Is South Carolina A Fault State Or A No-Fault State?

When talking about accident cases, you may have come across the terms “fault state” and “no-fault state”. These refer to whether a state’s insurance claims system is based on who is at fault in an accident. In a fault-based state, the rule is that whomever negligently caused the accident must pay the injured party’s damages. By comparison, in a no-fault state, a person’s own insurance coverage pays for their own injuries, whether or not they were at-fault in the accident.

South Carolina follows the fault-based system. So for example, if you were injured in a car crash because another driver ran a red light, that driver would be responsible for your medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other harms. You file a claim against that driver’s insurer, and they are required to pay you in the right manner – otherwise, you can sue them. However, this general principle of liability comes with some specific rules.

SC Fault-Based System And Modified Comparative Negligence

Even though the fault-based system makes much sense, many accident cases are not black-and-white in terms of who is at fault. There are usually several contributing factors, and it is not uncommon that the injured person themselves contributed to the accident. Because of this, the fault-based claims system in South Carolina has a more specific rule called “modified comparative negligence”.

Let’s examine what “comparative negligence” means. It is a legal concept where liability is distributed according to how much each party was at fault. If, for instance, you were a plaintiff (claimant) in an accident case, but it was found that you were also partially at fault, you would be considered partly liable. Because of this, you would not be able to receive full compensation – the amount would be reduced according to your share or percentage of fault.

South Carolina follows the “modified comparative negligence” rule, which places a limit on how much negligence a plaintiff may have. In South Carolina, the limit is 51 percent. You may receive any amount of compensation only if your fault in the accident was 50 percent or less. If it is found that you were responsible for 51 percent or more, you can no longer receive any compensation.

The general reason behind this rule is that the plaintiff should not be more responsible for the accident than the defendant.

Let’s expound on our previous example: You were injured in a car crash involving another driver who ran a red light. You then seek compensation, asserting that that driver was at-fault. However, evidence shows that you were also driving significantly over the speed limit at the time of the crash. Because of this, a jury may find you to be 10 percent at-fault. If a jury awards you $100,000 in damages, the judge would reduce the award by 10 percent. You would only get $90,000.

Some states have a “pure comparative negligence” rule, where liability is distributed regardless of how big or small your share of fault is. If you were a plaintiff who was 99 percent responsible for the accident, your compensation would be reduced by 99 percent, and so you would only receive one percent of the amount.

How The No-Fault System Is Different

In contrast to the fault-based system followed by South Carolina, the no-fault system generally does not look at who’s at fault in a negligence case. Each person’s injuries should be covered by their own insurance. The problem with No Fault Insurance is that it has no deterrent effect. That is, bad drivers are not punished for causing wrecks if the harm is paid by the injured victim of the bad driving.

In South Carolina while liability insurance is fault based, we do have one type of insurance that is no-fault: PIP (Personal Injury Protection) or Med Pay. This is a limited amount of coverage a motorist can purchase for additional premium. It usually comes in a very limited amount of money, $1000 to $5000. If a vehicle has this coverage it will pay occupants of the vehicle for medical bills or lost income up to the limit of the coverage regardless of fault.

If you have been seriously injured have concerns as to how this system affects your specific claim, call us today at (803) 256-4242.

Kassel McVey
Personal Injury Lawyers
1330 Laurel Street Columbia, SC 29201 Phone: 803-256-4242

Mailing Address
Post Office Box 1476
Columbia, South Carolina 29202

Toll Free: (855) 256-4242
Fax: (803) 256-1952

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