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South Carolina Negligence Laws

Most personal injury cases hinge on the legal theory of negligence, whereby an individual who owes a duty to another fails to exercise a certain degree of care, causing injury. For instance, a restaurant whose cook fails to check the temperature of a roasted chicken may be held negligent for the diners' resulting food poisoning. The defendant is only liable if they owe a particular duty to the plaintiff. For example, if a diner with celiac disease fails to mention this to the restaurant staff and ends up ingesting gluten (which people with celiac disease can't consume), then it's the diner's (not the restaurant's) fault.

Each state decides how to distribute fault between the defendant and the plaintiff or other defendants. In most states, including South Carolina, the negligence system is a "modified comparative negligence" system where you can collect even if you were partly at fault for the harm done to you.

This article provides a brief overview of negligence laws in the state of South Carolina.

The Elements of Negligence

Negligence is the legal doctrine that requires people to conduct themselves in a way that conforms with their legal duties and what reasonable people would do. In general, the elements of negligence are:

  • A duty of care was owed by the defendant to the plaintiff
  • The defendant breached that duty
  • There's a causal connection between the defendant's conduct and the harm to the plaintiff
  • The harm was a proximate cause of the defendant's actions, meaning the defendant's action/inaction was reasonably related to the plaintiff's injuries
  • The plaintiff had damages resulting from the defendant's conduct

Negligence Laws in South Carolina: At a Glance

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 § 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
Modified Comparative Negligence South Carolina adopted the modified 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 Yes, except if a judge or jury determines that a defendant was less than 50% negligent. If so, the defendant is only liable for his/her proportion of damages. Also, no contribution if the defendant's conduct is determined to be willful, wanton, reckless, grossly negligent, or intentional or conduct involves the use, sale, or possession of alcohol or the illegal or illicit use, sale, or possession of drugs.
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: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

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Get Legal Help With Your South Carolina Negligence Claim

If you've been injured in a car accident, by a medical procedure, or by another accident where you weren't 51% or more at fault, you may be entitled to compensation. However, there are time limits for when you can sue someone who's harmed you and it may be harder to acquire evidence the longer you wait. Because of this, it may be important to speak with an experienced South Carolina personal injury lawyer.

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