What happens when the at-fault driver flees the scene?
What’s more stressful than getting into a car accident?
Getting into a car accident and watching the driver who caused the accident flee the scene.
The penalties for violating South Carolina’s hit-and-run statute can be severe, but penalties don’t help the victim—especially if the at-fault driver is never found.
In this article, we’ll take a look at hit-and-run accidents in South Carolina, including your options for recovering damages from a driver you can’t locate.
In the United States, a hit-and-run accident occurs roughly every 43 seconds. What’s more, hit-and-run accidents are becoming more common every year.
“Hit-and-run crashes in the United States are trending in the wrong direction,” said Dr. David Yang, executive director of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. (source)
|South Carolina hit-and-run accidents (2018)|
|Fatality||Serious injury||Other injury||Property damage only||Total|
|Source: South Carolina Department of Public Safety|
Leaving the scene of a South Carolina accident is a hit-and-run
South Carolina law requires that all drivers must stop at any accident or collision or they could be charged with a hit-and-run violation, regardless of whether the accident involves other people, vehicles, unattended vehicles or other types of property. Penalties for leaving the scene of a crash in South Carolina can range from a misdemeanor to a felony and could include prison time between 30 days and 25 years, along with fines of $100 up to $25,000.
If any person is injured in the accident, each driver must exchange information including their name, address and vehicle registration number. They must render reasonable assistance by calling 911 if necessary and report the accident to the police.
If the accident involves property damage, the driver must take reasonable steps to locate the owner of the property or leave a note at the scene with their contact information.
|Type of accident||Required steps|
|Accident involving injury or death||All drivers must stop at the scene, exchange their information with the other drivers (name, address, and registration number), render reasonable aid (call 9-1-1, etc.), and report the accident to the local police.|
|Accident involving damage to attended vehicles||All drivers must stop at the scene and exchange their information with the other drivers (name, address, and registration number).|
|Accident involving an unattended vehicle||The driver must stop at the scene and take reasonable steps to locate the owner of the vehicle in order to provide them with the driver’s information. If the owner can’t be located, a note with the driver’s information must be left on the vehicle.|
|Accident involving a fixture (such as a fence or building)||The driver must stop at the scene and take reasonable steps to locate the owner of the fixture in order to provide them with the driver’s information. If the owner can’t be located, a note with the driver’s information must be left on or near the fixture.|
Penalties for fleeing the scene of an accident in South Carolina
Again, the penalties for a hit-and-run range from a misdemeanor to a felony depending on the nature of the accident:
|Type of accident||Criminal offense for leaving the scene||Penalties|
|Accident involving great bodily injury or death||Felony||Minimum imprisonment of 30 days (not more than 10 years) and a minimum fine of $5,000|
|Accident involving injury||Misdemeanor||Imprisonment (not less than 30 days and not more than 1 year) and/or a fine (not less than $100 and not more than $5,000)|
|Accident involving damage to attended vehicles||Misdemeanor||Imprisonment (not less than 30 days and not more than 1 year) or a fine (not less than $100 and not more than $5,000)|
|Accident involving an unattended vehicle||Misdemeanor||Imprisonment (not less than 30 days and not more than 1 year) or a fine (not less than $100 and not more than $5,000)|
|Accident involving a fixture (such as a fence or building)||Misdemeanor||Imprisonment (not less than 30 days and not more than 1 year) or a fine (not less than $100 and not more than $5,000)|
In addition to the penalties described above, a hit-and-run violation can result in a suspension of your driver’s license.
In addition to a felony charge, both Kassidi and her mother were charged with obstruction of justice and destroying physical evidence in an effort to hinder the investigation.
Although a civil lawsuit has not yet been filed, the surviving family of Tony Johnson will undoubtedly file a wrongful death lawsuit against Kassidi.
Does insurance cover a hit-and-run accident?
If you’re able to identify the hit-and-run driver, you can file a third-party insurance claim against the driver’s insurance company or a personal injury lawsuit against the driver.
If you’re unable to identify the hit-and-run driver, filing an insurance claim becomes more complicated. Your own insurance policy may provide coverage if you purchased the necessary optional coverage.
Examples of optional coverage that might cover your hit-and-run accident include:
- Uninsured motorist (UM) coverage provides coverage for bodily injury and property damage sustained by you or the passengers in your vehicle as a result of an accident involving an uninsured driver or a driver who can’t be located.
- Personal injury protection (PIP) coverage provides coverage for medical expenses, lost wages, and other expenses associated with the accident regardless of who’s at fault for the accident.
- MedPay coverage provides coverage for “reasonable and necessary” medical expenses regardless of who’s at fault for the accident. MedPay is typically limited to $10,000 or less.
What to do after a hit-and-run accident
The problem with a hit-and-run accident is that the at-fault driver doesn’t provide you with their contact information after the accident.
To remedy this problem, you need to do everything you can to gather information that might help you identify the at-fault driver. Here are some ways to do that:
- Take photographs of the at-fault driver’s vehicle (if possible) and write down any identifying information (license plate number, make and model of the vehicle, any unusual features)
- Call the police immediately
- Get the contact information for any witnesses who may have seen the accident or the aftermath
Additionally, you should contact your insurance company. Most insurance companies require that you file an accident report within a specific amount of time, or you could lose your ability to recover from a claim.
Finally, you should NEVER chase after a hit-and-run driver. Doing so puts you and everyone else on the road at great risk.
Want to explore your options for recovering damages after a hit-and-run accident in more detail? Use our free online directory to contact a South Carolina personal injury attorney near you.
See our guide Choosing a personal injury attorney.