South Carolina Personal Injury Laws: Negligence Vs. Intentional Torts

Personal injury cases can occur due to a variety of reasons such as accidents, medical malpractice, defective products, and intentional acts. The laws of South Carolina recognize two broad categories of personal injury claims, namely negligence and intentional torts.


Negligence is the most common basis for personal injury lawsuits. It refers to a failure to exercise reasonable care that results in harm or injury to another person. Negligence lawsuits are based on the idea that people have a duty to behave in a reasonable manner towards each other, and when they fail to do so, they should be held accountable for their actions.

Elements of a Negligence Claim

To establish a negligence claim, the plaintiff (injured party) must prove the following elements:

Duty of Care

The defendant (at-fault party) must have had a duty to exercise reasonable care towards the plaintiff. For instance, a motorist driving on the road has a duty to obey traffic rules and drive safely.

Breach of Duty

The defendant must have breached their duty of care by failing to act reasonably. For example, a driver who was texting while driving breached their duty to drive safely.


The plaintiff must show that the defendant’s breach of duty was the direct cause of their injuries. In other words, if the defendant hadn’t breached their duty, the plaintiff wouldn’t have been injured.


The plaintiff must have suffered actual damages, such as physical injuries, emotional distress, or financial losses. Without actual damages, there can be no claim for negligence.

Examples of Negligence Claims

Some common examples of negligence claims include:

  • Slip and fall accidents due to a property owner’s failure to maintain their premises
  • Medical malpractice due to a healthcare provider’s failure to provide the proper standard of care
  • Car accidents due to a driver’s failure to obey traffic rules

Intentional Torts

Intentional torts, as the name suggests, are personal injury claims that arise due to intentional acts. Unlike negligence, intentional torts involve a person’s deliberate or reckless behavior that results in injury or harm to another person.

Types of Intentional Torts

South Carolina law recognizes several types of intentional torts, including:


Assault is defined as an act that makes another person fear that they are about to be harmed. For instance, threatening to hit someone with a baseball bat would be considered an assault.


Battery is defined as an intentional act of physical contact without the plaintiff’s consent that results in harmful or offensive bodily contact. For example, punching someone in the face would constitute battery.

False Imprisonment

False imprisonment occurs when one person restrains another person’s movement without their consent. This can include physically restraining them or locking them in a room.


Defamation is the act of making false statements that harm a person’s reputation. This can include slander (oral statements) or libel (written statements).

Damages in Intentional Tort Claims

In intentional tort claims, the plaintiff may be entitled to compensatory damages (covering actual losses) as well as punitive damages (designed to punish the defendant’s behavior). Punitive damages are typically awarded in cases where the defendant acted with malice or recklessness.


Understanding the difference between negligence and intentional torts is crucial for anyone pursuing a personal injury case. Negligence cases are more common and rely on proving a breach of reasonable care, while intentional torts require proving an intentional act that resulted in harm or injury. Regardless of the type of case, it’s essential to work with experienced personal injury attorneys who can guide you through the complex legal process and help you obtain the compensation you deserve.

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