Because accidents happen to even the best of drivers, everyone should be prepared to do the right things immediately afterward. Many legal troubles arising from accidents could be avoided if persons involved knew what they should do.
Call A Law Enforcement Officer
Notify the local police department of the accident if it occurs in the city. If the accident occurs outside city limits, notify the County Sheriff's office or the South Carolina Highway Patrol. Even in minor accidents where there are no serious injuries or property damage, notify the authorities immediately. An officer's official report may assist you later if a claim for liability is filed. In South Carolina, the investigating officer gives each driver a form dealing with insurance information. This form is not an accident report although many people mistakenly believe it is.
What To Do At The Scene Of The Accident
In South Carolina, drivers involved in an auto accident where a person is injured or property is damaged must stop their vehicles at the scene of the accident or as close as possible without obstructing traffic.
If someone is seriously injured, make arrangements for a doctor to come to the scene or call an ambulance. It is best not to move an injured person. Good intentions on your part may result in further injury to the victim.
Take all possible precautions to prevent further accidents and ensure the safety of those involved. Station someone to warn any approaching vehicles and, if at night, use flares and reflectors. Use a flashlight if no flares or reflectors are available.
Obtain Names Of Witnesses
Get the names and addresses of any and all witnesses. After writing clown the names and addresses of any witnesses, try to get statements from them as to what happened. If they will, have witnesses write down this information at the scene. The investigating officer will also obtain this information. Always have a pencil and pad. You might want to download this article and the "Accident Information Form" and keep them in your glove compartment.
Take Notes On The Accident
Make your own written notes on all significant circumstances concerning the accident.
Remain At The Scene
Unless injuries make it necessary for you to leave the scene of the accident, South Carolina law requires you to remain there until you have completed all of the following procedures:
- Stop the vehicle at the scene or as close to it as possible to ensure no obstruction of traffic
- Return to scene unless you need to leave temporarily to report the accident
- Identify the other person and offer reasonable assistance if he or she is injured
- Give your name, address and registration number to other driver if requested
- Immediately call the police (if accident occurred within a municipality) or the Sheriffs department or highway patrol.
If possible, it is important that you complete the following actions:
- Get names, addresses and statements of witnesses
- Make notes and fill out the accident information form in pamphlet.
- Make a diagram of the accident.
Commenting On The Accident
South Carolina law requires the driver of any vehicle involved in an accident to give his or her name, address and the registration number of the vehicle he or she is driving and to show his or her driver's license. Every law enforcement officer who investigates an auto accident must file a written report. You are obligated by law to assist any officer in this investigation by answering questions and discussing the circumstances. Be aware that any statement can be held against you. You should not admit or sign anything even if you think you are in the wrong. You may learn later that you were not at fault or that the other driver was equally at fault.
South Carolina requires drivers or owners of cars involved in accidents to report the accident within 15 days to the South Carolina Department of Transportation. The investigating officer will give you a form (FR-10) to fill out to prove that you have the proper liability insurance. This form must be filled out and sent in by your insurance company. Make a copy for yourself before giving it to your insurance agent.
Notify Your Insurance Company
Report the accident to your insurance company. Failure to make a prompt and correct report may affect your rights. If you were injured, notify the company issuing the applicable insurance (accident insurance, hospitalization, etc.). After the accident you have a duty to cooperate with your insurance company; however, you have no duty to give statements or sign any forms given to you by any of the other drivers' insurance companies.
REMEMBER, ANY STATEMENT MAY BE USED AS AN ADMISSION OF FAULT. Be cautious in dealing with persons offering to adjust your case or trying to hurry you into a settlement. Once a release is signed, it is very difficult to reopen a case. If the other party or the opposing insurance company offers a settlement or asks you to sign a release, you may wish to consult a lawyer. YOU CAN LOSE VALUABLE RIGHTS IN SIGNING A RELEASE.
Do not make or promise to make immediate payment of any kind to the other party. Any such payment would be at your own risk. The other driver cannot force you to make any payment without legal proceedings, nor can the other driver hold your car without legal action. Keep records of all expenses associated with the accident, including doctor bills, time lost from work and any other expenses. Save copies of all bills.