South Carolina requires drivers to carry automobile liability insurance. The state does offer an exception for certain qualified drivers to pay an uninsured motorist registration fee each year, but that is the only exception to the minimum insurance coverage requirements. Mandatory motor vehicle insurance is intended to protect South Carolina drivers, passengers, bicyclists, pedestrians and others in the event that they are injured by a negligent driver.
Of course, pursuing compensation from the responsible driver's auto insurance company requires having certain information about the responsible driver. This is the reason that drivers involved in collisions are required to exchange insurance information at the scene. So, what happens when the responsible driver leaves the scene of the accident without providing any information?
When you are injured in a hit and run accident, you may or may not have any information about the responsible driver. In some cases, you may be able to get a description of the car, or even a license plate number. In that situation, the responsible driver will likely be identified.
If the responsible driver is identified, you can pursue compensation in exactly the same way you would have if the driver had not left the scene. Your car accident attorney can negotiate with the responsible driver's insurance carrier, and if they are unable to reach a favorable settlement for you, can file a personal injury lawsuit against the responsible driver. But, not all hit and run drivers are identified.
Estimates vary significantly, but none suggests that more than half of hit and run drivers are identified. One study showed that 49% of hit and run drivers involved in fatal crashes were ultimately identified. Others have put the number of overall hit and run drivers who are identified at 10% or lower. Regardless of the specific number, we know that a significant percentage of hit and run drivers are never identified and never held accountable.
If you have been hit by a driver who left the scene and has not been identified, you may be uncertain as to how to secure compensation. You can't file a lawsuit against someone you can't identify or locate, and you won't have any way of knowing who the responsible driver's insurance carrier is.
If you were injured by a hit-and-run driver and that driver has not been identified, your uninsured motorist coverage will apply. Of course, you don't actually know whether or not the driver had insurance. But, since liability insurance coverage is not available to you due to the driver having left the scene, it is treated the same way as an uninsured claim.
Uninsured motorist coverage is mandatory in South Carolina, so if you have purchased automobile liability insurance as required by law, you also have uninsured motorist coverage. The minimum amounts you would have been allowed to purchase are $25,000 in bodily injury for one person, $50,000 in bodily injury for two or more people, and $25,000 in property damage coverage. However, you do have the option of purchasing higher levels of coverage if you choose. These limits cap the amount of compensation you can receive. For example, if you chose the minimum $25,000 in bodily injury coverage and have $50,000 in hospital bills associated with the accident, you will not be able to recover the full amount of your losses.
This is different from a collision in which the responsible driver is identified and their insurance policy limits are insufficient to cover your losses, because in that situation you might be able to pursue the responsible driver for the excess. If you don't know who the responsible driver is, your uninsured motorist coverage limit is usually all that's available.
When you file an uninsured motorist claim, you must be prepared to prove your case in much the same way that you would if you were suing the responsible driver. Your uninsured motorist coverage will only pay for your damages if the hit and run driver was responsible for the accident. And, you will still have to prove your specific damages.
Often, people filing claims under their own uninsured motorist coverage make the mistake of assuming that because they are dealing with their own insurance company, the process will be smooth and non-contentious. That's a fair assumption, since you are a customer of the insurance company and may have been paying them premiums for several years without ever asking for anything in return.
However, insurance companies make their money by taking in more in premiums than they pay out in operating expenses and payment of claims. That means avoiding payment or minimizing payment helps their bottom line. That's why it is generally in your best interest to contact an experienced Charleston car accident lawyer as soon as possible after a hit and run accident, even if you believe that the only claim you will be filing is with your own insurance carrier.
Attorney Frank Hartman has dedicated his career to helping injury victims in and around Charleston, South Carolina secure the compensation they need to recover and rebuild after a car accident or other injury. Whether the driver who hit you has been identified and you are preparing to pursue a personal injury lawsuit against the responsible driver, or you were the victim of a hit and run and the driver has not been identified, Frank has the knowledge and experience to put together the strongest possible claim on your behalf.
To learn more about how The Hartman Law Firm can help you in this difficult time, call 843-300-7600 right now, or fill out the contact form on this site.
A driver commits a "hit and run" in South Carolina if they leave the scene of an accident they were involved in without fulfilling their legal obligations. Those obligations vary somewhat depending on whether someone has been injured or killed, but generally include providing certain identifying information and rendering aid if necessary. It is a crime to leave the scene of an accident without taking these steps, unless it is for the purpose of contacting authorities.
If the responsible driver leaves the scene of the accident without providing identifying information, the injury victim may be able to receive compensation through their own uninsured motorist coverage. However, they will have to prove that the other driver was at fault for the injuries. If the hit and run driver is identified after the fact, the injured party may pursue compensation as they would in any other motor vehicle accident.
Tending to any injuries is the most important step in the immediate aftermath of any accident. If you're able, you should take note of any details about the hit and run vehicle and driver right away. The vast majority of hit and run drivers are never identified, and one reason it is so difficult is that those injured in hit and run accidents are often too rattled by the incident to observe and retain this type of information.