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Hit-and-Run Accidents in South Carolina: What You Need to Know

I would imagine lawlessness abounds greatly in every state but lately it seems so many people are driving without any automobile insurance and/or not even stopping after being involved in a collision if they are able to drive away.

South Carolina law is clear on the requirements a driver involved in a hit-and-run must meet in order to pursue their own “uninsured” insurance coverage.  S.C. Code 38-77-170 copied below states:

SECTION 38-77-170. Conditions to sue or recover under uninsured motorist provision when owner or operator of motor vehicle causing injury or damage is unknown.

If the owner or operator of any motor vehicle which causes bodily injury or property damage to the insured is unknown, there is no right of action or recovery under the uninsured motorist provision, unless:

(1) the insured or someone in his behalf has reported the accident to some appropriate police authority within a reasonable time, under all the circumstances, after its occurrence;

(2) the injury or damage was caused by physical contact with the unknown vehicle, or the accident must have been witnessed by someone other than the owner or operator of the insured vehicle; provided however, the witness must sign an affidavit attesting to the truth of the facts of the accident contained in the affidavit;

(3) the insured was not negligent in failing to determine the identity of the other vehicle and the driver of the other vehicle at the time of the accident. (emphasis added).

Some people will try and manipulate the system so there have to be checks and balances to ensure some validity to what is being offered. Otherwise in rural areas of South Carolina every accident “avoiding a deer” would be claimed as a hit and run. Too bad the deer don’t carry insurance or have assets.

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Why Is It Important to Report a Wreck to the Highway Patrol or Local Police?

First and foremost for accountability when it comes time to be reimbursed for your property damage or personal injuries.  Yes, this essentially equates to insurance purposes. The person that causes the collision may be apologetic and a “really nice person” at the scene but a couple days later have a change of heart and not be so forthcoming with their admission of liability.   Therefore the primary reason is to ensure that the at fault, or sole contributor, that admits to being inattentive or distracted is memorialized by the reporting South Carolina Highway Patrol or local authorities. The primary goal of any insurance company is to protect their insured and if their insured said it was not their fault, the property damage on your car or medical treatment you incurred is not going to be reimbursed anytime soon, if at all.

Secondly, if this is a serious offense and someone is driving on the roadways under the influence of drugs or alcohol, they need to be stopped! Hopefully, no one is seriously injured and by helping this person realize the gravity of their actions, you may save lives down the road.

Thirdly, you have no idea the true impact this collision will have on any property damage to your car or any personal injuries to your person. (no pun intended). Your adrenaline is pumping, so you feel no pain initially. Or the frame of your car is bent but you don’t realize that until you pull off and the vehicle drives crooked. Too late. You let that “nice person” go with a handshake and a smile. That’s okay, I am sure you have a couple thousand dollars lying around to repair your car and medical expenses.

A few tips if you are in an accident, from both a personal injury lawyer and person that has been in two accidents (neither of which were his fault):

  • Call 911 or *HP immediately, regardless of severity. If not life threatening tell the operator and explain the details. Those calls are recorded by the way;
  • Take pictures of the property damage with your fancy phone or at the very least make a mental note;
  • Make sure to get any contact information from any witnesses, especially if they do not have time to stick around for the reporting officer. They can still be helpful but not if you don’t know how to get in touch with them. It would be better if they could stick around and talk to the officer;
  • If the other party tries to leave the scenemake every effort to get their license tag, vehicle description and/or notify the 911 operator. License tags are usually only 6 characters. You can remember that;
  • If you feel any pain at all, notify the reporting officer and go get checked out when the ambulance, or EMS comes out. Otherwise, you know what the insurance company for the at fault driver will say?  “Obviously you were not hurt because you did not seek immediate medical attention.”
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Summer, The Most Dangerous Driving Season

We love so many things about summer.  School is out, the weather is great, the lakes and beaches are inviting us to get away and enjoy some much needed down time.  Summer also means more cars on the road, which can easily make it the most dangerous driving season of the year.

According to the South Carolina Public Safety Traffic Collision Fact Book, there’s a traffic collision every 3.7 minutes in this state.  Every 13.5 minutes, one of those wrecks causes an injury.  And every 9.5 hours, a crash involves a death—of a driver, passenger, bike rider, or a person not even in a vehicle.  Teenage drivers age 15-19 are in fatal or injury collisions every 90 minutes in South Carolina.

More motorcycles are on the road during summer, and their numbers aren’t any better.  Fatal motorcycles crashes rose sharply in 2021, higher than it’s been in decades.  Last year saw 154 motorcycle deaths, which is more than any year since 1980—the first year South Carolina compiled its Collision Fact Book.  By comparison, there were 116 in 2020.

There are several main causes for these wrecks and alcohol is high on the list.  The Centers for Disease Control ranks South Carolina 10th highest among all states in alcohol-related deaths, which is unusually high for its population.  In 2019, this state had 276 traffic deaths involving alcohol, and that number jumped to 315 in 2020.  Drinking increased during the Covid pandemic, and Mothers Against Drunk Driving attributes the rise in fatalities to more people being on the road since restrictions relaxed.

Speed is certainly a factor in summer traffic crashes.  People are in a hurry to get where they’re going, and summer trips are no exception.  They want to get out of town and start their vacations as soon as possible.  Many drivers push beyond speed limits, which leads to senseless crashes and injuries.  And one of the biggest factors is distracted driving.  Cell phones are one of the worst distractions for any driver, and glancing at a phone screen for just a second can lead to a fatal accident.

So, what can you do to help make road travel safer in the summer?  We can all slow down and obey posted speed limits—on interstates, smaller highways, and on streets in any town.  Combining drinking and driving is always a bad idea, so make sure there are designated drivers in every group.  Wearing a motorcycle helmet can reduce your chance of injury by 37%.  Most importantly, put down the phone while driving, so you can pay full attention to the road in front of you and the other drivers around you.

If you’re in a wreck, call the police—and get medical treatment if you are injured. Make a video recording of the other driver and get them to provide an account of what happened. If they won’t do that, at least call 911 to have the local authorities or SC Highway Patrol make an official record of the collision. Keep in mind, if it ain’t documented the at fault insurance company will say it didn’t happen. If you’re an accident victim, don’t hesitate to call Trammell & Mills at (864) 485-8585 to get the medical and financial compensation you deserve.  Be careful out there, and have a safe summer on the road!

 

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Dumb Driver News: South Carolina Motorcyclist Hit Twice: At Fault Driver Calls Boyfriend Before 911

Recently, one of my clients had the misfortune of being in oncoming traffic while a young girl was talking on her cellphone with her boyfriend. The young girl veered into oncoming traffic and struck my client.

When she got out of the car to check on my client, he begged her to call 911 because he was in a great deal of pain (he was suffering from a broken hip-among other things). She screamed and jumped into the car which did not have the emergency brake on, causing it to roll back over my client in the road.  She jumped out and said, “Oh no!” She then used her cell phone to call her boyfriend to ask what to do. Either her boyfriend heard my client screaming in the background for medical help or he was smarter than his fifth grade educated girlfriend and told her to call the POLICE.

Eventually my client was able to get his cellphone from his pocket and call 911  and get much needed medical attention. After a  week in the local hospital his medical bills from the collision greatly exceeded the dumb girl’s insurance coverage.

This is an excellent illustration for the need in having UIM, or underinsurance, coverage and PIP, or personal injury protection, coverage.  There are a lot of dumb drivers out there with minimal limits which in South Carolina is $25,000.00. You don’t want to be on the receiving end of their ignorance and negligence.

Yes, this is a true story.

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Pedestrians and Motor Vehicle Accidents in South Carolina

The Anderson Independent Mail reported that a young girl was struck and injured by a vehicle in Anderson County.  Reportedly, there was a school bus in the area and she darted out across the road.

pedestrian, or any person on foot, has duties just like those driving motor vehicles to be responsible, however, sometimes the higher duty and responsibility remains with the driver of the motor vehicle to be more alert and observant.

South Carolina Drivers’ Manual is where we all started and had to learn the “rules of the road” before being granted permission to get our license. After the introduction, the manual goes into “General Information”, more specifically the subsection entitled, “Sharing the Road” states:

It is your responsibility as a driver to be on the lookout and to take every precaution possible to not injure a person on foot. If you see a vehicle, pedestrian or children near the road, you should slow down and be prepared to stop. (General Information p.45)

The South Carolina Code of Laws sets forth a few reminders for all of us drivers on the roadways as it pertains to pedestrians:

  1. SECTION 56-5-3230.Drivers to exercise due care.

Notwithstanding other provisions of any local ordinance, every driver of a vehicle shall exercise due care to avoid colliding with any pedestrian or any person propelling a human-powered vehicle and shall give an audible signal when necessary and shall exercise proper precaution upon observing any child or any obviously confused, incapacitated or intoxicated person.

  1. SECTION 56-5-1520.General rules as to maximum speed limits; lower speeds may be required.

(A) A person shall not drive a vehicle on a highway at a speed greater than is reasonable and prudent under the conditions and having regard to the actual and potential hazards then existing. Speed must be so controlled to avoid colliding with a person, vehicle, or other conveyance on or entering the highway in compliance with legal requirements and the duty of a person to use care.

(F) The driver of a vehicle shall drive, consistent with the requirements of subsection (A), at an appropriate reduced speed when approaching and crossing an intersection or railway grade crossing, when approaching and going around a curve, approaching a hillcrest, when traveling upon any narrow bridge, narrow or winding roadway, and when special hazard exists with respect to pedestrians or other traffic or by reason of weather or highway conditions.

South Carolina case law follows in line with the before mentioned rules in stating:

  • One operating a motor vehicle on a public highway owes an urgent duty to keep a proper lookout and to keep the vehicle under proper control.  Yaun v. Baldridge, 134 S.E.2d 248, 251 (S.C.1964).
  • Negligence is established as a matter of law if the only inference is that either the driver did not look or did so in such a careless fashion as not to see what was in plain view. Williams v. Davis, 243 S.C. 524, 134 S.E.2d 760 (1964).

No one may truly know what happened during the incident with the young girl and the driver may have used ever caution and observation available to him. However, this is a time to remind all of us who get behind the wheel to just remain alert and vigilant to our surroundings.

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