The driver who fled the scene after striking three state highway workers in Aiken County, South Carolina (SC), on March 13, 2017, was tracked down within hours and charged with multiple felony hit-and-run offenses. Two of the SCDOT employees died at the scene of the wreck near the intersection of Augusta Road/SC 421 and Storm Branch Road, while the third road crew member survived with an injured hand.
According to news reports, the at-fault driver ran off the road outside of Clearwater as the SCDOT employees were setting up a work zone at around 9 am. The man behind the wheel of the car never stopped, but law enforcement officials took him into custody at a relative's home. Police did not release the names of the deceased victims.
All Drivers Have a Legal Duty to Protect Road Crews
South Carolina's Department of Public Safety takes several opportunities each year to remind drivers of their obligations to slow down and move over when approaching or going through work zones. When changing lanes is unsafe, keeping as far to the right in one's travel lane is required.
In a recent press release, the agency listed these other duties for drivers under the move over law:
- Keep their vehicle under control
- Proceed with due caution
- Yield the right of way to work vehicles
- Maintain the safe speed for road conditions
The hit-and-run driver on Augusta Road/SC 421 failed to do any of those things. It is unclear why, but analyses of what the agency calls "run-off-road crashes" led the National Highway Transportation Administration to conclude that the leading reasons drivers leave the roadway include inattention or distraction, fatigue and speeding.
At-Fault Drivers Have Obligations to Crash Victims
As state workers who were killed and injured on the job, the SCDOT employees have access to workers' compensation and public employee insurance benefits. The families of the deceased road crew members also have the right to seek compensation and damages from the at-fault driver. If that man does not carry car insurance, he can be held personally accountable in a civil wrongful death lawsuit. Invoking uninsured motorist provisions of the victims' own insurance policies could also be an option.
Whether taking the hit-and-run driver to court or filing a claim directly with an insurer, the grieving family members could benefit from seeking advice and representation from an experienced Carolina wrongful death attorney.