Some drivers engage in reckless behavior on the roads such as racing or speeding that can cause serious injuries or death. Even if those responsible are never charged criminally or not convicted of these crimes, the victims can still file a civil lawsuit against them.
A driver from Ladson will not be charged criminally for his role in an accident that killed several people in North Charleston in 2017.
Two cars that were allegedly street racing above 90 mph kill multiple people
Police initially wanted to charge the suspect with street racing, hit and run, and reckless homicide for his actions leading up to the collision that killed three people and injured four children. Prosecutors now believe that there is insufficient evidence to bring any of the criminal charges based on the information they have available.
According to witness testimony, the incident began with the suspect and his cousin were racing on Dorchester Road near Industrial Ave at night in North Charleston. One of the vehicles collided with the side of a public transportation bus and then went head on into a sedan that was driving immediately behind the bus. Video recordings from the bus showed the two cars accelerating towards it, and passing another vehicle at a high rate of speed to race directly adjacent to each other just before one of them crashed.
Based on an analysis of the video, the two cars accelerated from about 45 to 95 miles per hour in less than a quarter mile. It also looked like their behavior was consistent with racing, especially due to their attempts to pass each other immediately before the collision.
Black box recordings from the Camaro driven by the suspect’s cousin showed that it was going approximately 99 miles per hour in the moments before the crash. He was killed in the crash, as were the driver and passenger of the sedan that was behind the bus. Four children in the back of the sedan needed to be taken to a local hospital to receive treatment for their injuries. The suspect’s vehicle was not involved in the crash at all and escaped unscathed. His Nissan Maxima left the scene, and he never contacted law enforcement after the crash.
A criminal court judge who was assigned to the case and reviewed the evidence stated that the suspect did not need to remain at the scene because his vehicle was not physically affected during the accident. He also dismissed the racing charges on the grounds that the state had presented insufficient evidence that the two cars agreed to race, rather than merely speeding. He granted a directed verdict of not guilty before the jury would be given an opportunity to decide the crucial issues.
Are the victims out of luck now that the driver responsible will not be charged?
When criminal charges are dropped or the defendant is found not guilty, this does not mean that there are no remedies left for the victim or their families. A civil negligence lawsuit can still force the person at fault to pay for the injuries they caused to others on the road. Because this case will proceed through the civil courts where there is a lower burden of proof, it is actually more likely that a plaintiff can win a monetary judgment, than for the state to succeed in their criminal case of proving guilt beyond all reasonable doubt.
An attorney who focuses in personal injury law can explain the difference between civil and criminal cases further.
Wrongful death lawsuits
After incidents such as this, even if the person who is hurt by the actions of the driver dies from their injuries, there is still the possibility that certain family members or the estate of the victim can file a lawsuit against the person responsible. This is called a wrongful death lawsuit. Like a negligence case, this forces the person at fault to pay for things like medical bills and property damage, and even funeral or burial expenses can be included in damages in a wrongful death lawsuit.
Wrongful death cases must normally be filed within a year or two of the fatal accident, so it is important to start the process shortly after the victim has died. There are also some other rules for wrongful death lawsuits that are specific to South Carolina, so it is important to speak with an attorney who has experience handling these kinds of cases.
Talk to a personal injury attorney in Charleston
If you need to speak with a lawyer about a recent accident in South Carolina, contact The Clekis Law Firm. You will receive a free consultation that outlines the specific actions you can take and how an attorney from the firm will assist you during this process.