Being involved in an auto accident is traumatic enough. You're shocked, scared, perhaps injured, and worried about your passengers and vehicle. Your stress can only increase if the person responsible for your car accident just drives away.
If this happens to you, it's essential to understand the law and how to protect yourself. You have the right to consult with an experienced South Carolina car accident lawyer and pursue just compensation for your car accident injuries.
What Is a Hit and Run in South Carolina?
Hit and run accidents occur 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 of a South Carolina car accident unless you need emergency medical treatment. Drivers are required by law to stay at the accident scene and:
- Call the police
- Give identification and contact information to others involved in the crash
- Help anyone who needs assistance seek medical attention
Even a driver who hits an unattended car is required to try to find the owner or leave a written note with contact information and report the accident to the police.
Why Drivers Leave Accident Scenes
Except for those who need immediate medical care or have passengers who do, drivers generally leave the scenes of car accidents because they fear contact with the police for one of several reasons:
- They don't have driver's license
- They only have a suspended or revoked driver's license
- They don't have car insurance
- They are in a stolen vehicle
- They are drunk or under the influence of drugs
- They have illegal substances or stolen goods in the car
- There are outstanding warrants against them
Unfortunately, leaving the scene of a car accident will only make things worse for a driver in these situations.
What to Do After a Hit and Run 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 essential facts of the accident.
- Report the crash to your insurance company
- Seek medical care as soon as possible
- Contact an experienced car accident attorney
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.
Additionally, you can record your medical expenses, time lost from work, and pain or discomfort every day after the accident.
What Not to Do After a Hit and Run Accident
You can protect your rights and recovery by avoiding mistakes. Specifically, 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
Taking these actions and avoiding these mistakes can help your hit and run lawyer protect your recovery.
South Carolina Hit and Run Drivers Face Criminal Charges
In South Carolina, a driver who leaves the scene of a car crash 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 of jail time 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 Hit and Run Car Accident
Even if the at-fault driver is caught, prosecuted, and convicted, the conviction will not compensate you for your car accident injuries and damages.
Instead, you have the right to pursue fair compensation from the hit and run driver or your own insurance company if the hit and run driver is never identified or doesn't have insurance. Fair compensation in hit and run cases may include but are not limited to past and future:
- Medical bills
- Lost income
- Out-of-pocket costs
- Physical pain
- Emotional suffering
An experienced car accident lawyer will fight for your fair recovery.
What Happens if the Hit and Run Driver Is Never Found
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 company. 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.
You may have a right to compensation in hit and run car accident cases if three things occur:
- You, or someone on your behalf, reported the accident to the police within a reasonable amount of time after the accident occurred.
- You, or your vehicle, had physical contact with the unknown vehicle, or you have an eyewitness who will sign an affidavit about what happened.
- You did everything reasonably possible to determine the other driver's identity and vehicle at the time of the accident.
If you are able to satisfy these three conditions, you have a viable Uninsured Motorist Claim. The claim is against the at-fault party, but your insurance company pays the damages from your uninsured motorist coverage. In South Carolina, you must carry uninsured motorist coverage in the amount of $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident. However, $25,000 can disappear in one helicopter flight, one night in the hospital, or one surgery. Our South Carolina car accident attorneys suggest you have at least $250,000 per person in uninsured motorist coverage. The increased insurance cost is usually only a few dollars a month and is essential if you're hurt in an unsolved hit and run accident.