South Carolina Motor Vehicle Accident Laws and Safety Requirements

South Carolina’s 800 or so traffic deaths every year make it one of the most dangerous states in the U.S. to drive. A traffic accident injury victim (or the estate administrator in case the victim dies) can take advantage of South Carolina’s personal injury and wrongful death laws to seek compensation. Some of the major features of South Carolina’s road accident law appear below.

Statute of Limitations: In South Carolina, you must file a lawsuit alleging personal injury or property damage by the third anniversary of the date of the accident in order to keep your claim from expiring. You have three years from the date of the victim’s death to file a wrongful death lawsuit.

When the Victim is Partly at Fault: When the victim is partly at fault for the accident, a South Carolina court will assign an exact percentage of fault to both the victim and the defendant. To recover damages, the victim’s fault must not exceed the fault of the defendant. The victim’s percentage of fault will be deducted from the total damages – if damages were $100,000 and the victim was 20 percent at fault, for example, the total recovery with be reduced to only $80,000.

Fault/No Fault Rule: South Carolina is not a “no-fault” auto insurance state – a victim may file a claim against an at-fault driver’s auto insurance policy without looking to his own insurance coverage first.

Minimum Insurance Coverage: South Carolina drivers must carry liability insurance covering at least $25,000 per injured victim, $50,000 per injury accident, and $25,000 for property damage (25/50/25).

Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage: South Carolina requires its drivers to carry coverage for uninsured motorists but not underinsured motorists. The minimum required coverage is the same as for personal liability insurance (25/50/25), but property damage coverage may include a $200 deductible.

Types of Damages Available: Compensatory damages are available; however, non-economic damages (such as pain and suffering) in medical malpractice claims are limited to $150,000 per claimant. Punitive damages require “clear and convincing evidence” of outrageous conduct.  

Product Liability for Defective Vehicles: No-fault product liability is available; however, the defendant may reduce or eliminate damages by showing that the plaintiff used the vehicle in an unreasonable manner while aware of the defect.

Suing the Government over Defective Roadways (Sovereign Immunity): Lawsuits against the State of South Carolina, or any of its subdivisions are subject to a cap of $250,000 per person and $500,000 per accident.

Motorcycle Helmet Laws: All riders under 21 must wear helmets.

Seat Belt Laws: All occupants six years of age and older must buckle up no matter where they are sitting. The maximum fine for a first offense is $25.

Dram Shop Law: In South Carolina, a licensed alcohol vendor who sells alcohol to an underage patron can be held liable to a third party if the underage patron injures the third party due to his intoxication. Social hosts face more limited liability for the same conduct.

DUI/DWI Penalties (first offense): A first-offense DUI in South Carolina can result in a jail sentence of 48 hours to 90 days, a fine of $1,000, and a driver’s license suspension of 30 days to one year.

Penalty for Refusing a Sobriety Test: Refusing to take a sobriety test when demanded by a police officer can result in a driver’s license suspension of six months, and will not necessarily prevent a DUI prosecution.

Distracted Driving (texting while driving, etc.): Texting while driving is banned in South Carolina.