South Carolina Court Reversed Summary Judgment in Favor of UM Carrier, Holding Claimant Was Not Negligent in Failing to Identify Hit and Run Driver

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There are many scenarios through which a claim for uninsured or underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) insurance benefits may arise. Typically, such a claim happens as a result of a South Carolina car accident in which the negligent driver either had no insurance at all or had only minimum coverage.

However, UM coverage can also apply in other situations, including an occasion in which the claimant is struck by another vehicle while walking as a pedestrian.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case, the plaintiff was a man who filed a claim under the uninsured motorist statute after he was allegedly struck by an unknown driver while walking through a parking lot and talking to a friend on his cellphone. The defendant named in the lawsuit was “Jane Doe,” although, in reality, the claim was between the plaintiff and his UM carrier. The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that it was entitled to judgment as a matter of law due to the plaintiff’s failure to comply with South Carolina Code ยง 38-77-170; more specifically, the defendant averred that the plaintiff should not recover UM benefits for his injuries because he had been negligent in not identifying the driver who struck him in the parking lot and in failing to produce an affidavit from an eyewitness until some four years after the accident. The trial court granted summary judgment to “Jane Doe,” i.e., the plaintiff’s UM carrier.

Decision of the State of South Carolina Court of Appeals

The appellate court reversed, holding that the plaintiff had presented sufficient evidence to create a question of fact as to whether he was negligent in his failure to identify the driver who hit him. In so holding, the court noted that the plaintiff had inquired of several witnesses immediately following the accident as to which way the offending driver had traveled when she left the parking lot, and he had then spent at least 20 minutes driving around looking for her vehicle, to no avail. He had then found a merchant who had video surveillance footage of the driver and had later relayed this information to the police department. Although the plaintiff told police that he did not wish to prosecute the driver if she was found, the court noted that the applicable statute does not require a UM claimant to do “everything necessary to secure the identity of a driver,” only that the claimant not be negligent in failing to determine the driver’s identity at the time of the accident.

Do You Have a Claim for UM/UIM Motorist Benefits?

Many people make the mistake of assuming that their claim for UM/UIM benefits will proceed to a fair settlement without the assistance of an attorney. Unfortunately, this rarely happens. UM/UIM claims can be every bit as adversarial and contentious as “regular” car accident cases. If you have been in an accident with someone who did not have insurance or didn’t have enough coverage to fully compensate you for your injuries, you need to talk to an experienced uninsured motorist accident attorney as soon as possible. Call the Patrick E. Knie Law Offices at 864-582-5118 to schedule an appointment in our Spartanburg or Greenville offices. There is no charge for the consultation, and most UM/UIM cases are handled on a contingency contract, so you pay no legal fees upfront.

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