10 Critical Steps After a South Carolina Car Accident

Protect your rights and maximize your payout after a South Carolina car accident. We answer key questions and show you how to build a strong insurance claim.

south carolina car accidentCars are built today with advanced safety features, causing a decline in the number of car accidents that result in serious injuries. But even with this superior technology, last year there were still over 6 million accidents on U.S. roadways.¹

Many people believe their superior driving skills will keep them safe from accidents. Unfortunately, that’s a false assumption. The average driver will be involved in 3-4 car accidents in their lifetime.²

The state of South Carolina is no exception. There were over 100,000 car accidents on South Carolina roadways last year alone. That’s almost 300 accidents each day!³

What you need to know if you’ve been in a South Carolina car accident…

The aftermath of a car accident can be hectic. Suddenly you find yourself dealing with car repairs, insurance companies, accident reports, the police, medical bills, and more. Knowing what to say and do during the immediate aftermath can be crucial, especially if you’re considering a property damage or personal injury claim against another driver.

In this article, we’ve provided 10 steps to help guide you through the aftermath of an accident. We’ve also provided answers to many of the most frequently asked questions that arise after an accident, as well as links to state laws and helpful references.

Step 1 – Stop, Check for Injuries, Dial 911

south carolina stop help callIf you’ve been in a South Carolina car accident, stop immediately at the nearest safest place. Stay calm and remain focused. If you’re not seriously injured, check to see if the other people involved are okay, then call 911.

What information does the 911 dispatcher need?
The 911 dispatcher needs specific information about where the accident occurred, if people have been injured, and which emergency services need to be sent. Answer the dispatcher’s questions promptly and clearly.

Avoid telling the dispatcher your opinion of who was at fault. They don’t want to hear it. Fault will be assigned later after the police and insurance companies have conducted their investigations.

Be sure to give the 911 dispatcher the following information:

Location: Avoid giving the dispatcher vague descriptions. Instead, be as specific as possible. Look for street signs, highway mile markers, and noticeable landmarks. Giving the dispatcher specifics will help emergency personnel arrive without delay.

Description of the scene: Immediately after a car accident, the scene may be hectic. Bumpers may be mangled, glass shattered, fluids leaking, and cars pointed in different directions. Oncoming traffic may be driving ominously close to the crash. People involved in the incident may be in shock and oblivious to the danger. Let the 911 dispatcher know what the crash scene looks like. This information will be immediately relayed to the police and paramedics.

Injuries: Most car accidents are simply fender-benders, with only minor injuries. However, serious accidents resulting in major injury or even death still occur everyday. Tell the dispatcher if anyone is obviously injured or complaining of pain or nausea.

Will the police respond to the accident scene?
Local police, county sheriffs and South Carolina State Highway Patrol each have their own policies dictating when their officers will be dispatched to an accident scene. In most cases, they will not send anyone if the accident is merely a fender-bender and no one is injured. However, if the scene presents a danger to others or someone is injured, they will likely respond.

Which law enforcement agency will respond?
If the accident occurs within a municipality, the local police department will be dispatched. If it occurs outside city limits, the county sheriff’s department will likely respond. And if the incident takes place on a South Carolina highway, the Highway Patrol will be sent to the scene. In some cases there will be overlapping jurisdiction, meaning several of these agencies may respond.

Can I leave the scene before the police arrive?
The only reason you’re permitted to leave the scene of an accident prior to emergency personnel arriving, is if you’re leaving to report the accident to the proper authorities. After you have reported the incident, you must return to the scene immediately.

What information do I need to give the other drivers?
If you’ve been in an accident involving property damage or injuries, you must stop immediately at the scene. Once stopped, you must exchange the following information with the other drivers involved:

  • Your name
  • Your residence address
  • The registration number of the car you were driving
  • Your driver’s license information

In addition, if the accident resulted in someone being injured, you must render reasonable assistance. This includes calling for medical help if it’s obviously needed. In most cases, reasonable assistance simply involves keeping an injured person as comfortable as possible while waiting for the police and paramedics to arrive.

What if I collide with a car and no one is in it?
If you hit property that is unattended and you’re unable to locate the owner, you must report the accident to the nearest police station. You must also leave a written note on the vehicle that includes your name, address, and an explanation of what happened.

Can I be sued if I help someone who has been injured in the accident?
No. South Carolina has a “Good Samaritan” law that protects people who attempt to help others injured in an accident. Under this law, if you render emergency care to someone injured, you will not be liable for any civil damages. The only exception is when the person giving the emergency medical care, does so in a grossly negligent manner.

Step 2 – Filing Auto Accident Reports

south carolina accident reportsUnder certain conditions, the state of South Carolina requires accident reports to be filed. It’s important to know when it’s required and how much time you have to complete them.

Do I have to report the accident to the police?
If you’ve been involved in a car accident that results in injuries to any person, you must immediately report the accident to the appropriate authority. If the accident occurs within city limits, notify the local police department. If it occurs outside city limits, report the incident to the local sheriff’s department or the South Carolina Highway State Patrol.

What if I’m injured and physically incapable of notifying the police?
If you’ve been injured in an accident and are physically incapable of reporting it to the police, any uninjured passenger must notify them instead.

Do I have to file a written accident report?
It depends. If no emergency services were dispatched, you may not need to file a report with the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles. If the accident resulted in injuries or property damage that appears to be $1,000 or more, you must file a written report with the DMV.

This report must be filed within fifteen days of the accident. When filling out the report, you will notice a request for proof of insurance. This section must be completed by your insurance company before submitting it.

The South Carolina Department of Public Safety provides the accident report form you’re required to submit. They are also required to supply a hard copy version to local police departments and sheriffs. If you’re unable to download the required form from their website, you can get one from your local law enforcement office.

If law enforcement responded to the accident scene, you do not have to file an accident report. The investigating officer will file the required report with the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles within 24 hours.

However, while the officer will be submitting the report, you will still have to provide verification that your car was properly insured at the time. The officer will give you an FR-10 Insurance Verification Form to use for that purpose. The FR-10 must be sent to the South Carolina DMV within fifteen days.

How can I obtain a copy of the accident report filed by the police?
You can download the Request for Officers Accident Report from the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles website.

Once completed send the form along with $6 to:

South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles
Financial Responsibility Office
P.O. Box 1498
Blythewood, SC  29016-0040

Can an accident report be used against me in trial?
An accident report cannot be used against any driver as evidence of negligence or fault in a trial. However, law enforcement officers may refer to these reports when testifying in court in order to refresh their recollection of events.

Step 3 – Gathering Evidence After an Accident

south carolina accident photo evidenceThe aftermath of a car accident can be hectic. Yet, the minutes that follow are crucial in a personal injury or property damage claim. If you’ve been injured or sustained damage to your car, the evidence you gather will support your demand for compensation from the insurance company.

It’s important to take advantage of this time. Before long, the police will leave the scene, cars will be driven or towed away, and the people involved will be back on their way. Unfortunately, crucial evidence will leave with them.

While the State of South Carolina is a no-fault insurance state, finding evidence to support your claim for compensation can be very important. This is especially true if the circumstances of the accident and resulting injuries are exempted from South Carolina’s no-fault laws.

What are “Damages”?
Damages are unique to every accident and to every person involved. Damages can include repair bills, rental cars, the cost to repair or replace personal property, as well as your medical, dental and therapy bills.

Medical bills can include diagnostic tests (X-Rays, CT Scans, MRI’s, etc.), out-of-pocket expenses (prescription and over-the-counter medications, slings, crutches, wheelchairs, etc.), lost wages, and pain and suffering.

Is there additional information that will help my claim?
Yes. In addition to the information required under South Carolina law, the following additional evidence will help your claim:

Vehicle Information:

  • Make, model and year
  • License plate number
  • Registration expiration date
  • Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)

Note: The VIN can be found on the car’s dashboard in the left corner where it meets the windshield. It can also be found on the driver’s insurance card or inside the driver’s side door jam.

Driver, Passenger & Witness Information:

  • Full names
  • Home and business addresses
  • Telephone numbers
  • Email addresses
  • Dates of birth
  • Driver’s license numbers
  • Witness statements

Note: While witnesses aren’t legally required to remain at the scene, convincing them to do so will give you time to speak with them to determine if what they saw will help your claim.

Diagram of the Scene:

  • Location of the cars immediately before and after the collision
  • Current weather conditions
  • The time of day the accident occurred
  • Direction and approximate speed each of the cars was travelling

Are photographs and video important?
Yes. Your digital camera, cell phone, iPad or other recording device can be excellent tools to help build your claim. Use your device to take multiple photos and videos of the crash scene. Be sure to include sound.

Photographs and videos are important for evidence. They can identify the position of the cars immediately after the collision, weather conditions, potholes, road obstructions, traffic and street signs, and more. They can also reflect the demeanor of the people involved at the time of the accident.

Sound is important because it can capture such factors as admissions of fault, intoxication, statements about insurance, and other inculpating statements. By taking photographs and video, it makes it difficult later for anyone involved in the accident to change their story.

Are witness statements important?
Yes. A witness has no legal obligation to speak with you or to give you a written statement. However, if you can find witnesses who will, what they have to say about the accident can be very helpful to your claim. Get some paper and ask the witness to write down what they saw and heard.

Legal formalities aren’t required for witness statements. Just be sure they sign and date each page of their statement. Also, write down their names and addresses.

Step 4 – South Carolina’s Modified Comparative Fault

south carolina modified comparative faultThe State of South Carolina has adopted the Modified Comparative Fault system. Under this system, each driver may be held responsible for damages sustained in proportion to his or her percentage of fault.

A victim filing a property damage or personal injury claim is entitled to recover damages from the at-fault driver, as long as their own comparative fault was not greater than 50%. If their fault is determined to be 51% or higher, South Carolina law bars the claimant from recovering any compensation from the other driver.

What are some examples of how South Carolina Comparative Negligence law works?
Here are the three scenarios:

Scenario A: One driver is 100% at-fault in causing the accident

Linda was late for work. She was headed north on Elm Street in Charleston. When she approached the intersection of Tyrone and Main, the light had just turned red. Instead of stopping, she accelerated through the red light, crashing into Christopher’s car as he was heading east on Main.

Christopher sustained medical bills in the amount of $2,000. In this case, Linda was 100% at fault and Christopher would be entitled to 100% of his damages.

Scenario B: The driver and the victim share fault in the accident

Linda was driving home in the right lane of U.S. 77 outside of Charlotte. Christopher was behind her and decided to pass. To do so, Christopher signaled and moved into the left lane, increasing his speed. After moving ahead of Linda’s car, he signaled his intention to move back to the right lane. As he did, he struck the front passenger side panel of Linda’s car, causing both cars to crash.

The South Carolina Highway Patrol was dispatched to the scene. Christopher was ticketed by a State Trooper in violation of South Carolina Code of Laws § 56-5-1840 (1) which reads:

“The driver of a vehicle overtaking another vehicle proceeding in the same direction shall pass to the left thereof at a safe distance and shall not again drive to the right side of the roadway until safely clear of the overtaken vehicle…”

However, Linda was also ticketed by the State Trooper in violation of South Carolina Code of Laws § 56-5-1840 (2) which reads:

“Except when overtaking and passing on the right is permitted, the driver of an overtaken vehicle shall give way to the right in favor of the overtaking vehicle on audible signal and shall not increase the speed of his vehicle until completely passed by the overtaking vehicle.”

Linda retained an attorney who filed a lawsuit against Christopher for $50,000, representing her medical bills and related damages. Christopher’s insurance company provided an attorney to defend him. During their investigation of the accident, the insurance company located a witness who said they saw Linda speed up after Christopher had safely passed her, keeping him from safely moving back in front of her car.

In their verdict, the jury apportioned Christopher’s comparative negligence at 75% and Linda’s at 25%. As a result, Linda was awarded $37,500, representing her 25% of blame in the accident.

Scenario C: The victim’s comparative fault is determined to be 51%

At trial, Christopher and his witnesses testified that he was well ahead of Linda as he attempted to move back into the right lane in front of her. The witnesses testified that not only did Linda accelerate, but she appeared to have purposely attempted to block Christopher from re-entering the lane in front of her.

In this case, the jury apportioned Linda’s comparative fault at 51%. Under South Carolina’s Comparative Fault statute, because her negligence was apportioned at greater than 50%, she was not allowed to recover any compensation from Christopher.

Step 5 – Dealing with the Insurance Company

south carolina call insuranceSouth Carolina law requires people who drive on public roadways to be financially responsible for the accidents they cause. Drivers are required to carry sufficient insurance to repair or replace another driver’s car and for damage to personal property within that car at the time of the accident.

Drivers are also required to carry personal liability insurance to cover the medical bills and related damages in the event the insured was at fault.

What are the minimum amounts of car insurance required for drivers in South Carolina?

  • $25,000 for injuries to one person in one accident
  • $50,000 for injuries to two or more persons in one accident
  • $25,000 bodily injury per accident

What are the Notification and Cooperation Clauses within my insurance policy?
Your insurance policy is a binding legal contract between you (the insured) and your insurance company (the insurer). The policy describes your obligations as well as those of your insurance company after a car accident.

Within your policy are two important clauses, usually found in the “Conditions” section. These require you to promptly notify your insurance company after an accident, and to thereafter cooperate in the investigation of the accident. Failing to comply with these clauses can result in non-renewal of your insurance policy, a rise in your premiums, or cancellation of your policy.

Notification Clause
The Notification or Immediate Notice Clause is a provision in your policy requiring you to notify your insurance company as soon as possible after an accident occurs. When an insurance policy contains a requirement that notice must be given “immediately,” it generally means that the notice must be given within a reasonable amount of time under the circumstances.

Cooperation Clause
The Cooperation Clause is another provision found in your policy. It requires you to assist in the investigation of accidents and claims. This includes attending hearings, trials, and depositions, as well as gathering evidence and helping get witnesses to attend.

Do I have to report the accident to my insurance company if no one was injured?
Yes. The accident may not have appeared serious. In fact, it might have been a minor fender-bender with no apparent injuries and only minor damage. As a result, you may be tempted not to report the accident to your insurance company, especially if you think your premiums will be raised. That could be a serious mistake. Here’s why…

Violation of Your Policy: You’re under a contractual duty to report the accident to your insurance company. By failing to do so, you’re in violation of the terms of the policy.

Delayed Injury Symptoms: At the time of the accident, the other driver and passengers may say they’re not hurt. However, because the onset of some symptoms can take hours or even days to appear, the injuries could still appear much later.

No Insurance: The other driver may have been uninsured or under-insured at the time of the accident and didn’t want you to know. This can often happen if the police are summoned to the scene.

Fraud: Not everyone is as honest as you are. There are some people who purposely cause accidents to “cash-in” by filing fraudulent personal injury claims. Your insurance company needs time to investigate the accident in an effort to weed out those fraudulent claims.

Do I have to report the accident to my insurance company even if it wasn’t my fault?
Yes. Because symptoms of injuries may not appear for hours or even days after the accident, it is altogether possible the other driver was injured but didn’t know it at the time. If that occurs, the driver may later decide the accident was your fault and go on to retain an attorney to pursue a claim against you.

If you failed to report the accident to your insurance company promptly after it occurred, they won’t have any idea what’s coming, when suddenly you receive a letter from the driver’s attorney threatening to sue you. By not reporting the accident to your insurance company immediately, you’re giving the other driver and their attorney a substantial time advantage.

Example of why it’s important to report the accident to your insurance company immediately…

Linda was on her way to work one morning, heading north on U.S. 77 toward Columbia. She intended to take exit 6 East, so she pulled into the right hand turn lane. She waited patiently for traffic to clear so she could safely exit the highway.

As she was getting ready to move onto the exit ramp, Felix entered the lane behind her. Thinking Linda was going to complete her exit, Felix moved ahead not realizing that she had slowed to let another driver pass. He collided with the rear of her car. The two pulled over to the side of the road and got out to examine the damage.

Felix asked Linda if she was hurt and Linda said she was fine. He felt a little shaky, but was otherwise fine as well.

When the police arrived, Felix said he couldn’t stop in time because Linda stopped suddenly on the exit ramp. They ticketed Felix for following too closely under South Carolina Code of Laws § 56-5-1930 (a) which reads in part:

“The driver of a motor vehicle shall not follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent, having due regard for the speed of such vehicles and the traffic upon and the condition of the highway.”

Linda and Felix exchanged insurance and contact information. Because the accident appeared to be minor, with no damage to either car and no apparent injuries to either driver, Linda and Felix left.

Unfortunately, Felix chose not to report the accident to his insurance company because he didn’t want them to know he received a traffic citation. He was afraid if he reported the accident, his insurance premiums would rise.

The next morning, Linda could barely get out of bed. Her back was sore and she couldn’t move her neck without feeling pain and discomfort. Her husband drove her to the local hospital’s emergency room.  The physician scheduled Linda for an MRI and CT Scan.

Linda was subsequently diagnosed as having sustained a whiplash injury and disk herniation to the L4 level of her spine. She was told her injuries would require back surgery and would likely result in a permanent injury requiring ongoing therapy and medical intervention. Linda immediately retained a personal injury attorney.

Two months later, Felix opened his mail to find a letter from Linda’s attorney informing him that she sustained serious injuries in the accident and that he was responsible for paying those bills and other related damages.

By failing to promptly report the accident to his insurance company, Felix not only violated the terms of the cooperation clause, but he also gave Linda’s attorney a substantial head start on the claim. By the time he had received the letter from Linda’s attorney, they had already located witnesses to the accident, secured copies of Linda’s medical records and bills, a medical narrative from Linda’s physician confirming her injuries were a direct result of the accident, her MRI  and CT Scan results, and more.

Felix was shaken. He wondered if his insurance company would defend him in the claim, or if he was going to be on his own. If he had simply complied with the terms of his auto insurance policy and contacted them right after the accident, he might not be in this position.

When do I contact the at-fault driver’s insurance company?
After notifying your insurance company, contact the at-fault driver’s insurance company to report the accident. Make sure you have the driver’s name and contact information, the registration number of the car, and the driver’s insurance policy number.

The accident was my fault and the damage to both cars was minor. Should I pay without involving the insurance companies?
No. Do not make private agreements. Beside the contractual obligations in your insurance policy, there is a very practical reason to report the accident to your insurance company immediately…

Some symptoms of injuries won’t appear for hours or even days after an accident. Because of this, it’s entirely possible the other driver believed they weren’t injured at the scene, but later they begin to experience symptoms. The driver may then decide to retain an attorney. If that were to occur, your insurance company would have no knowledge of the accident, forcing them to scramble to protect you.

Are there mobile apps to help file accident claims?
Yes. Many insurance companies have mobile apps to help report a South Carolina car accident. The applications have the ability to:

  • Take photographs
  • Initiate claims
  • Fulfill the reporting requirement with the insurance company
  • Create and send state-required auto crash reports
  • Draw 3D sketches of the accident scene
  • Collect necessary information
  • Give a GPS location of the accident scene

Below are just a few of the companies offering car accident reporting apps:

Step 6 – South Carolina is a 3rd Party Liability State

south carolina 3rd party liabilityThe State of South Carolina follows a 3rd Party Liability Rule. This means a victim has the right to pursue the at-fault driver for compensation for their damages. This includes the cost to repair or replace damaged property, for medical bills, and for other related items sustained as a direct result of the accident.

What are my options in South Carolina?
If you’ve been in a car accident and sustained property damage or personal injuries because of another driver’s negligence, you have the following options:

  • File a claim with your own insurance company (1st party claim)
  • File a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company (3rd party claim)
  • File a lawsuit against the at-fault driver

Step 7 – The Role of Police at an Accident Scene 

south carolina accident policeLaw enforcement officers have training to effectively deal with crash scene investigation. Officers dispatched to an accident have several important functions to perform. It’s important for you to get out of their way and let them do their job.

What is the role of law enforcement at the accident scene?
When law enforcement arrives at an accident scene, they will:

  • Seek out the injured and call for paramedics when necessary
  • Secure the accident scene with flares, pylons, tape, etc.
  • Search for physical evidence, including skid marks, obstructions, and weather conditions
  • Question drivers, passengers, pedestrians, and others with information about the collision
  • Run warrant checks
  • Issue traffic citations when called for
  • Give drivers a “case number” to later obtain the officer’s crash report

Do the police officers have to listen to my side of the story?
While you have every right to speak with the investigating officers, you’re required to follow their direction at all times. While you may want to share your side of what happened as soon as possible, you need to be patient and wait for the officer to be ready to hear you. There may be other important things the officer needs to do first.

Do I have to answer questions from the police?
It depends. If the officers ask you to identify yourself, including your full name and address, proof of registration, and proof of insurance, you must comply. However, if he asks about possession of drugs, or for any other action that might result in criminal charges, you have the right not to answer those questions.

What if the police gave me a traffic citation?
If a police officer decides you were in violation of one of South Carolina’s traffic laws, you may receive a traffic citation. You can certainly attempt to dissuade the officers, but if they issue the citation, you must accept it.

It’s important to know that signing the citation is not an admission of guilt. Rather, your signature is only an agreement you will appear later to face the charge.  At that time, you may enter a plea of not guilty and contest the citation. Traffic citations are only circumstantial evidence of guilt.

Step 8 – Retain an Attorney or Represent Yourself?

south carolina retain attorney represent selfThere are some personal injury claims that can be handled without legal representation. However, others will always require the help of a trained professional.

How do I know if I need an attorney?
There are generally two types of injuries that happen in car accidents; soft tissue and hard injuries.

Soft tissue injuries include strains and sprains to ligaments, tendons, or muscles, minor bruising, abrasions, first-degree burns, whiplash, and other relatively minor injuries. These generally don’t result in substantial medical or therapy bills. They also do not normally involve complex issue of law, so a victim can usually negotiate their own claim with the insurance company.

Moreover, with soft tissue injuries there may not be enough compensation when the case is resolved to pay an attorney and still leave you with enough to pay all your bills, not to mention your pain and suffering.

Hard injuries are much more serious. They include head trauma, fractures, third degree burns, deep gashes requiring stitches, scarring, and other injuries requiring significant and extensive medical care.

Compensation for a serious injury claim can be substantial. In these claims, you simply won’t be as effective as a personal injury attorney will.

You may think by representing yourself you will be saving money in the end, and bringing home more of the compensation rewarded. But this simply isn’t true. By representing yourself you will likely end up settling for an amount substantially less than an attorney could have secured for you, even after paying attorneys fees.

Insurance companies know without an attorney you can only negotiate so far. Once the claims adjuster tells you that’s their final offer, you have absolutely no advantage. It’s basically take it, or leave it.

When it comes to serious hard injury claims, experienced personal injury attorneys have a plethora of legal tools to rely on in order to secure the highest settlement possible for their clients. And that amount is almost always much higher than the client could have ever hoped to have won on their own.

Hard injury claims often require filing a lawsuit. Insurance companies don’t like lawsuits. They know once someone files a lawsuit, they will have to pay out substantial amounts in legal fees to defense attorneys. Lawsuits also require pretrial discovery, including depositions, interrogatories, subpoenas for production of documents, and more. These are actions only an attorney can effectively perform.

Personal injury attorneys also have the power to learn what policy limits are, whether the driver has a past record of traffic accidents, citations, prior arrests, and more helpful information you could never obtain by yourself.

How much do attorneys charge?
Personal injury attorneys rarely charge legal fees for initial office consultations. Once you find an attorney who will accept your case, they will usually agree to represent you on a “contingency fee” basis. A contingency fee means you do not have to pay the attorney any legal fees until they settle your case or win it at trial. If they can’t win your case, you will owe them nothing.

If they do settle your case or win at trial, you will owe the attorney a percentage of the settlement amount or court verdict. Contingency fees can range from 25% to 40% depending on the time involved, the complexity of the case, and whether or not the case goes to court.

How do I find an attorney that’s right for me?
Make copies of your medical records and bills, a copy of the accident report, photographs, witness statements and other documents related to the accident. Then seek out several personal injury attorneys in your area. Most have extensive websites illustrating the types of cases they accept and their successes. These attorneys will review the evidence, discuss with you the underlying facts, and ask questions.

After your initial consultation, the attorneys may be able to give you their opinions on the viability of your claim, whether or not they believe the claim will settle, or if a court may have to hear the claim. After meeting with several attorneys in your area, you will be better suited to choose the right attorney for your case.

Step 9 – South Carolina Small Claims Court

south carolina small claims courtThe South Carolina Legislature created Magistrate Courts to hear small claims lawsuits. These Courts offer a forum for people who are unable to settle their differences.

Magistrate Courts have relaxed rules of evidence, thereby affording parties an opportunity to present their cases without the complicated evidentiary rules that attorneys in higher courts must follow.

How much can I sue for in South Carolina’s Magistrate Courts?
South Carolina Magistrate Courts have jurisdiction to hear cases up to $7,500.

When would I consider filing a lawsuit in one of South Carolina’s Small Claims Courts?
You might consider a small claims lawsuit when:

  1. The amount in controversy is $7,500 or less
  2. The at-fault driver’s insurance company denies your claim
  3. The at-fault driver’s insurance company offers an unfair settlement
  4. The at-fault driver was uninsured or under-insured
  5. An attorney will not accept your case

Do I sue the driver’s insurance company or the driver?
If you decide to file a lawsuit in small claims court, you must sue the driver who caused the accident and not their insurance company. The insurance company did not cause the accident, and has no personal liability for it. They are an entirely separate entity that provides insurance to the driver who crashed into you.

How do I file a claim in one of South Carolina’s Magistrate Courts?
Go to your local magistrate court and ask for the appropriate forms to start a small claims lawsuit. The clerks will provide the necessary forms and will assist you with administrative matters, but are unable to provide any legal advice.

What if someone has filed a small claims lawsuit against me?
If you receive a Magistrate complaint against you, you have thirty days to respond. You can answer the complaint either orally or in writing. To do so in writing you may simply write a letter to the court explaining your opposition to the lawsuit, or go to the Magistrate’s court location where the lawsuit was filed and ask the clerk for the appropriate form.

How can I find out more about South Carolina’s Magistrate Courts?
For more information about South Carolina’s Magistrate Courts, go to the South Carolina Judicial Department website or South Carolina Magistrate’s page.

Step 10 – The Statute of Limitations

south carolina statute limitationsWhen it comes to personal injury claims, each state has their own law setting out the amount of time a victim has to resolve their property damage or personal injury claim. That amount of time is referred to as the statute of limitations.

If you’re the victim in a South Carolina car accident, and you fail to settle your claim with the at-fault driver or their insurance company within the statute of limitations period, you lose your legal right to pursue that driver for compensation.

What is the statute of limitations for personal injury claims in South Carolina?
The State of South Carolina has a 3 year statute of limitations for property damage or personal injury claims.

What if the insurance company is stalling and the statute of limitations is about to expire?
The insurance company has no legal or practical obligation to settle your claim within the statute of limitations period. Nor do they have any legal duty to advise you if the period is about to expire. You will not receive any sympathy from them or their claims adjuster if you miss the deadline.

It’s not a legal defense to say that the insurance company adjuster refused to return your calls, emails or letters. If you miss the statute of limitations, it’s entirely on you.

What can I do if the 3 year SOL is approaching and I haven’t settled my claim?
You can file a lawsuit, even if you do so in small claims court. Once a lawsuit is filed, the statute of limitations is “tolled,” meaning it doesn’t apply to your claim anymore.

If the statute of limitations is about to expire, you might consider seeking the advice and counsel of a local personal injury attorney. The attorney may agree to file the lawsuit for you.

Visitor Questions on South Carolina Car Accidents

Charles R. Gueli, Esq. is a personal injury attorney with over 20 years of legal experience. He’s admitted to the NY State Bar, and been named a Super Lawyer for the NY Metro area, an exclusive honor awarded to the top five percent of attorneys. Charles has worked extensively in the areas of auto accidents,... Read More >>