Car accidents can happen to anyone at any time and can be traumatic, life-altering events. In addition to the physical and emotional toll of a serious accident, there are legal and financial implications to consider.
Knowing what to do after a collision can help protect your rights and ensure that you receive fair compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering, and other damages.
In this article, we’ll look at the legal process following a car accident, from seeking medical attention to receiving compensation.
Seek Medical Attention
Seeking emergency medical care after a crash is crucial for your health and for legal reasons. Even if you don’t feel pain or discomfort immediately after the accident, you should still see a doctor, as some injuries may not manifest themselves until days or weeks later.
In a legal context, seeking prompt medical treatment is important for establishing a link between the accident and your injuries. If you delay treatment, insurance adjusters and defense attorneys may use this to deny causation, arguing that your injuries are unrelated to the accident.
Getting checked out by a doctor or nurse also makes a record of your injuries and the care you received. Your medical records are an important part of your bodily injury claim, as they help establish the severity of your injuries.
Remember that failing to follow your doctor’s orders or attend follow-up appointments can weaken your case.
Report the Accident to the Police
One of the first things you should do after a motor vehicle collision is to report the accident to the police department or local law enforcement agency. The accident report this creates can be an important document for insurance purposes and legal proceedings.
When you call 911 to report the collision, provide them with accurate information about the accident, including the location, the parties involved, and any injuries sustained.
The responding officer will usually investigate the crash and write a report that includes their findings, such as who was at fault for the accident, traffic law violations, and any injuries or property damage.
The police report can be valuable evidence in a legal case, especially when determining fault because it provides an objective account of what happened.
Gather Evidence and Exchange Information
In addition to creating an accident report, it’s important to document any property damage resulting from the crash. Try to take pictures of the crash-related damage to the involved vehicles and any other affected property.
This important step can help support your auto insurance claim and provide evidence to verify your claim for repair or replacement costs.
If you or your passenger are physically able to do so, be sure to exchange insurance information with the other driver and obtain contact information for any witnesses to the accident.
Contact Your Insurance Company
After seeking medical attention and talking to the police, the next step is to contact your insurance company. It is crucial to do this as soon as possible, preferably within 24 hours of the incident. Most insurance policies require the policyholder to report any accident promptly.
When you contact your insurance company, be careful what you say. Stick to the facts and avoid admitting fault or making statements that could be misconstrued. Insurers could use something you say to try to decrease your settlement or deny your claim.
If you are unsure what to say, it’s best to consult a lawyer before speaking to your insurance company. An attorney can advise you on what to say and what not to say to ensure you don’t inadvertently harm your case.
Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer
Insurance companies have teams of lawyers whose primary goal is to minimize the amount of money they have to pay out. Without legal representation, you may be at a disadvantage when negotiating an insurance claim or pursuing a court award.
Hiring a personal injury lawyer with a track record of successful case results can protect your legal rights so you can get the compensation you are owed.
Negotiating a Settlement
Once your personal injury lawyer has gathered all the necessary information and evidence related to your car accident case, they will begin negotiations with the insurance company on your behalf. The goal of negotiations is to reach a fair settlement that compensates you for your injuries and related losses.
During negotiations, your lawyer will use their knowledge and experience to advocate for your best interests. In addition, they will review any settlement offers with you and advise you on whether or not to accept them.
If the initial offer is unsatisfactory, your lawyer will counteroffer and continue negotiating until a reasonable settlement is reached. However, it’s important to remember that negotiations can take time and that the insurance company may try to pressure you into accepting a lowball settlement.
Filing a Lawsuit
In some cases, negotiations may not result in a fair settlement. If this happens, your lawyer may recommend filing a lawsuit and taking your case to court.
However, most cases are resolved outside of court, and having an experienced personal injury lawyer on your side can increase your chances of reaching a favorable settlement.
Taking your case to court may become necessary if the insurance company fails to offer a fair settlement. The statute of limitations for personal injury lawsuits in South Carolina is three years from the accident date, as outlined in South Carolina Code §15-3-530. Therefore, it’s important to act quickly to keep the option open for a lawsuit.
Know Your Rights and Take Action
A qualified attorney can explain your rights and represent you throughout the insurance claim process and in court (if necessary). Since most personal injury lawyers handle cases on contingency, your legal fees will likely come from your final settlement or award.
If you have been injured in a car accident in South Carolina, the Thumbs Up Guys from Miller, Dawson, Sigal & Ward Injury Attorneys can help. One of our experienced car accident lawyers can explain your options and help you fight for the compensation you deserve.
Contact us today for a free case evaluation.