When someone dies in an auto accident, there are a lot of questions and a lot of people who want answers now.
How could this have happened? How could it have been avoided? What are we going to do about it now?
Victims’ families, survivors, police, prosecutors, and the family’s attorney want to know exactly what went wrong and who – if anyone – is to blame.
Finding the answers takes time, expertise, attention to detail, and the meticulous collection of evidence.
How Are Fatal Accidents Investigated in SC?
In South Carolina, law enforcement officials painstakingly investigate the scene of fatal crashes, recreate what happened and try to determine how and why.
Many local law enforcement departments have limited expertise, equipment, and resources for these investigations, and they turn to the South Carolina Highway Patrol’s Multidisciplinary Accident Investigation Team, or MAIT.
Investigators take photographs and use surveying equipment to make precise measurements. The team’s approach includes everything from low-tech observations of the lengths and angles of skid marks and the location of accident debris to high-tech computer animations that use all the data collected to reconstruct the accident.
Investigators spend a lot of time ruling out potential causes such as mechanical failures, road conditions, and health emergencies that could have affected a driver. Once they know which factors did not contribute to the accident, they can begin to focus on the evidence that will explain exactly what happened and why.
Should Anyone Be Charged with a Crime?
When investigators have completed their work and put together an evidence report, their findings may be presented to prosecutors who help determine if anyone should be charged criminally and what they should be charged with.
When a person dies in a car crash, that does not automatically mean someone will be charged with a crime. Depending on how the accident happened, there could be criminal liability, civil liability, or both.
If the at-fault driver was negligent – they were not following the rules of the road and taking care to protect other motorists – there may be civil liability but no criminal charges. On the other hand, if the at-fault driver was drunk, there will almost always be criminal charges for felony DUI.
In other situations, the at-fault driver’s conduct may rise to the level of criminal recklessness – there may be traffic violations that they are charged with or they could even be charged with reckless homicide.
Police Are Not Always the Only Investigators
When an auto accident leads to a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit or when the at-fault driver is charged with a crime, the attorneys or insurance companies will often hire an accident reconstructionist to examine the evidence.
A reconstructionist will do a lot of the same investigative work that law enforcement does, and most reconstructionists have law enforcement background in addition to training in accident reconstruction.
In many cases, the accident reconstructionist will rely heavily on police reports, photographs of the scene and of damaged vehicles, witness statements, and the MAIT team’s report.
Wrongful Death Investigation Attorneys in Myrtle Beach
Your SC wrongful death lawyer at Coastal Law will help you to investigate the cause and circumstances of the crash, gather the evidence that you need to prove your case, and help you to get full and fair compensation from the at-fault driver or their insurance company.
Call us now at (843) 488-5000 or fill out our online form to schedule an in-person consultation and case evaluation.