The minutes, hours, and days following a car accident can be scary. After representing hundreds of clients across South Carolina, I have learned every situation is different. I have also learned some keys to protecting yourself and your interest. Below are four things to keep in mind to avoid jeopardizing your rights following a car accident.
1) Get the Medical Attention You Need
I cannot stress enough how important it is to take care of your physical and emotional needs as soon as possible. If you do not have your health, the rest of your life suffers. After a car accident, take the steps necessary to make sure you and anyone else involved in the accident receive proper medical care.
2) Gather Insurance Information and the Police Report
Following an accident in which law enforcement investigated the incident, the investigating officer will often provide an FR-10 form. The FR-10 form is essentially an insurance and information exchange form issued to parties involved in an accident in South Carolina. The form is important for two significant purposes.
First, the FR-10 allows the parties to exchange insurance and vehicle information. Once you have the other driver’s information, you are in a position to set up a claim if you determine it is necessary to do so.
Second, the investigating officer will indicate on the FR-10 form which party “contributed” to the accident. Knowing who was labeled at-fault from the beginning is important. If you were labeled as contributing, but believe you were not at-fault, then you know to start working on developing a strategy for disputing liability. If the FR-10 Form places fault on the other driver, then you know liability may not be a battle you have to fight. Just remember, the FR-10 is not the final authority and may not accurately reflect who was at-fault.
3) Talk to a Lawyer
If you have been injured in a car accident and you are unaware of how to proceed, it never hurts to contact a lawyer. Most lawyers, like myself, do not charge an initial consultation on personal injury cases and do not get paid until you get paid. In some instances (such as very low impact or only property damages cases), representation by an attorney may not be necessary, but if you are concerned about protecting your rights, we always recommend utilizing someone with experience in this field.
If you have been injured because of the negligence of another driver, do not hesitate to contact a lawyer as soon as you can. Often, those first few days are crucial to preserving evidence, establishing liability, and making the proper decisions regarding medical care. A knowledgeable attorney will be able to talk to you about how to proceed in a way that protects you and your interest.
4) What to Avoid
If you are involved in a car accident, there are several things you should avoid. First, don’t just take a quick settlement offer. Often it takes several days or weeks to determine your injuries, lost wages, pain and suffering, and property loss, so do not let an insurance company pressure you into a quick settlement you may later regret.
Second, be careful about giving an insurance company a recorded statement. Remember, if the insurance company represents a party who is adverse to your interest, then they are not on your side. Often an insurance company will want a statement of the facts of the case and record the conversation. Sometimes, the questions asked are confusing and can lead you into making statements against your interest.
Lastly, avoid hastily signing a release until you have had a chance to fully consider your options or contact a lawyer.
Dealing with a car accident or personal injury can be a challenging experience. Fortunately, there are a number of good attorneys who can help minimize the frustration and help you fight for your rights. For more information on how to handle a car accident, do not hesitate to give my office a call at 843-212-3188 or send us an email.