The Year of Living Dangerously

March 17, 2016

Roadway fatalities in South Carolina increased 16 percent last year, which was double the national average.

Overall, the National Safety Council estimates that 38,300 Americans were killed in vehicle crashes and 4.4 million were seriously injured. Both these figures are the highest since 2008, and researchers speculate that a combination of lower gasoline prices, a stronger economy, and lower unemployment meant more miles travelled, and therefore more crashes. But that does not explain the entire increase, as miles travelled increased at half the rate of crash fatalities. “Driving a car is one of the riskiest activities any of us undertake in spite of decades of vehicle design improvements and traffic safety advancements,” declared NSC president Deborah A.P. Hersman. She further opined that “Americans take their safety on the roadways for granted.”

State by state, only Oregon (27 percent), Georgia (22 percent), and Florida (18 percent) had higher fatality rate increases than South Carolina.

First Party Liability

Along with the raw data, the NSC identified some of the most common causes of car crashes in the Palmetto State. To obtain damages, a plaintiff must prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the defendant caused the collision. Some of the more common causes include:

  • Excessive Speed: High velocity decreases reaction time and increases braking distance. Speed also multiplies the external force of a collision, transforming a “fender bender” into a serious crash. Velocity also affects loose objects inside the car, like books or phones, because they effectively become high-speed missiles.
  • Impairment: This broad category includes impairment by alcohol, prescription or nonprescription drugs, and fatigue. All these substances have the potential to slow mental processing and negatively affect physical coordination, and both these things are vital to the safe operation of a motor vehicle.
  • Distracted Driving: Handheld cellphones involve all three types of distracted driving (physical, visual, and cognitive). Hands-free cellphones, which are more and more common in newer cars, are no less dangerous, because users still take their eyes and minds off the road.

Other car wreck causes include ignoring traffic control devices, failure to make safe lane changes, and poorly maintained vehicles.

Third Party Liability

The tortfeasor (negligent driver) is often not the only party responsible for damages. Many times, a third party is liable as well, under theories like:

  • Respondeat Superior: Employers are generally responsible for the damages that their negligent employees cause.
  • Negligent Entrustment: This theory applies to both individuals who lend their vehicles to irresponsible motorists and businesses who fail to properly hire or supervise their employees.
  • Dram Shop: If the crash was alcohol-related, the person or entity that provided the alcohol may be liable for damages.

In most cases, damages include compensation for both economic and noneconomic losses.

An Attorney who is On Your Side

Car crashes cause billions of dollars in damages each year. For a free consultation with an aggressive personal injury lawyer in Charleston, contact David Aylor Law Offices. We do not charge upfront legal fees in a personal injury case.

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