No one is at his or her best after an automobile accident. When you have just been hurt, it can be a struggle to think clearly. Still, there are certain things that need to be done in the immediate aftermath of a car accident – if steps are left out, it may be harder or even impossible to establish fault or receive compensation.
In the moments immediately after an accident, the most important rule is to stay calm, and to help others be calm. Panic helps nothing. It can especially be counterproductive if panic gets the upper hand and you flee the scene. In South Carolina, leaving the scene of an accident is a crime, and can result in anything from a misdemeanor and $100 fine to a felony and $25,000, depending on how severe the accident was. Panic can also prevent you from securing the scene – ensuring that it is as far off the road as possible, and making it more visible, by using flares or turning lights on.
When everything is calm and ordered, the next step is to record it all. You should engage in all possible fact-finding. Take pictures on your phone or camera (though do not get in the way of any police investigation!) so there is tangible evidence to support your story of the accident. A police officer or sheriff will arrive and take a police report, though it may be somewhat perfunctory if there are no injuries. You should be as exact as possible with the facts, without speculating or guessing. If you do not know something, it is better to say so.
After a police report has been taken, there are three people or entities that you should communicate with, in whichever order you deem to be most important. The first is a medical professional. Even if you do not feel injured, it is extremely common for problems of both physical and mental origin to show up hours or even days after an accident. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and whiplash are the most common injuries that take time to appear; National Center for Biotechnology Information statistics indicate that almost 10% of survivors of car accidents may develop PTSD, and a significant portion report whiplash and other soft tissue injuries.
The second entity you must inform about the accident is your insurance company. Most policies mandate that you inform the company of an accident as soon as possible, and cooperate fully in its investigation. It is also a good idea to inform your insurance company as soon as possible so that if you have med-pay coverage, any medical bills you incur will be taken care of. Most insurance companies offer med-pay as an additional service, and it will pay for bills for you and any passengers in your car. South Carolina allows med-pay coverage, but does not mandate it, thought some states do.
The third person you should speak to about your accident, if the facts warrant it, is a qualified attorney. While not every accident can give rise to a personal injury claim, there are many where it can be shown that someone was at fault. If someone can be shown to be at fault, they should be liable for their negligence.
A Legal Professional Can Handle The Details
The major benefit of hiring a competent attorney is that they can handle the little details of what can often become a complex, draining process in filing a lawsuit. The dedicated North Charleston auto accident lawyers at Callihan & Syracuse have experience with several different types of car crashes, and we will work with you every step of the way to ensure you have the best chance at compensation for your ordeal. Call us today for a free consultation.