What Do I Do After an Automobile Accident?
Call Our Columbia Injury Lawyers for Answers
Our South Carolina injury attorneys understand that serious injuries can leave victims struggling with unanswered questions and unresolved concerns. We want to alleviate some of these problems and help victims pay for medical expenses and receive compensation for damages and losses.
The following answers are not legal advice, as every situation is different. Our Columbia injury attorneys are always available to address your questions and concerns. All you need to do is call our office or fill out the contact form on our site for free attorney advice regarding the specific facts of your potential car accident claim.
Frequently Asked Questions about Auto Accidents
- What should I tell my insurance company after a car accident?
- What type of compensation am I entitled to receive?
- Should I go to the doctor after a wreck?
- How can I prove distraction or texting caused a car crash?
- What if the person who hit me was drunk or on drugs or left the scene?
- What if I get hit by a driver who does not have any insurance?
- What if I get hit by a driver who does not have enough insurance?
- What do I say to police after a car wreck?
- What information should I record at the scene?
- Should I take pictures at the scene?
- What if I am partially at fault for a car crash?
- Is the insurance company required to make me a fair offer?
- How long do I have to file a claim or bring a lawsuit?
- How long does an injury lawsuit take?
- How much does a lawyer cost?
- Why wonâ€™t the at-fault driverâ€™s insurance company pay my medical bills?
- What do I do when the insurance company refuses to repair my vehicle or pay me a fair price for it?Â
Q: What should I tell my insurance company after a car accident?
Insurance agents and adjusters, whether it is under your policy or another driverâ€™s, represent the insurance company, not you. Their jobs depend on offering the lowest amount of compensation possible after an accident.
You should report an accident to your own car insurance company after a collision, but only state facts â€“ do not speculate about potential causes of the incident. Your statement is recorded by the insurance company and anything you say may be used against you. You should consult with a lawyer before making a recorded statement to any insurance company representative.
Although you should report the accident to your own insurance company, do not talk to the insurance company that represents the other driver involved in the accident until you discuss your legal rights with a lawyer. The other driverâ€™s insurance company will likely try to offer you an unreasonably low settlement, mislead or coerce you into admitting fault and attempt to minimize your losses and claim. Always speak with an injury lawyer before giving a statement to the other driverâ€™s insurance company.
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Q: What type of compensation am I entitled to receive?
The amount and type of money damages you are entitled to recover depends on the facts and circumstances of your case. When the accident is caused by another personâ€™s negligence, you may recover damages which include:
Medical bills, including emergency room costs, surgical procedures, physician and chiropractor costs and hospital costs
Lost wages and earning capacity resulting from your injury
Physical pain and suffering
Emotional distress and mental anguish
Costs of physical therapy and rehabilitation
Exacerbation or worsening of a pre-existing condition
Wrongful death, including loss of financial support and loss of companionship
Loss of enjoyment of life
Loss of consortium by a spouse
You may recover money for damages occurring in the past, present and future.
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Q: Should I go to the doctor after a wreck?
If your injuries appear serious or if you are not sure of the extent of your injuries, you should immediately call 911 and go to the hospital. Even if you believe you have not suffered a severe injury, you should understand that a medical problem may not be immediately obvious and may arise later. Watch for any signs of injury following the accident, and if you have pain or other symptoms, seek medical care promptly. You should understand that an insurance company often will assert that an injury was not caused by the wreck any time there is a delay in treatment.
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Q: How can I prove distraction or texting caused a car crash?
Many different types of evidence can prove a distracted driver was responsible for a car crash. A skilled lawyer can compile evidence and piece together the cause of the wreck. Lawyers have the ability to subpoena, or formally request by law, cell phone statements that may prove the other driver was on the phone when the accident occurred. Damage to the vehicles and the surrounding area, injuries and reports from the occupants and eyewitnesses can all show that a driver was distracted or otherwise acting negligently.
Motorists hit by distracted drivers or someone who was texting while driving should know that even if the driver that caused the accident did not receive a ticket or traffic citation, he or she can still be held responsible for the damage.
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Q: What if the person who hit me was drunk or on drugs or left the scene?
If the police report or witnesses indicate that the driver of the vehicle that caused the car wreck was under the influence of alcohol or drugs or left the scene, then you may be entitled to recover punitive damages in addition to actual damages. It is difficult to determine the extent of these damages but they may be substantial. You should promptly contact a lawyer in order to properly evaluate these damages and ensure your legal rights are protected.
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Q:What if I get hit by a driver who does not have any insurance?
Uninsured motorist coverage is insurance that provides coverage to you if you get into an accident with a driver who does not have any insurance on his or her vehicle. Uninsured motorist coverage may cover your damages when you are struck by an unknown motorist or a hit-and-run driver. Such coverage is deemed â€śpersonal and portable,â€ť which means it may provide coverage when you are a passenger in another personâ€™s car or if you are injured as a pedestrian by a vehicle.
You also may be able to â€śstackâ€ť the uninsured motorist coverage from policies on other vehicles that you own, which gives you additional coverage. Whether you can â€śstackâ€ť the additional coverage is a complex issue and you should consult a lawyer to ensure your rights are protected.
Uninsured motorist coverage is very important due to the high number of motorists who drive illegally without coverage. It is estimated that 10% of South Carolina motorists drive without insurance, and that estimate has ranged as high as 28% in the past, according to the Insurance Research Council, a nonprofit research organization. That means the likelihood of being hit by an uninsured driver is substantial.
South Carolina law requires motorists to purchase liability insurance coverage in at least the minimum limits of $25,000 (one person injured), $50,000 (two or more persons injured) and $25,000 (property damage). When you purchase a liability policy, the law requires that the policy include at least these minimum limits of uninsured motorist coverage. You should consider purchasing liability and additional uninsured motorist coverage which exceeds the minimum limits if possible.
Remember this crucial distinction: Liability coverage is paid to the other driver when you are at fault in a wreck, so it â€śprotectsâ€ť the other driver although it also protects your assets from a lawsuit. However, uninsured motorist coverage is paid to you or your family when the at-fault, uninsured driver injures you or your loved ones.
The insurance company is required to make you a meaningful offer of additional uninsured motorist coverage in various limits up to the amount of your policyâ€™s liability limit and, if it fails to do so, the policy may be reformed by law to provide such coverage. Remember that uninsured motorist coverage protects you and your family, and you should ensure that you have a sufficient amount of uninsured coverage on all your vehicle policies.
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Q: What if I get hit by a driver who does not have enough insurance?
Underinsured motorist coverage is an insurance policy that provides additional coverage to you if you get into an accident with a driver who does not possess enough insurance and cannot provide enough compensation for your medical expenses and damages. Typically, your insurance will cover the difference between the amount the other driverâ€™s insurance pays out and the amount of coverage in your policy.
For example, assume the at-fault driver only carries only minimum coverage of $25,000, but your medical bills, physical pain and suffering, emotional distress and other damages are $150,000 or more. If you have underinsured motorist coverage of $100,000 under your own vehicleâ€™s policy, then you may recover $25,000 from the at-fault driverâ€™s policy and $100,000 from your policy.
You also may be able to â€śstackâ€ť the underinsured motorist coverage from policies on other vehicles that you own, which gives you additional coverage. Whether you can â€śstackâ€ť the additional coverage is a complex issue and you should consult a lawyer to ensure your rights are protected.
Remember this crucial distinction: Liability coverage is paid to the other driver when you are at fault in a wreck, so it â€śprotectsâ€ť the other driver although it also protects your assets from a lawsuit. However, underinsured motorist coverage is paid to you or your family when the at-fault driver injures you or your loved ones.
The insurance company is required to make you a meaningful offer of underinsured motorist coverage with various limits up to the amount of your policyâ€™s liability limits and, if it fails to do so, the policy may be reformed by law to provide such coverage. However, underinsured motorist coverage is not mandatory in South Carolina, so make sure you have a sufficient amount of this coverage on all your vehicle policies.
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Q: What do I say to police after a car wreck?
You should contact the police immediately after an accident, even if the accident appears to be minor. If your vehicle sustains long-term damage or if you suffer injuries that are not apparent until after the accident, it is important that you have the accident on file to prove that the accident occurred and prove which person is at fault. Never leave the scene of an accident until police arrive, unless it is for a medical emergency.
After an automobile crash, the police may ask for a statement regarding the incident. Cooperate fully with police, but only state facts and do not speculate about potential causes of the wreck. Do not admit fault in any way â€“ the driver who hit you may try to use this against you in court. Ultimately, a police report can be a very important piece of evidence in your favor, so obtain a copy of the police report or get the name of the officer and police agency so you can request a copy later.
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Q: What information should I record at the scene?
Record the following information immediately after an auto accident:
- The location, date, and time of the accident
- All parties involved, including their name, address and phone number
- Any witnesses to the accident, including their name, address and telephone number
- Description of the vehicles involved, including the make and model of each vehicle
- The injuries that you have sustained, including any minor injuries
- Insurance information for the other driver(s) involved in the accident.
Q: Should I take pictures at the scene?
You should take photographs or video of the scene if possible. Take photos of the damaged vehicles and their location. If you do not have a camera available at the scene, take photos of your damaged vehicle later. If the vehicles are towed, ask the officer to give you the name and address of the towing or storage company so that you or your lawyer can take photos as needed later. Collecting this information will enable you to more accurately recall any details of your accident during trial, as well as help you provide information to your attorney.
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Q: What if I am partially at fault for a car crash?
If you believe you are partially at fault for a wreck, you should still not apologize or admit any wrongdoing to anyone else at the scene. Collisions can happen so quickly that you may not be sure what happened. You may not have noticed if the other driver was using a cell phone, was driving while impaired or was traveling at an unsafe speed at the time of the wreck. You may not have noticed that road conditions, other motorists or other factors may have contributed to the wreck. Take some time to think the situation over and allow investigators to determine who made the mistake. If investigators determine that you are at partial fault for a car crash, you may still be able to collect some compensation. Talk to our lawyers to learn more.
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Q: Is the insurance company required to make me a fair offer?
The insurance company is required by law to act in good faith and in a reasonable manner when it processes, investigates and pays your claim. However, you should know that insurance adjusters are professionals trained to offer you a low settlement and convince you to accept it.
Insurance companies have spent many years and countless dollars in advertising to convince the public that they are in your corner. The better adjusters are trained to appear friendly and helpful, as if they are working for you, when in fact they are working for the insurance company and their goal is to pay you as little as possible. Â It is important to talk to a lawyer before accepting a quick settlement offer from the insurance company.
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Q: How long do I have to file a claim or bring a lawsuit?
You may wish to contact a lawyer to discuss your legal rights before you call the insurance company. You or your lawyer should report the accident to your own insurance company and file a claim with the at-fault driverâ€™s insurance company as soon as possible after the wreck. The investigating officer should give you an â€śFR-10 formâ€ť which has the names, addresses, and insurance information for those involved in the accident. You may submit the claim to the insurance company. Find the claims office by searching for the insurerâ€™s website or calling the insurance agent of the at-fault driver.
If you or a loved one is seriously injured or killed in an accident, it is important to contact your lawyer as soon as possible so that crucial evidence may be located and preserved.
The statute of limitations, or deadline, to file a lawsuit against the negligent person who injured you generally is three years from the date of the accident in South Carolina; however, the statute of limitation can be as short as two years in certain circumstances. Talk to an attorney to make sure you understand the deadlines applicable to your particular case.
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Q: How long does an injury lawsuit take?
The length of a negligence or personal injury lawsuit depends on a many factors. Our attorneys always seek to negotiate or mediate a fair settlement for our clients as quickly as possible and try to avoid making our clients go through a lawsuit at all if a fair settlement offer is made before we file suit. However, if the other party does not wish to settle or negotiate reasonably, our attorneys will take the case to trial. In those situations, the timing of your case will depend on the courtâ€™s schedule, among many other factors. Depending on the details of your situation, an attorney can give you an estimated time frame for your case during your free consultation.
You may have seen advertisements in which some attorneys claim they can quickly settle a case. You should know that a quick settlement often means a low settlement because the initial offer of the insurance company is quickly accepted. Our lawyers work hard to fully investigate your case and ensure that all your medical expenses and damages are compensated in a just and fair manner.
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Q: How much does a lawyer cost?
Our contingency fee agreements allow our South Carolina injury lawyers to make attorney costs affordable in personal injury cases. Contingency fee agreements allow everyone, no matter their financial situation, access to qualified legal counsel. We do not require any up-front costs to start investigating your injury case, and we only receive attorney fees if we secure a verdict or settlement for you. Our fees are a percentage of any compensation that we obtain for you. We are also reimbursed from the clientâ€™s portion of the recovery for any expenses that we might have incurred to investigate and pursue your case.
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Q: Why wonâ€™t the at-fault driverâ€™s insurance company pay my medical bills?
The at-fault driverâ€™s insurance company does not automatically pay your medical bills. An insurance company sometimes may offer to pay your bills, or at least part of them, in an effort to convince you to accept a low settlement offer. You are entitled by law to recover not only your medical expenses, but also damages for wrongful death, physical pain and suffering, emotional distress, lost wages and earning capacity, temporary and permanent disability, disfigurement, and loss of enjoyment of life. Your spouse may have a claim for loss of consortium or companionship.
Your own medical or health insurance company should pay your medical expenses related to the wreck. Despite the fact that someone else caused your injuries, you should have your medical bills submitted to your own health insurer. This assures you access to the care that you need. Often your health insurer will have a right to some reimbursement from your recovery, but that amount is subject to negotiation. Medicare and Medicaid agencies may also seek to be reimbursed if you recover money damages from the at-fault driver or his insurer, and the attorney is required to protect the liens of these agencies.
If you do not have medical insurance, discuss this issue with your lawyer. Some medical providers may provide treatment and agree to be paid later, provided that your lawyer agrees to pay them directly when your settlement or verdict proceeds are received.
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Q: What do I do when the insurance company refuses to repair my vehicle or pay me a fair price for it?
The insurance company of the at-fault driver should pay for repairs to your vehicle, and should pay you a fair and reasonable price if the car is a total loss. These costs are paid under the property damage coverage of a policy, which is separate from the personal or bodily injury coverage. When you settle your property damage claim, be sure you do not sign any document in which you give up the right to pursue a bodily injury claim. The claims are separate, and often are handled by different adjusters in different divisions of the insurance company.
If you have collision or comprehensive coverage on your vehicle under your own policy, then your insurance company should promptly pay for repairs or the loss of your car. Your insurer will then seek to be reimbursed by the at-fault driverâ€™s insurer later. Your insurer or the at-fault driverâ€™s insurer should also pay for a rental vehicle while your vehicle is being repaired.
Be sure you trust the facility where your car will be repaired. Insist that it be repaired at a reputable, established facility. If you believe the insurance company is not paying for all necessary repairs, get a second opinion from another shop or mechanic. If you believe the insurance company is refusing to pay you fair value for your totaled vehicle, determine your carâ€™s value using websites such as Kelley Blue Book, Edmunds or National Automobile Dealers Assocation. Use this information to prove that the insurance company should pay more for your vehicle.
An insurance company must act reasonably and in good faith in processing, investigating and paying claims. An insurer can be sued if it acts unreasonably or in bad faith toward its policyholders or injured persons.
South Carolina law provides for an arbitration process to resolve disputes over property damage claims in wreck cases. Damages may include actual damages, loss of use, depreciation, and any other property damages which are the direct result of the accident.
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Our lawyers are committed to providing committed and knowledgeable legal representation for clients. If you need advice about a personal injury issue, call us today in South Carolina at (803) 834-7097 or toll free at (877) 276-0533.