Negligence is the legal doctrine that requires people to conduct themselves in a way that conforms with our legal duties and what reasonable people would do. In general, the elements of negligence are:
Each state decides how to distribute fault between the defendant and plaintiff or other defendants. In most states, including South Carolina, the negligence system is a “comparative negligence” system where you can collect even if you were partly at fault for the harm done to you. For example, the defendant ran a red light, at night, but you didn’t have your lights on and it was dusk. However, you can’t recover in South Carolina and many other states if you were more at fault in the accident than the other driver.
Currently, only Alabama, the District of Columbia, Maryland, North Carolina, and Virginia have a contributory negligence fault system, where you can be barred from recovery for being partly at fault in the accident. The following table describes the main South Carolina negligence laws.
|Code Section||South Carolina Code Section 15-1-300: Contributory Negligence Doesn’t Bar Recovery in Motor Vehicle Accident Actions
South Carolina Code Title 15: Civil Remedies & Procedures, Chapter 38: South Carolina Contribution Among Tortfeasors Act
|Comparative Negligence||South Carolina has adopted the comparative negligence form of negligence for motor vehicle accidents in 1962. In 1988, South Carolina moved to a comparative negligence system for all tort or injury cases. This means, a plaintiff isn’t barred from recovering in a lawsuit as long as their negligence in causing the accident was not more than the defendant’s negligence. This is a form of “modified comparative fault” where the plaintiff just has to be less than 51% at fault to recover in a car accident case.|
|Contribution Among Tortfeasors||When two or more people are responsible for a plaintiff’s accident or injury (called in legalese “jointly and severally liable”) then the defendant’s have a “right of contribution.” The right of contribution exists only to help a defendant who paid more than his or her pro rated share of the liability. For example, when a person with more wealth was found 40% at fault, but paid 100% of the debt, while the remaining defendant who’s 60% at fault is low-income unable to pay the plaintiff.
Some exceptions to the right of contribution include that defendants who intentionally injure or kill can’t get others to pay them back for their share, for example, if medical professionals may also have made an error that further harmed the plaintiff. Additionally, if one party settles with the plaintiff and another possible defendant wasn’t a part of the settlement, they can’t get a right of contribution from the person who hasn’t settled.
|Uniform Contribution Among Tortfeasors Act||South Carolina enacted the Uniform Contribution Among Tortfeasors Act in 1988. The Uniform Law Commissioners create useful sets of laws, usually on emerging laws topics, so that states, if they so desire, can implement them to have somewhat uniform laws with other states.
In 2002, the Uniform Law Commission replaced the Uniform Comparative Fault Act and the older Uniform Contribution among Joint Tortfeasors Acts with the Uniform Apportionment of Tort Responsibility Act. South Carolina (and any other state) has yet to adopt this newer version of the law.
Note: Because laws change constantly, it’s important to verify any laws you’re reading by conducting your own legal research or contacting a knowledgeable attorney
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