When most people think of a personal injury trial, they think of one injured plaintiff on one side of the courtroom and one defendant accused of negligence on the other. Many times this is the case, but often the circumstances of an accident are much more complex and nuanced. When there are multiple parties found to be at fault, South Carolina's comparative fault law comes into play.
Comparative fault allows the court to divide fault among multiple parties. This fault is represented in a percentage and that percentage is then used to reduce any awarded compensation. To see how this principle works, let's take a look a theoretical personal injury case.
On a local highway, there was a three car pile-up. All drivers sustained some injuries and damages—and all were also found by a jury to have contributed to the accident. For the sake of simplicity, let's also say that the jury has awarded each driver $10,000 in proceeds.
In the following example, compensation may be handled in the following way:
- Driver A was found to be 10% at fault - she collects $9,000
- Driver B was found to be 20% at fault - he collects $8,000
- Driver C was found to be 70% at fault - he collects no compensation
As you can see, drivers A and B, who had a minimal role in causing the car accident, had their awarded compensation reduced by their percentage of fault. So even though they were both partially responsible for their own injuries, they were still able to recover some money. For Driver C, however, the story is different.
“Modified” Comparative Fault
South Carolina has what is known as modified comparative fault, which uses something called "the 51% Bar Rule." Simply put, this means that any party found to be 51% or more at fault for an accident cannot recover money. This is to prevent especially negligent individuals from benefiting from their own negligence—and it is also why, in the above example, driver C (who was found to be 70% responsible) did not collect any money.
As you can see, our comparative fault law makes it so that an accurate assessment of fault can be achieved and that injury suits do not have to be restricted to an "all-or-nothing" model. However, injury victims still must retain vigilant counsel to prevent defendants from asserting that they, the plaintiff, should shoulder more of the assigned fault than appropriate.
If you have been hurt due to the actions of someone else, we invite you to contact Pierce, Herns, Sloan & Wilson, LLC today. Our award-winning Charleston personal injury lawyers have recovered millions of dollars on behalf of our clients and never compromise on pursing results the results injury victims deserve.
Get a proven advocate in your corner during this troubling time. Contact our team today to request a free consultation.