Naturally, no one intends to be in an accident, but if you find yourself in this situation, please try to stay calm and think about your next steps and responsibilities. We hope that you, and any of those you care about, are never in an accident – but we are here to help you if you are and need legal assistance.
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 those 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 that it is.
Know 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, unless the vehicle is on fire or there is other similar potential grave danger. Good intentions on your part may result in further injury to the victim.
Take all possible precautions to prevent any 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 and write down the names of Witnesses to the Accident
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. Try to always have a pen or pencil and a pad in your vehicle with you. You might want to copy and save this article as a reminder for keeping in your glove compartment.
Take notes about the Accident
Make your own written notes on all significant circumstances concerning the accident and try to make a diagram or drawing of the accident. Using your phone (or other camera if you have one), take pictures of the scene and any damage.
Remain at the scene of the Accident if possible
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 the scene if 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 the other driver if requested.
- Immediately call the Police (if accident occurred within a municipality) or the Sheriffs Department or Highway Patrol.
Carefully and honestly discuss the Accident with Law Enforcement
South Carolina law requires the driver of any vehicle involved in an accident to give his or her name, address, 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 to, nor 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.
File necessary forms and reports, and notify your insurance company
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.
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.
Make no promises to pay anything to the other party
Do not make, nor 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 the proper 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.
We are here to help you if you have been injured in an accident that was not your fault. Motor vehicle accidents are one of the most common causes of serious injury. Recovering after a serious accident can require extensive medical care that may be difficult to pay for without the benefit of full compensation.
If you are found to be at fault for the accident, and face criminal charges as a result, securing the representation of an attorney who knows how to build an effective defense, is an essential part towards ensuring that you are able to reach for the best possible outcome to your case.
At The Floyd Law Firm PC, we understand how important it is that we work towards positive results for our clients. We know our local courts and what strategies work best in them. Our firm has more than 100 years of combined experience that allows us to provide highly effective legal services if you were involved in an auto accident. Contact us and we can help.