Not every car accident victim requires an attorney to get fair compensation for damages. You might be able to file your own claim against an at-fault driver’s insurance company and collect a fair settlement if:
- You’re involved in a fender bender with minor damage to your vehicle.
- You see a doctor and have no serious injuries.
- The negligent driver is clearly 100% at fault for the crash.
- The insurance company accepts your claim without dispute.
If, however, your accident claim is an expensive one with significant vehicle damage and severe injuries, the insurance company is likely to dispute, devalue, or even deny it in order to save money. If this happens, you should speak with an attorney.
Obviously, the most expensive accident claims for an insurance company are those that leave the victim with permanent injuries.
Types of Permanent Injuries Caused by Car Accidents
Two million people yearly sustain permanent car accident injuries across the U.S. Some examples of such injuries are:
- Scarring or disfigurement
- Eye injuries (including blindness)
- Permanent neck injury
- Spinal cord injuries/paralysis
- Damage to internal organs
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBI)
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Such injuries could impact your ability to work, carry out daily activities, care for yourself, and enjoy life.
The At-Fault Driver’s Car Accident Liability
Any permanent injury can lead to high medical bills for a long period of time. The driver who causes your wreck is responsible for all past, present, and future medical expenses resulting from the accident:
- ER visits
- Doctor appointments
- Transportation to/from medical facilities
- In-home nursing care
- Physical therapy and rehabilitation
- Assistive equipment
- Home or vehicle modification
- Chiropractic care
The negligent driver is also responsible for your lost wages, property damage, and pain and suffering. You won’t even know the exact amount of those damages or your medical bills until you’ve reached maximum medical improvement (MMI). This is the point at which you’ve recovered to the extent your doctors think you will.
When you’ve reached MMI, which might require weeks or months, your doctors can give you an impairment rating indicating what percentage of use you’ve lost in any body part. This rating shows the insurance company how much your permanent injury will affect your:
- Ability to work
- Opportunities for recreation/family activities
- Quality of life
All these things should be factored into the settlement you receive, so it might be some time before you and your attorney can make a reasonable demand for the total cost of your medical bills.
Tricks Used by Insurance Adjusters Following A South Carolina Car Accident
Despite the time it will take to predict your overall medical expenses, the insurance company’s adjusters could contact you soon after your accident, possibly when you’re in pain and/or on medication. Although they might call with a pretense of goodwill and concern about your health, the real purposes of the call are to:
- Trick you into giving a recorded statement that could later be used to dispute your claim
- Gain access to all your medical records to search for any pre-existing condition that might be blamed for your current injuries
- Offer you a quick, low settlement that won’t even cover your economic damages
You shouldn’t agree to a fast settlement under any circumstances. If you do, you won’t be able to claim any more compensation in the future, no matter how high your medical bills are or what complications arise. You have nothing to gain by rushing.
Other Sources of Compensation Following A South Carolina Car Accident
Of course, you might feel financial pressure when your medical bills start to come in, but you should resist settling for less than you deserve and accept the fact that your claim against the at-fault driver is going to take some time. Meanwhile, you have other sources of compensation to help you pay for damages:
The personal injury protection (PIP) or optional Med-Pay coverage on your own auto insurance policy will pay medical expenses up to your coverage limits. PIP can also be applied to lost wages but will charge you a deductible amount/co-payment, which Med-Pay will not. You don’t have to reimburse PIP or Med-Pay when you receive your settlement from the at-fault driver.
Med-Pay won’t cover your medical expenses if your accident is work-related. In such a case, you should file a claim with the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission (SCWCC). If the work-related crash was caused by a non-employee of your company, your attorney can help you to file a third-party suit against that at-fault driver.
Even if your claim against the at-fault driver is successful, the limits of the driver’s liability coverage might be less than your medical bills, especially if you have a permanent injury. If this happens, the uninsured motorist (UM) or underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage on your policy could pay your bills up to your coverage limits.
You can also submit medical bills to your health insurance carrier. You’re likely to pay a co-payment/deductible amount, and the carrier may have a subrogation lien on your settlement from the at-fault driver when you receive it. That means that you’ll repay at least some portion of the money the company has spent on your bills. Your attorney can help to negotiate this repayment amount.
If the at-fault driver’s insurance company does not offer you a reasonable settlement, your attorney will file a civil lawsuit and fight in court for the compensation you deserve. Depending on the details of your accident, your lawyer might also file one or more third-party suits against other defendants to bring your compensation up to a fair level:
- A business/social host that overserved the negligent driver in a DUI crash
- A parts manufacturer if faulty equipment was to blame for your wreck
- More than one defendant if you happened to be hit by a commercial vehicle
- A government department if poor road conditions or traffic sign/signal issues caused your wreck
Dealing with multiple defendants/insurance companies and finding every possible source of compensation is a job the average person cannot do well at the best of times. If you’re undergoing medical treatment and adjusting to a permanent injury, your attorney can handle the paperwork, bureaucracy, negotiations, and other hurdles to win you a fair award.
Have You Been Injured In A Charleston South Carolina Area Car Accident?
If you've been injured in a car accident you should speak with a car accident lawyer as soon as possible. Contact us online or call our Charleston, South Carolina office directly at 843.488.2359 to schedule your consultation. We are also able to meet clients at our Conway, Myrtle Beach, Murrells Inlet, Mt. Pleasant, North Myrtle Beach or North Charleston office locations.