Why Is Speeding Is a Factor in More Than a Quarter of Fatal Accidents?Auto Accidents
Speed limits not only reduce the amount of fuel that a vehicle uses but also save lives. Despite this, the number of lives lost on South Carolina roadways over the previous decade does not appear to have declined in any meaningful manner. What is even more concerning is that some of these accidents could have been prevented had drivers not been traveling at a speed higher than the limit.
If you lost a family member on South Carolina roadways your family may qualify to file a wrongful death lawsuit. An experienced car accident attorney can explain your rights and your legal options.
Fatality Statistics in South Carolina Are Sobering
During a recent year, there were more than 3.2 million licensed drivers in South Carolina. There is little doubt that in 2021, there are significantly more. Given those statistics, it should come as no surprise that there are more than 900 fatal accidents on South Carolina roadways annually.
For the last three years, there have been more than 2,800 fatal accidents on the roads. These accidents resulted in more than 3,000 people losing their lives. Not all fatalities are car and truck operators. More than 400 pedestrians lost their lives, more than 50 bicycle riders lost their lives, and nearly 400 motorcyclists lost their lives.
These statistics are sobering for many reasons. We should never lose sight of the fact that this means the families of 3,000 people are facing the rest of their lives without their loved ones. Brothers, sisters, mothers, and fathers mourn the deaths of their loved ones across South Carolina.
Speeding and Fatality Statistics
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that across the United States in a recent year, there were more than 9,000 fatalities on roadways in which speed played a factor. This number actually constituted a reduction in total fatalities involving speed, but also serves as a clear indication that speed does kill. Not only do speeding drivers endanger their own lives, but they also pose an imminent threat to other drivers, passengers in other vehicles, bicycle operators, pedestrians, and motorcycle operators.
The most recent breakdown of the contributing factors in roadway accidents prepared by the South Carolina Department of Public Safety, Office of Highway Safety and Justice Programs, Statistical Analysis and Research Section, reveals three significant contributing factors in roadway accidents.
In the more than 142,000 accidents analyzed, the three leading contributors to fatality rates were:
- Driving too fast for conditions – resulting in 228 fatalities;
- Driving under the influence – resulting in 204 fatalities; and
- Failure to yield right of way – resulting in 91 fatalities.
These three categories represent 60 percent of the total 859 victims of fatal accidents. Speeding alone represented nearly 26 percent of all fatalities. The same number of accidents also resulted in more than 50,000 injuries, and more than 15,000 in which speed was cited as a contributing factor.
Penalties for Speeding in South Carolina
One tool law that enforcement officers use to encourage drivers to obey speed limits is to cite drivers who are driving too fast for roadway conditions. In addition to steep fines, violations may also result in misdemeanor charges, and drivers who are found guilty of speeding will also face the penalty of having points accumulate on their driver’s record. Drivers who accumulate six points on their license may have their right to drive suspended for up to six months.
Currently, drivers who are cited for speeding could also face the following penalties:
- Speeding at less than 10 miles per hour over the limit – fine of up to $25;
- Speeding at less than 15 miles per hour over the limit – fine of up to $50;
- Speeding of more than 15 miles and less than 25 miles per hour over the limit – up to $75; and
- Any speed over 25 miles per hour over the limit – fines of up to $250, jail time for not more than 30 days.
Despite these harsh penalties, drivers continue to travel at unsafe speeds, and as a result, accidents resulting in injuries and fatalities continue.
Holding Drivers Accountable for Fatalities on South Carolina Roadways
Unfortunately, there are many instances where individuals lose their lives on a South Carolina roadway when the at-fault driver is not held legally accountable. One would think that the at-fault driver would face some criminal charges; however, due to gaps in the law, this does not always occur, which was the highlight of an expose published in the Greenville News. However, families still have options when they lose a loved one thanks to South Carolina’s wrongful death laws.
Understanding Wrongful Death Lawsuits
Everyone understands that no amount of money can compensate families for the grief and trauma they suffer when they lose a loved one in a speeding accident. However, the fact remains that there are unexpected expenses that a family must face head-on as a result of such a death. These expenses are not one-time either; in many cases, a family faces serious financial consequences over the long-term. When the deceased loved one was one of the household’s breadwinners, the family may face permanent financial hardships. A wrongful death attorney can help the family hold the speeding driver financially accountable.
According to South Carolina law, wrongful death constitutes the death of a person caused by the wrongful act, neglect, or default of another and that had the decedent survived, he or she would have qualified to seek damages for the accident.
The parties that may file a wrongful death lawsuit under South Carolina law include:
- Spouse – The spouse of a decedent may file a wrongful death lawsuit for up to three years following the death.
- Children of the deceased – The children may join a lawsuit filed by a spouse, or may file their own suit.
- Parent or parents – If the decedent had no spouse or children, a parent or parents have the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
- Estate of the decedent – If there are no parents, spouse, or children, the heirs of the decedent’s estate have the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
Had the victim survived, he or she may have pursued compensation for any resulting injuries and other damages.
Compensation Potential Following a Fatal Car Accident
When individuals lose their lives, their families have a right to seek compensation to ensure that they are not suffering financially as a result of their loss. When a car accident victim sues on his or her own behalf, the victim has the right to file a claim for certain financial losses.
When the victim dies, however, a wrongful death lawsuit can help the surviving family members file a claim that includes:
- Medical costs – The costs of providing care for your loved one before their death may be part of your claim. This includes the cost of ambulance transportation following a car accident, hospitalization costs including costs of all treatments, and any other costs associated with the victim’s care before their death.
- Funeral and burial expenses – Most of us do not prepare for sudden costs associated with a funeral and burial. This is particularly true when someone loses their lives unexpectedly. The expenses associated with funerals and burials may be included in a wrongful death claim.
- Lost income and benefits – Wages that the victim would have collected before their death, including accumulated sick and vacation days, estimated future wages, and potential future benefits, may also be included in a wrongful death claim.
After an accident, a car accident lawyer who has experience handling wrongful death cases can help a victim’s family file a claim with the responsible party’s insurance company. This is generally the first step in determining whether or not a lawsuit is necessary.
The Process of Wrongful Death Lawsuits in Speeding Accidents
Initially, a family may file a claim with the insurance company of the party that caused the accident that caused the death of a loved one. However, this can prove complicated when the victim has died. The insurer may offer to reimburse the survivors of the victim for the loss of the victim’s vehicle, but may refuse any further claim. This is why you must work with a skilled wrongful death law firm immediately following a fatal accident.
Accidents require investigation. Once the investigation is complete, your attorney will have a full picture of what occurred and where the fault for the accident lies. This process helps bolster your claim for compensation in court. Your attorney will also need to determine what future wage claims are reasonable, which often means asking experts for assistance.
A wrongful death lawyer will inform the person who caused the accident of the intent to file a lawsuit on behalf of the decedent’s family or estate. Once this occurs, negotiations will ensue, usually occurring between the attorneys that represent each side. In some cases, the parties may successfully settle; however, in other cases, these negotiations will not result in a reasonable settlement, which means that the case will have to proceed to a civil court proceeding. One advantage of working with an attorney is the lawyer will prepare to file a lawsuit, ensuring that you are not waiting longer than necessary for closure.
Once a court is prepared to entertain a lawsuit, you may need to provide a victim impact statement or other information to the court that is relevant to your case. Your attorney will make sure that you understand what steps the court will take, what the court process will look like, and what happens once the court reaches a judgment, including the potential for appeals by the party that loses the trial.
Costs of Filing a South Carolina Wrongful Death Lawsuit
Families are rightfully concerned about the costs associated with filing a wrongful death lawsuit. After all, these families are already facing financial uncertainty due to the loss of a loved one. They may already have dipped into their financial savings to help make up for the loss of income following the death of a loved one.
Surviving family members, however, may file wrongful death lawsuits without having to pay money upfront before settlement. This is because wrongful death lawyers file cases on a contingency basis, which means that unless a settlement is reached on your behalf, you will not pay a fee for the legal services that your family receives.
When you meet with an attorney for a free consultation, you will learn about your options and eligibility to file a claim. Your attorney will also review the facts as you explain them, pending a full investigation of the accident. Based on preliminary information, the attorney will help you understand what type of compensation you should include in your wrongful death lawsuit.
Once you agree to retain an attorney, you will likely enter into a contingency fee agreement. This means that once you settle—whether by agreement or through a lawsuit—you agree to pay the law firm a percentage of the final settlement.
Why Retaining a Wrongful Death Lawyer Matters
Victims of accidents and surviving family members often believe that they can file a lawsuit without hiring an attorney. This is simply a bad idea.
Remember, wrongful death cases are complicated, and you can rest assured that the person who caused the accident will have legal representation. You are grieving the loss of your loved one, and taking time to recover from your loss and comfort other family members is important to everyone’s emotional recovery.
Let an experienced wrongful death lawyer take care of the procedural and legal aspects of your claim while you take the time you need to begin healing. Contact a wrongful death lawyer today and schedule a free consultation. This consultation will inform you of your rights and help you determine the best way for you and your family to move forward.
Nathan Hughey, an attorney and fourth-generation South Carolinian, founded Hughey Law Firm in 2007. Before that, he spent five years defending nursing homes and insurance companies. Leveraging his experience, he now advocates for those injured or wronged by such entities, securing over $220 million in verdicts and settlements.