A 21-year-old college exchange student from Bulgaria lost his life after being struck from behind by an SUV while walking home from his part-time job in the North Carolina Outer Banks town of Corolla. The fatal pedestrian accident occurred around 11 pm on August 25, 2014, and the at-fault driver left the scene without stopping.
The vehicle’s driver turned himself in the following morning, telling authorities that he thought he had collided with a deer before learning that a man had died in a car crash. A blood sample was taken and sent to a state police lab for analysis. Because of the time lapse between the accident and when the driver was taken into custody, it was impossible to use a breath or field sobriety test to determine if he had been under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
The stretch of rural highway where the deadly collision happened has no sidewalks, and spotting walkers on the side of the road can be difficult at night. Regardless, “I did not even see …” is not a valid defense against liability for causing an automobile accident that results in injuries or death. More importantly, every driver has legal and moral responsibilities to stop after hitting another person. Even if the wreck in Corolla had involved wildlife, the man behind the wheel of the SUV should have pulled over to clear the carcass from the roadway so it did not pose a hazard to other drivers.
As personal injury and wrongful death attorneys who have helped hundreds of people hurt by negligent, reckless and impaired drivers, my colleagues and I often find hit-and-run accidents the most difficult to understand. Why wouldn’t a person stop after hitting something? Plus, when the responsible person is never identified, obtaining adequate compensation for individuals who have lost so much can be impossible. At least in this instance, the at-fault driver has stepped up to accept some responsibility.