A man walking along a rural highway in northwest South Carolina on the night of January 24, 2017, died after getting struck by two vehicles. The fatal car crash happened on U.S. 76 East just outside of the Laurens County town of Joana.
According to law enforcement officials, the driver of the first car to hit the pedestrian fled the scene. It is unclear if the blunt force trauma and head injuries sustained in that initial collision caused the victim to die at the scene. The driver of the second vehicle stopped and remained to speak with investigators.
Police were able to track down the hit-and-run driver within a short time. He currently faces charges for leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death, driving without a driver's license and operating a vehicle without insurance. It was not reported whether the other driver will be charged.
Under South Carolina law, the only time a driver can take off after a hitting a pedestrian is when leaving the scene is necessary to alert police and emergency medical personnel. Even in that circumstance, though, the driver must return to the site of the collision. Violating this statute makes a person liable to criminal prosecution and also counts as negligence of the sort that makes the driver liable for settling insurance claims and paying damages awarded in a civil lawsuit.
While every driver in South Carolina is required to carry auto insurance, the person charged with fleeing the scene of the pedestrian accident near Joana also violated that law. The family of the man who lost his life has two legal option for seeking monetary compensation and damages in this case. One, they can file a wrongful death lawsuit directly against the hit-and-run driver.
A better choice could be to invoke the uninsured motorist (UM) provisions of their loved one’s own insurance policy. The South Carolina Department of Insurance enforces the legal requirement to carry this type of coverage, explaining that “uninsured motorists coverage protects the policyholder directly. This coverage pays if you are injured and/or your property is damaged by a hit-and-run driver.”
Insurers do not pay out on UM claims automatically, however. Insurance company representatives often subject such claims to the same level of scrutiny that they apply to claims against at-fault drivers. Working with a dedicated Carolina wrongful death attorney will help the family of the deceased pedestrian overcome barriers erected by the insurer.