When you’re involved in a car accident in South Carolina, you might worry about proving the other driver is at fault. Who’s to blame in a car crash has a direct impact on your ability to seek compensation and recover damages. But you don’t have to go it alone. Christopher Pracht and the skilled legal team at Pracht Injury Lawyers are here to help you every step of the way.
What “at Fault” Means in a Myrtle Beach Car Crash
The driver who is at fault in a car accident is liable for damages as a result of the collision. In most cases, they are covered by their car insurance policy.
The four main factors that determine fault in a car accident are duty of care, breach of duty, causation, and damages.
Duty of Care
Every driver owes every other driver on the road a certain “duty of care.” This means they’re expected to operate the vehicle safely and follow all local laws. They owe the same “duty of care” to cyclists, pedestrians, and any other motorists. This is a basic minimum.
Breach of Duty of Care
A breach of this duty of care means that the driver did not demonstrate an adequate level of concern for other motorists. They may have been negligent, reckless, or careless in operating the vehicle. Failing to do something, like stopping at a stop sign, is also a breach of duty of care. Driving while intoxicated is another example.
Breaching that duty of care may not, in and of itself, be the cause of a car accident. The plaintiff in a car accident injury claim will have to prove that the other driver’s breach of duty was the direct cause of the crash. For example, running a red light would likely be the direct cause of an intersection collision, but texting while sitting at a red light might not play a part in a rear-end crash.
In deciding causation and determining fault, South Carolina uses comparative negligence. Fault is assigned as a percentage. One driver may be wholly at fault. Or, one driver may be 80 percent at fault while the other driver is 20 percent at fault. To pursue damages, you must be less than 50 percent responsible. The amount you can seek to recover is adjusted to this percentage. In other words, if you calculate $100,000 in damages and you are 20 percent at fault, you can only seek to recover up to $80,000.
The final piece of the puzzle for showing who is at fault in a car accident has to do with damages. The plaintiff must show that the accident was the direct cause of their losses, which may include medical bills for a traumatic brain injury, for instance. Other recoverable damages may include lost wages, property damage, funeral costs, and emotional trauma.
Who Decides Fault in a South Carolina Car Accident?
Three main parties may be involved in deciding who is at fault in a South Carolina car crash. They are the police, the insurance companies, and the courts.
A police officer will respond to the majority of car crashes in South Carolina. They will see if any laws were broken. It could be a simple traffic infraction, or it may be a more serious criminal charge.
While at the scene, the police officer may gather evidence by taking pictures and speaking with eyewitnesses. They’ll look at the positions of the vehicles, speak with the drivers, and give a blood alcohol test, if appropriate. This can all be key evidence in proving who is at fault in the auto collision.
Two of the biggest players in determining who is at fault are the insurance companies for the two drivers. In the case of a multi-car collision, all the insurance companies are involved. Looking at the evidence they have available, they assign a percentage of fault to each driver.
The insurance companies may disagree with one another about these numbers. This is when having an experienced car accident attorney like Christopher Pracht on your side can make all the difference.
In cases where the parties are unable to arrive at a consensus, South Carolina courts may get involved in assessing fault. Lawyers representing both sides may attend these hearings. They may be able to reach a settlement outside of the courtroom before it gets to this point.
Supporting Evidence to Prove Fault
The more compelling evidence you have to support your case, the better. This is especially true in car crashes where assigning fault isn’t so black and white. Evidence that could be used in a car accident claim includes the following.
Police Accident Report
After the law enforcement officer attends the scene of the crash, they will complete a police accident report. The report summarizes their findings based on evidence gathered at the scene. It may sometimes include the officer’s opinion about who is to blame for the crash.
South Carolina Code Section 56-5-1290 states that police reports cannot be used to prove “the negligence or due care of either party.” This means the report itself can’t be evidence. However, officers can refer to their reports when testifying in court. The police accident report can include valuable information that your personal injury lawyer can investigate further.
Statements Made to Insurance Companies
When you submit your claim to your insurance company, you may be asked to make a statement. The other driver will be asked to do the same. Both of these statements are admissible as evidence in determining who is at fault in the accident. These statements can also dispute the amount of recoverable damages. A skilled lawyer can guide you through any interactions you have with the insurance companies to best protect your rights.
Photos, Videos, and Dashcam Footage
One of the most important things to do after a car crash is to collect photographic evidence. Take pictures and videos of the scene. Note the positions of the cars, prevailing weather and traffic conditions, skidmarks on the roads, and so on. Highlight damage to vehicles and other property. Dashcam footage can be invaluable. The police may get footage from traffic cameras as well.
Witness Statements and Testimony
Statements from eyewitnesses at the scene can help bolster your case as well. If you’re involved in an accident with a drunk driver, eyewitnesses can corroborate your observation that the other driver appeared inebriated. Eyewitness testimony can strengthen your case. This evidence can help tip the decision in your favor.
How a Skilled Car Accident Attorney Can Help
Following a car accident, you want to seek the most positive outcome possible, and one of the biggest mistakes to avoid after a crash is not hiring a lawyer who can help you. An experienced attorney can help you prove the other driver was at fault in your collision.
Protect Your Rights and Interests
First, Pracht Injury Lawyers will help protect your legal rights after a serious car accident. We can coach you on how to interact with insurance companies and other authorities. Do not sign any documents until you’ve contacted a car accident attorney. Legal representation is vital to protecting your interests.
Conduct a Thorough Investigation
Don’t let the other insurance company bully you into accepting fault. Your lawyer can carefully investigate the details of your car accident. The police report may have overlooked something. Speaking with witnesses can tip the scales in your favor. Your attorney can uncover evidence to support your claim.
Compile a List of Recoverable Damages
To get the fair compensation you deserve, you need an itemized list of damages. Your lawyer can do this for you, looking into everything you may seek to recover. This includes not only listing medical costs and lost wages but also attaching a specific dollar figure to each item. Meticulous accounting is crucial here.
Build the Strongest Case Possible
Evidence on its own may not be enough. It is how this evidence is packaged and presented. A skilled car accident attorney in South Carolina, like Christopher Pracht, can do this for you. Deciding fault can be subjective. By building the strongest case possible, we can help negotiate the best settlement you could have hoped for.