Several Steps You Can Take to Protect Your Legal Rights
If you haven’t yet experienced your first accident, perhaps you’re wondering: What am I supposed to do after a car accident? Read on for more information.
Before an Accident Takes Place
In South Carolina, more than 35,000 crashes injure someone each year, with more than 2,000 of those injuries classified as serious. Nationwide, car insurance industry experts estimate that each driver in the United States can expect a car accident once every 18 years.
According to the Insurance Information Institute, navigating the aftermath of a car accident is much easier if you prepare. Drivers should keep certain items in your car so they may easily access them.
Critical items include:
- Important documents, including vehicle registration, proof of insurance, and medical information for you and your family members. Medical information should include any allergies to medications, as well as lists of current prescription medications. After suffering serious injuries, victims oftentimes can’t communicate effectively. Easily accessible medical records can provide emergency responders with the information they need to properly assess and treat your injuries.
- Flares, traffic cones, and emergency signage to warn approaching traffic on the roadway that there is an accident scene ahead. Simple safety equipment can prevent the development of additional dangerous situations. For example, chain-reaction crashes often occur when drivers who are distracted or unaware approach an accident scene too quickly. As a result, the oncoming traffic may collide with the wreckage at the scene or cause a secondary accident with another vehicle.
Drivers should also periodically review their insurance policy coverage to ensure they understand exactly what their policies will cover after an accident.
Stay Safe and Check for Injuries
After an accident, if you can safely remove your car from the roadway, you should do so for the protection of other travelers. However, be sure to stay within eyesight of where the accident took place. South Carolina law prohibits drivers from leaving an accident scene without first exchanging information with other drivers and rendering aid.
Of course, if you feel unsafe remaining there—for example, if another driver’s road rage caused the accident, you may want to remove yourself from a potentially volatile situation. You may have suffered serious injuries and may require immediate medical treatment. In these circumstances, you should get to a safe place and report the accident immediately.
The requirement involving rendering aid can confuse many. The law does not require accident victims to perform life-saving procedures on an injured person at the scene. Rather, victims should check whether anyone at the scene is injured—including yourself, the occupants of your vehicle, and the occupants of other vehicles involved. If there are injuries, you should help to the extent that you are able, even if that means simply calling 911 to report the accident and to request an ambulance.
The law requires that those who are involved in accidents exchange information with other parties involved.
The information you must provide and obtain from other drivers includes:
- The driver’s name and contact information.
- The driver’s license plate number.
- Make, model, and color of the driver’s vehicle.
- The driver’s insurance policy number and the name of the insurance provider.
- The other vehicle’s registration number.
While you wait for the police or an ambulance to arrive, attempt to collect evidence from the scene.
Evidence that you should gather, if possible:
- Photos of the location of the accident, traffic at the time of the accident, and weather conditions.
- Damage to all vehicles involved.
- Any visible injuries that you or your passengers have suffered.
- The name and badge number of the police officer who arrives to take a report of the accident.
- The names and contact information of anyone who witnessed the accident.
Watch What You Say
After an accident, individuals naturally feel shaken and question what they could have done differently to prevent the accident. Immediately following a collision, the cause of the accident may not be clear to the individuals involved. While these feelings are normal, avoid admitting fault or apologizing to the other driver or anyone else at the scene.
Should you indicate that you may have caused the accident, the other driver’s insurance company may use your words to suggest that you were solely liable for the accident. Accident victims should examine liability after their bodies have calmed down, or after speaking with an experienced car accident attorney.
This isn’t to say that you should be unpleasant with the other driver—remember, his or her emotions will also be high. Stay calm and be polite. When the police arrive, answer any questions truthfully, and provide as many details as you can remember.
Report the Accident
Generally, police will arrive to investigate an accident, particularly, if there are injuries involved. However, if a police officer does not come to the scene, the people in the accident must file an accident report within 24 hours of the collision.
You should file this report with the local police department, sheriff’s office, or the South Carolina Highway Patrol. Additionally, if your accident resulted in an injury or death, you will need to submit the designated form to the state Department of Motor Vehicles within 15 days of the accident.
In addition to filing a police report, report the accident to your insurance provider. Most insurance policies require insured parties to report any accident that may implicate insurance coverage. Failing to do so could result in your provider’s refusal to cover damage or drop your policy.
What if You’re Injured?
Have a medical exam after an accident, even if you feel you have only suffered minor injuries. Many injuries do not immediately present symptoms. Without prompt medical attention, injured victims are at risk of worsening their injuries before they are aware that they exist.
In addition to seeking medical evaluation, contact an experienced car accident attorney to learn more about your legal options for recovering compensation for accident-related damages.
Hughey Law Firm LLC
1311 Chuck Dawley Blvd. | Suite 201
Mt. Pleasant, SC 29464