Unfortunately, you don't have unlimited time if you want to pursue compensation for your injuries. South Carolina law sets strict deadlines on when plaintiffs must file a personal injury lawsuit. Insurance companies often have even shorter notice timetables that must be met if you want to file a claim.
What to Do After a Car Accident
Knowing what to do after an accident helps you avoid panicking and possibly causing more injury or damage. Immediately after an accident, you should follow specific steps to ensure the safety of everyone involved. South Carolina state law requires anyone who is involved in an accident to follow certain legal duties, as outlined in S.C. Code Ann. 56-5-1210:
- Drivers must stop their cars as close to the scene of the accident or return to the scene, relocating their vehicles out of traffic as much as possible.
- All drivers must exchange their contact and insurance informatoin with each other, including showing their driver's licenses.
- Drivers must render aid to anyone who is injured, including calling for an ambulance or giving any immediate assistance necessary.
- Drivers must notify law enforcement of any injuries or deaths from the accident.
- Each driver should file a report with the DMV themselves or follow up to ensure police submit the report. You can be held liable if the report does not go on record.
Failing to adhere to these duties can result in a hit-and-run charge, which carries significant fines and jail time. You can face a hit-and-run charge even if you collide with an empty vehicle and no one is hurt.
Contact Your Insurance Company
Once everyone is safe, and 911 has been called, you should contact your insurance company to report the incident. Never agree to keep an accident “between us” with other drivers to avoid involving the insurance companies. You could have damage or injuries that are not immediately apparent and could cost you a tremendous amount of money in medical costs or repair bills in the following weeks.
Remember to share only your contact and insurance information with other drivers. Do not admit guilt or apologize, and do not minimize any injuries you have. Accept medical treatment on the scene and follow up with your doctor.
Any statements you make to other drivers or first responders can work against you later on while you are pursuing your claim.
What Is The Statute of Limitations for a Car Accident Claim in South Carolina?
There are a few different deadlines to keep in mind if you're considering filing a claim for compensation after a car accident. One important deadline is South Carolina’s statute of limitations on personal injury lawsuits. In most cases, you have three years from the date of a car accident to file a personal injury lawsuit. These deadlines can be different in some cases. For example, if you were 16 when the accident happened, these deadlines do not start until you turn 18.
The Best Timeline for Filing Your Case
The deadlines above represent the longest you can legally wait to file a claim in court. However, it is not advisable to wait any longer than you have to. The best thing you can do after your accident is to schedule a free meeting with a lawyer immediately, get a trained legal opinion, and then take the next steps within days.
- Over time, details of an accident become harder to remember and harder to investigate. Evidence can be misplaced or purposely damaged to slow a claim.
- Witnesses become harder to find the longer you wait. Their memories of the crash can change or be forgotten.
- The insurance company will argue that you must not have been badly injured if it took you so long to take action.
- Preparing a case takes time, and you want as much time as possible to ensure that you have a solid legal claim.
If you have already waited months, or even a year or more, you should still speak to a lawyer. Cases can be and are won even after time goes by. Still, your case is strongest, and the most evidence is available to support your claim when the crash is recent. If possible, call a lawyer on the same day as your accident.
Working with Insurance Companies After an Accident
Many insurance companies pride themselves on their customer service and speed in paying out claims, but the truth is that they are in business to make money. They have teams of adjusters and lawyers whose job is to minimize or deny claims to cut their costs. It is critical that you have a qualified car accident lawyer working with you to ensure you receive the most compensation you can.
Your lawyer will handle the negotiations for you and put their experience to work to fight back against the techniques adjusters use to poke holes in your claim. Providers may try to delay paying the claim to get you to give up and accept a lowball offer, but your lawyer should push hard to ensure that all your past, present, and future expenses will be covered.
This is especially important when you cannot reach a satisfactory settlement with the insurance provider and must file a personal injury lawsuit against another driver. South Carolinahas legal deadlines for filing claims, but filing earlier is helpful to ensure you do not miss the window. Scheduling a free consultation with a skilled car accident attorney will help you understand your options and what choice is best for you.
Evidence You Will Need to File Your Car Accident Claim
When filing an insurance claim or a personal injury lawsuit against other drivers, you will need as much evidence as possible to support your case. An experienced lawyer will have a skilled support team who can gather reports and documentation to use when negotiating. Some examples of this evidence are:
- Photos of the accident scene, including weather, road conditions, injuries sustained, and damage to all vehicles
- Statements from eyewitnesses and other drivers
- Police accident reports
- Driving history from the DMV for all drivers
- Accident investigator reports
- Contact and insurance information from other drivers involved
- Records of emergency treatment you received at the scene
- Other medical records of your injuries and the treatment given for them
- Video footage from traffic, security, and dashboard cameras in the area
- Cell phone records of other drivers showing whether they were using their phones at the time of the accident
- Any “black box” information available about the crash from computer control boards in newer vehicles
- Auto repair bills
- Vehicle replacement estimates from a mechanic or car dealership
While you are healing from your injuries and dealing with arranging alternative transportation, your legal team can build your case by pulling together the most information available. More information often allows you to tell your story to the court without the defense being able to nay-say your narrative. Thus, having more evidence can make the difference between a small settlement and a compensation package that truly fits your needs.
Contacting a South Carolina Car Accident Lawyer
Have you been injured in a crash and wondered how long you have to report your car accident? The Hopkins Law FIrm offers a free consultation with experienced and respected personal injury lawyers in South Carolina. Our qualified professionals will discuss the details of your claim, sift through available evidence, and provide legal advice on how to proceed.
We have established a track record of successfully representing our clients in lawsuits. We can help you prepare your car accident claim within the legal deadlines so you can maximize on your monetary compensation. Call us today at 843-314-4202 for a free evaluation of your case.