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South Carolina Car Accident Laws

Many people feel disorientated after a car accident, and they aren’t sure of the legal aspects of their case. At Surasky Law Firm, we have negotiated hundreds of settlements for clients, and we are here to help anyone hurt in a crash. 

Below, we look at a few of the most important laws regarding car accidents in South Carolina. These laws instruct motorists about what to do following an accident, as well as identify how much time they have to sue, among other critical matters. You want to understand your duties under these laws.

Contact us today to talk with an experienced Aiken, SC personal injury lawyer. We can answer your questions in a free consultation and, if you hire us, begin assembling a claim for financial compensation. 

South Carolina’s Statute of Limitations (S.C. Code § 15-3-530) 

The statute of limitations is the amount of time a victim gets for filing a lawsuit. Surprisingly, you can’t wait indefinitely. Under the law, a victim gets three years to file. The clock begins the day of the accident or, if a loved one died because of a car accident, the day of their death. 

For example, if you were injured in an accident on June 15, 2024, then you have until June 15, 2027 to file a lawsuit in court. 

What happens if you miss the deadline? You will most likely lose the ability to sue at all. The defendant who injured you can walk away free and clear while owing you absolutely nothing. It’s critical to reach out to an attorney today to protect your legal rights. 

The statute of limitations does not apply to insurance claims. Instead, you must report an accident to an insurer promptly. However, going past the statute of limitations can result in losing any leverage in settlement negotiations. 

Comparative Negligence in South Carolina (Supreme Court Decision) 

Some accidents are solely the fault of one person. Imagine a drunk driver who slams into a person stopped at an intersection. This accident is probably 100% the fault of the intoxicated motorist. 

With other accidents, however, both motorists might be partially to blame. This is where South Carolina’s modified comparative negligence law comes into play. 

In 1991, the South Carolina Supreme Court adopted the modified comparative negligence standard. The case was Nelson v. Concrete Supply Company. The Supreme Court held that a plaintiff could sue provided his or her fault was “not greater” than the defendant’s share. Essentially, the plaintiff can sue if they are 50% or less responsible. If they are 51%, then they are prohibited entirely. 

However, the defendant’s damages are reduced by their share of fault. So if you were 45% at fault, you could still sue. But you would get only 55% of what you otherwise would if you were blameless. 

Comparative negligence will also come into play with a settlement. An insurance adjuster will reduce how much they are willing to pay for an accident based on your share of the blame for the accident. Allocating fault is something that will be negotiated between the parties. 

If your case goes to trial, a jury would decide each side’s share of fault. It can greatly affect how much compensation an accident victim takes home. 

Call a lawyer after your accident. You don’t want to accidentally say something to the other side that will result in losing the ability to sue or reducing your compensation. Be very afraid of any request to give a recorded statement unless you have hired a lawyer. 

Reporting a Car Accident to the State (S.C. Code § 56-5-1270) 

The driver of an accident must submit a completed Traffic Collision Report to the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles if the accident caused: 

  • Bodily injury, or 

  • Death, or 

  • At least $1,000 in property damage. 

You have 15 days from the day of the accident to submit the form. However, submission is not required if police officers investigated the crash. 

Today, $1,000 is not much, so almost any accident will require reporting. We recommend you be on the safe side and report all but the most minor accidents. 

Stopping after an Accident, Bodily Injury or Death (S.C. Code §§ 56-5-1210 & 56-5-1230) 

After any accident which causes injury or death, a driver must: 

  • Immediately stop at the scene or as close as possible without obstructing traffic; 

  • Give their name, registration number, and address to the other driver; 

  • Show their driver’s license, upon request; 

  • Render aid to any injured person, which might include transporting them to the hospital or calling an ambulance; and 

  • Stay at the scene until they have performed all of these duties. 

Violation of these laws is a criminal offense. You could also limit the ability to receive compensation. 

Stopping after an Accident, Property Damage (S.C. Code §§ 56-5-1220 & 56-5-1240) 

Some accidents don’t cause bodily injuries. These are called “property-damage only” cases. South Carolina requires motorists to stop and perform certain duties, even if no one is hurt. Share the same information listed above: name, registration, and address. If requested, show your driver’s license. 

If the car you hit isn’t attended, then you should stop and try to find the owner. This might require stepping into a nearby store or restaurant and asking if anyone owns the vehicle. Alternatively, you might leave a note in a conspicuous place which contains your name and address, including a short statement of what happened. 

Getting Help After a South Carolina Car Accident 

After a crash, your world might be spinning. Some people feel intense pain, and they might not know what happened as they are bundled into the back of an ambulance. You should know that you have critical rights. Accident victims could qualify for financial compensation to cover medical bills and other expenses. Also, fault could be disputed. Don’t assume you have no case. 

Call Surasky Law Firm to speak with a car accident lawyer today. We have served the Aiken, SC community for decades and are eager to help in any way we can. 


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