Articles Posted in Car Accidents

country roadSince our office regularly represents people who have been seriously injured in a car accident or lost a loved one in a fatal motor vehicle collision, we are well aware of the tragic frequency at which automobile crashes happen on the highways of South Carolina.

Still, it is with great concern that we review the most recent collection of traffic collision facts published by the South Carolina Department of Public Safety.

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school busEvery driver should know that South Carolina state law requires a motorist to stop when he or she is meeting or overtaking a school bus with its flashing red lights activated.

For obvious safety reasons, a driver is simply not allowed to pass a stopped school bus, nor is he or she allowed to drive past such a bus from the opposite direction. This much is clear from the plain language of the statute.

However, there can be other, less obvious situations involving a driver’s obligation to stop in the presence of a school bus with its lights flashing. In a case recently considered by the South Carolina Court of Appeals, one driver apparently assumed that it was safe to make a left turn when the bus was stopped, but another driver passed the bus and struck the first driver’s car in the side.

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calculator and receiptBeing successful in a wrongful death lawsuit arising from a motor vehicle accident requires that the plaintiff prove the basic elements of negligence (duty, breach of duty, damages, and causation). Unfortunately, however, not every legally sound case results in a fair amount of compensation for the victim’s family.

The second – and more practical – inquiry focuses on the actual payment of the damages award entered by the trial court. If the responsible party does not have adequate insurance (or personal assets) to cover the judgment, the plaintiff could be left with very little, if any, monetary compensation, even in a clear-cut case of liability.

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Do you have insurance on your home? Do you know what it covers?

As a recent case shows, if you have homeowner’s liability insurance, you might think you are covered for more situations than you actually are. It’s always a good idea to review your policy from time to time so that you understand exactly what is – and is not – covered.

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Historically, in South Carolina , there was no common law cause of action holding restaurants and bars responsible for injuries by drunk drivers who consumed alcohol at their establishments. In numerous states, dram shop acts were legislated which provided remedies to those injured by drunk drivers who were over served at restaurants and bars. South Carolina enacted “Beverage Control Regulations” which included criminal penalties for alcohol served by restaurants and bars to intoxicated individuals.  Later, South Carolina created a civil cause of action based on a violation of South Carolina Code 61-4-580(2) and 61-6-2220 which prohibit the knowing sale of beer or wine to an intoxicated person or the sale of alcoholic beverages to intoxicated persons.

stock-photo-37245180-bartender-pouring-strong-alcoholic-drink-into-glassesPrior to 2007, South Carolina courts seemed to require an injured person seeking redress against a restaurant or bar to prove that such an establishment “knowingly” sold alcoholic beverages to an intoxicated person, Tobias v. Sports Club, Inc., 332 S.C. 90, 504 S.E.2d. 318 (1998). In 2010, our supreme court extended responsibility for bartenders of such establishments by holding, “The proper standard, … is whether the bartenders negligently served alcoholic beverages by a person who, by his appearance or otherwise, would lead a prudent man to believe that the person was intoxicated.” The Court went on to say that, “In our view, ‘knew or should have known’ is the articulation of the objective ‘reasonable person’ standard.” Hartfield v. Getaway Lounge and Grill, Inc., 388 S.C. 407, 419, 697 S.E.2d. 558, 564 (2010). Continue reading

While it may be hard to believe, there is one death a day in our country from high speed police chases. Many times the vehicles travel at more than 100 miles per hour. According to USA Today, more than 5000 bystanders and passengers have been killed in police car chases since 1979, and tens of thousands more were injured as officers repeatedly pursued drivers at high speeds and in hazardous conditions. The majority of the offenses for which the high speed chase are undertaken are very minor in nature. Most bystanders were killed in their own cars by a fleeing driver.

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On many occasions, it is the police vehicle which collides with an innocent vehicle making these chases dangerous for police as well. According to USA Today, at least a 139 police officers have been killed by chases. According to Tulsa Police Major Travis Yates, “a pursuit is probably the most unique and dangerous job law enforcement can do.” Despite these upsetting statistics, somehow chases have escaped national attention which has been paid to other potentially lethal police tactics.

 

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railroad crossingThe right to a jury trial is very important to our civil justice system. That said, jury trials can be complex and lengthy because of all of the procedural safeguards that are in place to make sure that the jury, presumably made up of laymen, considers only admissible evidence and is instructed accurately concerning the law.

It is not uncommon for appellate courts to review jury verdicts on appeal and come to the conclusion that the trial judge tainted the jury by an erroneous ruling or instruction. When this happens, the case must be remanded for a new trial, basically starting the process anew.

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A close up of a tractor trailer as it speeds down a road. The bottom of the truck and two tires are shown.

Have you ever wondered what would happen if you had a car accident due to the negligence of someone else  but you had no way of identifying the negligent party? South Carolina law requires every motor vehicle owner to carry uninsured motorist (UM) insurance, which may allow you to file a lawsuit ostensibly against the “John Doe” who caused the accident, and, if the suit is successful, your UM carrier will be liable for the damages ultimately awarded by the courts (up to the amount of your policy limits).

In theory, this might sound a little bit like shooting fish in a barrel; after all, you and your insurance company are on the same side, right? Unfortunately, no, you are not. Proceedings against a UM carrier can be just as adversarial – sometimes, even more adversarial – than a run-of-the-mill lawsuit in which the actual defendant is known and present at trial. Continue reading

harley davidsonIn a perfect world, the evidence in a lawsuit would be so obviously convincing in favor of one party or the other that a jury would be able to reach a quick and unanimous verdict. In the real world, however, a case in which the evidence is so clearly in one party’s favor usually gets settled out of court.

As for the rest, the question sometimes arises as to what a judge should do after the jury has said they are deadlocked. In the landmark case of Allen v. United States, 164 U.S. 492 (1896), the nation’s highest court approved, at least for the federal courts, a jury instruction advising jurors to listen to one another with a disposition towards being convinced of each other’s arguments.

Recently, the South Carolina Court of Appeals was called upon to consider whether an Allen charge was acceptable in a particular South Carolina state court case.

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Did you know that in the United States, speed limits are determined by individual agencies within each state? For a lot of our South Carolina readers, this makes sense. Many people believe that state agencies know their state best and should be able to make speed limit determinations that make the most sense in their area.

Although many states consider accident risk when raising speed limits, a recent Associated Press investigation determined that some state agencies may have set speed limits without considering tire speeds. Now the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is facing difficult questions from the public, particularly concerning what the agency intends on doing about this potential problem.

Often disregarded or even unknown to many people, tire speed limits are incredibly important in the trucking industry because they establish guidelines for safe operation and help drivers avoid tire blowouts that could cause serious or even catastrophic accidents. Though some states have restrictions on how fast large trucks can travel, not all states do, meaning truck drivers as well as other motorists could be at risk of an accident and not even know it.

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