Should I report my car accident?
South Carolina law requires any auto accident that causes at least $1,000 in property damage or results in injuries or death to be reported to authorities. Not reporting a serious accident can result in a range of possible penalties, such as (but not limited to) license suspensions and criminal hit-and-run charges.
In South Carolina, there are generally 2 ways to report a car crash to authorities:
- Call the police immediately after the accident. Whether you call 911 or a non-emergency number, reporting the accident to law enforcement is generally the best move. This will result in immediate help at the scene, as well as an official police investigation report of the crash.
- Report the accident to the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles (SCDMV). If the police were not called immediately after an auto crash (or if they were unable to respond to the scene), motorists can report car accidents in the hours or days after the crash to the SCDMV. To file these car accident reports, it will be necessary to complete Form-309 (Traffic Collision Report Form), and mail it to the SCDMV within 15 days of the crash. There isn’t currently an online reporting system for South Carolina auto accidents.
Regardless of how “minor” your crash appears to be, we always recommend reporting the incident to the proper authorities to protect your legal rights.
How is fault determined in a car crash case?
A vast majority of car accidents are caused by driver error. This means that 1 or more of the drivers contributed to the wreck, which determines the distribution of financial compensation in the settlement of an insurance claim or lawsuit. We’ll need to investigate the details and evidence regarding the wreck in order to establish who is at fault.
In South Carolina, comparative negligence will be considered when examining who is at fault in a car wreck. This means that if the evidence in a case shows that both drivers contributed to the accident, the amount of damages to which the injured party is entitled may be reduced depending on the level of negligence each party demonstrated. For instance, if you’re 10 percent at fault, this amount will be subtracted from your total settlement. For this reason, it’s vital to have a skilled legal representative by your side fighting to reduce your liability and maximize your compensation.
What’s more, South Carolina follows a modified 51 percent rule, meaning that you may only pursue compensation if you are 50 percent or less at fault for the crash. If the judge or jury determines that your liability is 51 percent or more, then you won’t be eligible for any compensation whatsoever.
What are the top causes of car accidents in South Carolina?
A traffic crash occurs about every 10 seconds on a U.S. roadway. While any number of factors can contribute to an auto wreck, research indicates that the 3 leading causes of traffic collisions in both South Carolina and across the nation are:
1. Drivers (human error)
Federal transportation safety authorities have reported that at least 94 percent of all traffic crashes in the U.S. each year are caused by some type of human error—often, committed by drivers. Some of the most common forms of driver negligence that play a role in causing traffic crashes include:
- Impaired driving. Motorists are at least 4 times more likely to be involved in a crash when they have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 (i.e., the legal limit across the U.S.) or higher. This elevated risk is usually the result of the driver’s impaired perception, coordination problems and delayed reaction times caused by alcohol impairment.
- Distracted driving. Motorists who fail to focus on the road tend to exhibit the same impairments as drunk drivers. In fact, some studies have indicated that distracted drivers are about 6 times more likely to be involved in traffic accidents than impaired drivers.
- Aggressive or reckless driving. This refers to any failure to abide by traffic laws. Although research has yet to quantify the degree to which noncompliance with traffic laws can increase motorists’ crash risks, it shouldn’t be a big surprise to drivers that failing to follow traffic laws can put them (and those around them on the roads) at risk of a serious auto accident.
- Drowsy driving. Usually more problematic among commercial motorists (like truck drivers), drowsy driving can cause similar impairments to drunk or distracted driving. In fact, some research has shown that drivers who get behind the wheel after 24 hours of no sleep (i.e., 24 consecutive hours awake) tend to display impairments similar to motorists who have BACs of about 0.10 (well over the legal limit).
2. Vehicle-related issues
Another factor that commonly contributes to traffic crashes (both in South Carolina and throughout the U.S.) is vehicle equipment defects, which can impact motorists’ abilities to safely control their cars. When such defects impact vital vehicle features—like the brakes, ignition system and/or tires—the risk of a crash can skyrocket.
3. Road conditions
Poor roadway conditions can significantly increase motorists’ crash risks, especially when drivers aren’t sober, alert or compliant with traffic laws. Common examples of poor road conditions include (but are not limited to):
- A lack of traffic signs and/or lane dividers
- Broken traffic signals
- Confusing signage
- Objects and debris in the road
- Potholes and shoulder drop-offs
- Faded road markings
When should I hire a car accident attorney, and why?
The main reason you should hire a car accident lawyer after you’ve been hurt in a wreck is to ensure that your rights and claim are protected as you move forward seeking financial compensation. Several options may be pursued in order to recover monetary compensation after a car accident. Compensation is intended to cover medical bills, time off from work and other injury-related expenses.
Filing a claim with insurance companies after a car accident is standard, but filing a claim against the other driver’s insurance company may prove more challenging. Most insurance companies will offer the smallest award possible, which is often less than the amount to which you are entitled. Therefore, having a lawyer negotiate your claim is paramount in ensuring that the appropriate amount of compensation is received.
Other reasons why a lawyer may be needed following a car accident include:
- If the at-fault driver is uninsured or underinsured
- The insurance company denies your claim
- The accident report is incorrect
- Liability is disputed
- You suffered serious, catastrophic injuries (or a loved one was killed)
- The collision resulted in major property damage or totaled your vehicle
- The crash involved a government vehicle
Having a lawyer working on your behalf as soon as possible after your car accident can help you with several aspects of your personal injury case. A skilled car accident lawyer experienced in your geographic area will be able to fight for your rights and interests with knowledge of the relevant laws pertaining to your specific situation.
What records and documents should I keep after an accident?
Another important thing to do after a car accident is to keep records related to your crash and the losses it causes you. This recordkeeping can preserve the value of your claim because it can detail the extent of the financial impacts you suffer from the wreck.
Some of the specific issues or elements that should be included in your recordkeeping are the following:
- Accident-scene photos and report(s). These can include the pictures or video you took after the crash, as well as photos included with the police report and/or insurance claim. In terms of reports, keep your copy of the police report, as well as any investigation/claims reports (or correspondence) from insurance companies.
- Lost wages. Document the earnings you have lost as a result of the crash by keeping pay stubs and bank statements. If the accident caused you to lose your job (because of missing too much time from work), be sure to also keep any correspondence, reports or memos that your employer sent you regarding your job loss.
- Medical care and the related bills. This can include any medical reports, bills, treatment guidelines, and/or diagnostic test results you receive as you get your crash-related injuries treated. These documents can be supplemented by your own notes (like a journal in which you detail your physical and/or psychological limitations resulting from the crash).
- Other bills. This can include anything from property damage/repair bills for your vehicle to bills for prescription medications, rental cars, etc. If you’re spending money to cover any loss that was caused by the accident, keep the receipt.
Tips for saving accident records, documents and evidence
When it comes to recordkeeping in the aftermath of an auto accident, here are a few helpful tips to remember:
- When in doubt, keep it. Following a crash is not a good time to start practicing minimalism. You can always throw stuff out later if it’s not needed, but tracking something down months or years after the fact can be much more difficult—and costly. So, just keep everything related to your crash, even if you don’t think it’s necessary or essential.
- Keep all of the records in one, easily accessible place. Get a folder or binder to organize all of your accident-related bills, reports and other documents. This can help you avoid losing anything, while making it easier for you to quickly access any crash-related documents in the future.
- Create a backup file or version. If possible, try to make physical and/or electronic backups of each document (i.e., copy and/or scan each document). This can be invaluable if any document gets misplaced or damaged in the future.
What car accident damages can I recover?
Depending on the severity of your injuries and the nature of your case, we may be able to help you recover compensation for both economic and non-economic damages—including:
- Medical expenses, including physical therapy, prescriptions and treatment (past and future)
- Lost wages
- Property damage
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Loss of future earning potential
- Loss of consortium
- Reduced quality of life
- Punitive damages
How long do I have to file a car accident claim?
South Carolina law limits how long personal injury claimants have to file a lawsuit. If you were hurt in an auto accident, you only have 3 years to file an injury claim. This 3-year deadline is the same if you plan to file a property damage claim or if you want to file a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of a deceased loved one.
If you miss this deadline—known as the “statute of limitations”—then your claim will be automatically rejected by the court in most cases. It’s vital that you consult a car accident attorney with deep knowledge of South Carolina laws, deadlines and rules as soon as possible after a crash to find out what steps are next.