According to an article on wyff4.com, four cyclists were hit at approximately 9:45 a.m. on Christmas Eve while riding on S.C. 290 approximately four miles from Reidville, South Carolina. All four cyclists were thrown from their bikes during the collision and the driver who hit them failed to stop. The injured cyclists were taken to the hospital while law enforcement officers searched for the hit-and-run driver. Fortunately, all four cyclists are expected to recover and the police were able to locate the driver. The driver turned out to be a 25-year-old man from Roebuck who has since been charged with driving too fast for the conditions and may soon face personal injury lawsuits from the injured cyclists, if they choose to sue him.
Bicycle-Car Accident Lawsuits in South Carolina
Bicycle accidents are very common in South Carolina. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released a report claiming that since 2000 South Carolina’s per capita bicycle fatality rate has doubled the national average for six years. This puts South Carolina in the top five states for bicycle fatalities. While bicycle accidents arise under many different circumstances, those involving motor vehicles are by far the most troubling as these crashes generally account for the most serious injuries to cyclists. According to rospa.com, the most common causes of bicycle-car accidents involve:
- Motorists entering bike lanes without adequately checking for cyclists,
- Child cyclists playing recklessly or riding too fast,
- Motorists making unsafe turns,
- Motorists following too closely behind cyclists,
- Cyclists turning into the paths of motor vehicles,
- Motorists failing to yield to cyclists who have the right of way,
- Parked motorists opening their car doors in front of a passing cyclists, and
- Cyclists riding on the wrong side of the road.
Bicyclists injured in car accidents in South Carolina are legally able to recover compensation for their injuries as long as they are not more than 50% at-fault in causing the crash. This is so because South Carolina follows a comparative negligence theory of liability. Under this theory of negligence, courts will award damages to a plaintiff who is partially responsible (or liable) for causing an accident so long as the plaintiff’s negligence did not exceed the negligence of the other parties involved in the accident. If a plaintiff is allowed to recover under this legal theory, his or her recovery will be reduced in proportion to how much their own negligence contributed to the accident.
For example, if a cyclist and a motorist collide in South Carolina and a court finds the cyclist 40 percent liable and the motorist 60 percent liable, then the cyclist will be able to recover 60 percent of his damages and the motorist will not be able to recover anything. While this concept may be confusing, don’t get bogged down with the details. The important thing to keep in mind is that if you are involved in a car accident in South Carolina, you may be legally entitled to compensation, even if the accident was partially your fault.
Damages that Injured Cyclists May be Entitled to
Both injured motorists and cyclists who are allowed to recover under the comparative theory of negligence, outlined above, are entitled to recover both economic and noneconomic damages in South Carolina. Some commonly recovered damages include:
- Medical costs,
- Lost wages,
- Non-economic damages (for example, pain and suffering or loss of enjoyment of life), and
- Punitive damages (if the defendant acted deliberately or with indifference to the health of the plaintiff).
Legal Issues Unique to Hit-and-Run Accidents
While every motorist involved in an accident is legally required to stop, some drivers fail to do so. When this happens the accident is referred to as a “hit-and-run” and a unique set of legal issues suddenly come into play. For the motorist who fled, the legal consequences can be quite severe. For example, if the driver is caught, he or she may be forced to pay punitive damages if the person whom they injured files a civil lawsuit, and they may even be charged with the separate criminal offense of fleeing the scene of an accident. If the person hit was badly injured or died, this criminal offense could be charged as a felony and the motorist may face jail time.
Injured individuals left at the scene of a hit-and-run accident also face their own set of legal issues. For example, if the authorities are unable to catch the motorist then the victim may be forced to collect from their own insurance policies. Additionally, even if the police are able to make an arrest in connection with the hit-and-run the injured party may have a hard time proving that the person arrested was in fact the driver who fled.
In South Carolina there are several statutes that address hit-and-runs, but a hit-and-run accident in which a vehicle collides with a cyclist would likely fall under code section 56-5-1210 – Duties of Drivers Involved in Accidents Resulting in Death or Personal Injury. This statute states that leaving the scene of an accident that caused bodily injury is a misdemeanor offense, unless their was great bodily injury or death, in which case the offense can be charged as a felony. The penalties for a hit-and-run conviction in South Carolina are as follows:
- Misdemeanor: Imprisonment for 30 days to one year, and/or fined $100 to $5,000.
- Felony resulting in great bodily injury: Imprisonment for 30 days to 10 years, and/or fined $5,000 to $10,000.
- Felony resulting in death: Imprisonment for one to 25 years, and/or fined $10,000 to $25,000.
Involved in an Accident and in Need of Legal Advice?
If you’ve been injured in a bicycle-car accident in South Carolina and are interested in pursuing the damages that you are legally entitled to and need in order to move on with your life contact the Elrod Pope Law Firm today to schedule a free initial consultation. Our experienced auto accident lawyers in South Carolina would be happy to discuss your case with you and explain your legal options.
Thomas E. Pope is a Personal Injury, Wrongful Death, and Medical Malpractice Attorney who practices in Rock Hill, Lake Wylie, and Lancaster, SC. He graduated from the University of South Carolina School of Law, and has been practicing law for 31 years now. Thomas E. Pope believes in protecting the injured. Learn more about his experience here.