South Carolina has clearly written laws against leaving the scene of a vehicle accident. Any driver involved in a car wreck is required to:
- Stop at the scene and exchange information with the other driver(s).
- Render assistance if necessary.
- Call 911 and wait for law enforcement to arrive.
- Leave contact information where it can easily be found by the owner if an unattended vehicle is involved in the accident.
Failure to do so at the scene of any crash is a misdemeanor. Leaving the scene of an accident that has caused severe bodily injury or death is a felony.
Despite strict state laws like ours, hit-and-run accidents take place at a rate of more than one per minute across the country. Every day, approximately four people die and thousands of others are hurt in hit-and-run crashes.
Why Drivers Leave the Scene Following A South Carolina Car Accident
Even though leaving the scene of an accident is punishable by fines or jail time in South Carolina, hit-and-run drivers generally leave the scene because they fear police contact for a number of reasons:
- Lack of auto insurance
- Driving without a license
- Driving a stolen vehicle
- Illegal immigration status
- Parole violation
- Outstanding warrants
- Illegal drugs or stolen goods in the vehicle
- Driving while intoxicated or under the influence of drugs
Filing a Claim for Damages in a Hit-and-Run Car Accident
Under normal circumstances, if you’re the victim in a crash caused by a negligent driver, the exchange of information required by law enables you to file a claim against that driver’s insurance company for your damages:
- Medical bills
- Property damage
- Lost wages
- Pain and suffering
In a hit-and-run accident, however, you’re left with damages and no knowledge of who’s responsible unless you’ve managed to get the at-fault driver’s license plate number or some other identifying information. You could have vehicle repair bills and medical expenses piling up with no idea of who should pay your damages.
Optional Sources of Compensation Following A South Carolina Car Accident
If the hit-and-run driver is eventually caught and has insurance, you can file an insurance claim as usual, but you have no way of knowing if or when that might happen. Meanwhile, there are steps you can take to get compensation from other sources. These steps can be legally complicated and an attorney may be able to help you better navigate these steps.
Your auto insurance.
You may file a claim with your own insurance company, and your uninsured motorist (UM) or underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage should compensate you for damages up to your coverage limits. When you file, however, your own insurer might become your adversary and try to dispute or deny your claim, especially if it’s an expensive one. Your attorney should know how to negotiate on your behalf with your insurance carrier and work to get you fair compensation.
Your health insurance policy.
If you happen to be skateboarding, cycling, or walking when you’re injured by a hit-and-run driver, you might be able to file a claim with your own health insurance company.
A civil lawsuit.
If the at-fault driver is eventually apprehended and has no insurance or coverage limits too low to cover all your damages, your attorney may file a personal injury lawsuit against that driver directly. If your suit is successful and you collect full damages, your auto and/or health insurer could have a subrogation claim against your settlement. That means you might have to pay back some of the compensation you received from either or both of them before your civil suit. Your attorney can help you negotiate a reasonable subrogation amount.
John/Jane Doe Lawsuit
In order to get the facts and evidence on record while your memory of the wreck is fresh, you may file a John/Jane Doe lawsuit against the unknown hit-and-run driver before that driver is apprehended as long as:
- You have not been negligent in your attempts to identify the hit-and-run driver who caused the crash.
- Your damages/injuries resulted from contact with the hit-and-run vehicle.
- A third party witnessed the accident and submits a signed affidavit detailing what happened.
- You report the accident in a timely manner.
Ways to Help Yourself After a South Carolina Hit-and-Run Car Accident
If you can do so safely and are physically able, take the steps below after a hit-and-run crash to strengthen and protect your claim for damages:
- Remain at the scene.
- If possible, get a photo of the fleeing vehicle and/or its license plate.
- Pay attention to the make, model, and color of the car, as well as any damage to its body. Write this information down or save it on your phone.
- Get contact information from anyone who saw the crash.
- Call 911 and report the basic facts of the accident to the police when they arrive.
- Don’t sign any documents other than those required by the police.
- Don’t discuss the crash with anyone else.
- Don’t admit any fault (even partial) to anyone. Even if you think the accident was your fault, you could be mistaken.
- Notify your insurance company of the accident.
- Don’t have your car repaired right away. The damage is crucial evidence in proving who caused the crash.
- Don’t post anything about your wreck or injuries on social media.
- Consult a car accident attorney.
Seek medical attention right away even if you don’t feel you’re seriously hurt. Some internal injuries might not be immediately apparent to you. A doctor’s exam, X-rays, and other diagnostic procedures could show hidden damage to your body. Early diagnosis and treatment lead to quicker healing. Visiting a doctor right away also gives you documentation of the injuries you’ve suffered in the accident. This documentation is crucial to your insurance claim/lawsuit.