What You Need to Know. Hit and Run Accidents in South Carolina. Part II.
In our last blog post, we discussed what you should do if you’re the victim of a hit-and-run accident. If the driver at fault is identified and is insured, the claim can go on their insurance. But sometimes it’s not that easy. Imagine:
– Someone hits you and leaves the scene, is later identified but doesn’t have insurance
– Someone hits you and leaves the scene, but is never identified
– Someone runs you off the road and leaves the scene
What happens in one of these situations? Can you sue for bodily injury or property damage?
Requirements For Uninsured Hit-And-Run Claims In South Carolina
The answer is yes – in certain circumstances. You can file a claim under the uninsured motorist provision and sue “John Doe” for damages. Under Section 38-77-170 of South Carolina law, there are three requirements you need to meet in order to do that.
1) You must report the accident to police within a “reasonable” amount of time. Since what is “reasonable” can be left up to the court to decide, play it safe and report the accident sooner rather than later.
2) The injury or damage must have been caused by physical contact with the other car (the driver at fault) or the accident must have been witnessed by someone other than you who signs an affidavit swearing to the facts of the accident.
3) You (the insured) must have tried to determine the identity of the driver who hit you or ran you off the road. (Or, to use the law’s confusing double negatives, you must be “not negligent in failing” to identify the other driver.)
Why is the burden on you to prove what happened, when you’re the victim? To prevent or reduce insurance fraud. Otherwise, a multitude of ineligible accidents could be claimed under the uninsured motorist provision.
This Is Why You Need Uninsured Motorist Coverage
In order to recover damages (money) from your lawsuit against “John Doe,” you must carry uninsured motorist coverage on your car insurance policy.
What if it’s not in your current policy, is that the end of the road? Not necessarily. In South Carolina, if you have purchased liability insurance, the company has to give you at least minimum limits of uninsured coverage. They have to make a meaningful offer for Underinsured Motorist Coverage. If your policy reads like you didn’t have that option, the court can interpret your policy as if you do have the coverage, and you can sue and collect damages after all. Even though you may be able to recover damages without UIM coverage, it is generally a good idea to get extra UIM coverage because the majority of drivers in South Carolina only carry the minimum limits ($25,000). That means if your medical bills are over $25,000, you are most likely going to have to pay out of pocket unless you have extra UIM coverage.
What You Should Do In A Hit And Run Or If Run Off The Road
Since you don’t know at the time of the accident whether the driver at fault has insurance, proceed as if you will be filing an uninsured motorist claim.
• Try to identify the other driver by getting information on their vehicle (you need to at least to try)
• Get contact information of witnesses to the accident
• Report the accident to the police soon
Speak To an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney
Get in touch with the attorneys at the Carolina Law Group if you have a hit and run case to discuss or another matter in the areas of personal injury, workers’ compensation, criminal law, and immigration law. The Carolina Law Group has four convenient offices across South Carolina, in Greenville (call 864.312.4444), West Greenville (864.312.4444), Greer (call 864.757.5555), and Spartanburg. Schedule your free consultation today.