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South Carolina Car Accident Laws

Car accidents are an unfortunate but common part of modern life in South Carolina. If you were involved in a car accident in the state, you might be wondering what South Carolina car accident laws might apply in your case. Several different South Carolina laws will impact your car accident claim.

South Carolina uses a comparative fault model that could impact the compensation you receive depending on whether you were partly to blame for the accident. Before filing a car accident lawsuit, though, there are important insurance reporting requirements for accidents that South Carolina laws place on you. Also, there is a strict time limit to file your car accident lawsuit before your road to compensation is completely cut off, so you should discuss your legal options with our South Carolina car accident lawyers as soon as possible.

If you have been injured in a South Carolina car accident, contact our South Carolina car accident lawyers. Call Burriss Ridgeway Injury Lawyers today at (803) 451-4000 for a free case review.

Car Accident Statistics in South Carolina

The South Carolina Department of Public Safety (SCDPS) keeps detailed statistics compiled yearly in the South Carolina Traffic Collision Fact Book. A quick glance would show you that being involved in a car accident in South Carolina is far from a rare occurrence. The Fact Book states that there were over 121,000 total car accidents in South Carolina in 2020. This equates to one traffic accident every 4.3 minutes. And although the total number of South Carolina car accidents has decreased since 2016, fatal car accidents have risen.

In 2020, there were 1,066 car accident fatalities, marking a 4.0% increase from the number of car accident deaths in 2019. This measures out to one fatal car accident in South Carolina approximately every nine hours. According to the Fact Book, the overwhelming majority of car accident fatalities are caused by speeding and drunk driving. In 2020 alone, speeding accounted for 220 persons killed, while drunk driving resulted in another 243 persons killed.

Even in non-fatal accidents, thousands of South Carolinians and visitors were left with serious injuries after their car accidents. The 2020 Fact Book shows that 2,196 car accidents throughout South Carolina resulted in serious injuries. Speeding is also a chief cause of car accidents with serious injuries, totaling 646 persons seriously injured in 2020. Drunk driving was still a common cause of serious injuries, with 408 persons seriously injured, but slightly more people suffered serious injuries when a driver failed to yield the right of way to another driver. Failure-to-yield car accident cases in South Carolina accounted for 432 persons seriously injured in 2020.

If you have been injured in a car accident, our South Carolina personal injury lawyers understand that you’re not just another statistic and can provide you with the professionalism your car accident case deserves.

The South Carolina Car Accident Statute of Limitations (§ 15-3-530)

Every state has a time limit to file a car accident lawsuit, which is known as the statute of limitations. In South Carolina, this rule is encoded in S.C. Code Ann. § 15-3-530. According to the code, the victim of a car accident injury will have three years to file their car accident lawsuit. The three-year period begins on the date that the cause of action accrues, which is usually the date the accident happened. For example, if your car accident occurred on May 10, 2022, you would have until May 10, 2025, to file your car accident injury claim in the proper South Carolina state court.

What Happens if You File Your Case Too Late?

This rule is strict and has very few exceptions. If you end up filing your car accident injury lawsuit after the three-year period has passed, a defense attorney will spot it. When that happens, the defense attorney will file a motion to dismiss your car accident claim for violating the statute of limitations, and the judge will grant it, dismissing your case from the South Carolina state court. You will be prevented from recovering any compensation that you might have been entitled to had you filed your lawsuit on time.


There are very few exceptions to South Carolina’s filing deadline. One exception is if a child was injured in a car accident, they have three years from their 18th birthday to file a lawsuit. The other exception is if the defendant leaves South Carolina and cannot be reasonably reached, the clock stops on the statute of limitations until they are back in the state.

Special Rules for Cases Against the Government

One last consideration is the notice requirement for car accident cases involving government vehicles, like garbage trucks, buses, or other government-owned vehicles. Before filing your car accident lawsuit against a governmental entity, you will need to provide them with notice of your intention to sue. There are different notice requirements depending on whether the governmental agency is local, state, or federal. Our South Carolina car accident lawyers can use their knowledge to help you avoid missing any critical deadlines that could negatively impact your case.

What is Modified Comparative Negligence in South Carolina?

South Carolina negligence cases arising from a car accident follow a modified comparative negligence rule. The modified comparative negligence rule can have a significant impact on the amount of compensation you could potentially receive. If you plan on filing a car accident injury lawsuit, it is important to understand how this rule could affect your case.

“Comparative negligence” is a legal concept that allocates liability based on the percentage each driver was at fault for causing the accident. For instance, if the plaintiff in a car accident case was found to be 10% at fault for the accident and the defendant driver was found liable for 90% of the accident, the defendant would be responsible for paying 90% of the plaintiff’s damages, while the plaintiff would be responsible for covering the remaining 10%.

The modified comparative negligence system in South Carolina has a “51%” threshold. Put simply, the court must find you 50% or less at fault for causing the car accident you were involved in to recover compensation. If you are found to be more than 50% liable for the accident, you will not be able to recover any damages. This also applies when there are multiple cars involved in the accident. In multi-car accidents, each negligent driver will have to account for their percentage of fault.

Our Columbia, SC car accident lawyers can help you understand how any of your acts during the accident might impact your car accident claim.

How Does Pain and Suffering Work in a South Carolina Car Accident Lawsuit?

The injuries a person suffers in a car accident could go deeper than just physical damage. In South Carolina, a car accident victim can potentially receive compensation for the physical and emotional stress caused by the injuries from the accident, a legal term known as “pain and suffering.” However, pain and suffering damages are not like typical economic damages, such as medical expenses and lost wages.

Pain and suffering damages are non-economic, meaning non-monetary. The pain and suffering you experience because of your accident are subjective and can be difficult to prove. You will not have bills or financial statements that prove the cost of these harms. You will instead need to testify in court as to how the car accident has affected you and what the emotional impact has been.

If you were to win your car accident lawsuit, you might be wondering how much your pain and suffering damages are worth. While there is no set formula or rule for determining the exact value of your pain and suffering, the court does consider several factors when trying to calculate your award. The following is a list of some of the considerations the court will take into account when determining the amount of pain and suffering damages to award, whether they are fair factors or not:

  • Type of injury
  • Length of recovery
  • Medication prescribed
  • Permanency of injury
  • Likeability of the plaintiff

There is, however, a limit to the amount of pain and suffering damages you can recover in certain cases. If your car accident injury claim is against a government entity, pain and suffering damages will be capped at $300,000. Our Lexington car accident lawyers can help you determine if pain and suffering damages could potentially be available to you in your car accident lawsuit.

Otherwise, lawsuits can be filed in the court covering the geographic region where the accident happened. This typically means filing your case in the courthouse for the county where the building is located.

Do I Have to Report My Car Accident to the State of South Carolina? (§ 56-5-1270)

While reporting a car accident to the state might seem like an inconvenience, it is required. Under S.C. Code Ann. § 56-5-1270, if an accident is not reported to the police or no police investigation occurs, drivers or owners must make a written report to the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) for accidents involving property damage of $1,000 or more, bodily injury, or death. The written statement must be submitted to the South Carolina DMV within 15 days of the accident. Also, the written report must include proof of your car insurance. Otherwise, the state will assume you are uninsured.

But what happens if you fail to file a written report with the DMV? If you do not file a written report of the car accident, your insurance provider could deny your claim benefits. What’s worse, some insurance policies have clauses that give your insurance company the right to drop your coverage if you fail to file a car accident report with the state. If you were involved in a car accident that must be reported to the DMV, our Sumter car accident lawyers can help you arrange the appropriate documentation to submit to keep the claims process moving forward.

What are the Car Insurance Requirements in South Carolina?

South Carolina requires all drivers to carry liability insurance to cover the damages that might result from a car accident. You must also possess uninsured motorist coverage, which covers damages from an accident involving an unknown driver or someone driving illegally without insurance. In some cases, your insurance company might require your policy to include underinsured motorist coverage, too. This covers your damages in the event the other driver’s insurance is insufficient to cover the full amount.

South Carolina is a 25/50/25 rule state when it comes to the minimum policy limits you can have and still legally drive. The 25/50/25 rule means that your insurance policy limits cannot be less than these amounts set by law:

  • $25,000 in bodily injury costs per person
  • $50,000 in bodily injury costs per accident
  • $25,000 in property damages per accident

However, the negligent driver in your car accident case might not have an insurance policy that can cover the full extent of your damages. And if your underinsured motorist coverage does not provide enough to cover the difference, or you didn’t elect for underinsured motorist coverage, you might need to take further action. If the amount of your claim exceeds the policy limits of the at-fault driver’s insurance, you can file a car accident injury lawsuit against the driver to recover the remaining total.

Our Columbia personal injury lawyers can review your insurance policy with you and answer questions you might have concerning your current coverage and what it provides.

Speak With Our South Carolina Car Accident Lawyers to Discuss Your Case

If you have been injured in a car accident, our dedicated Lexington personal injury lawyers can help you. For your free case assessment, call Burriss Ridgeway Injury Lawyers at (803) 451-4000 today.