How to Determine Who is At Fault in a Car Accident

Auto Accident Lawyers Serving Clients throughout South Carolina

If you are involved in a serious car accident in Columbia, Myrtle Beach, or another city in South Carolina and you believe the other driver is responsible for the crash, you are likely wondering how fault will be determined in the collision. It is important to recognize that each case has its own set of facts, and it is important to discuss your situation with an experienced South Carolina car accident lawyer who can help build your claim.

Contributing Factors and Fault in Charleston, Myrtle Beach, and Columbia Car Accidents

In some situations, it might seem obvious that the other driver was at fault for the crash. According to a fact book from the South Carolina Department of Public Safety, a majority of traffic collisions occur because of a driver’s negligence, and the primary contributing factors in those accidents include but are not limited to the following:

  •      Driver disregarded road signs or traffic signals;
  •      Distracted driving;
  •      Speeding;
  •      Driver failed to yield right of way;
  •      Driver ran off the road;
  •      Drowsy driving;
  •      Driver followed too closely;
  •      Driver made an improper turn;
  •      Improper lane changing;
  •      Texting while driving;
  •      Talking on a cell phone while driving; and
  •      Driving under the influence of alcohol.

When it comes to collisions causing personal injuries, the most common contributing factor was “driving too fast for conditions,” with “failed to yield right of way” a close second. In fatal crashes in South Carolina, the most common contributing factors include driving under the influence and driving too fast for the conditions present on the road. While some of these contributing factors alone may suggest that the other driver was at fault for the crash, you will typically need to gather evidence to help prove fault when you file a claim for compensation.

You Cannot Rely On the Police Report Alone to Prove Fault in South Carolina

Under South Carolina law, you may be required to contact law enforcement officials after an accident occurs. If your crash was not investigated by law enforcement, then the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles has a form that you must fill out and submit within 15 days of the accident, presuming that the accident resulted in bodily injury or death, and/or that the accident led to property damage of at least $1,000.

Yet you should not plan to rely on a police report or a traffic collision report as evidence of fault. To be sure, Section 56-5-1290 of the South Carolina Code makes clear that no reports related to motor vehicle accidents “may be evidence of the negligence or due care of either party at the trial of any action at law to recover damages.”

If you cannot introduce a police report as evidence of fault, how will fault be determined?

Gathering Evidence to Prove the Other Driver’s Liability in a Columbia, Charleston, or Myrtle Beach Car Accident

Since you will not be able to use a police report (or another collision report) to prove fault in your lawsuit, what can you rely upon to show that the other driver is liable?

  • Photographs from the scene of the accident: it is important to take as many photographs as possible at the scene of the accident if you are able to do so. Pictures of the vehicles, as well as the general scene of the collision—taken from many different angles—can help to show what happened. In addition, an accident reconstruction expert in Charleston, Columbia, or another South Carolina city can use the images you take to help develop a convincing reconstruction of the traffic collision.
  • Witness statements: it is important to collect the names and contact information for anyone who may have witnessed the traffic collision. Even if the witness does not live in North Charleston or Myrtle Beach—or wherever the accident took place—you may still be able to rely on that witness’s testimony to help prove fault in your lawsuit.
  • Expert witnesses and other witnesses: your South Carolina car accident lawyer can work with an accident reconstruction expert, as we mentioned above, to help determine precisely how the accident took place. That accident reconstruction expert then may be able to serve as an expert witness in your case. Additionally, although police reports cannot be used to prove fault, you may be able to call a law enforcement officer as a witness. Under Section 56-5-1290 of the South Carolina Code, a responding police officer is permitted to look at a police report in order to refresh his or her memory about what happened at the scene of the accident.

Contact a Charleston, SC Auto Accident Lawyer

Were you involved in a car accident? Are you planning to file a claim for compensation? An experienced auto accident lawyer in Charleston can discuss your options for determining fault in the crash and seeking damages. Contact Joye Law Firm today.