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Man Charged with Felony DWI: Negligence in North and South Carolina

A 20-year-old Orangeburg man, suspected of driving under the influence, was arrested after a fatal crash in Orangeburg County.  Police report that the man was driving along Riverbank Drive at around 1:00 a.m., and while attempting to pass another vehicle, they collided with each other. The 19-year-old driver of the other car was killed in the accident, and the other two passengers were taken to the hospital.  The alleged responsible driver did nSC Car Accidentot receive any injuries in the accident.  While the man faces two counts of felony DUI, he also may face civil penalties.

In the state of South Carolina, the rule for personal injury law follows the Comparative Negligence standard.  Here, even if a plaintiff is partially negligent, that plaintiff can still recover if their negligence does not exceed the negligence of others.  The recovery will, however, be reduced in proportion to the plaintiff’s negligence. The major question in South Carolina is whether 50% or 51% passes the threshold for allowing negligence recovery.

The rule in South Carolina is that the plaintiff’s negligence must not exceed that of the defendants.  So, in a case where a jury determines that the plaintiff and the defendant split fault exactly 50-50, the plaintiff will receive 50% of damages.  If the plaintiff is the least bit more at fault than the defendant, the plaintiff is barred from recovery.  This rule is called the 51% bar.  In a multi-party lawsuit, the plaintiff’s negligence must not exceed the combined negligence of the defendants.  So, even if there is no defendant individually responsible for the 51% negligence, the plaintiff’s claim is not barred.

This is a much easier bar than North Carolina.  North Carolina adheres to the Contributory Negligence standard which states that if the plaintiff is found to be 0.00001% at fault, his claim is barred. Here, a North Carolina case may prevail on the fact that the driver was “reckless, willful, and wanton.”

If you have been injured in an accident in North or South Carolina, contact the law offices of Reeves, Aiken & Hightower, LLP for a confidential consultation toll-free at 877-347-5999.