You should follow a few important steps to ensure your safety, protect your rights and interests, and set a solid foundation for the insurance claim process later. In addition, knowing how to respond to a car accident can help to reduce your anxiety and empower you to deal with an otherwise stressful situation.
If you were in a car accident, you might feel shaken up, scared, and overwhelmed, so you may not think clearly. It’s important to do your best to stay calm. Contact our team at Morris Law, we can help you think through your next best steps. Keep reading to discover ten things to do after an auto accident.
1. Don’t Leave the Scene of the Crash
Never drive away from the scene of a car accident. Leaving the scene of a crash you were involved in is illegal under South Carolina law.
You could face misdemeanor charges, jail time, and a fine. If someone in the crash faces serious injuries or fatal wounds, you could receive felony charges. Even with a minor auto accident, you should remain at the scene until the authorities arrive and make a report.
If your vehicle is blocking traffic and you can safely move it, you should pull it to the side of the road to avoid any further collisions. If you cannot move the car, exit and quickly get to safety.
2. Check Yourself and Others for Injuries
In any automobile accident, take steps to prioritize health and safety above all. You must assess your physical condition immediately. Take a moment to ensure you feel okay. If you feel well enough to move, do your best to check on the others in your accident. You have a legal responsibility to assist others in need after a collision under South Carolina law. Do your best to help, and then move to step three.
3. Call the Police
Whether a major collision or minor accident, you should report it to the local police. Under South Carolina law, you must report a car accident to law enforcement under certain conditions. When someone faces injuries or critical injuries in a car accident, you must immediately report it to the authorities.
After the police arrive at the scene, they will perform an investigation into the crash. They will question the parties involved in the car accident, talk to witnesses, and complete a crash report.
Getting the Officer’s Contact Information
The responding officer will provide you with a Financial Responsibility form (FR-10) that must include information like your insurance policy number and contact info. You and your insurance company need to fill out portions of this form.
You should take a photo, copy the form later, or record those two pieces of information in a separate document in case you need to contact the officers. The FR-10 form should go to the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles (SCDMV) within 15 days, so you won’t have access to the original later.
Obtaining the Crash Report
You may receive an unofficial collision report at the scene. However, you still need to obtain the complete report (Crash Report TR-310) later by making a request online, by mail, or by visiting the police department that investigated.
You can ask them directly if you do not receive documentation with officer’s names, badge numbers, and contact information. You should request the police report number if you don’t have it. You may need it to obtain a copy of the crash report once the report becomes available.
Your Crash Report is Key to Filing a Claim for Compensation
Call the police to make a report. This step ensures you protect your rights and interests. The insurance company may require a police report to file a claim. The collision report also offers an indispensable investigation tool for your car accident lawyer in a personal injury claim or lawsuit.
The collision report will contain key information such as:
- A description of the accident and an accompanying diagram
- The contact information for all parties involved in the crash
- Where and when the car accident took place
- The responding officer’s name and badge number
- Vehicle information for each car (make, model, license plate number, vehicle registration number)
- Notation of the injuries or damage caused by the collision
- The names of witnesses and passengers present during the accident
- Statistical information about the crash
4. Do Not Admit or Accept Fault for the Auto Accident
You should never admit or accept blame for a car accident or express feelings of guilt. You may feel responsible for the crash, but reserve your judgment of the situation. Determining who bears fault can prove complex. Many contributing factors play into motor vehicle crashes, and you only have a limited perspective.
The police and your injury lawyer can investigate the accident’s cause based on evidence.
Admitting Fault Hurts Your Car Accident Claim
Admitting to fault could damage your chances of recovering compensation for your injuries or losses. Further, receiving a determination of fault may increase your insurance premiums. An officer can note in the crash report any admission of guilt, and the liable insurer can use this against you later.
When talking to police, remain calm, only give the facts you know with certainty, and do not lie. Lying to the police is a crime. Instead, give your account of events in as few words as possible. Do not speculate, and do not share information they did not ask for.
5. Collect Key Information From Other Drivers
Under the laws of South Carolina, you should exchange information with the other parties to your auto accident. Speak with the other drivers and passengers involved in the car collision to collect their contact and insurance information. Snap a photo or write the details down.
Collect as much information as you can:
- Names, phone numbers, and addresses of all drivers and passengers involved
- Driver’s license numbers for each driver
- Vehicle identification number
- Vehicle registration number
- License plate numbers
- Car insurance company and phone number
- Insurance policy number
- Vehicle make, model, and color
- Location of the accident
- Names and phone numbers of any witnesses to the accident
6. Take Photos and Video to Document the Motor Vehicle Accident
Whenever possible, take photos and videos of the aftermath after a crash. Photos and video recordings can prove essential evidence for your car accident claim.
If you can, take photos or videos that show:
- The damage to your car and the other vehicles in the crash
- Other property damaged in the collision (public property, private property, and personal possessions you own)
- The position of the cars
- The location of the cars, such as the cross streets, distinct structures or businesses, or nearby landmarks
- Your injuries and your passengers’ injuries
Your photos offer proof of the injuries you faced, the property you lost, and the accident’s severity. They also facilitate the investigation your auto accident lawyer conducts to identify the at-fault party.
7. Get Medical Attention
You should seek medical treatment immediately following a motor vehicle accident. You should never downplay any signs of injury after a crash. Truthfully, you may not know if you’re hurt until evaluated by a medical professional. However, if emergency medical personnel offer you care at the scene or an ambulance ride, take it. If you have any sign of injury, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Additionally, you can recover the expenses through your car accident claim for compensation.
Car Accident Injuries May Not Seem Obvious
After you receive treatment—and especially if you forego care at the scene—monitor your condition. Signs of injury may not present themselves until days or weeks later.
Pay attention to signs of a concussion or other head injury. For example, feeling dizzy, dazed, confused, or sluggish may point to a traumatic brain injury. Headaches, light sensitivity, or loss of consciousness can also offer a sign. These injuries can result in cognitive and/or behavioral issues, mobility impairment, or death.
Seemingly minor accidents can present long-lasting or permanent injuries to your back or spinal cord. Therefore, even soft tissue injuries deserve medical attention.
Medical Treatment Helps Your Compensation Claim
Seek medical attention immediately if you experience any symptoms of these or other injuries. Medical treatment can make strong support for your car accident claim.
After all, it proves you were hurt and documents the severity of your injuries. It’s much harder to claim you suffered a back injury when you did not seek treatment for it. The liable insurance company will not likely approve an injury claim unsupported by medical evidence.
8. Report the Accident to Your Insurance Provider
As tempted as you could feel to strike a deal with the other driver to cover property damage or medical bills, doing so guarantees nothing. This risky move can leave you on the hook for thousands of dollars.
You should notify your car insurance company of the accident immediately if you intend to file a claim against the other driver. If you don’t tell them, they will likely still find out. You can also inquire about the benefits included in your insurance policy. For example, you may have MedPay to help cover your medical bills.
You do not have to notify your insurer at the crash scene, however. It’s perfectly reasonable to call within a few days as you take the time to compose yourself and process the accident, but don’t forget. Failure to inform your insurance provider that you faced an auto accident could result in a premium hike or termination of your policy.
9. Maintain Your Accident Records
Keep all your accident and insurance-related documents together in a secure place. This can make the insurance claim process smoother and facilitate personal injury lawsuits.
Your file should include:
- The collision report
- Contact information gathered at the scene of the car accident
- The name of your claim’s adjuster
- Your claim number
- Any bills and receipts for expenses incurred due to the accident, such as a car rental or medical bills, lost income documentation, and receipts for damaged personal items
Maintaining up-to-date records allows you to easily access the documentation you may need to support your compensation claim. You should keep these items and then hand these documents to your car accident attorney once you choose a legal representative you trust to handle your case.
10. Consider Getting a Car Accident Lawyer
You do not have to face your car crash head-on by yourself. Instead, you may want to consult a car accident attorney following an accident in South Carolina. You likely want to reach out as soon as possible—ideally, before speaking to any insurance company about the accident.
How an Attorney Can Help
An attorney can help you regain control of an overwhelming situation. They can advise you on how to speak to police officers and insurance adjusters, discussing what information to provide and what not to say. They can also help you file an insurance claim against the at-fault party.
A strong legal advocate can:
- Investigate the auto accident to discover the cause, identify at-fault parties, and gather evidence of negligence
- Compile financial documentation, medical records, photos, videos, and expert testimony to prove your injuries and losses and support your claim for compensation
- Calculate the damages you suffered to determine a fair and full settlement amount
- File your car accident claim for damages
- Negotiate with the liable insurance company for the money you deserve
- Prepare your case for trial if the insurance company will not make a fair settlement agreement
- Fight for you in court
Having an attorney committed to your best interests can facilitate the entire claim process and put pressure on the insurance company to provide the compensation you deserve. An attorney can assist you with these ten things to do after an auto accident and much more. To learn more, contact a car accident lawyer.