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You Can’t Get Punitive Damages in South Carolina If You Can’t Prove Recklessness: Here’s What That Means, and Some Ways to Do It

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In South Carolina, your case qualifies for punitive damages only if you can prove you got hurt due to “willful, wanton, or reckless conduct.” That’s taken straight from the South Carolina punitive damages law at South Carolina Code Section 15-32-520(D).

And it’s not easy to prove. That same law requires the evidence to be “clear and convincing.” To put it in context, getting a settlement or verdict for actual or compensatory damages only requires you to prove it’s a little more likely than not the accident caused your injuries. 

So what does “willful, wanton, or reckless” mean? How can you prove it? Here’s what the law says.

The Meaning of Willful, Wanton, and Reckless for Getting a South Carolina Punitive Damages Award

Willful, wanton, and reckless all mean the same thing. From here out, let’s just use the word reckless.

Reckless basically means a conscious failure to care for someone else’s safety. In other words, if a normal person would know an act would probably hurt someone, it’s reckless to do it.

As you might’ve sensed, the law is about as clear as mud. That’s why you need an experienced South Carolina accident injury lawyer to clearly, convincingly describe how the evidence proves you got hurt because of recklessness.  

Examples of Proving Recklessness for South Carolina Punitive Damages

Recklessness can be proven in many ways, depending on the case. Here are two examples.

Breaking the Law

Just because the law got broken doesn’t mean you get punitive damages. Even if you qualify, your case still needs a painstaking analysis of the factors involved in evaluating the amount you should ask for.

Breaking the law is also called “negligence per se.” A typical way we can use this appears in car or motorcycle accident cases. Technically, any legal violation causing a car accident creates the potential for punitive damages: speeding, improper passing, following too closely, failure to yield the right of way.

But the clearest way to qualify for punitive damages involves a DUI or drunk driving accident. You’ve got to know how to do a lot to get a settlement for punitive damages in these cases. You’ve got to get police evidence before it disappears to prove how intoxicated the at-fault driver was. Even more important, if the drunk driver got overserved at a bar or restaurant, you might have a case against those businesses. But you’ve got to move quickly against them before that evidence disappears, and you’ll face an uphill battle without legal help since these cases are hard-fought and complex.

A Company Violating Its Own Policies

This functions much the same as breaking the law. But it’s harder because first, you’ve got to know how to get the company policy. Then you’ve got to prove that breaking it caused you to get hurt.

In any of these cases, you need a skilled accident injury lawyer to help you convincingly prove punitive damages are the right thing to do. Once you cross that hurdle, you’ve still got to prove just as convincingly that a substantial award is justified.

Don’t Leave It to Chance – Call Us to Get Professional Help

Even if your case doesn’t involve punitive damages, a lot goes into handling your case to protect you from being cheated by the insurance company, whose main job is preventing victims from fair settlements for actual or compensatory damages.

If you’ve got questions about punitive damages or your rights in an injury case, you can call toll-free at 888-230-1841 or fill out a Get Help Now form. You can come to see us for a FREE, EASY strategy session to answer your questions and start building a case to compensate you, whether your case qualifies for punitive damages or not.

We welcome you to scout us out on an attorney review website we don’t own.

Rob Usry
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Rob is a Spartanburg personal injury lawyer. Rob also practices as a criminal defense attorney.
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