In South Carolina, car accidents are commonplace, with the South Carolina Department of Public Safety recording 189 thousand collisions in the state in 2021 alone. With tens of thousands of people sustaining car accident injuries every year, you need to know what to do if it happens to you.
When you have just been in a car accident that wasn’t your fault, you will likely be in shock and may have sustained injuries. If you are fortunate enough to be able to walk away from the vehicle, make sure you take the following steps.
Stay at the Scene and Call 911
Even if you are not at fault and don’t think you have sustained any injuries, you must stay at the scene of the accident. If you leave, you could face criminal charges, jail time, fines, and even felony prosecution if a serious injury or fatality occurred.
If you are able to, call 911 to report the accident to the police and ask for medical assistance. Don’t assume that the other driver or a witness will do this — they may be injured or assisting someone else. The operator will ask you basic information about what happened and where you are. Once the police responders arrive, they will secure the scene and create a police report which could be vital evidence in any future personal injury or insurance claim you make.
Whether you intend to file a personal injury claim or recover costs from your vehicle insurer, you must collect evidence to support your claim. Even if you don’t intend to do either, you should document what happened in case the other driver attempts to sue you for damages.
If you are physically able to, gather evidence at the scene immediately after the accident.
Take Photos or Videos
Your cellphone can come in particularly handy for documenting the scene at a time when you are likely to be traumatized, and you might forget details later on. Take photos or videos of:
- The scene of the accident
- Your vehicle damage
- Other vehicles involved
- Road hazards
- Skid marks
- Road signs.
Document Your Injuries
Take photos and videos, write down notes, or even voice record yourself and how you feel at that time.
Speak to Witnesses
If there are people around who saw the accident happen, ask them for their contact details so that your lawyer can collect a formal statement from them.
Get Checked Over by a Doctor
Even if you don’t feel unwell or only have minor cuts and bruises, once the initial shock of the accident has worn off, you might notice injuries in the hours or days after the crash. This is why it’s vital to seek medical attention either at the scene or straight after. If you don’t, and you need treatment and time off work down the line, you may not be able to prove the injuries occurred during the accident, which could significantly reduce any compensation you are entitled to.
Seeing a doctor immediately also helps you prove that the injuries you sustained were a result of the accident, should the other party dispute your claim. Motor vehicle accidents can cause significant psychological trauma that may not be apparent immediately, so having a record of what happened to you is crucial.
Contact Your Insurer AND the Other Party’s Insurer
South Carolina is a fault state, meaning any person injured in an accident can claim compensation from the at-fault party. In most car accident claims, this is the driver of the other vehicle, but in some cases, the liable party could be the car manufacturer or an organization. For instance, if there was a vehicle malfunction, a hazard left in the road, or perhaps damaged or missing road signs.
Your insurance policy will likely state that you should get the other driver’s insurance details and report the accident to both your and their insurer as soon after the event as possible. The quicker you do this, the better your position to make a claim — before the other party tries to declare that you were at fault.
Speak to a Car Accident Lawyer
Hiring a lawyer may be the last thing on your mind straight after an accident, but doing so early on has many benefits that will save you a lot of unnecessary stress.
Car accident lawyers are highly specialized in dealing with this type of personal injury claim, and you can usually find one that covers the area where you live or where the accident took place. For example, if you were in Greenville, a car accident lawyer in Greenville, SC, would be the perfect attorney for your case.
Some of the major benefits of hiring a personal injury lawyer include:
- They specialize in specific types of accidents and have first-hand knowledge of your location.
- They will negotiate the best possible compensation settlement for you that will cover any lost earnings, medical bills, and the pain and suffering the accident caused.
- Many lawyers work on a contingency basis, meaning you will only have to pay legal fees if they win your case.
- They will deal with the other party’s insurance claim handler, relieving much of the stress of making a claim.
If you are in a car accident in South Carolina, take these five steps right away to ensure that you can claim the compensation you deserve.