After declining sharply in 2009, the annual number of fatal hit-and-run accidents in South Carolina has risen sharply over the past decade. According to the AAA Foundation’s most-recent data, approximately three people are killed by hit-and-run drivers every month in the Palmetto State. On a per-capita basis, South Carolina is among the 10 most-dangerous states for fatal hit-and-run collisions.
If you have been injured or lost a family member in a hit-and-run accident in South Carolina, it is important that you speak with an attorney promptly. You have options for recovering your losses, but you are also facing some difficult challenges. With this in mind, here are 10 important facts you need to know about asserting your legal rights after an accident involving a driver who fled the scene:
10 Key Facts about Recovering from a Hit-and-Run Accident in South Carolina
Fact #1: It May Be Possible to Identify the Hit-and-Run Driver
In today’s world of omnipresent technology, there are now more options than ever for identifying hit-and-run drivers. This does not mean that tracking down the driver will be easy, but it does mean that it is worth a shot. You should engage a local auto accident law firm to conduct an investigation promptly, as any unnecessary delays could make it more difficult to collect critical evidence before it disappears.
Fact #2: You Can File a Claim Under Your Personal Injury Protection (PIP) Policy
While South Carolina residents are not required to carry personal injury protection (PIP) coverage, all auto insurance companies offer it, and purchasing PIP coverage is a good idea. If you have PIP coverage, you can file a claim with your insurance company immediately. PIP is “no-fault” insurance, which means that your insurance company should pay without questioning who caused the accident.
Fact #3: You Can Rely on Your Health Insurance, Too
You can also rely on your health insurance coverage to seek treatment for the physical and psychological effects of the accident. While your health insurer may ultimately be entitled to subrogation, this is a matter that the insurance companies will resolve amongst themselves at the appropriate time. Right now, your physical and mental health should be your top priorities.
Fact #4: You Can File an Uninsured Motorist (UM) Claim
South Carolina is among the limited number of states that require drivers to carry uninsured motorist (UM) coverage. As explained by the South Carolina Department of Insurance (DOI):
“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 or an uninsured driver. South Carolina law requires you to carry uninsured motorists coverage equal to the minimum amounts of liability coverage (25/50/25). There is typically a $200 deductible.”
If you or a loved one was involved in a hit-and-run accident, you have the option to file a UM claim if it is not possible to identify the at-fault driver. However, unlike PIP, UM coverage provides fault-based compensation, so you will still need to be able to prove that the other driver caused (or at least contributed to causing) the collision.
Fact #5: You Might Be Able to Stack Multiple Uninsured Motorist Policies
If you file an uninsured motorist claim, you may have the option to “stack” the UM coverage you have under each of your auto insurance policies. This effectively adds all of your policy limits together, and it can significantly increase the amount you are able to recover for your financial and non-financial losses.
Fact #6: You May Also Have One or More Third-Party Claims
When seeking financial compensation after an auto accident, filing an insurance claim is not necessarily your only option. Factors besides driver negligence can cause and contribute to serious and fatal accidents as well; and, if one or more outside factors played a role in your (or your loved one’s) accident, your attorney may be able to file a “third-party” claim on your behalf. Common examples of third-party claims include claims for vehicle defects and claims based on construction and maintenance issues with the road.
Fact #7: You Should Proceed as Though You Have a Claim for Compensation
At this point, you should proceed as though you have a claim for compensation. While many facts about your case remain unknown, you cannot afford to make mistakes that could jeopardize your eventual financial recovery. See a doctor, talk to a personal injury lawyer, and follow their advice as you cope with your losses.
Fact #8: You Need to Be Careful When Dealing with Your Insurance Company
While PIP provides no-fault coverage, securing this coverage can still be a challenge. The challenges of dealing with your insurance company are even greater when you file a fault-based UM claim. In order to protect yourself, you need to be very cautious when dealing with your insurance company. You should not share any unnecessary information, and you must be certain you avoid saying anything that could possibly be construed as implicating yourself or your loved one in the collision.
Fact #9: Your Losses Could Be Substantial
After being involved in an auto accident, most people focus on their immediate financial losses – the damage to their vehicle, their medical expenses, and perhaps their short-term loss of income. While these losses can add up, they can also pale in comparison to the true cost of being seriously injured or losing a loved one in a hit-and-run accident.
Fact #10: Help is Available
If you are struggling to deal with the aftermath of a hit-and-run accident, you are not alone. Help is available, and it is available immediately. At Lewis Law Firm, we have decades of experience representing accident victims and their families, and we are available to speak with you 24/7.
Contact the Rock Hill, SC Auto Accident Lawyers at Lewis Law Firm LLC
Have you been seriously injured or lost a loved one in a hit-and-run accident in South Carolina? If so, we encourage you to get in touch. To speak with one of our Rock Hill auto accident lawyers for free, call 803-327-1103 or get in touch online now.