On April 22nd, the South Carolina Highway Patrol held a memorial service to remember the 1,017 people who died prematurely on South Carolina roads in 2016. The memorial service is as much a means to reflect on those who have been lost on South Carolina roads as it is means to educate the public on the dangers of driving. The dangers of driving include not only the potential for vehicular fatalities but other personal injuries and property damage due to car accidents. Depending on who or what caused the accident, the dangers of driving on South Carolina roads may also mean full liability to cover the damages that you caused to another, or on the other extreme, complete denial of any damage reward because you were partly at fault.
PRIMARY CONTRIBUTING FACTORS
In Richland County, South Carolina, as in elsewhere throughout South Carolina and the United States, almost all car or motor vehicle accidents are caused by a driver, and as such, almost all accidents are preventable. According to South Carolina Department of Public Safety, the primary contributing factors of car accidents are: driver, roadway, non-motorist, environmental and vehicle defect.
Driver. Examples of driver contributing factors include disregard to traffic signs or signals, distracted, driving too fast for conditions, failing to yield the right of way, fatigued, following too closely, swerving to avoid an object, driving under the influence, texting, aggressive operation of vehicle, and any other activity performed by the driver that contributes to an accident.
Roadway. Examples of roadway contributing factors include debris, non-highway work, obstruction in roadway, road surface condition, rut, holes and bumps, shoulder conditions, or any other roadway factor.
Non-motorist. Examples of non-motorist contributing factors include another person lying or illegally in the roadway, person not visible (e.g., wearing dark clothes at night), improper crossing or darting across the road by a non-motorist, or other contributing factor by a non-motorist person.
Environmental. Examples of environmental contributing factors include an animal in the road, weather condition, glare, or other environmental factor.
Vehicle Defect. Examples of vehicle defects include technical or malfunction of such things as the brakes, steering, tires/wheels, lights, signals, restraint system, or other vehicle defect.
The most recent South Carolina Department of Safety statistics regarding primary contributing factors for collisions and how they breakdown are from 2014. The following chart provides the results.
As one can see, drivers contributing factors completely outnumber any other cause of auto collisions generally and fatal auto collisions specifically. Overall, in 2014, there were 119,173 total auto collisions, and of that number there were:
- 756 fatal collisions;
- 34,062 injury collisions;
- 84,355 property damage only collisions;
- 823 persons killed; and
- 53,029 persons injured.
Nearly 95 percent of auto collisions were caused by human error that could have been prevented. These human errors caused 77 percent of the death and 95 percent of all personal injuries. Almost all liability is in the hands of drivers rather than manufacturers, car dealers, governmental agencies or any other entity responsible for roadway, environmental and vehicle defects. If you’ve been involved in a car accident in Richland County, South Carolina, the chances you are liable are significant.
LIABILITY & MODIFIED COMPARATIVE NEGLIGENCE
Liability is the legal term for fault. In Richland County, South Carolina, and throughout South Carolina, fault is based on modified comparative negligence that follows the 51% bar rule. Essentially, the 51% bar rule means that if you are 51% at fault, you recover nothing, but if you are 49% or less at fault, you can recover 51% or more – whatever your non-fault percentage is – in damages.
There are 4 elements of negligence that must be proved generally to win a claim or specifically to win a lawsuit:
- Duty. All drivers owe a duty of care to everyone on and around the road. Unless there are some strange circumstances, it is understood that as a driver, you and the other driver owed a duty of care to each other.
- Breach. If you are the claimant or plaintiff in a lawsuit, you need to prove that the other driver breached his duty to you. A breach is a failure on behalf of the defendant to act in a manner that a reasonably prudent person would have acted if under the same or similar circumstances.
- Causation. The claimant or plaintiff needs to demonstrate that the breach of duty was or is the proximal cause of the injury.
- Damages. The claimant or plaintiff needs to demonstrate that injury suffered stemmed directly from the breach of duty.
In South Carolina, however, even if the above 4 elements are clearly proven by the claimant or plaintiff, the plaintiff still fails and the defendant has a defense if the plaintiff is found to be 51% or more at fault.
Thus, if you suffered damages, whether economic and/or non-economic damages, and you want to recover damages in part for what you are not at fault for, you must NOT have been at fault for more than 51%.
On the other hand, if you are the defendant and want a defense, all you need to do is demonstrate successfully to an insurance company or to the court that the claimant or plaintiff was at least 51% at fault.
As such, car accident cases in South Carolina can become very complex and intricate. It may go down to the very finest details and may involve a lot of emotional stress. Having an experienced car accident attorney in Richland County, South Carolina, who can do the nitty gritty work for you so that you can spend your time healing, is very important to the success of your case.
If you were in a car accident in Richland County, South Carolina, regardless if it was caused by another person or other contributing factor, you may need to seek legal counsel as soon as possible. It is often difficult to determine precisely who is liable for car accidents. That’s why it is important to seek legal counsel from someone experienced in car accidents and, if applicable, personal injury. Contact a skilled Richland County, SC car accident injury lawyer at the Michael Jeffcoat Firm and learn how we will help protect your legal rights today.