As an attorney, I’m often asked: “what are my rights if I am involved in a car accident?” or “what should I do after a wreck?” Sometimes the answers aren’t as simple as they may seem. So I have decided to start this blog in an attempt to give some very basic information as a resource to those who need it. However, I cannot stress enough, this is not the same as receiving legal advice from a car accident attorney licensed to practice law in your jurisdiction. Each case is different, and you will likely need the assistance of an attorney to help you navigate through this often very difficult time.
Immediately after a car accident:
First and foremost, make sure that you are alright. If you’re injured, or think you may be, accept the ride to the hospital via ambulance. Your health is your most valuable asset, and you should receive treatment if you need it.
Next, make sure you give the proper information to the other driver and the police who arrive on the scene. You have a right to a copy of the police report, so make sure that you leave the accident with one, as it will make things easier for you down the road if you don’t have to locate the officer, precinct, etc.
If you have family or friends nearby, call them and see if they can meet you at the scene before you leave. Ask them to bring a pad and a camera (or smartphone with a camera in it). There may have been witnesses, and it will be much easier for you, and your attorney to track these people down if the information is gathered right away. Take photos of the vehicles involved and any skid marks that may have been left behind. This is valuable information that may help prove liability.
What if you were partially at fault?
We will discuss comparative negligence in more detail in later blog posts, but for the purposes of this question, it’s sufficient to say that South Carolina has adopted comparative negligence laws for personal injury law suits. Your percentage of negligence can be determined with your lawyer and the level of fault will have an impact on your recovery. As long as you were less than 51% responsible for the accident’s occurrence, you will be able to collect damages, so don’t fret too much.
What if it were a hit and run or the other driver did not have insurance?
In South Carolina, your own auto insurance policy may have uninsured (UM) or underinsured (UIM) coverage. You can check the declarations page of your auto policy to determine if your policy includes this type of coverage. What this means is that you will be able to recover up to the limits of those policies if there is no at-fault insurance carrier to look to. Your car accident lawyer can help you with this.
What if you don’t have medical insurance, but need treatment?
As stated earlier, your health is your greatest asset and must be taken care of. Also, by refusing to accept treatment, you’re basically telling the at-fault insurance company that your injuries aren’t serious enough to collect any damages. If you do not have medical insurance, there may be other methods to pay for your treatment such as Medicare or Medicaid. Your car accident attorney may also be able to help you find a doctor who will treat your injuries with a letter of protection (more on this in a later post).
Even if you feel fine immediately after the accident, you may begin to feel the effects at a later date. It is important that if you do, you seek treatment, even if you do not have medical insurance. Contact an attorney to help you navigate this problem.
What if the other insurance company is trying to get you to sign papers or receive a check before I’ve spoken to an attorney?
Don’t. While the settlement offer may be fair, and a release may be proper, an attorney can help you answer those questions and let you know your rights. Your medical expenses may exceed the amount of coverage available from the at-fault driver; but there are methods that can be used such as UIM to help you get more to cover the expenses.
Also, don’t make any recorded statements until speaking with a lawyer first. Remember, insurance companies want to settle these cases for as little as possible, that’s why it’s important you have a car accident lawyer to be by your side and protect your rights.
How much time do you have to bring a lawsuit?
In South Carolina you have three years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit; however, there may be some time that is tolled, or not counted, that can extend your time to file. Contact an attorney to help you calculate the Statute of Limitations as soon as possible after your accident.
You have been involved in an accident and need some help, we are here for you. Please feel free to contact our firm for a free consultation today.
The Law Office of Dennis J. DiSabato, Jr., LLC
3888 Renee Drive, Suite 201
Myrtle Beach, SC 29579