The outcome of auto accident claims almost always hinges on one word – negligence.
But, what is negligence?
It is one of the ways that we determine who is at fault in an auto accident and whether they should pay you for the damage that they caused.
Negligence happens when someone fails to act with the level of care that a reasonable, prudent person would have exercised in a similar situation. If another driver’s negligence results in you being injured, you should be able to recover damages from them.
Other standards that would establish liability in an auto accident case include gross negligence or intentional conduct.
How Is Negligence Determined in an Auto Accident Case?
To prove negligence, you must establish that:
- The defendant owed you a legal duty, such as obeying SC traffic laws and taking care not to injure other motorists;
- The defendant breached that duty and failed to meet the appropriate standard of care; and
- The defendant’s breach of duty caused your injury – i.e., you suffered damages because of the defendant’s negligence.
But how is a reasonable standard of care determined?
What is the Reasonable Standard of Care in an Auto Accident Case?
The definition of reasonable standard of care depends on the case.
In some personal injury cases – such as slip and fall accidents or a defective product case – the plaintiff may have to establish what the reasonable standard of care is based on the situation and the type of case.
But, in auto accidents, already existing traffic laws might make determining the standard of care much easier. For example, if the defendant rear-ended you because they were following too closely, they have violated the rules of the road and they have breached their duty. A motorist who is speeding, or who disregards a traffic light, has violated their duty of care to other drivers on the road.
When the at-fault driver was ticketed and found guilty of violating SC traffic laws, the court may decide that they are guilty of “per-se negligence.” At this point, negligence is already established, and we only need to argue the amount of damages…
What If Both Sides Were Negligent?
Sometimes jurors decide that the plaintiff is also partially to blame for an accident.
If you slowed down suddenly and made a turn without using your signal (negligent driving) just before the other driver ran a red light and crashed into your car, jurors may decide that you share some of the blame for the accident. The jurors could determine that you are, for example, 30 percent liable because of your negligence.
Under South Carolina’s comparative negligence rule, your recovery would be reduced in proportion to your negligence. So, if you were awarded $100,000, but you were determined to be 30 percent at fault, you would get a verdict of 70 percent, or $70,000.
On the other hand, if the jurors determine that you are more than 50 percent at fault, you cannot collect anything.
What Is Gross Negligence?
Gross negligence is a willful disregard for meeting the appropriate standard of reasonable care that is likely to cause serious injury. It is an extreme version of negligence.
When jurors find that the defendant was grossly negligent, or if they find that the defendant’s conduct was intentional, they can then award punitive damages – a “windfall” for the plaintiff, but necessary to punish the defendant for egregious conduct.
In most SC personal injury cases, there is a statutory cap on the amount of punitive damages – with an exception for cases where the at-fault driver was drunk or intoxicated on drugs.
- If an at-fault driver is found to be grossly negligent, the jurors are free to award punitive damages that are capped by statute.
- If an at-fault driver is also found to be drunk or high on drugs at the time of the accident, jurors are free to award any amount of punitive damages that they feel is appropriate…
SC Car Wreck Attorneys in Myrtle Beach, Conway, Columbia, and Charleston
Your Myrtle Beach Auto Accident Attorneys at Coastal Law will help you to determine who was at fault, whether there may be comparative negligence issues in your case, and whether the other driver was grossly negligent.
Call us now at (843) 488-5000 or fill out our online form to schedule a free initial consultation to discuss your case.