South Carolina Car Accident Laws

The statute of limitations deadline for filing a South Carolina car accident lawsuit, the state's "comparative negligence" rule, and your obligation to report a car accident in South Carolina.

After a South Carolina traffic accident, if you've been injured or had your vehicle damaged, you may want to consider your options for getting compensation. In this article, we'll discuss a few South Carolina laws that could have a big impact on any car accident claim you decide to make, and we'll look at the legal obligations of drivers when it comes to reporting an accident to law enforcement in South Carolina.

The South Carolina Car Accident Statute of Limitations

A "statute of limitations" is a state law that sets a strict time limit on your right to bring a lawsuit to court.

(Note: The statute of limitations does not apply to a car insurance claim. Any insurance company, whether your own or the other driver's, is going to require you to make a claim -- or at least give the insurer notice of an incident that could trigger a claim -- "promptly" or "within a reasonable time" after the accident. That usually means a matter of days, or a few weeks at most.)

South Carolina Code of Laws section 15-3-530 sets the statute of limitations for any kind of case that could result from a car accident. Whether it's for car accident injury for vehicle damage, or for wrongful death stemming from a car crash, this law gives you three years to ask the state courts for a civil remedy.

So, that means if anyone was killed or hurt in the crash -- whether a driver, passenger, motorcycle rider, bicyclist, or pedestrian -- or had their vehicle or other personal property damaged, they (or their representative) must get their lawsuit filed against any potential defendant within three years.

For injury and property damage cases, the three-year “clock” starts running on the date of the accident. But for a South Carolina wrongful death lawsuit stemming from a car accident, the "clock" starts running on the day of the accident victim’s death, which could be later than the date of the accident itself.

If you try to file your car accident lawsuit after the applicable time limit has passed, you can count on the defendant (the person you’re trying to sue) pointing out that discrepancy to the court as part of a motion to dismiss. The court will almost certainly grant the motion (unless some rare exception applies to extend the filing deadline), and that will be the end of your case. That's why it’s crucial to understand how the statute of applies to your situation.

Even if you’re confident that your case will be resolved through the car insurance claim process, you'll want to leave yourself plenty of time to file a lawsuit in case you need to -- if for no other reason than that you’ll have more leverage during settlement talks. If you think you might be running up against the filing deadline, you may want to contact an experienced South Carolina car accident attorney.

Comparative Negligence in South Carolina Car Accident Cases

Suppose you're seriously injured in a South Carolina car accident, and you take your case to court. The jury, after hearing all the evidence, decides that the other driver was responsible for the accident -- but that you too bear part of the blame. What happens next? How does this verdict affect your right to compensation?

South Carolina is a "modified comparative negligence" state. This means you can still recover damages in a car-accident-related lawsuit, but your award will be reduced according to your share of negligence, as long as that share was not greater than that of other parties.

For instance, suppose that the jury determines that your injuries, pain and suffering, and other losses total $100,000. However, the jury also thinks that you were 10 percent responsible for the crash. In that situation, the total amount of your damages, $100,000, is reduced by 10 percent, or $10,000, leaving you with a total award of $90,000.

Keep in mind that if your level of fault exceeds that of the other party (or parties), you'll be barred from recovering anything at all under South Carolina law.

The comparative negligence rule binds South Carolina judges and juries (if your car accident case makes it to court), and it will also guide a car insurance claims adjuster when he or she is evaluating your case. Also keep in mind that since there is no empirical means of allocating fault, any assignment of liability will ultimately come down to your ability to negotiate with a claims adjuster or to persuade a judge or jury.

Reporting a Car Accident in South Carolina

According to South Carolina Code of Laws section 56-5-1270, the driver or owner of any vehicle involved in an accident that has not yet been investigated by law enforcement must complete and send a Traffic Collision Report form to the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles if the crash resulted in:

  • total property damage of $1,000 or more, or
  • bodily injury or death.

South Carolina Car Insurance Requirements

In almost every South Carolina car accident scenario, insurance coverage is sure to play a key role, so it's important to understand the state's liability auto insurance requirements and other coverage rules that could affect your car accident claim. Get the details on South Carolina's car insurance rules.

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