A fatal hit-and-run car accident on July 14, 2014 left a pedestrian dead and authorities in search of the driver of the car in Marlboro County, South Carolina. Hit-and-run accidents are anything but uncommon on the roads and highways in our state. South Carolina Highway Patrol’s Multidisciplinary Accident Investigation Team (“MAIT”) is currently investigating seven fatal hit-and-run accidents involving pedestrians that have taken place over the past ten (10) years, the most recent one being the July 14th incident. Many such accidents take place late at night or early in the morning when the roads are empty, leaving little evidence and no witnesses, and therefore are extremely difficult to investigate.
Pedestrians and Hit-and-Run Accidents
Hit-and-run accidents involving a pedestrian, whether they result in minor injuries, major injuries or death, are extremely traumatic for the victim. A pedestrian is a particularly sympathetic victim as compared to a collision involving two vehicles: the pedestrian literally has no protection and little warning when hit by a two-ton motor vehicle. It is bad enough when a motor vehicle driver strikes a pedestrian, but it adds enormous insult to injury when that driver flees the scene of the accident, abandoning the victim and leaving them helpless and at great risk of further injury.
South Carolina Law
South Carolina prohibits leaving the scene of an accident, with the obvious exception of leaving temporarily to get help. South Carolina General Statutes § 56-5-1210 prescribes the duties of motor vehicle drivers involved in any accident resulting in injury or death, and delineates the potential criminal consequences for violations of these duties:
“The driver of a vehicle involved in an accident resulting in injury to or the death of a person immediately shall stop the vehicle at the scene of the accident or as close to it as possible. He then shall return to and in every event shall remain at the scene of the accident until he has fulfilled the requirements of Section 56-5-1230 [which mandates that the driver must cooperate with authorities in giving information and rendering aid]. [The driver] may temporarily leave the scene to report the accident to the proper authorities. The stop must be made without obstructing traffic more than is necessary. A person who fails to stop or to comply with the requirements of this section is guilty of:
(1) a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, must be imprisoned not less than 30 days nor more than one year or fined not less than $100 nor more than $5,000, or both, when injury results but great bodily injury or death does not result;
(2) a felony and, upon conviction, must be imprisoned not less than 30 days nor more than 10 years and fined not less than $5,000 nor more than $10,000 when great bodily injury results; or
(3) a felony and, upon conviction, must be imprisoned not less than one year nor more than 25 years and fined not less than $10,000 nor more $25,000 when death results.”
When a pedestrian is injured by a hit-and-run driver, and the driver cannot be located and held accountable for their actions, pedestrians often are able to make a claim on their own insurance under their uninsured motorist coverage (“UM”). UM coverage is designed to protect the insured in situations involving an at-fault driver that does not have insurance or where the at-fault driver flees the scene and cannot be found. Not every insurance policy automatically carries UM coverage; in fact many drivers forgo UM coverage because of its additional cost. However, in the event of a hit-and-run accident, it can prove invaluable. UM coverage is available in South Carolina; just ask your insurance provider.