Is Negligence Covered by Insurance?
Insurance covers negligence, which is why South Carolina requires that motorists carry liability insurance, which will cover situations where your negligence injures someone. If you are hurt by a negligent driver, you can make a claim on their liability insurance. Insurance exists exactly for these situations.
Surasky Law has negotiated many settlements with insurers for accidents caused by negligence. Below, we take a closer look at what negligence means and which types of insurance you can use if you are hurt. Contact an Aiken, SC personal injury lawyer if you have questions.
What is Negligence?
Negligence is the failure to use reasonable care. For example, a motorist must use reasonable care when driving. Certain behaviors—like tailgating or speeding—are not reasonable.
How do we determine what is “reasonable,” which is the touchstone for negligence? Ultimately, we imagine what a reasonably careful person would do in a similar situation. And then we compare a person’s conduct to that hypothetical. So someone who is backing up their car in a parking lot would look over their shoulders and use their mirrors. They would also back up slowly so that they don't hit anyone. By contrast, someone who just throws a car in reverse and hits the gas has not acted reasonably, so they are probably negligent.
Can You Sue for Negligence?
If someone injures you, then you can sue them. We need to fully analyze the situation to see if the defendant really was negligent. This means reviewing all available evidence, including your memories and any eyewitness reports.
What Insurance Covers Negligence?
Many insurance policies cover negligence:
Bodily injury liability. Motorists carry this insurance to pay for medical treatment, lost income, and pain and suffering when they injure other motorists.
Property damage. Motorists must carry insurance to repair someone’s car if they crash into it.
Business liability coverage. Businesses and their employees can be negligent and end up hurting people. For example, a shopper might slip and fall on loose tiles in the grocery store, breaking an arm. Liability insurance is usually a requirement if a business hopes to open in South Carolina.
Homeowner’s or renter’s insurance. If you are hurt in someone’s home, you can usually bring a negligence claim on their homeowner’s or renter’s insurance. For example, ceiling tiles could fall and hit you in the head, or you could be electrocuted when using an appliance.
Negligence is a leading cause of injuries, so most insurance policies cover it.
Does Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Insurance Cover Negligence?
Even if you are paying for this policy, it does not pay out if you are at fault for the crash, otherwise it will. You can tap your uninsured or underinsured motorist insurance (UM) when someone else injures you negligently. Because they have no insurance (or not enough), you then turn to your UM policy.
Negligence is sometimes in dispute, even when filing a UM claim. For example, your insurer might think you injured yourself. Work with an attorney to establish negligence so that you can receive compensation.
What is Gross Negligence?
Gross negligence is an extreme form of negligence. The South Carolina Supreme Court has defined gross negligence as the failure to use even “slight care.” It also means an intentional and conscious failure to do something which is required.
Someone is grossly negligent, for example, if they drive 40 miles per hour over the speed limit in a residential area, or if they refuse to fix a rotted staircase which they know is dangerous. That type of negligence goes above and beyond mere carelessness.
Insurance typically covers gross negligence along with ordinary negligence, but you should look at the insurance policy to check.
Does Insurance Cover Intentional Acts?
Many insurance policies exclude intentional bad acts. There is a reason for this exclusion. The insurer doesn’t want to create an incentive for someone to intentionally injure someone else. However, we will need to carefully review the policy to check if you can make a claim.
Does Insurance Ever Cover Your Own Injuries?
Let’s say you were driving negligently and got into a collision. You are negligent, so you can’t use your liability insurance. That only covers other people injured by your negligence. Is there any insurance which covers your own injuries?
Possibly. You might have medical payments coverage. This is “no fault,” so liability or fault doesn’t matter. You can use this coverage to pay for medical care even if you were negligent.
You might also have collision car insurance. That can cover repairs to your vehicle regardless of fault. So if you negligently damage your car, this insurance covers repairs up to the policy limit.
Most insurance is liability insurance. That will only cover other people who are injured by your negligence; it won’t cover your own injuries.
What is Comparative Negligence?
Some accident victims were negligent themselves. We see this a lot with pedestrian accidents. A motorist isn’t paying attention. They might be looking at their phone or talking to children in the backseat. For that reason, they don’t see the pedestrian trying to cross the street and hit them.
At the same time, however, the pedestrian could be negligent. They could be looking at their phone or jaywalking. They certainly aren’t blameless.
Under South Carolina law, we compare the negligence of each party involved in the accident:
If someone is more at fault than the other person, they cannot receive compensation. Put differently, you can sue if you were 50% to blame, but not 51%.
Even if you can sue, your compensation is diminished by your proportion of fault. So someone who is 50% to blame and suffered $60,000 in a car accident will only receive $30,000.
Comparative negligence sometimes makes it difficult for accident victims to receive full compensation. For this reason, work with an experienced attorney. At our firm, we always argue our client’s negligence was minimal compared to the defendant’s.
Contact an Aiken, SC Personal Injury Attorney
Surasky Law has handled many negligence claims for our clients. Please call us today to schedule a consultation.