What If I Was Partially to Blame for the Car Accident Is There Still a Case?

South Carolina Car Accident Lawyers Assisting Clients in North Charleston, Myrtle Beach, Clinton, and Columbia

If you are involved in a serious car accident in North Charleston, Myrtle Beach, or another city in South Carolina, the immediate moments after the crash can be disorienting and alarming. As a fact book from the South Carolina Department of Public Safety explains, car accident fatalities have risen in South Carolina cities over the last several years. Indeed, between 2013 and 2014, South Carolina witnessed a 7.3 percent increase in traffic fatalities, with a rise from 1.57 deaths per hundred million vehicle miles of travel to 1.65 deaths per hundred million vehicle miles of travel.

No one gets behind the wheel of an automobile and expects to be in a traffic collision. As such, when a crash does occur, it may be difficult to make sense of what happened. Did another vehicle run a red light? Did a rough patch of road lead you to swerve into oncoming traffic? Regardless of what happened and who bears some of the responsibility for the accident, it is important to discuss your case with an experienced car accident lawyer in Myrtle Beach. Even if you were partially to blame for the accident, you still may be able to recover damages.

When a Plaintiff is Partially to Blame for a Traffic Collision

To better understand some scenarios in North Charleston or Columbia, SC in which a plaintiff may be partially at fault but still able to recover damages, we would like to consider a hypothetical example.

Let us imagine that you are driving on I-26 heading into North Charleston. There is a lot of traffic on the highway, so you have slowed down to a pace of only about 30 miles per hour. As you are driving slowly in traffic in the right-hand lane, your child (in the backseat) begins crying. You reach into the backseat for just a few seconds, and at that very moment, another vehicle cuts you off and attempts to get in front of you. You slam on your brakes, but there is not enough space to come to a stop, and your car strikes the right side of the other vehicle. Now, you might be concerned that you bear some responsibility for the accident because you were reaching into the backseat to care for your child at the very point at which the other vehicle cut you off.

If your case goes to a jury (if you do not settle the case before that point), then the jury will need to decide just how responsible you and the other driver were for the accident in terms of percentages. Why will this make a difference? Now, it is important to understand how South Carolina law handles comparative fault, or comparative negligence.

South Carolina Law and Comparative Negligence

Generally speaking, the law recognizes that a plaintiff who is injured because of a defendant’s negligence or bad actions deserves to be compensated for his or her losses. But what happens when the plaintiff shares some of the blame for a car accident that takes place in South Carolina? Under South Carolina law, our state uses a theory of “comparative negligence.” Different states approach comparative negligence a bit differently. In South Carolina, there is a 50 percent Bar Rule. This means that a plaintiff can recover damages—even if she is partially at fault—as long as she is 49 percent or less at fault. In other words, once the plaintiff is determined to be 50 percent or more at fault for an accident, she cannot recover damages.

Now let us explore this rule in relation to the scenario we depicted above. Just how responsible is the plaintiff for the accident? And just how responsible is the defendant who cut off the plaintiff in traffic? A jury might decide that, although the plaintiff if partially at fault for reaching into the backseat of the vehicle at the time of the crash, the accident still would have occurred because of the defendant’s aggressive driving. As such, a jury might, for instance, decide that the plaintiff is 40 percent at fault, while the defendant is 60 percent at fault. In such a case, the plaintiff’s damage award would be reduced by 40 percent. What does this mean in practice? If the jury awards $10,000 in damages, the award would be reduced by 40 percent (or, $4,000), and the plaintiff would receive 60 percent of the damage award ($6,000).

Contact a South Carolina Auto Accident Lawyer

If you were involved in a car crash in South Carolina and have questions about how your responsibility in the accident may impact your case, an experienced North Charleston auto accident lawyer can speak with you today. Contact Joye Law Firm to learn more about how we can assist with your case.