Growing up along the Strand, personal injury attorney Dirk Derrick remembers that Myrtle Beach and Charleston used to be busy only three months out of the year, and the rest of the year, it was a ghost town. Today, Myrtle Beach and Charleston are busy year-round, with many vacationers and snowbirds coming down at any point to visit the beaches and enjoy places like Broadway at the Beach and Fort Sumter National Monument.
While tourism and population have increased, the road systems have not grown to accommodate the large influx of drivers on the road. Combine that with drivers who are distracted, impatient, or driving under the influence, and there is a recipe for serious car accidents.
In Charleston, car accidents happen every day. If this happens to you and you are seriously injured, it could disrupt your life with doctor visits, rising medical bills, and possibly missed time from work. You need to talk to a Charleston car accident lawyer in a free consultation.*
Should I Hire an Attorney If I've Been in a Car Accident?
You may or may not need a South Carolina car accident lawyer after your crash. If you are not hurt, or if the accident was your fault, an attorney will not be able to pursue a personal injury car accident claim for you.
If the car wreck was caused by someone who was engaging in distracted driving or reckless driving, and you were sore afterward but fully healed within a week with no substantial loss of time from work, a car accident attorney might not be necessary.
If the wreck was caused by someone else, and you are admitted to the hospital, missed substantial time from work, suffered broken bones, or have the type of injury that is never going to heal completely, a Charleston car accident attorney can help you make sure you obtain all available benefits, including potential future benefits, which need to be addressed within a certain time period or be forever waived.
Your car accident case might be major from day one. You may think your crash was minor, but when healing doesn't take place like expected, unexpected injuries are discovered and will need treatment that was not anticipated.
Fender benders and parking lot accidents typically do not cause more than property damage to a vehicle. Cases like these, with no or very few injuries, can possibly be handled by the parties involved without the need for an attorney. For accidents where the victim has significant injuries, went to the ER, needs continued medical care, or the at-fault driver's insurance company denies liability, victims probably need an accident lawyer. More detailed cases can become very complicated, and having a car accident lawyer who knows the laws of the state can be crucial to getting you a fair settlement.
Auto Accident Scenarios: When You Do and Do Not Need a South Carolina Car Accident Lawyer
Let's take a look at a couple of car crash scenarios to get a better idea of when you should call an attorney to see if one can help.
Scenario 1: A serious car accident with substantial injuries, broken bones, or fatality.
Yes. Car accident attorneys can investigate the accident, collect records and bills, obtain statements from both witnesses and doctors, retain necessary professionals, and make sure all applicable liability coverages, umbrella coverages, uninsured driver coverages, under-insured motorist coverages, and med-pay coverages are discovered. Insurance adjusters have neither the legal obligation nor the financial incentive to look out for your best interest. Your lawyer will work hard to prove negligence.
Scenario 2: A fender bender and the victim is not injured.
In some cases, a car accident attorney may not be necessary, such as when the victim is not injured and does not seek medical attention. However, a lawyer may be needed if an injured party has large medical bills, fails to get well and discovers they have a herniated disk, fracture, or any other injury that would require additional treatment.
In every car accident claim, there are insurance adjusters who have supervisors and attorneys advising them on the law and how to maximize the profit for the company.
If I'm Injured in a Car Accident While Vacationing in Charleston, Should I Hire a Local Attorney?
If you've vacationed in South Carolina, you know that there are many excellent places where you can take the kids, spend time, and relax, particularly on the coast. However, a wonderful vacation with your family can be ruined quickly if you or a loved one is injured in a car accident by a negligent driver in South Carolina.
If you've already left South Carolina and gone home to a different state after your motor vehicle accident, you might think of hiring an attorney in your area to handle your personal injury claim. While that may seem more convenient at first, here's why we recommend a skilled local attorney to handle your South Carolina car accident:
- To avoid unnecessary delays and procedural issues if the attorney in your area isn't licensed to practice in South Carolina
- To have an experienced team already licensed to practice law in South Carolina working with you—one who knows the details of state-specific personal injury laws
- To have a legal team with a recognized reputation for handling personal injury cases
Additionally, a proficient South Carolina-based legal team can be a valuable asset in proving negligence and recovering compensation for:
- Medical expenses
- Property damage related to the accident
- Lost wages
- Pain and suffering
To bring a successful case against the at-fault driver, you need to prove that they failed to execute their duty to drive safely and, as a result, were partially or fully responsible for causing the collision. Here's how a local auto accident lawyer can help you investigate your accident:
- Gather police reports and take statements from eyewitnesses
- Work directly with local insurance adjusters
- Bring knowledge of applicable South Carolina laws
What Should I Do After I Am in a Car Accident in Charleston, SC?
Many people never think about what they would do in the event they are in a car accident, especially if they are seriously injured. The most basic things people should do after an accident include the following:
- Contact 911 to report your accident. If you or others are injured, let them know you need medical attention.
- If you are injured, let the first responders examine you and take you to the local emergency room for further evaluation.
- In the event there are witnesses to the accident, ask them to speak with the officer on scene or ask for their contact information.
Why We Recommend Hiring a Car Accident Lawyer as Soon as Possible
South Carolina law allows you to file a claim against the at-fault driver for the following damages:
- Medical expenses
- Property damage
- Lost wages
- Pain and suffering
Even if your claim is valid, however, there is no guarantee that it will succeed. The insurance company's adjusters are trained to dispute claims in order to save money for the company. They may offer you a quick settlement that will not compensate you adequately for your medical and car repair bills.
Getting a fair award depends upon gathering strong evidence and presenting it convincingly to the negligent driver's insurance company (or in court if you end up going to trial). Because car accident evidence can deteriorate or be lost over time, you need an attorney who can:
- Quickly get footage from any nearby security or red-light cameras that might have recorded your wreck
- Contact witnesses and get their statements before memories get fuzzy with time
- Check immediately for evidence from the towing company that removed the car(s) from the scene
If you happen to have been hit by any kind of commercial vehicle (such as a taxi, delivery van, or truck), there might be an electronic data recorder or "black box" with evidence that is crucial to your case. Your lawyer may seek a court order to obtain the black box data from the company that owns the at-fault vehicle. Because black box data is generally erased every 30 days, your attorney can send a spoliation letter requesting that the company preserve that data and other evidence related to your crash. This needs to be done quickly.
Frequently Asked Questions From Charleston Car Accident Victims
How do I get my medical bills paid after my car accident?
If you are the victim in an accident and are seriously injured, you will need medical treatment and care. If the accident is another driver's fault, they are liable to pay for your medical treatment and the damage to your vehicle through their insurance policy.
The challenge with being injured in an accident is that you typically cannot be reimbursed for your expenses throughout your treatment by the at-fault driver's insurance. Once you are done seeing doctors and being treated, you must submit all of your medical bills at the end of your case to be reimbursed for the damages. This happens because insurance companies are not legally obligated to pay you as you incur medical expenses.
Insurance companies use this information to their advantage because many people cannot afford to pay all the medical bills that come with being hurt in an accident. As bills get higher, victims are more likely to settle for a lower amount to pay off the expenses they have incurred instead of waiting to get the full value of their case. When times get tough, and a person who was hurt in a car accident feels like the insurance company is not looking out for them.
But won't the insurance adjuster look out for my best interests after my accident?
An insurance adjuster may give you some helpful responses in regard to your claim, but ultimately, an insurance adjuster works for the insurance company, and they are working for the company's best interests, not yours.
There are questions you may ask the adjuster about your claim that will tell you if you really are "in good hands."
You could ask if they will put in writing that you were not at fault in the accident and give you notification of all the insurance coverage available before offering you a settlement. You could also ask that if they require you to sign a medical authorization form, they will only seek information related to this accident and not all of your medical history in an attempt to weaken your claim.
Most, if not all, insurance adjusters will refuse to put that information in writing, nor will they willingly give you any additional information about your claim.
Other Reasons to Hire a Horry County Car Accident Lawyer
To Avoid Making Common Mistakes
Many accident victims make the mistake of talking to insurance adjusters or giving recorded statements, either of which can hurt their claims. If you hire an attorney as soon as possible, you can refer the insurance company's representatives to your lawyer until the claim is settled.
To Strengthen Your Case
Your lawyer will know how to retain medical witnesses to testify about your injuries, recovery time, prognosis, and possible disabilities. An accident reconstruction professional is someone else your attorney may call in to reconstruct your accident and show that the other driver was at fault.
To Stay Within Deadlines
If the insurance company denies your claim or offers an unacceptably low settlement, your lawyer will file a lawsuit before the statute of limitations runs out.
To evaluate your claim and stand up to the insurance company.
Your attorney can put a dollar amount on your pain and suffering, evaluate your injuries to determine what a reasonable settlement would be, and negotiate with the insurance company to get you a fair award.
To Make Use of Your Medical Records
Very soon after you're injured, you could have an avalanche of bills and receipts for hospitalization, ER treatment, physical therapy, prescriptions, and assistive equipment.
Rather than try to keep track of all this evidence for yourself when you're injured and recovering, you can turn it over to your auto accident lawyer, who will organize and present it to your advantage in negotiations with the insurance company.
How Comparative Fault Affects Your Settlement
In South Carolina, if you're found more than 50% responsible for your own accident, you may not recover any damages at all. When the insurance company starts trying to claim you were more than half responsible, you'll need an attorney on your side to prove that you were not.