When someone damages your car or even puts you in the hospital because they were driving carelessly, you can sue them for damages, right?
But what if they leave the scene of the accident? How do you sue someone who is gone baby gone?
In many cases, you still have options to recover compensation when an at-fault driver leaves the scene of the accident. Below, we will discuss civil claims and lawsuits when an at-fault driver leaves the scene of an accident, including:
- Different “types” of leaving the scene of an accident under SC law,
- How to track down the identity of a driver who left the scene of your accident,
- Uninsured motorist (UM) coverage for bodily injury claims, and
- Uninsured motorist (UM) coverage for personal injury claims.
Types of Leaving the Scene of an Accident in SC
It is against the law to leave the scene of an accident in SC, whether someone was injured, or you just hit a fixture on the roadside, until you have complied with requirements under SC law to “give information and render aid.”
The requirements vary depending on the situation, as I’ll explain below.
Leaving the Scene When There is Injury or Death
If there is an accident that results in injury or death, SC Code § 56-5-1210 requires you to remain at the scene of the accident until you have complied with the requirements set out in SC Code § 56-5-1230.
You can leave the scene of the accident, but not until you have provided:
- Your name,
- Your address,
- Your vehicle’s registration number,
- Your driver’s license, and
- Reasonable assistance to any person who is hurt.
What is “reasonable assistance?”
If 1) it is obvious that someone needs medical attention or 2) someone asks for help, you must take them to the hospital or call for EMS to help them.
Leaving the Scene When There is Property Damage to a Vehicle
If there is an accident that results in property damage only, you still have requirements to give information and render aid under SC law, but the requirements depend on whether someone was in the vehicle that you hit.
If you hit a vehicle that has someone in it, even if they were not hurt, you must comply with the requirements (listed above) found in SC Code § 56-5-1230.
If you hit a vehicle that is unattended (no one is in it and the owner or driver is not nearby), SC Code § 56-5-1240 says that you must:
- Find the owner or driver, tell them what happened, and give them your name and address, or
- Leave a note explaining what happened and providing your name and address “in a conspicuous place in the vehicle struck.”
Leaving the Scene When There is Damage to a Fixture
If you hit a fixture, even if there is no vehicle involved and no injuries, SC Code § 56-5-1250 says that you must “take reasonable steps” to find the owner of the property, tell them what happened, and give them your information.
What’s a fixture?
A fixture could mean anything on the roadside or on someone’s property that is permanently attached, like a mailbox or someone’s fence.
How Do You Sue for Damages if They Left the Scene of the Accident?
When someone causes an accident, whether they cause injuries or just cause property damage, how do you get compensation for the damage they caused?
In many cases, drivers who leave the scene of an accident are caught and prosecuted – whether they caused a fatality or knocked down a mailbox, it’s a crime that will be investigated.
In cases where they are not caught, you may still be entitled to some compensation through your uninsured motorist (UM) coverage, your homeowner’s policy, PIP insurance, umbrella coverage, or a third party who is also liable for the accident.
Drivers Who Leave the Scene May be Caught Later
Why do people leave the scene?
It’s probably not because they are afraid of civil liability, although that may account for some cases. In many cases, the driver who leaves the scene of an accident was intoxicated or had something illegal in their possession at the time of the accident.
When they are no longer intoxicated or the contraband is no longer in their vehicle, they are going to start wondering about the consequences of what happened and looking over their shoulder for law enforcement.
In many cases – especially when injuries or deaths result from the accident, law enforcement will identify, locate, and arrest the person who left the scene of an accident. When that person turns themselves in, they will be punished but it may not be quite as bad as it would have been if the police had to go and get them…
There are video cameras everywhere these days – businesses on the side of the road, Ring cameras on front porches, traffic light cameras, or dashcams may have captured the accident, vehicles, and drivers before the person left the scene.
If the police do not find the video footage (or don’t bother to look), you could knock on a few doors and ask business owners or residents if they have a camera and if it might have caught the missing vehicles…
When there is media coverage of an incident, the driver is more likely to be found because 1) law enforcement is likely to work a bit harder when the public eye is focused on them, and 2) people are more likely to turn themselves in when they (or their friends or family) hear about it on the news.
Stay in Touch with Law Enforcement
If you are a victim of a hit and run accident, stay in touch with your contact person at the police department – just checking in once a week may keep your case on their radar. If they never hear from you, you are more likely to fade into oblivion with thousands of other unsolved cases.
Uninsured Motorist Coverage (UM)
When the at-fault driver can’t be found, you may have other options for compensation for injuries and property damage, including your uninsured motorist (UM) policy, umbrella policy, or a third party’s insurance policy if they were also liable for the accident.
If you have automobile insurance in SC, you have UM coverage – it is required under SC law.
Property Damage Claims
Uninsured motorist (UM) coverage for property damage will pay for damage to your vehicle – up to the policy limits – when you are hit by a driver who leaves the scene and cannot be located.
Bodily Injury Claims
Uninsured motorist (UM) coverage for personal injury will cover other types of damages that the absent driver would have been required to pay for – up to your policy limits – including your medical costs, lost wages, and other expenses caused by your injuries.
Other Insurance Policies
There may be other insurance policies that you can tap into when a driver leaves the scene. For example:
- PIP/Medpay coverage (your policy),
- Your umbrella policy, depending on the terms of coverage,
- A homeowner’s policy if the damage was to a fixture like your mailbox or fence, or if the collision happened on your property, or
- Third-party liability – if more than one driver was responsible for the accident, all have joint and several liability under SC law, and the driver or drivers that you can identify are responsible for your damages.
Your Myrtle Beach auto accident lawyer on the Axelrod team will investigate your car crash, help you to determine who is responsible, and find all possible sources of recovery to get maximum compensation for you whenever possible.