Car Accident Damages in South Carolina

​South Carolina Law Requires the person who caused a car accident to pay money damages to the person they injured.

We typically use the word fault when speaking about the person who caused an accident. South Carolina law uses the word wrongdoer, which refers to a person being negligent, reckless, or intentional in injuring another person.

South Carolina law on car accident damages is not new. It’s historical foundations are found in the Old Testament book of Exodus, which instructs a wrongdoer to pay an injured person for the harm the wrongdoer caused. See Exodus 21:18-19. The purpose of these timeless laws is to make sure the injured person’s medical bills are paid and they compensated for their losses.

South Carolina law recognizes multiple types of damages. One, actual damages, or compensatory damages, attempt to restore the injured person as if the injury never happened. For example, paying for medical bills that the person did not have before the car accident. Payment for the medical bills is an actual or compensatory damage. Two, punitive damages punish the wrongdoer for especially bad conduct and vindicate the injured person’s rights.

In order to recover damages, a injured person must prove that the wrongdoer who caused the car accident was negligent or reckless. Although legalize tends to complicate the definition, it basically means breaking a traffic safety rule with no justification. To be very technical, South Carolina case law defines car accident negligence the failure to “exercise due care, that degree of care which would have been exercised by a person of ordinary reason and prudence,” under the circumstances. (South Carolina Requests to Charge, Civil, Section 28-1). Simply put, a wrongdoer is legally responsible for a car accident when the wrongdoer breaks a traffic safety rule without justification.

South Carolina law requires the wrongdoer to pay to the injured person enough money for all the harms and losses the wrongdoer causes. One way to analyze the amount of damages is to think of it as putting the injured person is the same position as they were before the injury. For example, when a driver breaks a safety rule and crashes into another car, the wrongdoer is required to pay for the damages he did to the other person’s car. The wrongdoer is also required to pay the medical bills for the injured person. These damages make it up to the injured person for the injury the wrongdoer caused, or at least as near as possible by paying money. A wrongdoer cannot take back a broken arm, so the wrongdoer must pay money.

The focus of most car accident cases is on actual damages. Historically, very few cases involve punitive damages because of the heightened wrongdoing a injured person must show. Actual Damages can include the following based on the specific type of case you have including past, present, and future:

    • loss of income;
    • loss or impairment of earning capacity;
    • out-of-pocket expenses;
    • medical expenses;
    • future damages from permanent injuries;
    • disfigurement;
    • loss of family services;
    • deprivation of normal life expectancy;
    • alteration of lifestyle;
    • psychological trauma
    • mental anguish;
    • mental distress;
    • apprehension;
    • anxiety;
    • emotional injury;
    • psychological injury;
    • depression;
    • sexual disfunction;
    • pain and suffering;
    • loss of enjoyment of life.

(South Carolina Requests to Charge, Civil, Section 13-3).

Proper documentation of damages is essential to a successful trial or settlement of a personal injury or car accident claim for several reasons. One, insurance carriers will require an independent record of claimed damages. This can be in the form of a doctors record or diagnosis. For example, many injured persons may experience debilitating anxiety or even post-traumatic stress disorder after a car accident. These types of damages should be documented in doctor’s records.

Two, injured people typically forget details about how their lives were impacted by their injures. The solution is to keep a journal documenting the struggles of dealing with an injury. One way for a lawyer to understand how an injury specifically impacted the daily life of injured person is for the lawyer to read the journal.

Three, proper documentation of every medical provider, out of pocket expenses, prescriptions, and lost time from work will help present an injured person’s claim with accuracy. You would be surprised how often injured folks forget a doctor’s visit or missed day from work. This makes sense however, because injures are often accompanied by medications that can impact short term memory.

Punitive damages are an entirely different category. Punitive damages seek to punish a wrongdoer because of the gravity of the wrongdoer’s conduct among other reasons. The law, and most juries, view a wrongdoer’s conduct more culpable and deserving of punitive damages for causing a car crash while drunk versus causing a car crash because of driving too fast in the rain.

South Carolina law requires wrongdoer’s to put the injured person, as good as money can, in the position the person was before the injury. Additionally, if the wrongdoer’s conduct is especially bad, punitive damages seek to punish the wrongdoer and vindicate the injured person’s rights.