In the aftermath of a recent pair of hit-and-run car accidents resulting in the deaths of two pedestrians in Florence, it is important to remember our duties as drivers in South Carolina – and our rights as either crash victims or survivors.
SCNow.com reports that the first tragedy occurred on July 28, when a 74-year-old woman died after allegedly being hit by a driver in a green van. According to police officials, the accident occurred at around 5 p.m. on Converse Drive. In a July 31 report, SCNow.com stated that police were still looking for the driver.
Roughly nine hours later, the second tragedy took place. At around 2 a.m., a driver in a white car allegedly struck and killed a 48-year-old man on Lucas Street.
According to WBTW.com, the driver in the Lucas Street crash turned herself in to police on July 28. She was charged with a hit-and-run accident involving death and violation of a beginner’s permit. She stated she left the scene because she thought she hit an animal, according to the news report.
Lieutenant Mike Brandt of the Florence Police Department told SCNow.com that fatal pedestrian accidents in the Pee Dee are rare, while hit-and-run crashes involving pedestrians are “extremely rare.”
However, these accidents reflect the reality that pedestrian accidents can still occur at any time in South Carolina, which has one of the highest pedestrian accident fatality rates in the country.
According to the most recent annual count from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), an estimated 4,735 pedestrians died in collisions with motor vehicles in the U.S., and 66,000 suffered injuries.
In other words, on average, one pedestrian died in a traffic crash every two hours, while one pedestrian was injured every eight minutes.
Delaware had the nation’s highest pedestrian fatality rate per 100,000 residents at 2.70. South Carolina, with a 2.07 fatality rate, ranked seventh-highest.
When crashes occur involving other motorists or pedestrians, motorcyclists, trucks, or bicyclists, drivers have a duty to stop and stay at the scene. Victims or their surviving family members, meanwhile, have the right to seek compensation for the harm caused – even if the driver illegally flees the scene.
Drivers involved in hit-and-run accidents may face being charged with criminal offenses if and when they are identified. Often, the identification comes through eyewitness information or surveillance video.
Under South Carolina law, a driver has a legal duty to immediately stop at the scene of a crash which results in injury or death (or to stay as close to the scene as possible). The driver must remain there until the driver has:
If you fail to comply with this legal requirement and flee the scene, you can face the following criminal charges:
Additionally, if a crash results in personal injury or death, you must immediately and “by the quickest means of communication” report the accident to the local police or country sheriff.
For certain types of crashes that involve property damage only or unattended vehicles, you have duties as well to stay on the scene and/or leave contact information or report the accident.
If you are the victim of a pedestrian accident in South Carolina that is caused by the negligence of a motor vehicle driver, you may be able to seek compensation for the medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other harm you suffer.
Even if you are partially at fault for the accident – for instance, you were not using a crosswalk when you entered the street – you may still be able to recover compensation. However, your recovery would be reduced according to your degree of fault. You would be barred from a recovery only if your fault exceeded that of the motor vehicle driver.
Typically, a pedestrian who is injured in an accident (or the survivors of one who is killed in such a crash) would turn to the at-fault motor vehicle driver’s liability insurance to recover the compensation he or she deserves.
What do you do if the driver flees the scene and cannot be found?
Unfortunately, this type of hit-and-run accident may occur when the car driver was drunk, driving with a suspended or revoked license, or driving without legally required insurance. In some cases, the driver may simply fail to recognize that he or she struck another car or person.
If this occurs, many pedestrians can turn to their own uninsured motorist (UM) coverage for compensation. Your insurance company should pay what the car driver’s insurance should have paid – up to your UM policy limits.
As our car accident lawyers have seen in our experience of representing crash victims and families in Florence and throughout South Carolina, even your own insurance company may challenge your claim.
This is why it is crucial to contact an attorney as soon as possible after you or a loved one is involved in any crash that is caused wholly or in part by another person. You need to take immediate steps to protect your legal rights.