If you are a driver in South Carolina, chances are you either have already or will experience a car accident. According to the South Carolina Department of Safety, one traffic accident happens in the state every 4.7 minutes, with one person being injured every 10.7 minutes and someone dying every 8 hours. Though not all auto accidents are severe, many are, and if you should find yourself the victim in such a collision, you may not know what to do or where to turn. For more information on auto accidents in South Carolina, keep reading.
What to do after a South Carolina auto accident
If you’ve been involved in a South Carolina car crash, the very first thing you should do is decide whether you need to seek medical treatment. If you’ve been seriously injured or even if you think you might have sustained injuries, seek help immediately. Waiting can not only make your injuries worse, but it can make it harder to claim compensation down the road.
After you’ve assessed yourself for physical harm, it’s crucial to call the authorities and ensure that an accident report is prepared. In the meantime, and assuming it’s safe to do so, get out of your car and exchange insurance and contact information with the other driver. You’ll also want to write down the names and contact details for any witnesses that may have seen the crash. If you’re able to do so, also jot down as many details as you can while the accident is still fresh in your mind, things like where the cars were positioned, what was happening immediately prior to the wreck, what the weather was like and anything else you think might prove important down the road. It’s amazing how these little details can be forgotten once the rush of the crash is over.
Finally, if you have a camera (or like most people, a smartphone) take pictures. It’s really true when they say that a picture is worth 1,000 words. Take photos of the damage to your vehicle, of the other vehicle and the accident scene. These could all prove crucial later on if you need to demonstrate the extent of damages associated with the crash or recreate the accident scene.
In any South Carolina auto accident case, the issue of negligence is guaranteed to arise. That’s because a plaintiff needs to show that the defendant is in some way negligent before he or she can collect compensation. In turn, the defendant may argue that the plaintiff was negligent and that his or her fault helped to contribute to the accident. If this happens, does that mean that the plaintiff is out of luck?
Thankfully, no. In South Carolina, the rule of comparative negligence exists which means that even if a plaintiff is found to be somewhat responsible for causing the accident (also known as partially negligent), the plaintiff will still be allowed to recover damages from the defendant. The rule in South Carolina says that the fault of the plaintiff must not exceed that of the defendant or defendants, meaning that even if a defendant is 50 percent at fault, he or she can still recover damages from the defendant. If, however, the plaintiff is 51 percent at fault, he or she will be barred from recovering damages.
How does this work in practice? A good example is a car accident where the plaintiff suffers $100,000 in damages. An investigation reveals that the plaintiff’s brake lights were out and a jury decides this means the plaintiff is 20 percent responsible for the accident. In this case, the plaintiff could collect $80,000 in damages from the defendant, with the remaining $20,000 being seen as the plaintiff’s share of damages.
If you’ve been injured in an auto accident, it is critical that you fully understand what damages you are entitled to receive compensation for. First, you can request compensation for the costs associated with any medical expenses related to the accident, including hospital bills, doctor bills or rehabilitation costs. Next, you can ask for compensation for any lost wages. If you missed work due to an injury or had to take vacation days for doctor appointments, this can all be compensated in an auto accident claim. Finally, if you suffered damage to your personal property, likely your vehicle, these damages can also be recovered.
Those who have been seriously injured can also request non-economic damages, including things like pain and suffering and emotional distress. These can be difficult to prove and are notoriously hard to estimate in advance, with so much of these damages being open to subjective interpretation.
What if the insurance company offers a quick settlement?
If you were injured in a South Carolina auto accident, it can be very tempting to accept an offer, no matter how little, from an insurance company. Those who were injured in a car accident may desperately need money, with mounting medical bills and time off work, making ends meet can be difficult. Insurance companies understand this and have been known to use this desperation to their advantage. If you receive a lowball offer from the insurance company or feel pressured into quickly agreeing to settlement terms, that should serve as a serious red flag and cause you to step back from the situation and take stock, hopefully with the help of an experienced South Carolina auto accident attorney.
The problem with quickly agreeing to a settlement offer from an insurance company is that any company’s first offer is likely its lowest. Adjusters are tasked with saving the insurance company they work for money and have a financial incentive to close deals for as little money as possible. Simply jumping at an insurance company’s first offer is a good way to get a bad deal.
Another problem with accepting an insurance company’s offer too quickly is that, if you were seriously injured, you may not yet fully appreciate the extent of your injuries. If you settle too soon, any future medical expenses, such as surgeries or rehabilitation will be paid out of your own pocket. After all, once a settlement deal is done, there’s no going back and asking for more money, no matter how serious your injuries are. It’s far better to move slowly rather than rush into accepting any deal, especially an insurance company’s first offer.
How long do I have to file suit?
As with all other categories of legal claims, South Carolina law contains rules that mandate the time within which lawsuits must be brought by injured plaintiffs. In the context of a South Carolina auto accident case, plaintiffs have three years from the date of the accident to bring a personal injury suit as well as three years to bring any property damage lawsuits.
Why Should I Hire An Attorney?
In some cases, you may not need to hire an attorney. This may be true in cases where neither party to the wreck was hurt or where physical damage to property is minimal. In these cases, it may be much simpler to go through the standard process of working with your insurance company to pay any claims.
Where it becomes essential to rely on an attorney is when there has been a serious injury. These cases are very complicated, both legally and from a medical standpoint, and can benefit tremendously from the helping hand of an experienced professional. This is especially true if the accident resulted in a death, something that dramatically raises the stakes of the crash, potentially resulting in criminal implications.
It can also be important to turn to an attorney in cases where fault is in dispute. If you believe the other driver was responsible for the crash, but the police report is unclear or the evidence is mixed, it’s important to have an attorney on your side who can gather evidence to demonstrate that you were not responsible, something the other side is likely to try and claim. It’s also important to reach out to an attorney if you feel the insurance companies involved are acting strange or putting pressure on you to agree to a deal you don’t believe is fair. Feeling rushed is a good sign that you need to slow down and reevaluate, as the insurance companies and adjusters may be trying to push you into accepting something that is bad for you in the long run.
For further information on the topic, call us 855-213-4405 for a consultation.