Legal Guide

Is South Carolina a No-Fault State?

It’s no secret that the legal system can be complicated, and it’s just as true when it comes to laws concerning liability in a car accident case. Whether you were an innocent bystander, partially at fault, or the sole cause of the accident, there are certain laws that determine how much you will be paid, or have to pay in the case of a lawsuit or claim.

Every state carries its own laws on liability, and South Carolina is no different. But is it a no-fault state? An at-fault state? Does it follow a pure negligence system or a modified one? All of these questions come into play when you are trying to secure restitution for the injuries you suffered in an accident, and it can become quite the headache. A South Carolina car accident lawyer can help to sort out the confusion, and ensure you receive compensation.

What is a no-fault state?

In no-fault states, when an accident occurs in one of these states, assigning fault for bodily injury claims may not be necessary. Instead, drivers are required to have car insurance with personal injury protection (PIP) coverage.

So, who covers the costs in a no-fault accident? In the event of an accident between two drivers, each driver's PIP insurance generally covers their own medical expenses and lost wages, up to the limits specified in their policies, regardless of who caused the accident.

However, some no-fault states allow individuals with severe injuries to file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver if specific conditions are met. The at-fault driver's insurance is responsible for covering the damage to the other driver's vehicle and property, just as they would in a fault-based state. That's why drivers in no-fault states are still required to carry liability coverage.

What is an at-fault state?

In an at-fault state (tort state), if you're the one who caused an accident, you've got to make things right for the others involved. You can do this by filing a claim with your insurance or simply reaching into your pocket and settling up directly.

Now, if you go the insurance route, your policy has two important parts: property damage liability and bodily injury liability. Property damage liability takes care of fixing up the other driver's vehicle, while bodily injury liability handles their medical bills and any injuries (minor or major) their passengers might have suffered. These coverages have their limits, and anything beyond that, you have to pay yourself. If you happen to have full coverage, your insurance might even cover your own car's damages. Plus, if you have PIP (which is not required in South Carolina) or medical payments coverage, that can help pay for your injuries and your passengers' too, up to the limits spelled out in your policy.

What are pure, modified comparative, and contributory negligence?

States follow certain systems and rules that dictate how people involved in an accident have to pay for the damages or injuries.

These rules include:

  • Pure comparative negligence. In a pure comparative negligence system, the court determines the percentage of fault for each party involved in an accident. Even if you are mostly at fault (let's say 90%), you can still seek compensation for your damages from the other party (who may be 10% at fault). However, the amount you receive is reduced by your percentage of fault. So, in this example, if your damages are $10,000, you'd receive $1,000 (10% of $10,000) from the other party.
  • Modified comparative negligence. This system is a bit more forgiving. It allows you to seek compensation from the other party as long as your share of fault is below a certain threshold, often 50%. If you're equally or more at fault than the other party, you can't recover any damages. But if you're less than 50% at fault, you can seek compensation, and it will be reduced by your percentage of fault. So, if your share of fault is 40%, you can still recover 60% of your damages from the other party.
  • Contributory negligence. This is the strictest system. If you're even slightly at fault for an accident, you can't recover any damages from the other party. It's an all-or-nothing approach. So, even if you're just 1% at fault, you won't receive any compensation from the other party.

South Carolina follows a modified comparative negligence approach. So if you are in an accident, it is important to understand how much you were at fault in the accident, if you hold any of the fault at all. Of these systems, pure comparative negligence is the most lenient, modified comparative negligence falls in the middle, and contributory negligence is the least forgiving.

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