Pedestrians have nearly as many laws to follow as motor vehicle drivers in South Carolina
South Carolina is one of the most dangerous places to be a pedestrian, according to a report by the nonprofit Governors Highway Safety Association.
In 2018, a total of 165 pedestrians were killed in South Carolina (up from 158 in 2017 and 148 in 2016).
“We’re not trending in the right direction,” said Charleston Police Lt. Mathew Wojsławowicz.
So who’s at fault when a pedestrian is injured or killed?
In this article, we’ll take a look at the legal issues surrounding pedestrian accidents in the Palmetto State.
South Carolina pedestrian laws
Most of the laws impacting pedestrians can be found in Title 56, Chapter 5, Article 25 of the South Carolina Code. Let’s take a look at some of the laws you should know.
Pedestrians have certain legal responsibilities—namely:
- Pedestrians must obey traffic-control devices and traffic regulations unless otherwise directed by a police officer.
- Between adjacent intersections at which traffic-control signals are in operation, pedestrians must not cross at any place except in a marked crosswalk.
- Pedestrians crossing a roadway at any point other than within a marked crosswalk or within an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection must yield the right-of-way to all vehicles.
- No pedestrian shall cross a roadway intersection diagonally unless authorized by an official traffic-control device.
- Where a sidewalk is provided, it’s unlawful for any pedestrian to walk along the adjacent roadway.
- No pedestrian, unless directed by law enforcement, shall walk along the freeway except to perform public works or official duties.
- Pedestrians must yield to authorized emergency vehicles.
- A pedestrian who is under the influence of alcohol or drugs to a degree that renders them a hazard must not walk or be upon a road except a sidewalk.
- Hitch-hiking is strictly prohibited.
A pedestrian who violates any of the above provisions is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, must be punished by a fine not exceeding $25 or imprisonment for a period not exceeding 10 days.
Motor vehicle drivers also have certain legal responsibilities with respect to pedestrians:
- Motor vehicle drivers must exercise due care to avoid colliding with pedestrians.
- When traffic-control signals are not in operation, the driver of a vehicle must yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within a crosswalk.
- The driver of a motor vehicle crossing a sidewalk must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians.
- Whenever a vehicle is stopped to let a pedestrian cross the road, the driver of any other vehicle approaching from the rear must not pass the stopped vehicle.
- Whenever a pedestrian is crossing a street guided by a guide dog or carrying a white cane tipped with red, motor vehicle drivers must stop to let the person cross the road regardless of whether or not there is a crosswalk.
Common types of pedestrian accidents
It’s a good idea to be aware of the most common types of pedestrian accidents so you can avoid them. With that in mind, here are some of the most common crash types between pedestrians and cars, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA):
- Pedestrian suddenly steps onto the road mid-block. A pedestrian runs or walks out into the road in an unmarked area in the middle of the block (not in a crosswalk or at an intersection) and is struck by a vehicle.
- Vehicle turns at an intersection. A vehicle turns or merges into the path of a pedestrian without yielding.
- Pedestrian walking or jogging along the road. A pedestrian walking or jogging on the road in the same direction as vehicle traffic fails to recognize a vehicle approaching behind them. A crash could occur if the driver is not paying attention or does not see the pedestrian and the pedestrian fails to recognize the threat.
- Reversing vehicle. A driver fails to look for or see foot traffic when backing out of a driveway, private road, or parking lot.
- Distracted motorist or pedestrian. A motorist or pedestrian is distracted by electronic devices or talking to others and is hit.
Liability for South Carolina pedestrian accidents
All motor vehicle drivers have a duty under South Carolina law to exercise due care to avoid colliding with a pedestrian.
If a driver breaches this duty and the breach causes an accident, the driver can be sued for negligence.
If a driver violates one of South Carolina’s motor vehicle laws (such as running a red light) and an accident results, the driver is automatically liable for the damages that result under the doctrine of negligence per se. In other words, the pedestrian doesn’t need to prove the elements of negligence, rather proof of the violation is sufficient to hold the driver liable.
Of course, not all pedestrian accidents are caused by motor vehicle drivers. Pedestrians also have a duty under South Carolina law to exercise due care when navigating the road. If a pedestrian breaches this duty and an accident results, the pedestrian can be sued for negligence.
South Carolina comparative negligence law
In some cases, the driver and the pedestrian might both be at fault for an accident.
In South Carolina, a plaintiff can recover damages so long as they’re not more than 50% at fault for the accident. However, their damages will be reduced by their percentage of fault. This is called the modified comparative fault rule.
A lawsuit has not yet been filed at the time of publication of this article.
If a wrongful death lawsuit is filed by the estate of Christopher Cape, the estate will have trouble recovering damages. At the very least, it appears that Christopher Cape was partially responsible for the accident, as pedestrians must yield to motor vehicles when crossing somewhere other than a crosswalk. What’s more, it’s illegal to walk along a freeway in South Carolina.
It’s possible the driver bears some responsibility (for example, the driver may have been speeding or driving without their lights on). However, if Christopher is deemed 50% at fault or more, his estate will be barred from recovering any damages under the modified comparative fault rule.
Types of damages from South Carolina pedestrian accident
Plaintiffs in personal injury cases can receive 3 types of damages in South Carolina:
- Economic damages are the monetary damages caused by the accident (medical expenses, lost wages, property damage, etc.).
- Non-economic damages are the non-monetary damages caused by the accident (pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life, etc.).
- Punitive damages are intended to punish the defendant and are only awarded in cases where the defendant’s conduct was willful, wanton, or reckless.
If an individual is killed in a pedestrian accident, sometimes a wrongful death lawsuit can be filed. In these types of lawsuits, certain surviving family members can recover damages associated with the loss of the individual.
Pedestrian accident prevention tips
The best type of accident is one that never happens. Here are some tips from the University of South Carolina to help pedestrians avoid accidents:
- If listening to music or a Bluetooth device, don’t insert headphones into both ears; you need to be able to hear oncoming traffic, car horns, or someone shouting a warning.
- Don’t stare down at your mobile device, tablet, or e-reader while traveling down a sidewalk or road.
- Assume that oncoming cars can’t see you and gauge your movements accordingly.
- Don’t assume that an activated turn signal means that a car is turning at an intersection.
- Don’t walk while drunk or high (call a cab or sober friend to pick you up).
- Be as alert and mindful of your surroundings as possible.