South Carolina bills could limit liability in vehicle crashes

April 25, 2023

Chuck Robinson


A bill simmering in committees in the South Carolina House and Senate could limit liability in lawsuits resulting from vehicle crashes.

Right now under South Carolina law, a driver or driver’s company can be held 100% responsible to pay damages even though other parties were at fault.

For example, in a three-vehicle collision in which one party suffers significant injuries and sues the other parties, the other parties might share culpability. However, if one of the parties has lower insurance coverage or no insurance at all, the other is on the hook for the whole amount. That is the case even if the other party is found less at fault than the underinsured party. What’s more, an attorney defending the insured driver being sued by the injured plaintiff can’t inform the jury about the underinsured party’s fault in the collision.

Two bills have been introduced to change that. They are S533 in the Senate and H3933 in the House, and each has been referred to the judiciary committees of each chamber.

In the Senate, S533 was introduced by Sen. Thomas Alexander and has 23 co-sponsors.

In the House, H3933 was introduced by Rep. Mark Smith and has 45 co-sponsors.

The proposed change would keep a well-insured defendant or one with deep pockets but with only a small fraction of liability of being 100% liable to pay a judgment.

The old rule is called a joint and several rule, and it means two or more parties can be held independently liable for the full amount of the damages regardless of their respective degrees of fault.

Under the proposed law, defendants will be allowed to argue that someone not named in the lawsuit is culpable. If the jury or judge agrees, then the liability of the named defendants would be reduced by that percentage.

Also in the proposed law, defendants found less than 50% liable could only be on the hook for the percentage the jury places on him or her. If the defendant is more than 50% at fault, the old joint and several rule would still apply.

The South Carolina Coalition for Lawsuit Reform is advocating for the proposed legislation. The South Carolina Trucking Association backs the lawsuit reform coalition. LL

More South Carolina news is available.