What to Do After a Car Accident? Documenting & Insurance

What To Do After A Car Accident

Anyone who’s been in a collision on the road knows that life can change very quickly. It only takes a moment for a broken tail light or a distracted driver to turn an ordinary commute into a life-altering event.

However, few drivers realize that the hours and minutes after a crash are also critical. What you do—or don’t do—during this period can make a big difference not only to your health but also to how much you’re able to recover financially. 

In this blog post, we’ll explain what drivers should know about what to do after a car accident and offer some tips for filing insurance claims. 

What to Do Right After the Accident 

The actions you take immediately after a collision can have a huge impact on your physical and financial well-being. Once you’ve made sure that you and your passengers are out of harm’s way, there are important steps to take to protect yourself in the aftermath of an accident.

Take Care of Injuries and Call 911

Your physical safety is the priority after a crash. Get anyone who’s been hurt away from the road if it’s safe to do so. Call the police, even if you think someone else has done so already. If you can, put the hazard lights on your car.

When emergency responders arrive, avoid telling them that “you’re okay” before a doctor has examined you. Even if you don’t feel hurt, getting checked out by a medical professional after a crash is always a good idea. For one, some serious injuries don’t show up until hours or days after a crash. And if you are hurt, you’ll need proof that your injuries came from the crash if you want to get compensation.

Get Information from Other Drivers and Witnesses

Exchange contact information with anyone else involved in the accident. Take down their name, address, phone number, and insurance policy details. Be sure you also note the make, model, and license plate number of their vehicle. 

You should also take down the contact information of anyone else who saw or heard the accident. Eyewitness accounts can be important in determining the cause of an accident and assigning fault. 

Document the Scene

Collect as much information as you can about the accident site. Any insurance claim you make will require some physical evidence that sheds light on what happened at the scene. You can do this with your cell phone camera, pen and paper, or a voice note. Note the location of the crash and the weather conditions. Take photos and videos of injuries, damaged vehicles, skid marks, debris, traffic signs, and any potential obstacles to vision. 

It can also be important to record your observations of the other driver: if someone appears intoxicated or suggests that they were breaking the law (e.g. texting while driving), make a note of it.

Report the Accident to the DMV

Depending on the circumstances, you may need to report your collision to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

In most cases, the officer who investigates the accident will file the report for you. However, if there is no investigating officer, the drivers must file a traffic collision report with the DMV for any accident involving:

  • Injury,
  • Death, or
  • Property damage over $1,000.

You can find the Traffic Collision Report form, or FR-309, online, and you have up to 15 days after the accident to send it to your insurer and the DMV. This is mainly to prove that you had insurance at the time of the accident. If you don’t, you risk having your driver’s license and vehicle registration suspended. 

Contact an Attorney

Even if an accident seems minor, it can be a good idea to reach out to a legal professional for guidance. A seasoned lawyer can assess the accident and conduct an investigation into the causes and potential liability involved. A lawyer can also help you gather the valuable evidence you’ll need to file an insurance claim. This can include:

  • Interviewing witnesses, 
  • Collecting dashboard or surveillance video footage,
  • Getting cell phone records (i.e. if another driver was distracted), and
  • Consulting with medical professionals about the extent of your injuries.

A seasoned attorney familiar with car accidents is best positioned to help you understand your rights and options for getting the maximum compensation after an accident.   

Handling Insurance Companies

If the other driver was to blame for the crash, South Carolina law requires them to pay for any damage you suffered. 

However, getting compensation after a car accident isn’t always so simple.

Drivers in South Carolina are required to carry auto insurance, but not all do. Some drivers may have only minimal insurance that won’t pay for the full cost of your vehicle repairs or medical treatment. In that case, you may need to file a claim against your own uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage to recover the compensation you need.

The other driver may also deny that they’re completely at fault. Under South Carolina’s comparative negligence law, anyone who contributed to the cause of the accident may be responsible for paying damages according to their degree of fault. If they claim that you share part of the responsibility, then your attorney can help you gather the evidence you need to minimize the percentage of fault you’re assigned.

After you file a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance, they’ll likely ask you for a statement. It’s safest to avoid speaking to an insurer directly. If you’re not careful, you could say something that might suggest partial responsibility for the crash. Instead, refer anyone who contacts you about the accident to your attorney, who can handle communications without putting you at risk of hurting your claim.

Seek Legal Support from a Professional

The aftermath of even a minor collision can cause major disruption to your life. Even if you weren’t at fault, the road to physical and financial recovery after a crash can be long and complicated. For that reason, it’s often in your best interest to consult with an attorney. A personal injury lawyer is the best resource for questions about South Carolina car accident laws or insurance claims.

For over 15 years, the Peace Law Firm has worked to help drivers get back on their feet after the shock of a collision. Even if you know what to do after a car accident, it can be overwhelming to deal with the process of gathering evidence, negotiating with an insurer, and taking care of yourself at the same time. As a former insurance professional, John Peace has an intimate understanding of how complex the claim process can be for drivers. If you’re concerned about dealing with the aftermath of a crash alone, know that it doesn’t have to be this way. Reach out to our office online or by phone to learn more about how we can help with your case.

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