Victims of South Carolina pedestrian accidents often have questions regarding their legal rights following an accident. The team at the Hughey Law Firm has answers. Below, we provide some information about pedestrian-involved accidents and the legal process of seeking the proper compensation for damages inflicted from these accidents. If you have been harmed as a pedestrian in a South Carolina accident, contact the South Carolina Pedestrian Accident Lawyers at Hughey Law Firm for more information about your legal options.
Who Are the Victims of Pedestrian Accidents?
According to the South Carolina Department of Public Safety, a pedestrian is killed every 2.2 days in South Carolina. Nationally, a pedestrian dies of injuries sustained in an accident involving a motor vehicle every 88 minutes, accounting for around 6,000 pedestrian deaths each year. How do these accidents occur, and how can they be prevented? Read on for more information.
Older adults and young children are among the individuals who are the most vulnerable to being struck by a car on the nation’s roadways. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), pedestrians aged 65 and older account for 20 percent of accident fatalities and around 10 percent of accident injuries. One in every five children under the age of 15 who dies in a traffic-related crash is a pedestrian.
The age groups with the largest number of pedestrian deaths are those between the ages of 50-59, and the average age for a pedestrian killed in a traffic-related accident is 47 years old. More than two-thirds of the victims of pedestrian accidents are male. In addition, African Americans and Native Americans are disproportionately affected by pedestrian accidents.
Of course, pedestrian accidents can occur anywhere and at any time, however, statistics indicate they occur more frequently under certain circumstances, for instance:
- Over 75 percent of pedestrian-accident fatalities occur during hours of darkness.
- Pedestrian accidents are more likely to occur in urban locations than in rural locations.
- Most pedestrian accidents occur outside of intersections, accounting for 73 percent of all accidents, compared to 18 percent occurring within an intersection.
- Approximately 32 percent of pedestrians involved in fatal accidents are alcohol-impaired. An alcohol-impaired pedestrian or driver was in nearly half of all pedestrian accidents.
- Ninety-one percent of pedestrian accidents involved a single vehicle, the majority of which involved the front of a vehicle striking a pedestrian.
Dangers to Pedestrians on South Carolina Roadways
Pedestrian deaths have reached the highest number in decades. A primary contributing factor in this increase is the increasing popularity of Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs). In 2014, SUVs surpassed sedans as the most popular new vehicles purchased by Americans. And, in less than five years, pedestrian accidents involving an SUV showed a 50 percent increase. SUVs and pickups now account for 60 percent of all new car sales and around 40 percent of all pedestrian fatalities.
SUVs are particularly dangerous to pedestrians due to the height of the front end of the vehicle. As mentioned, most pedestrian accidents involve the front of a vehicle striking individuals; therefore, a higher front end causes an impact higher on a pedestrian’s body rather than the lower extremities. While injuries to the hips and legs are certainly serious, those involving the upper portion of the body result in a higher risk of death.
Federal lawmakers are aware of the increased risks SUVs pose for pedestrians. In the past, they have even attempted to factor pedestrian accidents into the safety ratings for SUVs. However, heavy opposition from automakers stalled the plan.
While SUVs are a major danger to pedestrians on U.S. roadways, several other hazards have increased the rate of pedestrian deaths.
Some common factors that contribute to pedestrian fatalities include:
- Distractions: Distracted driving is a major cause of all types of traffic-related accidents. Distractions refer to anything that takes a driver’s hands off the wheel, eyes off the road, or mind off the task of driving. Texting while driving is a particularly deadly distraction because it causes all three disruptive responses. In the time required to read or reply to a text, while traveling at a speed of 55 miles per hour, a vehicle travels the length of a football field. Other common driver distractions include eating, drinking, visiting with other passengers, adjusting stereo or vehicle controls, or daydreaming. In addition, external distractions, such as an accident scene on the roadway, construction, billboards, or pedestrians, commonly contribute to accidents.
- Speeding: Speeding is another common contributing factor in all types of motor vehicle accidents and can be particularly deadly in pedestrian accidents. Speeding reduces the amount of time a driver has to perceive and respond to hazards and increases the time required for the vehicle to safely stop. Speeding reduces a pedestrian’s ability to judge a safe gap in traffic and also increases the impact of the collision.
- Alcohol-impaired drivers: As previously noted, nearly half of all pedestrian accidents involve either an alcohol-impaired -driver or -pedestrian. Alcohol impairment makes it difficult for drivers to control their speed, brake and steer effectively, and focus on the task of driving. In the state of South Carolina, it is inferred that a person is under the influence if their Blood Alcohol Concentration reaches a level of 0.08% or more. This is also consistent with the national drunk driving laws.
- Blind spots: All vehicles have a blind spot, which is an area along the rear side of the vehicle that is not visible to the diver in the vehicle’s side or rear mirrors. To ensure there are no obstacles in a vehicle’s blind spot, drivers must turn and look over their shoulders. Pedestrians positioned in a vehicle’s blind spots risk being out of the driver’s sight.
- Failure to yield: Drivers failing to stop at crosswalks, red lights, or stop signs cause many pedestrian accidents. Failure-yield-accidents commonly occur when drivers attempt to pass a stopped school bus, with its stop sign arm extended, indicating active unloading.
Common Injuries in Pedestrian Accidents
Due to the extreme difference in size, weight, and speed of travel between a motor vehicle and a pedestrian, a collision typically results in catastrophic consequences for pedestrians. The initial injury is generally to the area of the pedestrian’s body where the front of the vehicle first makes contact. Although the point of contact depends on both the height of the vehicle and the pedestrian, children and small adults more commonly experience injury to the head or chest.
Alternatively, when smaller vehicles strike taller individuals, injuries to the hips or legs may result. Additional injuries depend on the trajectory of the pedestrian’s body upon impact. Pedestrians may be forced off the ground and onto the hood or windshield of the vehicle. The force of a collision may also toss a pedestrian through the air, causing them to experience a second impact when striking another object or the ground.
Some of the most common injuries suffered in pedestrian accidents include:
- Head injuries from the pedestrian colliding with the front of the vehicle, the windshield, ground, or other object. Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) are among the most serious injuries pedestrians sustain. TBIs can have devastating consequences, such as permanent disability or immobility. Victims suffering from TBI may experience difficulties in controlling emotions and impulses, communicating or understanding spoken language, or moving in a balanced, coordinated manner.
- Broken bones are common injuries resulting from pedestrian accidents. Leg and hip fractures often result from the initial impact of a smaller car. Arm bones are often broken as a result of a pedestrian’s natural instinct to catch himself or herself while falling.
- Spinal cord injuries often result from a pedestrian impacting the vehicle, ground, or other object. The spinal cord is a bundle of nerves protected by the bones of the spine that extends from the base of the skull to the lower back. Like brain injuries, spinal cord injuries often result in permanent disability, including paralysis of the limbs.
- Internal injuries, including damage to organs or broken ribs, frequently occur as a consequence of the impact.
- Deep lacerations can occur as the skin comes into contact with glass from the windshield or rough roadway surfaces, such as asphalt or gravel.
Preventing Pedestrian Accidents
While it is impossible to prevent every type of accident from occurring, there are several things pedestrians can do to avoid being a victim of an accident, including:
- Make yourself visible. The vast majority of pedestrian accidents occur after dark. If you are planning to walk at night, be sure to wear brightly colored, reflective clothing. Carry a flashlight or affix a small strobing light to your clothing to increase your visibility for motorists.
- Cross roadways at designated crosswalks whenever possible. If a crosswalk is not available, cross at an intersection, using traffic lights or signs as guidance for safely crossing the road. Make sure you have a clear path before attempting to cross an intersection, paying particular attention to vehicles that are turning left or right. Avoid crossing at non-intersected areas, as motorists will not anticipate a pedestrian’s presence. When necessary to cross where there is no intersection, carefully gauge the gap in traffic and speed of vehicles to ensure you have sufficient time to cross.
- Always walk on a sidewalk if there is one available. If there is no sidewalk, walk as far from the road as possible, utilizing the shoulder, if possible.
- Always walk the opposite direction of oncoming traffic to enable visibility of approaching vehicles. When you can see cars coming, you have the opportunity to step out of the way if a vehicle is veering in your direction.
- Avoid distractions such as using a cell phone or wearing headphones. As a pedestrian, it is extremely important to be aware of the sounds and sights around you to enable you to take evasive actions to avoid an accident.
- Never assume that a driver can see you. Always attempt to establish eye contact with a driver before entering a crosswalk. Establishing eye contact can work to prevent an accident by ensuring that the driver is aware you are present before you cross the road.
Whether you are a driver or a pedestrian, avoid consuming alcohol before or during your journey. Although most states in the U.S. permit drivers to operate a vehicle with 0.08% blood alcohol content, signs of impairment begin developing at the moment of consumption. Alcohol impairment affects the skills necessary for safe driving and walking, including the ability to track moving objects and to exercise good judgment.
Additionally, there are several things that a driver can do to avoid being in an accident involving a pedestrian, including:
- Look out for pedestrians at all times. Be aware that oftentimes pedestrians may appear in unexpected places. In addition, exercise particular caution when traveling in areas where children are likely to be located, such as parks and schools. Understand that younger children cannot accurately determine speeds or meaningfully judge gaps in traffic.
- Take care when backing up, making sure to check blind spots where pedestrians may walk.
- If you are driving behind a school bus, always prepare to stop when the bus’s lights flash and the stop sign arm extends. Never attempt to pass a school bus that is stopped, as there is a high likelihood that a child will be crossing the roadway for loading or unloading.
South Carolina Pedestrian Accident FAQ
Whether walking around Charleston, taking in the sights at Hilton Head Island, or going about day-to-day life in any of South Carolina’s wonderful cities and towns, pedestrians face the risk of injury.
Unfortunately, motor vehicle accidents injuring pedestrians are not uncommon across the state. Pedestrian accidents can have long-term consequences and widespread impacts on victims and their families. In the aftermath of an accident, victims often feel overwhelmed and uncertain of how to move forward.
Consider consulting with an experienced pedestrian accident lawyer at Hughey Law Firm if you or a loved one sustains injuries in an accident. Our attorneys regularly fight for the rights of injured victims to seek the compensation they deserve.
With experience and knowledge of the law, our attorneys can help you understand your options for recovering losses. Until you have the opportunity to meet with an attorney, read on below for the answers to some frequently asked questions about South Carolina pedestrian accidents.
Do I have to go to the emergency room after a South Carolina pedestrian accident?
In short, no. However, if you feel you have only sustained minor injuries, you may want to seek a medical evaluation for three reasons:
- Your health and well-being are a top priority, so you should always err on the side of caution to protect yourself.
- Accidents are traumatic events that often release a rush of adrenaline through the body, which can mask sensations of pain. You may sustain serious and even life-threatening injuries, but fail to experience pain immediately thereafter. If left untreated, serious injuries can inhibit your recovery, cause further damages, or lead to serious complications. Additionally, some injuries do not immediately exhibit symptoms. Symptoms may only become apparent weeks or days after the accident. A physician’s examination can check for common accident injuries such as broken ribs, internal bleeding, organ damage, and brain injuries, which may be undetectable at first.
- You should not have to absorb losses related to your injuries when someone else caused them. A medical examination provides key evidence that the injuries you sustained resulted from the actions of the negligent driver who caused the pedestrian accident. Medical documentation of your injuries makes it difficult for insurance companies and defense attorneys to argue that your injuries resulted from some other cause rather than the accident.
What is the statute of limitations for filing a claim after a South Carolina pedestrian accident?
Under South Carolina law, accident victims must file a claim within three years of the pedestrian accident. Once the three-year statute of limitations expires, it is highly likely that an accident victim will be barred from seeking compensation for their injuries. However, the law does provide a few exceptions, in rare circumstances. For example, if the alleged negligent defendant cannot be located to be personally served with the claim, the court may allow additional time for him or her down.
Experienced South Carolina pedestrian accident lawyers regularly fight for the rights of injured victims to seek the compensation they are entitled to. An attorney may evaluate the specific circumstances of a case to determine whether a filing extension is warranted. However, it’s best to contact an attorney as soon as possible to ensure that you meet all procedural deadlines.
Who else might be financially liable after a South Carolina pedestrian accident?
The drivers of passenger vehicles and trucks are typically responsible for most preventable pedestrian accidents and injuries. Yet, some situations involve third parties that might be fully liable or share financial responsibility with a driver.
For example, the City of Charleston could be responsible for a pedestrian accident if a driver hits you because of a malfunctioning traffic light. Additionally, vehicle manufacturers may be financially liable for accident-related injuries if a defective part contributes to causing a pedestrian accident.
Consider a situation where a defective brake system fails and a driver cannot stop for a pedestrian crossing the street. Although accidents involving vehicle defects do not occur frequently, when they do happen, they often lead to serious and even fatal pedestrian accident injuries.
Ultimately, an attorney can evaluate the facts of your case and advise whether parties in addition to the driver may be financially liable for your injuries. It is important to identify all potentially liable parties before filing a claim.
Can I still take legal action against a driver if I was jaywalking in South Carolina?
South Carolina’s Department of Transportation (SCDOT) estimates that pedestrians contribute to severe accidents resulting in fatalities or serious injury more than 65 percent of the time. However, drivers have a duty to watch out for pedestrians while they are operating a motor vehicle. Drivers are not automatically absolved of responsibility when a pedestrian contributes to causing the accident. When a child is the victim of a pedestrian accident, drivers are held to an even higher standard of care.
Even if you were jaywalking and your action contributed to the accident, you can still take legal action against the driver who struck you. The court might reduce your award or the insurance company might offer a lower settlement, but you may still seek compensation for your injuries. A skilled South Carolina pedestrian accident attorney can evaluate your claim and determine if you have a viable case.
How much money is my South Carolina pedestrian accident case worth?
It’s impossible to accurately predict the financial outcome of any case because each claim has unique underlying facts and circumstances that may add or detract from its value. Our South Carolina pedestrian accident lawyers look to the facts of your case, expert witnesses, past cases, and experience to place value on a claim. You can be certain that the value an insurance company assigns to a claim will be much less than its actual worth.
When consulting with a lawyer, he or she might offer a ballpark figure or range, depending on the circumstances of the accident.
The value of each case relies on the resulting economic and non-economic losses, which typically include:
- Total medical expenses related to the injury.
- Estimated future medical expenses.
- Total lost wages from missing work.
- Estimated future lost wages if you have a catastrophic injury.
- Other expenses related to your injuries such as travel to and from the doctor, rehabilitation expenses, and costs of home modifications to increase accessibility.
- Costs of hired help to complete services you once provided for your household, such as lawn care, childcare, cleaning, and laundry.
- Compensation for physical and emotional pain and suffering.
- Compensation for damage to relationships, typically between spouses.
- Punitive damages, which are reserved for particularly egregious behavior, if the driver struck you intentionally or displayed gross negligence.
Do I have to go to court for my South Carolina pedestrian accident case?
Most auto accident injury cases, including those involving injured pedestrians, reach a settlement and are resolved before litigation. Both sides have an incentive to avoid the courtroom because it’s far more expensive to litigate than agree to a settlement.
However, in some circumstances where insurance companies completely deny a driver’s liability or offer a settlement that is significantly undervalued, a settlement may not be the best option. Although it’s unlikely you will need to go to court, you should be prepared to testify if the insurance company won’t acknowledge fault. The best South Carolina pedestrian accident attorneys will prepare to advocate for clients inside the courtroom when settlement is not an option.
Do I need to hire an attorney for my South Carolina pedestrian accident claim?
Victims are not required to retain an attorney to pursue a pedestrian accident claim. However, an attorney may provide many advantages throughout the claims process.
Some ways the attorneys at Hughey Law Firm help clients include:
- Freeing up time so clients can focus on their health, recovery, and rehabilitation.
- Communicating with insurance companies to shield clients from insurance adjusters who may attempt to elicit damaging statements from accident victims.
- Engaging and pressuring insurance companies who often drag out the claims process when victims aren’t represented.
- Negotiating for clients, giving them better chances of receiving maximum compensation for losses incurred as a result of a pedestrian accident.
- Defending clients against insurance company tactics to devalue and deny claims and preventing insurance companies from acting in bad faith.
Do I need to pay for a South Carolina pedestrian accident attorney?
Attorney fees vary from case to case. Rather than charge an upfront retainer fee, we represent pedestrian accident victims on a contingency fee basis. A contingency fee agreement means that we do not get paid unless you get paid. We will front the costs of representation, and will deduct our fees and costs from the settlement or jury award secured for you.
Pedestrian accident victims who can’t work while the medical bills accumulate may be burdened financially, and cannot pay upfront. A contingency fee agreement allows accident victims to seek justice without piling more economic stress on victims and their families.
The driver’s insurance company offered me a settlement—should I take it?
Aiming to produce profits, insurance companies routinely deny and devalue as many claims as possible. Oftentimes, liability in pedestrian accident cases is clear, so insurance companies are more likely to pay the claim of the victim. One way insurance companies attempt to minimize the amount they need to pay is by offering a low settlement amount soon after an accident. Insurance companies attempt to entice financially desperate accident victims with quick cash. As mentioned above, those with serious injuries have significant medical bills and are oftentimes cannot work.
Insurance companies offer just enough money to tempt accident victims into settling, but the offer is typically far below the fair value of the claim. When accident victims accept a low ball offer they help the insurance company avoid complete financial liability. Once a settlement offer is accepted, pedestrian accident victims must waive their right to seek further compensation in the future.
If you receive an early settlement offer, you might not know the full extent of your injuries or the potential long-term complications you might experience. Giving up your ability to seek additional compensation can be dangerous, especially if your injuries require further treatment later.
It’s in your best interest to consult with an attorney before accepting any settlement offer to ensure it’s fair. Although financial pressure may make an offer seem attractive, remember it will often be insufficient to cover the full extent of your losses. In most cases, victims should consider an early offer to represent a starting point for negotiations. A skilled pedestrian accident attorney can often negotiate a better settlement than victims would otherwise secure for themselves.
How long before my South Carolina pedestrian accident claim is resolved?
Every pedestrian accident case is different. A case might reach a settlement agreement after only a few months of negotiations, or it may last years if the case proceeds to trial. The first determining factor in the timeframe in which your pedestrian accident claim is the extent of your injuries and if you are still treating them. We do not recommend settling a case if you are still receiving medical treatment for injuries suffered as a result of the accident, unless that treatment has been deemed permanently necessary to maintain your quality of life.
Other specific factors that may have a direct impact on the length required to resolve a claim include:
- Liability. When liability is clear, it’s unlikely that the case will drag on for years. When determining fault is straightforward, claims are more easily and therefore quickly resolved.
- Severity of injuries. The more severe the injuries, typically, the longer it takes to resolve the claim. Both sides typically want to see an accident victim reach the maximum improvement before negotiating or going to court. Armed with information about a long-term prognosis, an attorney and the insurance company can more easily place a value on the case.
- Witnesses. Depending on the circumstances of the case, eyewitnesses may be necessary for deposition and testimony in court. An attorney might also consult with doctors, accident reconstructionists, life care planners, and other experts who can speak to liability, prognosis, and claim value. When the witnesses either side needs are not available, or it’s difficult to coordinate schedules, a case can drag on longer than expected.
- Defense cooperation. If the insurance company and/or the legal defense team are not cooperating with evidentiary procedures associated with a claim, victims can expect a longer period of time to resolve their claim.
Were You Injured in a Pedestrian Accident?
If you have been injured in a pedestrian accident that was caused by the careless or reckless actions of another, you may be entitled to seek compensation. Injured victims may file a South Carolina pedestrian accident claim, which is a civil action, requiring proof of another’s liability and evidence of accident-related expenses.
Each claim is unique, but most injured victims may recover compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and loss of future earning capacity. In addition, a South Carolina pedestrian accident claim may include costs associated with non-economic losses, such as physical pain and suffering, emotional distress, and mental anguish.
Injured victims should strongly consider retaining a South Carolina personal injury attorney, like those at the Hughey Law Firm, for representation and guidance throughout the claims process to increase their chances of maximizing recovery. The attorneys at the Hughey Law Firm understand that this can be a difficult time, and they are here to offer guidance.
Do not wait to call an attorney after being injured in a South Carolina pedestrian accident. The longer you wait, the more likely it will be that potentially important evidence will get lost and the memories of those involved (and witnesses) will begin to fade. As a pedestrian injured in an accident, you may be struggling with healing from your injuries while simultaneously balancing the legal process to pursue proper compensation for the damages you have faced. The sooner you contact an attorney, the sooner they can inform you of your legal options moving forward.
At the Hughey Law Firm, we are here to help you understand this process. Our attorneys have represented pedestrians who have been injured in South Carolina accidents. We are here to help. Contact an attorney at the Hughey Law Firm today for a consultation to discuss your matter further.