Unfortunately, auto accidents are a part of life, and can happen at the most inconvenient times. One of the most common beliefs is that wrecks are most likely to happen on road trips, or other long outings, but an accident is just as likely to occur during common, daily events. You could be on your way to work or even in a grocery store parking lot and become involved in a wreck. South Carolina’s increasing population means more motorists, which means the chances of being injured or harmed in a car accident are also increasing.
South Carolina’s Auto Accident Statistics
Each year, the South Carolina Department of Public Safety releases reports on car wrecks, automobile fatalities, and injuries that happen within the state. Recent information released by SCDPS show that:
- 142 auto accidents, in the past year, resulted in one or more passenger deaths. This is a decline from 2015, in which 161 accidents resulted in fatalities.
- Individual deaths have also decreased. In 2013, there were 171 fatalities, down to 152 deaths the next year.
- It was reported that out of the 152 deaths in 2014, 58 of the individuals were found to be unrestrained by seatbelts.
This information only accounts for a portion of the risks that a motorist faces. There are many wrecks that result in the serious injury of people every year in South Carolina. More often than that, there accidents involving damaged property. These numbers only emphasize the fact that when a driver gets behind the wheel, they are taking on serious risks.
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Why Do Automobile Accident Happen?
The leading cause for collisions in South Carolina is negligence. Many accidents could be prevented or would’ve been avoidable had the driver been focused on driving. The most frequent causes of accidents in South Carolina include:
- Distracted Driving: This is when the driver is focused on an external factor rather than the road. Phone calls, eating, and disruptive passengers are a few examples of what could distract a driver.
- Drunk Driving: This is when an individual is intoxicated to the point they can no long properly operate a vehicle. Impaired motor skills, judgment, and reaction time are some effects that alcohol can have on a driver.
- Excessive Speed: Whether exceeding the speed limit or traveling at the posted limit. If weather conditions impair a driver’s abilities, the driver also needs to adjust speed of the vehicle for these conditions.
- Failure to abide posted traffic signs and signals: This could be running a red light, stop sign, or disregarding any other warnings and signals. This applies to intentional disregard, as well as unintentional.
- Driver Fatigue: This is when a driver is drowsy or tired, usually because of a lack of sleep or a medical condition.
- Defective Mechanics: This is when a mechanism or part of the vehicle fails to function properly. Brakes, tires, or steering systems failures can result in an accident.
It is important to know the cause of the accident, so it can be determined who should be held liable for the damage that resulted. Even minor incidents could call for extensive investigation to determine the responsible party. A victim may not have the necessary access or tools to uncover the information they need. However, Elrod Pope has a skilled team of legal professionals ready to investigate your accident.
The Elements of a South Carolina Car Accident Claim
A main aspect of an auto accident lawsuit in South Carolina is to determine if negligence is a factor. The individual who sustained injuries from the accident is the plaintiff of the lawsuit. If the accident is determined to be the fault of the defendant due to recklessness or careless action, the plaintiff will be owed compensation for any damages. However, the plaintiff must prove the defendant was responsible by showing:
- The plaintiff was owed “duty of care” from the defendant that was not given when the accident occurred. By the act of operating a vehicle on a public road, the driver’s “duty” is implied. Because of this, defendants will usually not contest this element.
- The defendant was negligent or acted recklessly. By proving this, it shows that the driver “breached” their duty of care for the plaintiff. To determine this, the driver’s actions are compared to that of a “rational and reasonable” driver. In most instances, it will be clear if the defendant breached their duty, but there are exceptions. One such example is if a driver swerved into oncoming traffic to avoid hitting a pedestrian.
- The plaintiff suffered injuries because of the defendant’s recklessness. If the plaintiff can prove that they would not have been injured had the defendant not been negligent, then the defendant will be found liable for the original injuries, as well as any additional injuries the plaintiff suffers in the future. This means that if the plaintiff suffers an injury that worsens due to delayed treatment or any other reason, the defendant will be liable for the additional losses the individual suffers.
- The losses that the plaintiff has suffered deserve to be financially compensated. The plaintiff will need to prove that the extent of the injuries or damages match the claim made before the court will dispense any monetary compensation.
For the court to award compensation to the victim, it must first be proven that their account of the accident is considered closest to what is true. This is called the “preponderance of the evidence.” The defendant will only be held liable and ordered to pay damages if the plaintiff can prove all the necessary factors required to show liability.
Compensation for Car Accident Victims
Injury victims involved in car accidents can receive monetary compensation for a variety of expenses or losses. If the defendant is proven liable, a plaintiff will be entitled to compensation for:
- Hospital stays, insurance deductibles, medical treatment fees, and ambulance bills
- Reconstructive procedures and reparative procedures resulting in surgical expenses
- Expenses for ongoing therapy and treatment
- Prescription medications
- Future assistance that may be needed, including medically necessary services and devices
- Lost wages
- Time from work lost due to the accident and treatment
- Bonuses or promotions the plaintiff will no longer have access to as a result of their injuries
- Assistive devices and services the plaintiff requires to return to work
- Pain, anguish, or mental suffering that results
- The plaintiff’s decrease in standard of living or satisfaction of life
- Emotional effects from disfigurement or damage to physical appearance
Along with the compensations listed, a judge or jury may find that the defendant that acted with intent or with negligent indifference to the health or safety of others must pay “punitive damages”. These damages are fines that are meant to be punishment not associated with the victim’s injuries or damages. The court uses these types of fines to set an example that the actions of the defendant were without a doubt wrong and unacceptable. It is uncommon for punitive damages to be awarded in a car accident lawsuit, but if they are, the plaintiff may gain compensation over what their expenses and losses they incurred from the accident.
Collisions Caused by DUI
South Carolina has one of the highest fatality rates from drunk driving accidents in the United States. In 2014, Mother Against Drunk Driving (MADD) reported that there were 335 deaths where the drivers BAC (blood alcohol concentration) was over the legal limit of 0.08. If a driver that has been drinking is the cause of the wreck, they may still be legally responsible even if their BAC was below the 0.08 limit.
The likelihood of a driver being in an auto accident is much higher when they are under the influence of alcohol. Alcohol can impair a driver in multiple ways, a few of these are:
- Reduced reaction times, resulting in a driver being unable to take appropriate action when they come across obstacle or hazards on the road.
- Lowered perception of surrounding vehicles and pedestrians
- Minimized multitasking ability (ex. the ability to maintain speed and steer properly)
- Inability to make rational decisions
- Inability to avoid risks
If you are involved in an accident with a drunk driver, it is important to act quickly. It is important to have an attorney obtain any drug or alcohol screens of the liable driver that may have been done after your accident.
Statute of Limitations
A person involved in a serious auto accident has a limited window of time to file a claim against the liable driver in order to receive compensation. Laws that establish the length of time a victim must file a lawsuit is called the “statute of limitations”. From the date of the accident, a victim has three years to file a claim in South Carolina. If the victim tries to file after the three-year limit, the case will be dismissed and permanently barred from court. This means that the plaintiff will no longer have legal right to take action against the defendant to recover any damages. This is another reason why it is so important to act quickly after an accident.
In some instances, injuries from an accident will not show up immediately. These cases may have the statute of limitations “tolled”. This means the statute of limitations is put on hold between the time of the wreck to the discovery of the injuries. The statute of limitations might also be extended if the defendant intentionally avoids being properly served.
Uber and Taxi Accidents
Some people choose to use services such as cabs or ridesharing vehicles, such as Uber, either to avoid taking their car, or because they plan on having a few drinks and want to be responsible. There is still a chance, however, that when using one of these services, you may be involved in an accident and suffer injuries as a passenger.
The operator of the rideshare vehicle or taxicab will usually be insured enough cover the passengers in the event of an auto accident. If the driver doesn’t have the appropriate coverage, the could be found personally liable for the injuries the passenger sustains. The team of reliable and skilled associates at Elrod Pope can look over the evidence and determine who is liable for the accident.
When using any of these services passengers should be properly informed as to whether the driver is licensed properly and insured. Also, confirm that the driver of the rideshare is the same person as described in the rideshare profile of the driver. If the passenger is unsure, or uncomfortable it is perfectly reasonable to find another form of transportation. If you have been involved in a rideshare or taxi accident, contact an experienced rideshare and taxi attorney to get you the compensation you need.
South Carolina’s bicycle accident fatality rate has exceeded the United States average by 200% since the year 2000, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Victims of injuries caused from being struck by a vehicle while on a bike are entitled to similar compensation as motorist. Allow an experienced bicycle accident attorney help you today if you have been involved in a bicycle accident.
In these accidents, the cyclist is entitled to financial compensation if they can prove that the driver of the vehicle that struck them is more at fault for the incident. It will likely be a difficult case to prove without the assistance of a professional bicycle accident attorney. If the cyclist is found to be partially at fault, they may see a severe reduction in the amount awarded to them. In the rare event that the cyclist was mostly at-fault, they may not be entitled to any form of compensation. A skilled bicycle accident lawyers will call expert witnesses to determine who is at fault in these cases. Their testimony can be used to establish the cyclist’s behavior and the motorist’s actions to more accurately determine fault.
The severity of injuries increases drastically when the victim is a pedestrian that is hit by a vehicle. These cases usually require and expert witness’s testimony to determine if the damage to the vehicle and the injuries suffered by the plaintiff are typical to this form of accident.
Pedestrian who are struck by a car or truck will have varying injuries, dependent upon multiple variables. From a small bruise to brain damage, victims in an accident of this nature need to seek medical attention immediately to make sure there is not unseen severe injuries.
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Judges will often question the actions the pedestrian was involved in leading up to the accident. This is to determine if they are in any part responsible for the accident through actions deemed “careless”. If they are found to have contributed to the accident they will be awarded far less than if the event was completely out of their control. If the plaintiff jaywalked, disobeyed a traffic sign, wore dark clothes at night, was not paying attention to their surroundings, etc. they will be found to have partial responsibility for the accident. Individuals involved in a pedestrian accident need to contact an experienced and skilled pedestrian accident attorney familiar with South Carolina pedestrian accident law. This is the easiest way to ensure you receive the maximum compensation you are due. If you have been in a pedestrian accident, do not wait to contact an experienced pedestrian accident lawyer. Call today and set up your free consultation with one of our dedicated pedestrian accident attorneys.