Claiming Damages When You Are Partly to Blame
You’re in your car, idling at a red light, and all of a sudden you are rear ended from behind. In this situation, the other driver is clearly at fault. Now say you are idling at that red light, get hit from behind, but one of your brake lights is out and the other driver says you are partly to blame. Can you still claim damages? Yes, you can. Under South Carolina law, you could still request compensation for your injuries, as well as compensation for damages to your property and any pain or suffering caused by the accident, under the doctrine of comparative negligence. If you’ve been injured in a car accident in which you are partly to blame, comparative negligence may be a valuable aid in helping you recover.
The state of South Carolina adopted the rule of comparative negligence in 1991. The American Bar Association, in an article on jury instruction in negligence cases, states that by adopting comparative negligence as a rule, a plaintiff, or person bringing a case to court, could not be barred from recovery, even if they were found to be at some fault in the situation. Using our earlier example of a driver with a brake light out, would it really be fair or just for him to be denied compensation for his injuries, simply because he shared some small part of the blame? While he may have contributed to the accident, clearly the other driver carried far more of the blame. This, in a nutshell, is what comparative negligence is all about: determining who is more at fault.
The 51 Percent Rule
The South Carolina Code of Laws, Title 15, Chapter 38, deals with liability between plaintiffs and defendants in a negligence case. The rule is that a plaintiff can claim and recover damages as long as they are less than 50 percent responsible (or negligent) in causing the accident. So, using our prior example, say the court determined the driver with the brake light out was 20 percent responsible for the accident and suffered $100,000 in damages. That means the driver who actually hit him was 80 percent responsible for the accident. Therefore, seeing that he was 80 percent responsible, he would need to pay 80 percent of the damages, or $80,000. In other words, you can be partly to blame for an accident, and still collect damages, as long as you are less than 50 percent responsible. The dollar amount of damages you could claim would be your total damages, minus the percentage of your responsibility.
Contact Anastopoulo Law Firm
If you’ve suffered damages as a result of an accident in which you were partly to blame, contact our experienced South Carolina car accident attorney. Regardless of who was at fault in your car accident, our attorneys will sit down with you and thoroughly review your case. We have experience helping clients in Charleston and throughout South Carolina receive the compensation they deserve.