Automobile accidents are an unfortunate part of life and they can occur when you least expect them. Popular belief is that car accidents are more common during longer excursions like road trips or family holidays. In reality, accidents happen just as frequently in everyday life; on the way to work, in the carpool line, or in the parking lot of your local grocery store. An increasing number of motorists on South Carolina roads and highways only adds to the possibility of an individual being harmed or seriously injured in a car accident.
Car Accident Statistics in South Carolina
Annually, the South Carolina Department of Public Safety releases information regarding the amount of car wrecks, injuries and automobile fatalities that happen in our state. Some of the most recent SCDPS statistics indicate that:
- In the past year, there have been 142 car accidents in which one or more passengers were killed. This number represents a decline from the 161 fatal traffic accidents that occurred in 2015.
- The number of individual deaths resulting from traffic accidents has also decreased from 171 fatalities in 2013 to 152 deaths the following year.
- 58 of the 152 individuals killed in vehicle crashes in 2014 were unrestrained by seat belts during their fatal accident.
These facts shed light on only a portion of the risk associated driving an automobile. Numerous crashes involving serious injuries occur in South Carolina every year, and even more common are accidents that lead only to property damage. This information is proof that each time an individual gets behind the steering wheel of a car, they are putting their lives not only into their own hands, but also in many hands of other drivers also on the road.
Why Do Car Accidents Occur?
Negligence is one of the leading causes of car accidents in South Carolina. Most accidents are entirely preventable and can be avoided if drivers took more caution while operating a vehicle. In South Carolina, some of the most common causes of traffic accidents include:
- Distracted driving, where the driver is not focused on the road due to external factors in the car like mobile phones or disruptive passengers;
- Drunk driving, when the driver is unfit to operate a vehicle due to the influence of a substance that impairs their judgment, motor skills and reaction time;
- Excessive speed, whether not obeying posted traffic law or failing to modify pace in unsafe weather conditions like ice, rain or fog;
- Failure to abide by traffic signs and signals, including drivers who intentionally disobey the law or who fail to notice posted signs and instruction;
- Driver fatigue, when the driver is overly tired or drowsy due to insufficient sleep or health concerns;
- Violations of other traffic rules and regulations; and
- Defective mechanisms on a vehicle, such as brakes, steering systems, tires, etc. are faulty and or damaged.
Understanding why an accident occurred is essential to determine who, if anyone, should be held accountable for the ensuing damage. Even the most basic bump up may necessitate a substantial amount of time and energy to determine the cause and, ultimately, the responsible parties involved. An individual victim may not have access to the necessary resources, but we have an experienced team of legal professionals prepared to launch a complete accident examination into the cause of your accident. Discovering all the details of an accident can make a significant difference when it is time to take the case to trial.
Elements of a Car Accident Claim in Lake Wylie
The primary element of a car accident lawsuit in South Carolina is the determination of negligence. The plaintiff in a car accident lawsuit is the victim or party that sustained most of the injuries in the accident. The plaintiff is owed the right to recovery of their losses from the party responsible for the accident, or the “defendant.” This recovery of losses can only occur if it can be determined that accident was caused by the defendant’s reckless or careless action. To prove the defendant responsible and therefore be entitled to compensation, the plaintiff must demonstrate that:
- The defendant owed the plaintiff a “duty of care” at the time of the accident. Simply by choosing to operate a vehicle, the driver owes all individuals on the roads (other drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists, etc.) a “duty” to drive safely and responsibly. Given that this duty is assumed when an individual gets behind the wheel, the defendant does not often choose to contest this element of the plaintiff’s case.
- The defendant acted recklessly or negligently and, in doing so, “breached” his duty of care to the plaintiff. Essentially, at the time of the accident, the defendant drove in a way that was “unreasonable” or more reckless than any other person would have normally driven. In order to determine if a defendant’s behavior was reasonable, the actions of the defendant must be compared to those of a “rational and objective driver”. If the defendant’s actions were representative of something that a rational and objective driver would clearly not have done (for instance, drunk driving, texting while driving, breaking traffic laws), the defendant will almost certainly be determined to have behaved unreasonably. However, many situations are not as simply black and white. Consider, for instance, a driver abruptly pulling into another lane to avoid a pedestrian in the roadway.
- The plaintiff sustained injuries as a direct result of the defendant’s unreasonable actions. The plaintiff must show that they would have not been harmed had the defendant not breached his duty of care. Not only can the defendant be held liable for the original injuries he or she caused, but also for any additional injuries the victim may have sustained as the result of the accident. To illustrate this principle of additional injuries, imagine a case wherein the accident occurred at night in a rural part of South Carolina a great distance from any medical facility. The victim may have sustained a traumatic brain injury as a direct result of the accident, but this injury worsened because of the remote location and the length of time it took for medical help to arrive. Though the defendant was not directly responsible for the delay in treatment of the plaintiff’s injury, the defendant may still be held responsible for any additional expenses and losses suffered from the more severe injury.
- As a result of the accident, the plaintiff has suffered a substantial loss and is owed financial compensation. A court will not award a monetary compensation unless the plaintiff can provide evidence that the extent of their injuries is equally matched to their claim’s requested relief.
- In order to be awarded compensation the plaintiff is burdened to prove each of the above factors to a judge or jury via a “preponderance of the evidence.” Essentially, it is the plaintiff’s responsibility to convince the judge or jury that the accuracy of each of these factors is more probable than not. The defendant will only be ordered to pay damages if the plaintiff convinces the judge or jury of each one of the necessary factors.
Car Accident Victim Compensation
In South Carolina, an injured plaintiff in a car accident lawsuit may recuperate damages for a vast array of losses and expenses. If the plaintiff can prove the defendant is responsible for these damages they may be entitled to financial compensation for:
- Ambulance or other transportation bills, medical treatment fees, insurance deductibles, and hospital stays;
- Surgical expenses, including both reparative and reconstructive procedures;
- Ongoing treatment and therapy expenses;
- Prescription medications; and
- Future assistance the plaintiff may require, including medically necessary devices and or services (such as home health care).
- Lost wages for any missed time from work the plaintiff must take as a result of the accident and subsequent treatment;
- Possible bonus compensation or promotion opportunities the plaintiff will no longer have access to as the result of his or her injuries; and
- Any assistive devices or services the plaintiff may require in able resume work
- Resulting mental pain, suffering or anguish the plaintiff may suffer;
- The plaintiff’s decreased standard of daily living and dissatisfaction with life; and
- Disfigurement or physical defects resulting from the accident as well as the emotional effect of these changes in physical appearances
Beyond the above compensation, a judge or jury may determine that a defendant who has acted intentionally or with negligent indifference to the life or health of others must pay “punitive damages.” These fines are essentially additional punishment unrelated to the severity of the plaintiff’s injuries. The court may utilize punitive damages provided defendant’s actions were undoubtedly wrong. Though punitive damages are often inapplicable in car accident lawsuits, in cases where this type of relief is available, the plaintiff stands to gain monetary awards beyond only the direct expenses and losses he or she has faced as result of the accident.
Accidents Caused By Driving Under the Influence
Drunk driving is a nationwide problem, but South Carolina has continuously maintained one of the highest fatality rates from drunk driving accidents in the country. In the year 2014, there were 335 fatalities wherein the driver’s blood alcohol concentration exceeded the legal limit of 0.08, according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). A driver who causes a car accident while under the influence of alcohol may be held legally responsible even if he or she was under this 0.08 limit when the accident occurred.
The chances of an individual being involved in a motor vehicle accident are considerably higher when the driver is under the influence of alcohol. Driving while drunk impairs the driver in a multitude of ways, including but not limited to:
- Slower response time, wherein the driver will be rendered unable to react quickly enough to hazards or obstacles in the road;
- A lessened ability to hear or see surrounding vehicles and/or pedestrians;
- Lowered multitasking ability (such as necessary to control the speed of a vehicle while also operating the steering wheel);
- A diminished capacity for rational and sound decision making; and
- An inability to recognize and avoid unsafe and needless risks.
In cases where the responsible driver may have been under the influence of alcohol at the time of the wreck, time is of the essence. If you were the victim of a car accident involving a drunk driver, it is essential that you or your attorney act swiftly to obtain crucial evidence, including the results of any alcohol or drug screens the at-fault driver may have submitted to at the time of the accident.
Statute of Limitations
Victims who have been injured in a serious car accident have only a brief amount of time to file a claim for compensation against the at-fault driver. The “statute of limitations” is the law that establishes the length of time in which a victim must file a lawsuit. South Carolina law allows victims only a three-year time frame to file a car accident lawsuit. This statute of limitations begins on the date of the accident. If a plaintiff attempts to file a lawsuit after this three-year period has expired, their lawsuit will likely be dismissed and they will be prevented from filing any subsequent court action seeking compensation for the accident or the resulting injuries. If you have been involved in a car accident, it is of the utmost importance to contact an attorney immediately, in order to receive the appropriate compensation for your injuries.
Sometimes injuries resulting from an accident are not immediate, but rather develop sometime after the date of the crash. In these instances it is possible that the statute of limitations may be paused or put on hold between the time of the wreck and the appearance of the victim’s injuries. In addition, the statute of limitations may be extended if the defendant is intentionally refusing proper service of the plaintiff’s lawsuit or avoiding law enforcement officers.
Individuals often choose to enlist the services of a taxicab or ridesharing vehicle for various reasons. However, any vehicle can be unexpectedly involved in an automobile accident, even taxicabs and Ubers. Equally, passengers can incur significant physical harm just like any other accident.
Drivers of ridesharing and taxicab vehicles are typically required to carry sufficient insurance to protect their passengers in the event of an accident. If a driver fails to enlist this type of coverage they may be determined personally liable for damages and injuries their passengers experience. Our reliable and experienced associates team of Uber and taxi accident lawyer can review the specifics of your situation and establish who is to be held accountable for your accident.
When using ridesharing services or taxicab services, passengers should strive to be informed consumers. Before getting into any vehicle, make sure that the company is properly licensed and the driver who arrives is the same individual described in their rideshare confirmation. If a passenger is unsure, it is always best to refuse a ride in the vehicle and find alternative transportation.
Since the year 2000, the per capita fatality rate of bicycle accidents in South Carolina has exceeded the US average by 200% according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Just as injured motorists may recover damages on loss of income and expenses incurred as the result of a collision, victims of accidents between a motor vehicle and a bicycle are eligible for similar compensation.
In accidents like these, an injured bicyclist is entitled to financial recovery if they can prove that the driver of the vehicle was more at fault for the collision. If the bicyclist was also partially at fault for the accident, their financial award may be substantially reduced because of behavior like violating traffic laws and rules, taking unnecessary risks, refusing to wear protective equipment, etc. If the injured party has not retained the services of an experienced bicycle accident lawyer, preparing the case may be an arduous process. On rare occasions when the bicyclist is primarily at fault for the accident, it is also possible that he or she will not be entitled to any such monetary awards. Skillful bicycle accident attorneys may enlist the talent of one or more expert witnesses in to determine which parties are at fault in a given bicycle accident case. These witnesses may testify not only to the fault of the motor vehicle operator, but also establish that the bicyclist’s own behavior was not contributory to the accident or the injuries sustained.
The chances of sustaining significant harm during an accident are demonstrably increased when the victim is a pedestrian hit by a motor vehicle. Pedestrian accidents often require the use of an expert witness who is qualified to evaluate the vehicle involved as well as the victim’s injuries and determine whether the resulting damage is consistent with the injuries typically sustained in this type of accident.
When a pedestrian is hit by a car or truck, the injuries may vary greatly depending on the circumstances. From the smallest surface level scratches to severe traumatic brain injury, it is essential that the parties receive medical attention following a pedestrian crash, particularly if there is a possibility of head or neck injury. When dealing with the duress of substantial injuries, preparing a case for your insurance claim will be difficult, Allow a professional pedestrian accident attorney dedicated to recovering your losses help you today.
When determining fault in a pedestrian accident cases, the judge or jury will often critique the behavior of the pedestrian to determine if they contributed to the incident. Some actions of a pedestrian may be deemed “careless” and ultimately lead to a lower distributive award for the plaintiff. Should this be the case, representing yourself can prove problematic. For instance, if the plaintiff was jaywalking, refusing to follow traffic signals, wearing dark colors with limited visibility while walking at night, paying attention to his or her cell phone rather than their surroundings, etc., the plaintiff may be found either partially or wholly responsible for the injuries received at the time of the accident. Any of these could be considered contributing factors to the accident. Victims of pedestrian accidents should enlist an experienced pedestrian accident lawyer familiar with South Carolina pedestrian accident procedure, in order to ensure they receive the maximum damages to which they are entitled.