After a car accident, you’re likely in shock and wondering what just happened. Eventually, you confront the reality of the cost of recuperating physically and restoring your damaged goods.
South Carolina’s legal system provides that the parties responsible for a crash should cover the damages of the victims. Discover how the courts and insurers determine fault.
4 Elements of Negligence
The person at fault in a car accident has in some way shown negligence or carelessness. Under the law, the courts establish negligence with four elements:
- The negligent party owed you a duty of care, in this case, to operate safely on the road and not harm you physically or emotionally.
- The negligent party breached the duty of care by driving carelessly.
- The negligence caused an accident.
- You sustained damages and losses from the accident.
Whenever you can demonstrate these criteria, you can prove a motorist was at fault in a collision.
Types of Evidence To Determine Fault
Courts and insurance companies rely on the following pieces of evidence to decide who is at fault.
Photos and Videos
Police officers will likely take photographs of the scene, as will the other parties. It is wise to get your own photograph or video recordings of the scene showing the position of the vehicles, vehicle damage, road signs, traffic signals, skid marks and injuries.
Attempt to get the names and contact information of bystanders who saw what happened. Take notes or recordings of their statements for an objective viewpoint.
Medical records demonstrate the extent of damages but can also help in determining fault. You should seek medical attention promptly after a car accident and keep copies of all records, receipts and results.
Police reports alone cannot serve as evidence according to South Carolina Code Section 56-5-1290. However, courts may listen to an officer’s testimony, and the officer can refer to the report. You should secure a copy of the officer’s report to prepare your case.
Records of Property Damage and Personal Losses
You should also keep records of other damages or losses you incur due to the accident. For example, save receipts or estimates for the repair of any damaged items, including your vehicle or other property. You’ll likely have to demonstrate that the damage was not pre-existing, so maintenance and service records can prove your car’s condition before the accident.
You also want to prove how much you lost due to work absences. Save pay stubs and proof of any bonuses you forfeited or sick days you used because of the accident.
How Comparative Negligence Rules Affect Compensation
At times, a car accident is not completely one party’s fault. With this understanding in mind, South Carolina follows the modified comparative negligence standard. Only the parties that have 50% of the fault or less can claim damages.
Further, people who experience an accident and suffer losses may only claim the amount of damages that is not due to their own negligence. To illustrate: if the court rules that a plaintiff is 20% responsible for $100,000 of sustained damages, the individual can only recover $80,000 (80%) of the losses.
When the Accident Involves Multiple Parties
Automobile collisions may involve more than two separate parties. In those cases, the comparative negligence standard still applies.
You only have to prove that you did not contribute 51% or more to the cause of the accident. The insurers of the other parties will have to cover the corresponding amount of their clients’ fault for the accident.
How Insurance Companies Approach Determining Fault
Your case does not have to go to trial for you to receive compensation. Many people settle with insurance companies out of court. This approach is often quicker and more cost-effective than a trial.
However, most insurance companies are for-profit businesses that seek to minimize costs. As such, expect an insurer to take any steps to reduce your claim and search for any evidence against you.
How a Lawyer Helps You
A car accident attorney assists you with the settlement or trial process. Your car accident lawyer allows you to focus on recuperation by handling the paperwork and ensuring you complete legal requirements on time. The firm can even investigate the scene and circumstances for you.
Your lawyer also fights to protect you from an insurance company’s attempts to unfairly reduce your claim. Your lawyer can communicate with the insurer, other parties and law enforcement for you, minimizing the possibility that you unintentionally say or do something that harms your case.
Call the Jeffcoat Law Firm for Help With Your Car Accident Case
While the fault for an accident may seem apparent to you, proving the facts and your damages can be difficult and stressful. Talk to the team at the Jeffcoat Law Firm for a free consultation. We’re here to help our clients fight for fair compensation and focus on recovery.