A fatal rear-end collision in Greenwood County, South Carolina (SC), is sure to raise concerns about contributory negligence and the ability of the deceased victim’s family members to file and collect on wrongful death insurance claims.
The deadly crash happened near the intersection of East Scotch Cross Road and Hitching Post Road at around 8:45 am on January 28, 2017. The wreck occurred when a car following a pickup truck towing a trailer slammed into the back of the trailer as the pickup slowed to turn into a driveway.
The passenger in the car lost his life. He died at the scene from injuries described in news reports as blunt force trauma. Police also went public with information that the deceased passenger was not wearing a seat belt.
The state statutes of South Carolina say two things about seat belts that are relevant to this case. First, adults can be ticketed for not buckling up. More importantly for this particular tragedy, a provision of the same law explains that “a violation of this article is not negligence per se or contributory negligence, and is not admissible as evidence in a civil action.”
Contributory negligence is the legal theory that accident victims can be held liable for causing some or all of the harm they suffered even if another person or organization also acted negligently. In South Carolina, the dollar amount of an insurance settlement or civil trial judgment can be reduced by the percent to which the victim is found negligent. For instance, a finding of 40 percent contributory negligence would reduce $100,000 in compensation to $60,000.
That will not automatically apply to insurance claims or wrongful death lawsuits arising from this rear-end collision in Greenwood County. What might still complicate family members’ decision to seek compensation and damages for a wrongful death, however, is knowing the at-fault driver. News reports do not indicate how the passenger knew the car’s driver.
That information does not matter in a legal sense. A driver has responsibility for keeping passengers safe in nearly all instances. Even if a child suffers injuries in a crash caused by his or her parent, insurance claims to cover medical bills and other crash-related expenses can still be filed on the child’s behalf.
Working with an experienced and empathetic Carolina wrongful death attorney would help the family of the passenger who died in the rear-end crash deal with insurance matters in a professional, sensitive and confidential manner.