates a law that was intended to protect the public. Most traffic laws will fall into this category. When the other driver violated traffic laws such as failure to yield or disregarding a traffic signal, the focus in your lawsuit will shift from whether they were negligent to whether their negligence caused your damages and how much your recovery will be.

Comparative Negligence

South Carolina’s rule is that you may still recover in an auto accident lawsuit if you were no more than 50% at fault in the accident. If you are found to be negligent in the accident but it is 50% or less, your recovery will be discounted by the percentage of fault that the jurors have attributed to you. If you are found to be more than 50% at fault, you will be barred from recovering anything at all. Remember that the insurance company will try to use this rule whenever possible to deny or decrease the amount of your recovery, and this is one reason why you should not give any statements to insurance company representatives until you have spoken with your personal injury attorney at Axelrod & Associates, P.A.

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.

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