If you've been in a Charleston car accident, the moments following can be a whirlwind. You may be unsure of what to do other than calling 911. While there are laws governing what you must do after an accident, there are also things you should not do to avoid negative impacts on your potential accident claim in South Carolina.
We cannot stress enough the importance of getting an experienced South Carolina car accident lawyer on board as soon as possible after the crash. Your car accident lawyer will take over with the insurance companies so that you can focus on your recovery.
What You Should Never Do After a Car Accident
Leave the Scene of the Car Accident
If you are in a one-car accident or a multi-car accident, you should do everything possible to stay at the scene of the accident. Drivers who leave the scene of the accident may be considered hit-and-run drivers even if they are not at fault. The penalties for a hit and run in South Carolina range from a misdemeanor to a felony with jail time.
Make Claims About Who Is at Fault
After a car accident, emotions may be high. Try to keep to yourself until an officer arrives at the scene. Do not tell anyone the accident was your fault, even if you think it was. The officer will investigate the car accident and gather information from all parties involved, as well as any witnesses. An investigation should reveal a more complete image of what happened.
Fail to Collect Important Evidence
Photos, videos, and witness information play a large part in determining who is at fault in a car accident. When there are multiple cars involved or questionable liability, having videos and witnesses is especially key. Determining liability can be complex and time-consuming if there is doubt, so collecting important evidence is crucial to help your Charleston car accident lawyer prove who is at fault.
Refuse to Get Medical Attention
Many car accident victims may be in shock after an accident and not feel injuries immediately. Most people also want to resume their normal lives as soon as possible. If you feel pain after your accident, it is important to seek medical attention as quickly as you can. Delaying treatment or not seeking medical care can weaken your car accident claim if there are no medical records to back up your injuries.
Deal With an Insurance Company
One of the biggest mistakes you can make after being in a car accident in South Carolina is thinking you can manage the insurance company for the at-fault driver. They are out to devalue car accident claims, not help victims. Let your car accident lawyer deal with the insurance adjuster.
Biggest Mistakes You Can Make With South Carolina Car Insurance Adjusters
Other than answering identifying questions from the insurance company for the at-fault driver, your interactions with them should be minimal. Mistakes car accident victims make include the following.
Signing Medical Authorizations
The insurance adjuster may ask you to sign papers regarding the car accident in order for them to pay the claim. However, these medical authorizations allow the insurance company to look at your lifetime medical history and use what they find in the past to deny your present injuries.
Giving a Recorded Statement to the Adjuster
An adjuster may ask you for a recorded statement after the car accident, but you should understand that the adjuster knows the law and legal consequences of your making certain statements. Innocent statements can be used against you because of your lack of knowledge.
Signing a Release of any Kind
If you sign a release, you could be prevented from obtaining underinsured motorist coverage and perhaps some additional liability coverages, even when you would have otherwise been entitled to them. Allow your Charleston car accident lawyer to review any document before you sign.
Accepting a Settlement Offer
The adjuster will say that the amount offered is all the liability insurance available on the at-fault vehicle. This may be true, but not entirely. The other driver may have umbrella coverage or coverage under their own policy if they were not driving their own vehicle or if the driver was working at the time of the accident. Your car accident lawyer can help determine if a settlement offer is fair or not.
Believing Insurance Adjusters
You should assume that the insurance adjuster for the other driver is not looking out for your best interests. They may assure you that no attorney is necessary. However, in some cases an attorney can add value to your case. Insurance companies use several methods to convince you to take less than the value of your case:
- Offering you quick money before you know the extent of your injuries
- Delaying your claim to wear you down
- Requesting unnecessary information
- Objecting to medical treatment prescribed by a doctor
- Dragging your case out beyond the time period
- Misrepresenting or failing to explain the insurance coverages available
If you were in a car accident and are seriously injured due to another's recklessness or negligence, call our experienced car accident lawyers.
What You SHOULD Do After a Charleston Car Accident
Being in a car accident is a stressful time, and in the moment, it may be hard to know what to do besides calling 911. There are laws that tell drivers what they can and cannot do after an accident, but there are also things you can do to protect your potential accident claim.
Stay at the Scene of the Car Accident
If you are in a car accident, you need to do everything possible to stay at the scene of the accident. When drivers leave the scene of an accident, it may be deemed a hit-and-run, even if that driver was not at fault. Being charged with a hit-and-run can earn the driver a misdemeanor up to a felony with jail time, depending on the severity of the accident and the actions of the driver.
Call the Police
Yes, you should call the police in every car accident case. Do not simply exchange insurance information and leave. Call the police and other emergency personnel if necessary and wait for them to arrive at the scene.
A police report is imperative for filing a claim for property damage to your vehicle, as well as if you or your passengers are injured in the wreck. Having documentation of a car accident could be crucial if the at-fault party tries to deny liability.
Keep to Yourself and Let the Officer Investigate the Accident
After a car accident, you may be nervous and wish to talk to the other driver or others at the scene. Try to keep to yourself and never admit fault, even if you think you are to blame. An officer will investigate the car accident and gather information from everyone involved to determine what exactly happened.
Collect as Much Evidence as Possible
Although it may be difficult to remember at the moment, it is important to collect as much evidence as you can because photos, videos, and witness information often play an important role in determining who is at fault in car accidents.
If you've been injured in a Charleston car accident due to someone else's negligence, you may file a claim against the at-fault driver's insurance company to seek compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, property damage, and pain and suffering. Just filing your claim, however, is not enough to get the award you need and deserve.
You'll have to prove the other driver is liable for your damages by showing convincing evidence of that driver's fault. Photos from the scene of the accident will help you accomplish this goal.
Types of Photos to Take
Photographs provide the best visual evidence for the police, the insurance company, your car accident attorney, and the courts of how your car accident happened and who caused it. You'll have the chance to get vital photos only in the immediate aftermath of the accident. Once the police, tow trucks, and emergency vehicles arrive, the cars will be moved, and evidence of the post-accident scene will be lost, so you should try to make use of this opportunity to get as many photos as you can.
You don't need professional photographic skills to take helpful pictures. You can simply use your cellphone camera or any other camera available and try to get clear, well-focused shots of:
- The general scene of the accident
- Skid marks on the road
- Scratched, damaged, or knocked down trees, telephone poles, or guard rails
- The road surface to show its condition
- The sky to show whether it was dark, light, clear, cloudy, or foggy
- Your injuries and those of your passengers (even if they appear to be minor)
- Traffic signs and lights near the scene
- Any broken glass, car parts, or debris on the road
- Road construction or detour signs, barriers, or traffic cones
- License plates of all cars involved and insurance cards of all drivers
- Any objects, buildings, trees, or bushes that might obscure the vision of drivers in that area
- Exterior and interior damage to your car and to other vehicles involved in the crash
Try to show the license plates and other visual identification of the vehicles and their positions in relation to one another. You should take as many photos as possible.
Remember to Vary Angles and Distances
It's best to get multiple shots of everything from different angles and positions:
- Wide-angle shots from up to 20 feet away provide a panoramic view of the general scene and surrounding landmarks
- Medium-range photos from 10 to 15 feet away show the scene and the vehicles in more detail
- Close-ups from one to five feet away provide small details of the damage and other evidence
Turn all photos over to your attorney, who can select the most useful and discard those that are redundant or unnecessary. Don't make those decisions by yourself. Your lawyer might see helpful evidence in a photo that you think is unimportant.
Get Checked Out by Medical Professionals
Many people are in shock after car accidents and might not feel injuries immediately. Most people hope to get back to normal, but if you feel pain after your accident, it is important to seek medical care as soon as possible. When people delay getting treatment or simply do not get treatment, their car accident claims can be weakened if there are no medical records to show their injuries.
If you are injured in a Charleston car accident and seek medical care, you should tell your doctor the whole truth. Let your doctor know how you were hurt, and be completely honest with him regarding your injuries. That means:
- Tell him about every pain and problem, even if you think it is minor. If you don't report it when it first bothers you, it is hard to get the treatment paid for in the future.
- Tell him about your medical history, and make sure you let him know of any preexisting problems you had prior to the wreck. If you don't, the insurance company will argue you tried to mislead your doctor.
- Do exactly what your doctor tells you to do and make every appointment. If you don't, the insurance company will argue you must not have been hurt because you didn't go to your doctor.
- Do not sign paperwork from an insurance adjuster without speaking to a car accident attorney.
Despite an insurance adjustor sounding nice on the phone or making claims to take care of you, the adjustor works for the insurance company, and their job is to save the company money where they can. They may ask you to sign a medical release form that would give them full access to your medical history and then use those records to try and devalue your claim.
Other forms the insurance company may ask you to sign could end your claim and prevent you from receiving the benefits you need and are entitled to after your accident.
Medical Mistakes Made by Injured Car Accident Victims
Even after the motor vehicle accident scene has been cleared and you are under a doctor's care for your injuries, you still have to be vigilant about protecting your auto accident claim. This includes avoiding the following medical mistakes that can significantly reduce the value of your claim:
- Not being totally honest with doctors regarding past medical history. Tell them everything!
- Playing tough and not telling doctors each and every location of pain.
- Talking with your doctor about legal stuff instead of focusing only on the medical part.
- Not keeping all medical appointments.
- Only talking about the worse symptoms and keeping quiet regarding other symptoms.
- Not telling doctors about inability or limitation in working and not getting a work release if needed.
- Not doing exactly what the doctor says to do.
- Stopping medical treatment without a doctor's consent.
- Not treating emotional injuries if they arise after the accident; pain and disability can cause depression and anxiety. If you experience symptoms, tell your doctor.
The Evidence Victims Need to Support a South Carolina Injury Claim
In general, auto accident victims should try to obtain any type of evidence that can help paint a clear picture of what happened when the accident occurred. The more evidence, the stronger the victim's legal claim will be. Charleston car accident lawyers agree that some helpful evidence includes the following.
If possible, take photos of everything related to the accident scene. This can include the vehicles, the street or intersection, surrounding areas, and any signage or lighting near the road. If the other driver appears impaired, it may be useful to take a photo or video of his behavior, but only do so with extreme caution. Do not put yourself or anyone else in further jeopardy by agitating an impaired person.
Ask anyone who may have witnessed the accident for his name and contact information. Witnesses can be contacted later to support your claim or provide further details.
Police reports are public records, and accident victims can obtain a copy. While it may not be admissible as evidence, the police report can be understood as an unbiased description of the circumstances of the accident, including the police officer's perspective about who was at fault for the crash.
Property Damage Records
Keep all receipts and appraisals related to any damage that was done to your property in the auto accident. This can include both your vehicle and any other items inside the car at the time of the crash.
Medical Records and Bills
It's important to maintain a file of medical expenses that contains all your paperwork from medical appointments related to the accident, including those from hospital stays, office visits, rehabilitation appointments, and medications.
While a personal journal isn't considered legal evidence, it can serve an important purpose. Write down what you remember about the accident, and track the progress of your recovery. Over time, memories can fade, and details can be lost. A journal can help victims provide specific and timely information when asked.
South Carolina Car Accident Cases Require an Experienced Legal Team
If you were involved in a serious car accident in Charleston, you will need help filing a personal injury claim. At Derrick Law, we welcome your car accident case and will do our best to help you get a fair settlement. Our Charleston, SC, car accident attorneys know what it takes to prove negligence in your car accident case, and our legal team will get to work for you. If you are looking for an experienced auto accident lawyer, look no further than Derrick Law. Car accidents can turn lives upside down. Call us to schedule a free consultation.*