Being involved in any kind of auto accident is traumatic enough. You’re shocked, scared, perhaps injured, and worried about your passengers and your vehicle. Your stress can only increase if the person responsible for your wreck just drives away—making you the victim of a hit and run.
A hit and run accident occurs when a driver collides with another vehicle, a pedestrian, or a stationary object and flees. This is illegal. Even if you’re the victim in the accident, you may not leave the scene. Unless you need emergency medical treatment, you’re required by law to stay there and:
- Call the police.
- Give your identification/contact info to others involved.
- Help anyone who needs assistance.
Why Drivers Leave the Scene Following A North Charleston Car Accident
Except for those who need immediate medical care or have passengers who do, drivers generally leave the scenes of accidents because they fear contact with the police for one of several reasons:
- No driver’s license or a suspended/revoked license
- No car insurance
- Stolen vehicle
- Impairment due to drugs or alcohol
- Illegal substances or stolen goods in the car
- Outstanding warrants
Even a driver who hits a car that is unattended is required to try to find the owner or to leave a written note with contact information and report the accident to the police. If your car is hit while parked on the street or in a parking facility, you should still report it, try to find witnesses, and ask to check for video footage of the accident from any security cameras mounted nearby.
Dos and Don’ts Following A Car Accident
If you’re involved in a hit and run and are physically able to take the following steps, you should:
- Try to get a photo of the at-fault vehicle and its license plate.
- If you can’t get a photo, note the license plate number, make, model, and color of the car as well as what the driver looked like.
- Make a mental note of the damage to the at-fault car and the direction in which it went.
- Check yourself and any passengers or pedestrians for injuries.
- Move to a safe area.
- Take photos of your damaged vehicle, any skid marks, and other visual evidence.
- Get names and contact information from any witnesses to the hit and run.
- Call 911 and report only the basic facts of the accident.
- Report the crash to your insurance company.
- Seek medical care as soon as possible.
If the police or EMTs do not transport you to an emergency room, you should see a doctor after the accident to document your injuries. Remember that some injuries can be invisible. Even though you don’t feel any pain right away, you might still have internal damage that only a doctor’s exam and/or X-rays can reveal. Record your medical expenses, time lost from work, and pain or discomfort every day after the accident.
You should not:
- Leave the scene or chase the other driver.
- Talk about the accident to anyone except the police, to whom you should give only basic factual information.
- Admit any fault.
- Sign anything other than documents required by the police.
- Have your car repaired right away.
- Post anything at all about your accident or injuries on social media.
Once you’ve followed these guidelines, you should consult a personal injury attorney and get advice about filing a claim once the at-fault driver is apprehended. If a loved one dies as a result of the wreck, your attorney can also help you to file a wrongful death claim.
Criminal Charges If The Driver Leaves the Scene of a Car Accident
In South Carolina, a driver who leaves the scene of an accident can lose driving privileges and be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony as follows:
Property damage only (unattended vehicle).
Misdemeanor with at least 30 days or $100 fine.
Property damage only (attended vehicle).
Misdemeanor with up to one year of jail time or $100 to $5,000 fine.
Minor personal injury.
Misdemeanor with 30 days to one year of jail time or $100 to $5,000 fine.
Great bodily injury.
Felony with 30 days to 10 years of jail time and $5,000 to $10,000 fine.
Felony with one to 25 years of jail time and $10,000 to $25,000 fine.
Compensation For Damages Following A South Carolina Car Accident
Even if the at-fault driver is caught, prosecuted, and convicted, the conviction will not give you compensation for your damages. You’ll have to file a claim against the driver’s insurance company for your medical bills, property damage, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
If the driver who hit you is never caught or is uninsured, you still might be able to get compensation through:
Your own car insurance.
If you have uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage, you can file a claim with your own insurance company. However, they might try to dispute, deny, or devalue your claim in order to offer you a low settlement.
Your health insurance.
If you were struck while cycling, skateboarding, or walking, you might be able to file a claim with your health insurance carrier.
A civil lawsuit.
If the at-fault driver is convicted of hit and run, your case will be strong, and you are likely to prevail in a civil suit. However, the driver may not have the necessary assets to pay the damages.
Have You Been Injured In A Charleston South Carolina Area Car Accident?
If you've been injured in a car accident you should speak with a car accident lawyer as soon as possible. Contact us online or call our Charleston, South Carolina office directly at 843.488.2359 to schedule your consultation. We are also able to meet clients at our Conway, Myrtle Beach, Murrells Inlet, Mt. Pleasant, North Myrtle Beach or North Charleston office locations.