What Should You Do After a Car Accident ChecklistAuto Accidents
Did you know that there is one traffic collision every 3.7 minutes in South Carolina? That’s a scary number. Even scarier: these collisions lead to one injury every 8.7 minutes and one fatality every 8.9 hours. As drivers, chances are high that you will be involved in an automobile accident at least once in your life. Statistically, there’s a good chance that your accident will involve some sort of injury, unfortunately.
That’s why you need to know what to do after a motor vehicle accident. What you do in the days and weeks that follow your accident can have a tremendous impact on your future. If you suffer an injury as the result of a car accident, contact a car accident attorney to learn more about your legal rights.
If you have never been in an accident before, the experience can be overwhelming. Sure, you carry insurance, drive carefully, and know the statistics, but nobody really expects to be in an accident. However, dealing with a car accident is not a situation where you want to just “wing it.” There are things that the law requires you to do, things that are just smart, and things that can help protect your future. To discuss your case with a trained legal professional speak with the car accident attorneys at Hughey Law Firm Today.
Six Steps You Should Do after a Car Accident
1. Stay at the Scene
It’s common sense, yet it needs to be said: do not leave the scene of an accident. Not only is it careless and irresponsible, leaving the scene of an accident is a crime.
2. Talk to the Other Driver
In almost all circumstances, you should talk to the other driver following an accident. The only times when you should not talk to the driver are:
- One or both of the drivers participated in road rage.
- The other driver is obviously intoxicated.
- You are hurt.
- You fear for your safety.
When you talk to the other driver, the first thing you want to do is make sure that everyone involved is okay. If there are any serious injuries, call 911 right away. If there are no serious injuries, now is the time to exchange information. This information will help both parties make a claim and get in contact with one another if there are any issues.
Information you should exchange includes:
- Name and contact information
- Insurance information, including the name of the insurance carrier, the insurance company’s name, the policy number, and a contact number for the insurance company. Taking a photograph of the other driver’s insurance card is helpful.
3. Document Evidence
Car accidents are often he said/she said affairs. Drivers don’t like to admit that they caused an accident. Without witness testimony or video evidence, all the insurance company has to go off of is the testimony from both drivers and physical evidence. Most of this evidence you can collect yourself at the scene of the accident, namely taking pictures. You can never have enough photographs of the scene of the accident.
Remember, your safety is the number one priority. Do not put yourself in danger to collect evidence. If you think that taking pictures will put you at risk from the other driver or other vehicles, don’t do it.
If you can take pictures, include:
- Vehicle damage (to your car and the other vehicle)
- The other vehicle’s license plate
- Property damage (including stop signs, skid marks, or other damaged property)
- Street signs (to document the location of the accident)
Additionally, if there are witnesses, be sure to get their names and contact information. This will help clear up any discrepancies between the parties.
4. Go to the Doctor
It’s always best practice to go to the doctor after any accident. Accident injuries have a way of sneaking up on you. While you may feel fine at the time of the accident, a few hours or days later you may have a throbbing shoulder. Traumatic brain injuries and spinal cord injuries are notorious for delayed symptoms. Rather than wait and see if symptoms show up, you need to go to the doctor to have a full evaluation.
Tell your doctor about any symptoms that you are currently experiencing or have experienced since the accident. Not only will this help make sure you get appropriate treatment but it will also help establish a record of your symptoms. This will be very important moving forward in your case.
5. Contact an Attorney
Motor vehicle accidents are serious. These accidents can cause injuries that you may have to deal with for the rest of your life. This is not something you want to take lightly. While you may be able to negotiate minor details of a case, it’s VERY difficult to not only understand what type of compensation you should pursue, but to also know how to get it. The law allows you certain rights after an accident, and you deserve the full benefits of a personal injury claim.
Common damages included in a personal injury suit are:
- Medical bills, including doctor visits, surgeries, medication, and rehabilitation. For serious injuries, this may include future medical care, payable in a lump sum payment.
- Lost wages for time missed from work after your accident.
- Future wages, if your injuries permanently prevent you from returning to work.
- Pain and suffering for physical pain and emotional distress, including depression, anxiety, and PTSD.
- Loss of enjoyment when you cannot enjoy the things that you did before your accident because of your injuries.
- Loss of companionship when physical or emotional injuries have a substantial impact on personal relationships
- Wrongful death to cover costs associated with the death of a loved one, including pain and suffering, medical costs, and lost wages.
It’s important to talk to an attorney right away, so he or she can evaluate your case and help you take the steps necessary to get compensation for the full cost of your injuries.
6. Continue With Follow-Up Care
Too many accident victims go to their initial doctor appointment but then neglect to go to their follow-up appointments. These appointments are just as important as the initial appointment. When you don’t take your injuries seriously, the insurance company won’t either. If your doctor suggests follow-up appointments, go to them. If he or she wants you to see a specialist, schedule an appointment. And if your doctor wants you to take medication or schedule imaging, do it. Your medical records will be one of the most important parts of your personal injury case. You need to prioritize your health.
Five Things That You Shouldn’t Do After a Car Accident
It’s always important to focus on what to do after an accident, but it’s just as important to discuss what not to do. The actions that you take and the things that you say can make a big difference in the outcome of your case. After an accident, it’s easy to become overwhelmed or emotional, but it’s important to keep a clear head and make informed decisions after an accident.
1. Don’t Admit Fault
As humans, we have a natural tendency to apologize. Even when we’re not at fault, we want to show empathy and ease some of the stress of the other party. Don’t do this, even if you think you caused the accident. Watch what you say.
Phrases that you should avoid saying include:
- I’m sorry.
- I didn’t see you.
- You just came out of nowhere.
- I don’t know what happened.
Keep this in mind at all stages of the case. You need to watch what you say to the other driver, witnesses, your doctor, the insurance companies, the insurance company’s attorney, and on social media.
In the same regard, be careful whenever you talk to the insurance company. Remember, you do not have to give a recorded statement. In fact, we always advise against it. If the insurance company asks for a recorded statement, this is the appropriate time to refer the insurance representative to your attorney. (Note: the insurance company should not be contacting you if you have already informed them that you are represented by an attorney.)
2. Don’t Post Online
Speaking of social media, don’t post anything about the accident online. Don’t post pictures of the accident; don’t talk about the accident; and avoid talking about your pain. When you write it down, the insurance company will be able to use it against you. Even for matters that aren’t related to the accident, be careful about what you post. If you’re telling the insurance company that your shoulder hurts, and then insurance representatives see you playing catch with your kid on social media, they’re going to question your injuries.
3. Don’t Ignore Your Symptoms
Now is not the time to “tough it out.” There are a couple of reasons for this. First and foremost, your health matters. Car accidents are serious, and that headache that just won’t go away may actually be a symptom of a traumatic brain injury. If you experience headaches, dizziness, confusion, or extreme pain, go to the doctor right away. Take your injuries seriously. If something feels wrong, tell your doctor.
You need to remember that the reason you are filing a personal injury suit is your injuries. This means you have to be honest about your injuries and seek appropriate treatment. You will only receive compensation for the injuries that the insurance company knows exist. And once your case is closed, it’s closed. That means if your shoulder pain is manageable now, and you don’t say anything, you can’t go back to the insurance company three years down the road and ask them to pay for your surgery.
4. Don’t Try to Handle Your Case Alone
Not all car accidents require an attorney. But there’s a good chance that yours will. After an accident, the best thing you can do is reach out to a personal injury attorney. A quick consultation will help you understand the value of your case and the benefit of working with an attorney. Most attorneys offer free consultations, so there is no reason why you shouldn’t at least have a conversation. Unfortunately, most insurance companies offer far less to victims who do not hire an attorney. Don’t let this happen to you.
5. Don’t Wait Too Long
Life gets busy. Things come up. Doctor visits take time. However, you don’t want to wait too long to make an insurance claim and file a personal injury case. In South Carolina, accident victims generally have three years to file a personal injury suit. While this may seem like a long time, it takes a great deal of work to build a solid personal injury case. Your attorney will need to review your records, medical history, and case details. Plus, the longer you wait to start a claim, the more likely it is that evidence from your accident (i.e. surveillance tapes and witness testimony) might no longer exist or be available.
Seek a Car Accident Attorney For More Assistance
We all hope that we will never have to deal with the aftermath of a motor vehicle accident. Unfortunately, it’s not something that everyone can avoid. If you are in a car accident, you have rights. It’s important to know these rights and take action to protect yourself.
Navigating the events after an accident is not always easy. In fact, most of the time it’s not easy at all. When you are dealing with injuries from a car accident, you want someone by your side who knows what they are doing and someone who you can trust to act in your best interest. A personal injury attorney can help you determine the strategy that works best for you and help you pursue a fair and just settlement. If you have questions or need help with your recent car accident, contact an experienced car accident attorney to learn more and to determine your eligibility to seek compensation.
Hughey Law Firm LLC
1311 Chuck Dawley Blvd. | Suite 201
Mt. Pleasant, SC 29464
Nathan Hughey, an attorney and fourth-generation South Carolinian, founded Hughey Law Firm in 2007. Before that, he spent five years defending nursing homes and insurance companies. Leveraging his experience, he now advocates for those injured or wronged by such entities, securing over $220 million in verdicts and settlements.