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Posted in Personal Injury on January 3, 2018
During any personal injury case in South Carolina, the legal concept of “modified comparative negligence” may arise. This concept deals with the idea that two or more parties share fault for an accident, instead of one party being 100% responsible. Not all states abide by comparative negligence or contributory negligence laws. South Carolina follows a modified version of the standard law, which places a cutoff on how much fault a party can have before losing his or her right to compensation in a Charleston, SC personal injury case. Here’s what to know about this fault law.
There are three main comparative negligence rules that states can use: one is pure comparative negligence and the other two are types of modified comparative negligence laws. States that follow “pure comparative negligence” rules will award a plaintiff compensation regardless of his or her percentage of fault, as long as it’s less than 100%. The courts will reduce the plaintiff’s award by his/her percentage. For example, a plaintiff who is 25% at fault for a car accident would receive $75,000 of a $100,000 verdict.
With pure comparative fault laws, the plaintiff can take home compensation even if the courts find him or her 99% at fault. Modified comparative fault laws place percentage limits on how much fault a plaintiff can share before becoming ineligible for compensation. States can come up with their own percentage limits, but there are two main percentages in use: 50% and 51%. There are variations to this rule according to state-specific laws. South Carolina’s modified comparative negligence law bars a plaintiff from recovery if the court finds him/her 51% or more at fault.
In a case where two or more parties share legal fault for an accident, the courts will divide fault amongst each at-fault party. In South Carolina, the courts must find the plaintiff 50% or less at fault for the accident in question for the plaintiff to qualify for compensation. Fault greater than 50% will bar the plaintiff from recovery. The comparative fault system is good news for plaintiffs who partially contributed to an accident.
Under SC’s modified comparative fault law, a driver who was fiddling with the radio at the time of an accident, while the other driver was intoxicated, would most likely still be eligible for at least partial compensation. As long as fiddling with the radio contributed to the crash less than 51%, the injured party would still be able to recover. The comparative fault system helps prevent situations in which the victim of an accident cannot receive financial recovery for barely contributing to an accident – as is the case in states that follow contributory negligence laws.