I was injured in a hit and run accident with an unknown driver. Can I still file a claim?
If you were involved in an accident, South Carolina law states that you must stop, whether you were at fault or not. It is important to assess the damages, and if total damages (personal and property) are greater than or equal $1000, then you must file an incident report. In South Carolina it is not required to contact law enforcement unless there is injury or death as a result of the accident, but you should consider calling them anyway. If you are not sure if you hit another vehicle or person, STOP and check the scene. Make sure nobody needs help. Otherwise you may face criminal charges, or even worse, you may leave an injured person at the scene.
If the driver of the vehicles involved do not stop to assist any injured, assess the damage, and exchange personal information, then the accident becomes a hit and run. Leaving the scene of the accident is a criminal offense and the at fault driver could get hit with criminal and civil penalties, including felony leaving the scene of the accident. While it is difficult to track down someone after a hit and run, it can be done, especially if you have details of the other driver, such as make and model of the vehicle and the license plate number. If you can identify the driver and they have insurance, you can pursue the claim under their insurance. Even if you can’t identify the at-fault driver, you may be able to recover uninsured motorist insurance in certain circumstances.
Uninsured motorist coverage may apply to an accident under the following scenarios:
- A car crashes into you and runs from the scene, is later identified but does not have insurance;
- A car hits you and flees the scene, but cannot be identified; or
- A car forces you off the road and leaves the scene.
You may ask, “What can I do when I am injured by a hit and run driver? Can I bring a claim or sue for bodily injury or property damage?” The answer is yes under certain circumstances.
What are the requirements for hit and run claims in South Carolina?
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You have the right to file a claim under the uninsured motorist coverage of the vehicle you were in or your own insurance policy and sue the unidentified or uninsured motorist, called “John Doe,” for injuries and damages. According to Section 38-77-170 of the South Carolina Code of Law, there are three requirements you must meet in order to qualify for a claim. Specifically, the statute states as follows:
SECTION 38-77-170. Conditions to sue or recover under uninsured motorist provision when owner or operator of motor vehicle causing injury or damage is unknown.
If the owner or operator of any motor vehicle which causes bodily injury or property damage to the insured is unknown, there is no right of action or recovery under the uninsured motorist provision, unless:
- the insured or someone in his behalf has reported the accident to some appropriate police authority within a reasonable time, under all the circumstances, after its occurrence;
- the injury or damage was caused by physical contact with the unknown vehicle, or the accident must have been witnessed by someone other than the owner or operator of the insured vehicle; provided however, the witness must sign an affidavit attesting to the truth of the facts of the accident contained in the affidavit;
- the insured was not negligent in failing to determine the identity of the other vehicle and the driver of the other vehicle at the time of the accident.
What this really means is you have to document your claim:
- You must report the accident to law enforcement within a “reasonable” amount of time. Since “reasonableness” is subjective, be extra careful and report the accident as soon as you are physically able. If you can’t do it yourself have a friend or family member report the accident.
- The injury or damage must have been (a) caused by clear physical contact with the other at-fault driver (clear damage from another vehicle or paint swap) or (b) the accident must have been witnessed by someone other than you or the owner of the vehicle who is willing to sign an affidavit swearing under oath to the facts of the accident. As long as the witness is not an interested party, anyone can give the affidavit.
- You must have reasonably tried to identity of the driver that caused the collision or ran you off the road. The real measurement is that you were “not negligent” (I know how do you prove that?). Realistically this is a very low burden and if you can show that you did what the average person would have done, or you were incapacitated, or you something kept you from being able to identify the at-fault driver, you should be fine.
The bottom line is that even if you are unable to track down the at-fault driver, you may still be able to receive compensation for your damages if you have a witness to the accident or clear evidence of involvement with another vehicle.
If you have been injured as a result from a hit and run accident, be sure to contact an experienced Greenville car accident attorney. The right attorney can make the difference in your injuries being covered or not, and the attorneys at Hammack Law Firm have over 40 years of experience handling hit and run accidents. Call the top rated injury attorneys at Hammack Law Firm today for your free hit-and-run injury consultation! 864-326-3333
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