If you have been the victim of a hit and run accident, you may be wondering who is liable for your injuries or the damages to your car. Even if you cannot specifically identify the negligent party, you may still be entitled to a recovery under certain circumstances.
Almost all states require motorists to carry bodily injury and property damage liability insurance, but many states, including South Carolina, also require motorists to carry uninsured motorist insurance (UM). UM covers damages caused by uninsured drivers. However, UM may also cover damages caused by hit and run accidents.
In South Carolina, you can make a claim against “John Doe,” or an unidentified person. In addition to having to prove both damages (or injury or loss) and liability (or that the other person’s acts or omissions caused the injury or loss), to recover on a hit and run claim you must also be able to prove that:
- the accident was reported to the police after a reasonable period of time, either by the driver or on behalf of the driver, and
- either the injury or property was caused by a collision with the other vehicle, or a witness to the accident (other than the owner or operator of the vehicle) is willing to sign a written attestation to the facts of the accident, and
- the driver was not negligent in failing to identify the driver or vehicle at the time of the accident.
Regarding the first element, whether the period of time is reasonable is determined by the circumstances of the case. If the driver had a minor injury, but failed to report the wreck for a month, then it is unlikely that it will be found a reasonable period if time. However, if the driver suffered serious injury that required extended hospitalization, then the period of time might be considered reasonable.
Regarding the second element, if your damages were caused by an unknown vehicle forcing you off the road but you do not have any witnesses to the accident, you cannot recover under uninsured motorist coverage.
Finally, regarding the third element, the driver must take reasonable steps to try to identify the unknown vehicle and driver, but is not required to take any steps that would compromise his or her safety, such as chasing after them.
If you have been the victim of a hit and run accident in Greenville, South Carolina and need a skilled car accident lawyer to fight for you, please contact us for a free consultation.