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How Fault Is Determined in a Car Accident

How Fault Is Determined in a Car Accident

Navigating the post-accident process can feel like finding your way through a foggy labyrinth, especially when dealing with insurance companies and legal jargon. Our South Carolina car accident lawyers created this guide to arm you with the information you need, empower you to understand your rights and responsibilities, and make the process a little less daunting. So, let’s dive and take the first step towards unraveling how fault is determined in a car accident here in South Carolina.

Why Fault Matters in a Car Accident Claim

Understanding why fault matters in a car accident claim is crucial. This is because, in many cases, the financial burden of the accident – repair costs, medical expenses, lost wages, and other related costs – typically falls on the party found at fault. This allocation of responsibility is integral to ensuring fairness and justice after an accident.

Fault also determines who can claim compensation after a crash. South Carolina follows the legal principle of modified comparative negligence, which means that you may be able to recover damages even if you are partially at fault. This rule applies as long as your share of fault does not exceed the other party’s. However, if an insurer determines you bear some responsibility for the collision, your compensation would be reduced by the percentage of your fault. Hence, understanding and accurately establishing fault can greatly impact the financial outcome of your claim.

Is South Carolina a No-Fault State for Car Accidents?

In no-fault states like Florida and New York, drivers first file a claim with their own insurance company after a crash. The insurance company then pays for the driver’s injuries and financial losses up to the limits of their coverage. If an injured driver exhausts their no-fault benefits, still has severe injuries, and didn’t cause the crash, only then can they file a claim against the other party involved in the accident.

South Carolina, however, is not a no-fault state. While state law specifies the minimum amount of insurance drivers have to carry, the at-fault driver’s insurance company pays for any injuries from the crash, up to the limits of the at-fault driver’s policy. You can also pursue a claim against the other driver directly if your losses exceed the limits of their insurance. However, doing so requires help from an experienced and knowledgeable attorney.

South Carolina Negligence Laws

South Carolina operates under a “modified comparative negligence” system, which is critical in determining how much compensation you can receive if you’re involved in a car accident. Under this system, you can still recover damages even if you’re partially at fault for a crash, as long as you’re not more at fault than the other party.

Here’s how it works: if you’re involved in an accident and an insurance company says you are 30 percent at fault, you can still claim compensation. However, your total compensation would be reduced by your degree of responsibility. In this example, your compensation would be reduced by 30 percent.

It’s important to note that if an insurer says you bear 51 percent or more of the responsibility for the crash, South Carolina law says you would not be eligible to receive any compensation from the other party’s insurance company. This system places a heavy emphasis on accurately determining each party’s level of fault after an accident.

What Evidence Insurance Companies Use to Determine Fault

Insurance companies are methodical in determining fault after a car accident. They rely on a wide array of evidence to make a fair and accurate decision. Here’s a look at some of the key types of evidence they consider:

  • Police Reports: Police reports usually contain a wealth of details, including the officer’s observations, statements from involved parties and witnesses, and in some cases, even the officer’s opinion about who was at fault.
  • Photographs and Videos: Pictures and videos from the scene can provide vital visual evidence of what occurred.
  • Witness Statements: If any bystanders or passengers were present at the time of the accident, their accounts can be valuable in piecing together the sequence of events.
  • Vehicle Damage: The extent and type of damage to each vehicle can also provide clues about the accident. For example, if a car has rear-end damage and another has front-end damage, it often indicates that the car with front-end damage may have been at fault.
  • Medical Records: Medical records can demonstrate the severity and nature of injuries, which might support claims about how the accident occurred.
  • Accident Reconstruction: In complex cases, insurance companies may employ accident reconstruction experts. These professionals use physics, engineering, and their expertise to recreate the incident and help determine who is at fault.

While this guide provides a good starting point for determining fault for a crash, it’s important to remember that every accident is unique and often requires a specialized approach. That’s where our experienced attorneys can make a significant difference. We have a deep understanding of South Carolina’s negligence laws and know how to gather, analyze, and present evidence effectively to prove the other driver’s fault. To learn more about how we can help you recover compensation after a collision, call (803) 350-9230 or complete our contact form for a complimentary consultation.

Last Updated : May 30, 2023
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