Guide to South Carolina Car Accident Laws

If you were involved in a car accident in South Carolina, you may be wondering what the laws are. Who is at fault, what traffic laws govern your case, and what legal options you have open to you for compensation are important things to discuss with an attorney. Until you find a Columbia car accident lawyer, this guide might answer some of your preliminary questions.

As mentioned, you should always speak to a South Carolina car accident attorney about your injury case. However, there may be some things you can do in the meantime and some answers you can find by doing some research into the laws in South Carolina that govern car accidents.

South Carolina Traffic Laws for Car Accidents

The South Carolina traffic code is one of the first places you can look for information about car accident laws. Title 56 is the Motor Vehicles section of the South Carolina Code of Laws. These laws detail all of the rules surrounding licensing, driving, and fines for traffic violations. Chapter 5, the Uniform Act Regulating Traffic on Highways, is where the specific list of traffic offenses can be found.

This chapter lists basic traffic laws that everyone generally understands: no speeding, don’t tailgate, drive on the right, pass on the left, and signal before making turns. It also lists specific laws that might be complex, such as rules about passing when there are obstructions in your lane or laws about who gets to go first at complex intersections with stop signs.

Most accidents happen at intersections, where people can often get traffic laws wrong. Usually, everyone has to yield to a driver who is going straight without a stop sign or a red light. That means that if you are trying to turn left across their lane of travel, you have to wait until they go through the intersection first. Intersections can get complicated when they have ramps instead of right turns at the intersections, and drivers may need to look for yield signs or rely on other traffic laws to determine who gets the right of way and who has to yield.

Fault Laws for South Carolina Car Accidents

Determining who is at fault in a car crash often requires looking at the traffic laws mentioned above. However, there are other laws that govern fault in a South Carolina car accident that are important to understand.

What Is Fault?

First, it is important to understand what fault is. In a car accident case, the party who is found to be at fault is considered “liable,” and they can be ordered to pay the other driver’s damages. Fault usually means that they were found “negligent” in car accident cases, which means that they were found to have violated some legal duty they owed the other driver, and that violation caused the victim’s injuries.

Legal Duties

Second, the rules violated in a negligence case could be written traffic laws – meaning a driver could be at fault for speeding, driving under the influence, or distracted driving. The rules could also be reasonable, standard safe-driving practices that might not be written down anywhere.

Assigning Fault

A third law to understand deals with how fault can be divided in car accident cases. People often think there is a decision to be made between two drivers about which one is at fault and which one was “the victim”. In reality, things are more complicated because there can be more than two cars involved in the crash, and the victim might also share some level of blame.

South Carolina uses a “modified comparative fault” rule that allows each driver to be assigned some share of the blame for the crash. The victim can still recover damages for the percentage of fault the other drivers share, but they are blocked from recovery if their own fault was more than the other drivers. So that means if you are found 30% at fault, for example, you can still recover 70% of your damages against the other drivers. If you were over 50% at fault, you are blocked from recovery.

South Carolina Car Insurance Laws

Some states use “no-fault” car insurance systems. In these states, all drivers are required to carry their own insurance that covers them in the event of a crash. So, when drivers are injured in a car accident in a no-fault state, they file a claim against their own insurance. Then the insurance company pays the damages regardless of who was at fault. South Carolina does not use a no-fault system, and you may be entitled to higher damages because of it.

At-Fault Insurance Claims

In South Carolina’s “at-fault” or “tort” system, you file a car insurance claim against the driver who hit you. If you can prove that they were at fault, their insurance policy should cover the damages you faced. These damages often include pain and suffering, which is often barred in no-fault claims. If you were involved in a hit-and-run or the other driver did not have enough insurance to cover your needs, you may have an uninsured/underinsured motorist policy that could kick in and provide additional relief.

Suing for Damages

One other benefit to at-fault or tort systems is that you can often file a lawsuit instead of relying on insurance if you prefer. If the insurance companies refuse to pay or won’t admit that their driver was at fault, then you can take the driver to court instead. This might pay higher damages since courts are not beholden to insurance policy rules when assessing damages.

In rare cases, you can even get “punitive damages” in a lawsuit. These are additional damages paid to the victim to punish the at-fault driver. This is rare, but these damages sometimes appear in cases involving gross negligence or repeat, dangerous violations by trucking companies and transportation companies.

Check with a Columbia personal injury lawyer about what path you should take and whether you should “settle” your lawsuit instead of going to trial.

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