Leading Causes of Pedestrian Accidents in South Carolina
Pedestrians can be injured in various kinds of accidents in South Carolina, and the negligent parties in these accidents can be liable for the damages they cause. In some cases, pedestrians may be able to hold businesses or other parties accountable for injuries suffered because of falling objects or unsafe walkways.
Many pedestrian accidents involve cars. Some of the most common causes of these crashes include but are not limited to:
- Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs — South Carolina prohibits people from operating vehicles while under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance. Impaired drivers who cause accidents usually face criminal charges, but it is important to keep in mind that a driver who is acquitted or avoids a conviction for a drunk or drugged driving crime can still be held civilly liable because the injury action is a separate case.
- Distracted Driving — Many drivers cause pedestrian accidents because they were talking or texting on cell phones. However, distractions are not always phone-related. Other possible distractions could include eating, smoking, adjusting the stereo, or even talking to passengers.
- Speeding or Reckless Driving — South Carolina state law provides that a person commits the offense of reckless driving if they drive any vehicle with a willful disregard for the safety of others.
- Driver Fatigue — While most people associate drowsy driving as being an issue for commercial truck drivers, the truth is that any driver is subject to feeling the effects of lack of sleep or exhaustion.
- Other Traffic Violations — Many different types of common traffic infractions can also be evidence of a driver’s negligence, such as an improper turn or a failure to yield.
Though injured pedestrians often know that they are the victims of an accident, they should not be surprised when a liable party or insurance company for that party argues otherwise. Many pedestrians are accused of being partially or even entirely at fault for their injuries, which is why victims will want to retain legal counsel.
Motorists’ Responsibilities to Pedestrians
South Carolina Code § 56-5-3110 establishes that pedestrians must obey the instructions of traffic-control devices, but South Carolina Code § 56-5-3130 establishes that pedestrians have the right of way at crosswalks when traffic-control devices are not in place.
Drivers not only must give pedestrians the right-of-way at controlled intersections, but they also need to respect crosswalks. Vehicles should stop behind crosswalks, never in them. When a driver is entering or exiting a parking lot or garage, they also need to yield the right-of-way to any pedestrians using sidewalks.
Pedestrian Accident Statistics
The Governors Highway Safety Administration reported a 27 percent increase in pedestrian fatalities from 2007 to 2016, despite all other traffic deaths decreasing by 14 percent. According to the GHSA, the almost 6,000 people killed in 2016 and 2017 represented the highest number of pedestrian fatalities in 25 years.
The organization also reports that South Carolina had the third highest pedestrian fatality rate in the nation with 2.96 deaths per 100,000 population in 2016, with only New Mexico (3.45 deaths) and Florida (3.22 deaths) having higher rates. The GHSA also reported that 309 of the 373 pedestrian fatalities with known light levels occurred in the dark.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 5,987 pedestrians were killed in traffic crashes in 2016, and a pedestrian was killed every 1.5 hours on average. Pedestrian fatalities represented 16 percent of total traffic fatalities in 2016 and were the highest total and the highest percentage of traffic fatalities in the ten-year period dating back to 2007.
NHTSA reported 52 percent of pedestrian fatalities involved pedestrians and drivers with no alcohol concentrations. The pedestrian had consumed no alcohol, and the driver had a blood or breath alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more in 7 percent of cases. In 27 percent of the cases, a pedestrian had a blood or breath alcohol concentration of 0.08 or higher and a driver had consumed no alcohol.
Compensation For a Pedestrian Accident Case
Pedestrian accidents are commonly resolved through settlements that should cover all expenses a victim has incurred or will incur. If an insurance company does not make a satisfactory offer, the victim could file a lawsuit to take their case to court.
After taking a case to trial, a victim who proves their case by a preponderance of the evidence (the greater weight of the evidence required in a civil lawsuit for the jury or judge without a jury to decide in favor of one side or the other) can be awarded compensatory damages. Compensatory damages could include economic damages and noneconomic damages.
Economic damages are expenses that can be calculated, such as medical bills, lost wages, and property damage. Noneconomic damages are for more subjective types of harm, such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of consortium.
While they are not awarded often, punitive (or exemplary) damages can be awarded in some cases. Punitive damages only come into play when a defendant has engaged in willful, reckless, or wanton conduct. Drunk driving is one of the most common crimes that satisfies this definition. Punitive damages cannot exceed three times the amount of compensatory damages or $500,000, whichever is more.
Steps to Take Immediately After a Pedestrian Accident
When you are involved in a pedestrian crash, your first step should always be to seek medical attention — even if you don’t believe that you were hurt. If you wait days or weeks later to go to a hospital when you feel symptoms, an insurance company will claim that the delay in treatment proves your injuries were not serious or were not caused by the collision.
If possible, try to take as many pictures as you can of your crash scene, getting photographs of the vehicle that was involved and any other contributing factors. If you cannot do this because of your need for medical care, try to ask a friend, family member, or co-worker to do this for you.
Another important step to take (if you are physically able) is to get the names and phone numbers of any accident witnesses. The most important thing you should do is avoid speaking to any insurance company about your accident until you have legal representation. Even if you were not at fault for your accident, insurance agents use sneaky tactics to trick accident victims into making statements that damage their claims.
This is especially important because South Carolina uses the doctrine of modified comparative negligence. If you are found to be less than 50% at fault for your accident, you can still recover compensation; however, your compensation will be reduced by the percentage you are found to be at fault. For example, if you are awarded $100,000 but are determined to be 10% at fault for your accident, your award will be reduced by 10% and you will receive $90,000.