If you are a victim of a hit and run accident in Myrtle Beach, who pays for your damages?
Can you file a lawsuit? If you do file a lawsuit, who do you sue when you don’t know who the other driver is?
SC law provides for coverage for a hit and run accident in Myrtle Beach under your uninsured motorist (UM) policy, but there are specific requirements I will discuss below that must be met before you can file suit.
How does the claim and lawsuit process work when you don’t know who the at-fault driver was?
Uninsured and Underinsured Policy Pays for a Hit and Run Accident in Myrtle Beach
SC Code Section 38-77-150 requires every auto insurance policy in SC to contain an uninsured motorist provision with a minimum of $25,000 coverage – this is designed to ensure that you have some coverage if you are a victim of a hit and run accident in Myrtle Beach.
What if I Don’t Have Enough Uninsured Coverage?
Although the insurance company is required to include a minimum of $25,000 uninsured motorist coverage, you can (and should) purchase additional coverage.
Not only is it a good idea, but the insurance agent is required by SC Code Section 38-77-160 to offer uninsured coverage up to the limits of your liability policy. Typically, the agent will go over the provisions of your policy, the exclusions, and the amounts of coverage when you purchase the policy. If you decline the additional uninsured coverage, they will have you sign documents to confirm that you declined the coverage.
If they did not offer the additional coverage to you, however, you can ask the court to reform your policy to increase the amount of uninsured coverage that is available to you…
How Do I File a Lawsuit When I Don’t Know Who the Other Driver Is?
If your insurance company does not pay full and fair compensation for your injuries, SC Code Section 38-77-180 allows you to file a “John Doe” lawsuit – although you do not know the name of the other driver, we draft your lawsuit and substitute “John Doe” for the defendant’s name.
The lawsuit can then be served by delivering it to the clerk of court, and your insurance company will have the right to defend the lawsuit in the name of the unknown driver.
There May Be Other Sources of Recovery
Your hit and run accident attorney will look for alternate sources of recovery as well –
- Do you have additional coverage through an umbrella policy?
- Were any other vehicles involved in the accident?
- Was there an unsafe road condition that contributed to the accident?
- Did the accident happen on a business’ premises?
- Do passengers in your vehicle have other sources of compensation they can make a claim against?
- Were you “on the clock” or on the way to or from your job when the accident happened?
Often, the other driver in a hit and run accident in Myrtle Beach will turn up later – the police located them, they turned themselves in, or someone turned them in…
If the other driver becomes known, we can make additional claims against the hit and run driver (and their insurance policies).
Requirements to File a Lawsuit for Hit and Run Accidents in Myrtle Beach
Although SC law permits you to file a “John Doe” lawsuit and recover from your own insurance company, SC Code Section 38-77-170 lists some conditions that must be met before you can file the lawsuit – they are designed to prevent insurance fraud and to provide some corroboration of the accident before requiring the insurance company to pay…
Things that You Must Do Before Filing Suit
Before filing suit for a hit and run accident in Myrtle Beach, you must:
- Report the accident to the police within a reasonable time after it happens (in most cases, a reasonable time means immediately);
- The injury or damage must have been caused by physical contact with the other vehicle, or there must be an independent witness to the accident who must sign an affidavit describing the accident; and
- You must make a reasonable attempt to discover the identity of the other driver at the time of the accident (i.e., don’t just allow them to drive off without getting their license tag if possible).
If the accident was a collision (physical contact with the other vehicle), an affidavit from an independent witness is not necessary.
If the injury was caused by anything other than a collision (i.e. you were forced off the road, but the other car did not make contact), there must be an independent witness who signs an affidavit as to what happened, and the affidavit must state prominently on its face:
A FALSE STATEMENT CONCERNING THE FACTS CONTAINED IN THIS AFFIDAVIT MAY SUBJECT THE PERSON MAKING THE FALSE STATEMENT TO CRIMINAL PENALTIES AS PROVIDED BY LAW.
The Independent Witness Requirement
In Silva v. Allstate, decided August 29, 2018, the SC Supreme Court held that a police officer who investigates a hit and run accident does not qualify as a witness under section 36-77-170 unless they actually saw the crash happen – although the officer may be a “witness” at trial, they were not an eyewitness to the event.
The case involved a drive-by shooting where the victim was making a claim against their auto insurance policy. The Court found that the intent of the legislature in making the requirement of an independent witness was to prevent insurance fraud, therefore an eyewitness is necessary.
Previous SC cases have held that a hit and run victim can recover when:
- Someone rides their bumper causing them to run off the road and hit a tree when there was a witness who saw part of the incident; and
- A truck driver swerved and hit a concrete column when there was a witness who saw the accident but did not see the other driver;
SC cases have held that a hit and run victim cannot recover when:
- A driver swerved off the road and crashed into a tree, but the witnesses did not arrive until after the accident happened; and
- A pickup truck swerved to avoid another car, and two passengers in the truck bed were thrown out of the truck when the passengers did not see the driver lose control or the other vehicle – they were only repeating what the driver had told them.
Hit and Run Accident Attorneys in Myrtle Beach, SC
If you are the victim of a hit and run accident in Myrtle Beach, you may be able to recover compensation for your injuries even if you do not know who the other driver was. Call now at (843) 488-5000 or contact us through our email to talk with hit and run accident attorney in Myrtle Beach today.