South Carolina Sees Huge Spike in Fatal Accidents

According to a recent report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, road fatalities were up by 7.7% across the nation in 2015. However, the South Carolina Department of Public Safety reports that South Carolina’s motor vehicle fatality rate increased by nearly twice that amount, up over 15% from 2014’s roadway fatality rate.

According to preliminary numbers reported by South Carolina officials, the total number of roadway fatalities in 2015 was 977, which is an increase of 154 deaths over 2014 numbers of fatalities resulting from auto crashes. Increases in deaths were seen across the state, with 74 deaths in Spartanburg County. Nearly every category of accident saw increases in 2015: passenger vehicle, motorcycle, and pedestrian accidents all saw a jump, although fatal bicycle accidents remained steady.

A number of reasons have been cited by safety officials for this increase in deaths on the road, one of which was a reduction in the number of South Carolina state troopers on our state’s roads. While the agency reports that the ideal number of state troopers would be somewhere in the neighborhood of 950 to 1,000, the number of full-time troopers sunk to 760 in 2015. Once a new class of troopers completes the current session of the Highway Patrol academy, their ranks will increase to 841. A greater presence of state troopers tends to result in a reduction in speed and greater attention paid to the laws of the road, which results in safer driving.

Additionally, state authorities point to a failure to use seatbelts as a leading cause of fatalities from motor vehicle accidents. Nearly half of those killed in accidents on South Carolina roads were not wearing a seatbelt at the time of the accident. Excessive speed for the current conditions was cited as another leading cause of roadway deaths, as was drunk driving, distracted driving, failing to yield to oncoming vehicles, and pedestrians walking or laying down in the road, according to the South Carolina Highway Patrol. The majority of the roadway deaths in South Carolina occurred on rural roads, which tend to be narrower and less well-lit. “Correctable mistakes aren’t as correctable,” said a spokesperson from AAA describing the dangers of rural roads. “A tiny mistake can end up being a huge mistake or even a fatal one.” Finally, lower gas prices are cited as a major contributor to the increase in road fatalities, due to an increase in total miles driven.

If you have been injured or suffered the loss of a loved in a South Carolina car accident, contact the compassionate, knowledgeable, and trial-ready Columbia personal injury lawyers at Peake & Fowler for a consultation on your case, at 803-788-4370.

Family of Victim of Drunk Driver Files Lawsuit against Bar

The family of Caitlin Clark, a 19-year-old woman killed while riding as a passenger on a friend’s motorcycle, has filed a lawsuit against the owners of a bar where the friend was drinking prior to the crash. Clark’s father has filed claims against the owners of the Columbia bar called the Tin Roof for serving the driver of the motorcycle to the point of “gross intoxication.”

According to the complaint filed in Lexington County court, on August 7, 2015, James Gainey Jr., 20, was permitted to enter the Tin Roof bar despite not being of legal age to drink. The lawsuit goes on to claim that Gainey was served so many drinks that he became grossly intoxicated, remaining at the bar until 1 a.m. on August 8. The suit alleges that the employees of the Tin Roof “knew or should have known that Gainey was intoxicated.” Gainey left the bar at 1 a.m. on his 2012 Honda motorcycle. He proceeded to pick up Clark, his friend, with whom he had earlier made plans to go riding on his motorcycle. While riding on Saint David’s Church Road in West Columbia, the lawsuit claims that Gainey lost control while riding his bike “at a high rate of speed,” veered off the road, and struck a fence, throwing Clark from the bike.  Clark was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident.

Gainey was arrested and charged with felony DUI. A Lexington County grand jury indicted him for reckless homicide and felony DUI causing death in December. Gainey pleaded not guilty to the charges and was released on bond. He now wears an electronic monitoring anklet and is permitted only to leave his father’s home for essential travel, including doctor’s visits and work. Clark’s father earlier filed a legal claim against Gainey himself for wrongful death, for which his insurers paid Clark $123,614 in a settlement of those claims.

Clark’s lawsuit is one of a number of similar claims that have been filed in recent months against bars and restaurants in the Midlands area for injuries resulting from serving an excess of alcohol to patrons who go on to injure others in drunken driving accidents. South Carolina allows bars to be sued for money damages where that bar served alcohol to an obviously-intoxicated patron and the patron went on to harm someone in an incident of drunk driving. For victims of drunk drivers and their families, this is often the only means by which the victim can obtain compensation for their injuries, where no insurance policy is available to cover the loss, or the payout of the policy is insufficient to cover all damages.

If you or someone you love has been injured by a drunk driver or otherwise hurt in a South Carolina car or motorcycle accident that was not your fault, seek help in getting the compensation you deserve for your injuries and contact Columbia personal injury law firm Peake & Fowler for a consultation on your case, at 803-788-4370.

Driver Alleged to be Distracted by Snapchat Involved in Serious Crash

Wentworth Maynard, a man who claims to have been the victim in a serious wreck that caused him to suffer permanent brain damage, is now suing both the driver and the makers of the app Snapchat, the photo-sharing app which he claims the at-fault driver was using when the crash occurred. Maynard asserts that the at-fault driver was using the app’s speed filter, which uses the phone’s accelerometer to measure the user’s speed when a photo is taken and prints it on the photo.

Maynard was driving for Uber on the night of September 10, 2015, when the crash occurred. Eighteen-year-old Christal McGee was out driving with her girlfriends, driving at speeds that Maynard’s experts estimate reached 107 mph, according to his lawsuit. As Maynard attempted to enter the highway on which McGee was driving, McGee slammed into the driver’s side of Maynard’s car. McGee claims that Maynard is responsible for the accident, having drifted into McGee’s lane without signaling.

Maynard suffered a serious traumatic brain injury in the crash and was forced to spend the following five weeks in the intensive care unit. Maynard continues to suffer the effects of permanent brain damage. He has lost 50 pounds since the accident, cannot get around without help from a wheelchair or walker, and has been unable to return to work. Maynard is seeking money damages from McGee and Snapchat’s developers to cover his expenses resulting from the accident.

Maynard claims that, since Snapchat knew of the dangers related to the speed filter, they had a duty to remove it from the app. According to the lawsuit, Snapchat’s “responsibility to act reasonably to take steps to eliminate risks associated with their products” necessitated that they disable the speed filter, but having negligently failed to do so, they can be held liable for the injuries resulting from use of the filter. Snapchat claims that its warning not to “snap and drive,” as well as an admonition in its terms of use not to use the app in a dangerous manner, is sufficient to meet any safety responsibilities it may have toward its users.

If you have been hurt in a serious accident with a distracted or otherwise reckless driver in South Carolina, seek the compensation you need and deserve for any resulting medical expenses or lost wages by contacting the knowledgeable and compassionate Columbia personal injury attorneys at Peake & Fowler for a free consultation, at 803-788-4370.

Hands-Free Devices Don’t Keep Drivers from Being Dangerously Distracted

There are so many things that can go wrong on the road that adding in the additional threat of a dangerous distraction isn’t worth it, just to answer a text or email a little faster. In order to cut down on the number of items that can pull attention away from the road, but still be able to use handy direction apps or listen to music, many drivers have started using voice recognition commands or in-vehicle entertainment systems, rather than a phone itself. One university looked at the distraction caused by such devices, and concluded that even hands-free devices can make a driver lose focus on the road.

University of Utah researchers, with support from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, sought to compare the three most popular versions of smartphone voice recognition software and ten of the most popular in-vehicle entertainment systems released in 2015 model cars. The study scored the systems on a 1 to 5 scale, with driving while totally focused on the road earning a score of 1, driving while listening to the radio a 1.2, and driving while attempting to memorize a set of words and solve a math problem earning a 5. The research uncovered that the most dangerously-distracting system was that of the Mazda 6, which earned a troubling 4.6 on the scale. The research team concluded that the user interfaces for these in-vehicle systems often made the difference between a high and low score, and suggested that the interfaces had not been subjected to as extensive testing as drivers might assume.

The study also calculated the average length of time required for a driver to regain their focus and return to giving full attention to the road after issuing a voice command to their in-vehicle system. Across all 13 systems, the average length of time required to be once more entirely mentally focused on the road was 27 seconds—long enough to drive over 350 yards when traveling at only 25 mph.

If you or a loved one have been injured by a distracted South Carolina driver, contact the experienced and knowledgeable Columbia personal injury attorneys at Peake & Fowler for a consultation on your case, at 803-788-4370.

Swedish Study Looks at What Types of Accidents Result in Serious or Longer-Lasting Whiplash Effects

Neck Pain after Auto AccidentRear-end accidents are one of the most common types of accident occurring in and around Columbia, South Carolina. When whiplash results from a rear-end crash, the symptoms may last as briefly as a week, or as long as several months. The severity of a whiplash injury and the length of time that the symptoms last can vary from person to person. One study sought to determine what factors in a crash cause these results for car occupants, and did so by using information from the event data recorders located in the victims’ cars.

Research on why and how individuals are injured in car accidents can be difficult to conduct accurately. While estimating the physical forces and speed of cars involved in a crash after the fact does not provide perfectly accurate results, a controlled experiment in the laboratory using test dummies also fails to provide a perfect representation of how a living vehicle occupant would fare in an identical crash. Event data recorders provide a more accurate representation of the physical forces at play in accidents involving living drivers. Event data recorders gather information from sensors located throughout a vehicle, including information on how fast a car is going, whether the accelerator or brakes are being applied, and information from the car’s engine. These devices typically record over the data collected every five seconds. However, when an accident occurs of sufficient severity to trigger or nearly trigger deployment of the car’s airbags, event data recorders will store information received from these sensors beginning five seconds before the impact, which can later be retrieved to study what occurred in an accident.

One group of Swedish researchers looked at information gathered from event data recorders located in over 200 vehicles that had been involved in rear-end accidents. Examining this information alongside medical reports and interviews conducted with those vehicles’ occupants, the researchers sought to discover what forces or speeds resulted in more serious whiplash injuries to the car’s occupants. The team learned that the greater the mean acceleration and change in velocity of the car being hit, the more likely it became that the occupants would experience whiplash symptoms lasting a month or longer. Essentially, the more severe a crash was, the longer the occupants would experience symptoms of whiplash, even if those symptoms were not extremely severe. The researchers also learned that, immediately after a crash, women were more prone to experiencing whiplash-related symptoms than were men.

If you or someone you love has been hurt in a crash in South Carolina, contact the knowledgeable Columbia car accident lawyers at Peake & Fowler for a consultation on your claims, at 803-788-4370.

Motorcyclist Killed in Crash with Pickup

A recent accident in Clarendon County has resulted in one fatality. A 68-year-old man was driving his motorcycle south on Lake Marion Shores Road in Summerton, South Carolina. A pickup truck traveling north on the road is believed by South Carolina Highway Patrol to have crossed the center line, and in doing so, struck the motorcyclist. The man was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident. He was not wearing a helmet at the time of the crash. Highway Patrol did not mention whether alcohol was involved in the crash, nor whether charges would be filed against the driver of the truck in conjunction with the accident.

In crashes between larger vehicles and motorcycles, the motorcyclist rarely emerges unscathed. Head-on crashes with motorcycles are common sources of motorcyclist fatalities, with some 74% of all motorcycle-involved crashes being head-on collisions. These crashes occur either when cars drift over the center line into the motorcycle’s path, or turn left in front of an oncoming motorcycle. Motorcyclists are much more prone to being injured and killed in crashes, in part because they lack the external protections afforded by a vehicle. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that motorcyclist fatalities occur 26 times more frequently than passenger vehicle occupant fatalities in motor vehicle accidents.

Motorcyclists and their passengers are much more vulnerable on the road than drivers of passenger vehicles, and almost any accident can prove potentially fatal to a motorcyclist. No matter how much caution you take while you’re riding your bike, your safety is often in the hands of truck or car drivers who may be drowsy, inattentive, drunk, or texting. If you’ve been hurt in a motorcycle accident, you need an attorney who will stand up for you in court and ensure you’re paid what you’re owed for your injuries. Contact Columbia, South Carolina’s experienced personal injury and motorcycle attorneys at Peake & Fowler for an evaluation of your potential lawsuit, at 803-788-4370.

Young Man Killed by Hit and Run Driver

An 18-year-old man was killed in a hit and run accident, and police now believe they know who did it. Authorities found the body of a man who died of multiple blunt force trauma injuries along the median of Highway 321 near the intersection of Woodtrail Drive in Gaston, South Carolina. The man killed was determined to be John Denley Moore, Jr. Based on parts of a vehicle found at the scene of the accident, including a driver’s side mirror, police determined both that the individual had died when he was hit by a vehicle, and that the vehicle they were searching for was a 2007-2014 Chevrolet or GMC 2500 or 3500 HD pickup. Upon further investigation in the town of Gaston and throughout Lexington County, authorities located a 2009 Chevrolet 3500 HD with damage of the sort that police expected to find on the vehicle that hit Moore. Police seized the truck as evidence of the hit and run. The owner was determined to be Michael L. Gantt. A warrant was issued for Gantt’s arrest for hit and run involving death, and willful destruction of biological evidence. Police have not yet been able to locate Gantt, and anyone with information on his whereabouts is encouraged to contact the Gaston Police Department.

Drivers who fail to stop at the scene of an accident put themselves at risk of incurring serious criminal consequences, as well as liability for large fines and a possible civil lawsuit. In the state of South Carolina, a hit and run where death to the victim resulted is a felony, and a conviction can result in between one and 25 years of imprisonment and require payment of a fine into the tens of thousands of dollars. Drivers who leave the scene of an accident without rendering aid can also be sued in civil court for the injuries they caused, or for wrongful death. In addition to any expenses that the victim incurred from the accident, the victim may be awarded punitive damages in a lawsuit, which are funds the responsible driver is ordered to pay as a form of punishment for willful, wanton, or reckless conduct.

This case is an example of how skilled investigators can help to determine the perpetrator of a hit and run crash, and can help victims to ensure that those drivers face the consequences of their actions. If you have been injured in a hit and run crash, contact experienced lawyers as soon as possible. Good personal injury attorneys will know how best to investigate a hit and run crash, and can help you file the necessary legal documents and insurance claims to help you get paid what you’re owed for your medical expenses, lost work, and pain and suffering. Contact the skilled Columbia car accident lawyers at Peake & Fowler, P.A. for a free consultation on your claims in and around Columbia, South Carolina, including Eastover, Elgin, Hopkins, Camden, and Richland County. Call 803-788-4370 to speak to an attorney about your possible lawsuit.

Single-Car Crash Leads to Fatality in Little Mountain

A crash occurring on Wheeland School Road in Newberry County recently resulted in the death of the driver. Highway Patrol are continuing to investigate the accident, but it appears that the driver, traveling west, for some reason ran off the road and hit a tree, at which time the vehicle burst into flames. The driver died at the scene of the accident. The name of the driver has not been released.

It can be difficult to investigate accidents involving a single vehicle where the driver has died. Loss of income earned by the deceased family member, in addition to costs of medical attention prior to the victim’s death, and costs associated with burial, can weigh heavily on the victim’s surviving family. While alcohol or simple driver inattention are sometimes to blame, there are a number of other reasons that such accidents may have occurred, many of which may in fact entitle victims of single-car crashes, or their heirs, to compensation.

One example of such a cause is a hazardous road condition. If the roadway near the crash site was marked by deep or dangerous potholes, was unevenly paved, or was under construction and left in an unsafe state by construction crews, the government entity responsible for the road’s condition may be liable for damages resulting from the crash.
Another potential cause of a single-car crash is mechanical failure. Perhaps a component of the car was poorly designed by the manufacturer, and its failure led to the crash. The victims of that crash could bring a case against the designer, manufacturer, or distributor of the car for resulting damages in a product liability action. Similarly, if a mechanic had recently worked on the car, but the repairs were not completed or were done improperly, and the mechanic’s failings led to the crash, then that mechanic may be responsible for the ensuing injuries.

Seeking compensation for single-car crashes can require the investigation and knowledge of skilled experts. If you or a loved one have been the victim of a single car crash, seek counsel from an experienced attorney versed in such investigations, so that you can ensure that you’re fully compensated for your loss. Reach out to the seasoned Columbia personal injury and car accident attorneys at Peake and Fowler for a no-cost consultation on your potential legal claim.

Top Five Reasons to Hire an Attorney if You Have Been Injured in a South Carolina Car Accident

You drive carefully and cautiously, paying attention to the road conditions and the traffic moving around you. Unfortunately, all the care in the world may not protect you from being struck and injured by a careless, reckless or negligent driver. It is only right that the negligent driver compensate you for your injuries, but actually obtaining the right amount of compensation requires skill and determination. Here are the top five reasons why hiring an experienced personal injury lawyer is key to your success in a South Carolina auto accident case.

1. Knowing the extent of your car accident injuries requires experience and investigation.

When you are injured in a car crash, certain aspects of your damages are plainly visible, such as the damage to your vehicle and the cuts and bruises on your body. The insurance company may be quick to offer you a check to cover these damages, and you may readily accept, glad that the process to obtain compensation went so quickly and easily. But as injury attorneys who have handled numerous car accident cases, we know that all of your injuries may not be readily apparent, and that you may have additional expenses down the road that you have not even thought about. An experienced car accident lawyer thinks of everything. We make sure you are covered not only for past medical expenses, but for future medical as well. We obtain compensation for lost wages not just for the time you missed from work, but if you are disabled from working in the future as well, whether entirely or at a diminished earning capacity. Your own unique situation may require other forms of compensation as well.

2. You have enough on your plate without taking on the burden of a personal injury litigation.

Your focus needs to be on your own personal care and recovery, getting back on your feet, getting back to work, or getting your household back in order. Getting the right amount of compensation from the insurance company takes time and effort, and you already have enough to deal with. Handling personal injury cases is all we do. It is our job to devote the time, energy and attention to your case that is necessary to get the maximum amount of compensation.

3. An attorney will make sure your case doesn’t slip through the cracks.

You may have heard of the statute of limitations and know that you have a limited timeframe within which to file a lawsuit, and that if you miss this deadline, you can be barred from recovery. While this deadline may seem to be some distant point in the future, it can actually come at you fast as you are busy dealing with your own recovery, handling bills and paperwork, and enduring insurance company negotiations that seem to drag on endlessly. An attorney will make sure that important deadlines are not missed, including the applicable statute of limitations. If you were injured on the job or on public property, there may be other timelines involved as well which are much shorter than the standard statute of limitations. Don’t lose your right to compensation because of a technical error or mistake.

4. Insurance companies take advantage of the unrepresented.

It is true that the vast majority of injury cases settle without going to court, so you may be wondering why you can’t just settle the case on your own. The simple truth is that insurance companies are vastly more experienced than you are at estimating the value of a claim and negotiating a favorable settlement. The initial settlement offer made to an unrepresented person is almost never realistic in terms of what the claim is actually worth. When they see that you are represented by an experienced personal injury attorney with a record of results in court, however, they are much more apt to deal with you fairly and settle for an appropriate amount.

5. You may need to go to court.

Although most cases do settle, not all do, and it may be necessary to go to court to win your case. Even if a trial is unlikely, it is important to prepare for that eventuality from day one. This is what successful personal injury attorneys do. From the very start, we prepare your case as if it is going to trial. This approach put us in the best bargaining position to extract the most favorable settlement from the insurance company. If an appropriate figure cannot be reached, then we are ready to go trial and in a position to win a judgment or jury verdict in your favor. Hiring an attorney at the last minute to represent you does not put you in the best position for success. Hiring experienced South Carolina injury lawyers from the very start does.