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Understanding Your North Carolina or South Carolina Personal Injury Case

March 9, 2016 Personal Injury

If you have been in an auto accident, suffered from a medical error, been injured at work, or otherwise physically harmed due to the negligence of another person or entity, you may be entitled to compensation for your losses. Filing a personal injury claim is an option for many victims of negligence– a successful personal injury claim may give the victim much needed financial support, reimbursement for medical expenses paid out, and a peace of mind that someone is being held responsible for wrongful actions. Usually, personal injury actions are filed in the state where the accident or injury took place, but this is not always the case. At Wallace Childers PLLC, our experienced personal injury attorneys can help walk you through your personal injury claim from the initial court filings all the way through trial.

Fundamental Differences in the Carolinas

Most state laws do not differ from one another too much, but North and South Carolina have one unique difference that makes filing personal injury cases in each respective state different: their stance on comparative negligence. Negligence, generally, is the assertion that someone had a duty to do (or not to do) something that they failed to do, and that failure caused the victim’s injury. A typical personal injury negligence claim, then, might look like this:

  • Duty: To drive the speed limit, safely, on public roadways
  • Breach of duty: Driving 20 miles over the speed limit
  • Causation: Driving 20 miles over the speed limit caused vehicle 1 (defendant) to crash into vehicle 2 (plaintiff); put differently, but for vehicle 1 driving 20 miles over the speed limit, it would not have crashed into vehicle 2 and caused injury to the occupant(s)
  • Damages: The crash caused quantifiable injury to the occupant(s) of vehicle 2
    • In this case, a court may reasonably find that the driver of vehicle 1 acted negligently because he or she breached a duty to others on the road (vehicle 2) and caused damage. Now consider what would happen if it was later discovered that the driver of vehicle 2 was putting on makeup while driving down the road, thus, not paying attention to other cars (such as vehicle 1). One might believe that the driver of vehicle 2 contributed to the accident, at least to an extent, by being negligent herself. This is a legal defense called contributory, or comparative, negligence. If a defendant can prove that a plaintiff was even partially responsible for causing the accident or injury, he or she may be fully or partially relieved of liability depending on where the case was filed.
  • North Carolina is one of the only remaining states in the country that adheres to the theory of contributory negligence. Contributory negligence is the “all or nothing” approach to negligence. If the plaintiff is found at all responsible for the accident or subsequent injuries, he or she is barred from recovery. Most courts assign fault in terms of percentages, that is, the defendant is found 80% at fault, 95% at fault, etc. In a contributory negligence state such as North Carolina, if the plaintiff is even 1% at fault for contributing to their injuries, he or she is not entitled to any compensation from the defendant. In our example, if the defendant could prove that the plaintiff was even remotely distracted because she was putting on makeup, her claim may be completely barred.
  • South Carolina, on the other hand, adheres to the less rigid policy of comparative negligence. In this instance, even if the plaintiff is found partially responsible for the accident or injury, the plaintiff may still be able to recover, so long as the defendant is found more liable than the plaintiff. So, based on our percentage model, as long as vehicle 1 is more than 50% responsible, the plaintiff can still recover. If the plaintiff is found more than 50% responsible for his or her injuries, the claim will be barred, just as it would in a contributory negligence jurisdiction like North Carolina.

Filing a successful personal injury claim in North Carolina, then, is seemingly more difficult than filing one in South Carolina. However, with effective legal representation, it is possible to have a successful claim in North Carolina, as well. The key is pushing fault away from the plaintiff and focusing on the defendant.

North and South Carolina Personal Injury Lawyers

If you or anyone you know has been injured in an accident and considering bringing a legal claim, contact one of our experienced personal injury attorneys at Wallace Childers PLLC, Attorneys at Law. Our attorneys are licensed to practice in both North and South Carolina and are familiar with the differences in the state laws that will be specific to your case. Contacting an attorney right away after an accident can greatly improve your possibility of recovery; we know how to negotiate with opposing counsel and insurance companies to come to a reasonable settlement given your unique circumstances and are prepared to take our cases to trial when settlement is not a viable option. To learn more about the possibility of filing a personal injury claim in either North or South Carolina, call our Charlotte, North Carolina office for a complimentary consultation today.