A driver recently struck and fatally injured a pedestrian along Buckwalter Parkway, and after stopping briefly, drove away and called the police from her house to report what had happened. The driver was not charged for a hit and run, also known as fleeing the scene of an accident. She claimed that she was threatened by an onlooker and fled in fear. A South Carolina regulation, enacted before the widespread availability of cell phones, states that if a driver is involved in a wreck resulting in fatality or injury, they may leave the scene temporarily to report the accident to the police and medical providers.
Section 56-5-1210 of South Carolina law was enacted in 2004, sponsored by Sen. Brad Hutto. There is little indication that there was any significant debate in the legislature when this bill was put up for consideration nearly 15 years ago. Many note that the use of the term “temporarily” in the regulation is significant and critical. This language implies that a driver cannot leave the scene of an accident, and that they must return.
Some legal scholars have interpreted the regulation differently, such that one can only leave the scene of an accident if they do not have a cell phone or means to contact authorities, and they must return to the scene. Some factors to consider in determining if a violation of the law has occurred include whether the person has a cell phone that is charged and functional, the length of time it took them to report the accident, and whether the driver has good cause for not returning to the scene.
One major problem with the regulation is when it comes to drunk drivers. If a drunk driver caused an accident, they could potentially drive home and not return to the scene until their Blood Alcohol Content is lowered or claim that they did not take a drink until after the accident.
A corollary law, S.C. statute 56-5-1230, states that the driver involved in hitting a person or causing damage to their car must render assistance. Presumably this statue would be controlling because it is more specific. However, what if the driver gets out of their car, sees an injured person, but cannot render assistance without leaving the scene to call authorities? These questions remain unresolved under the law.
Columbia Car Accident Lawyers at Chappell Smith & Arden, P.A. Represent Victims of Hit and Run Accidents
If you have been injured in any type of car wreck, our Columbia car accident lawyers at Chappell Smith & Arden, P.A. will fight to obtain the full amount of compensation you deserve so that you can focus on what matters most; your health, your family, and your recovery. To schedule a consultation, call us today at (803) 929-3600 or contact us online. With six office locations throughout South Carolina, we provide the highest quality of legal services to injured accident victims. Let us help you start building your best case today.
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