When you are involved in a vehicular accident, it is essential to know your rights so you can best protect your own interests. Often times, a car accident can be a traumatizing experience, leading its victims to act upon emotion. However, it is advised for all parties to remain calm and follow standard post car accident procedures, including exchanging identification, insurance information and license numbers. Being in a vehicular accident may present many overwhelming issues, including property damage and health complications. If you understand your legal rights prior to being involved in an accident, then you have a better chance of handling the situation as a lawyer would advise you to.
Even though it may be unfair at times, the person who caused the accident isn’t always the person who is legally at fault. Without legal counsel onsite, you should be very careful with your words. Keep your interaction to a minimum. Additionally, apologizing after a car accident may seem polite or kind. However, it will only put you at further risk. By saying that you are “sorry” no matter the context, the other driver could use your apology as an admission of guilt and fault. Even when communicating with your insurance company afterwards, you should never mention that you apologized at any moment when recounting your accident details.
Understanding Fault in A Car Accident
Whoever is found at fault will affect whose insurance will have to pay for vehicle and property damage. The party at fault will also be responsible for personal injuries. For example, in most states, if a driver violates a traffic law, then the driver is mostly responsible for a resulting vehicular accident. However, determining fault isn’t always very obvious. Many states have complex systems used for determining fault. For example, sometimes, both drivers will be held liable as both failed to avoid the accident, hence requiring each driver as well as an insurance provider to accept responsibility and monetary penalties.
Gathering Evidence at the Scene
It is your legal right to build your case by collecting evidence. After a car accident, the last thing on your mind might be to gather evidence at the scene. However, it is essential to your case that you record any comments made by the other drivers and take pictures of both cars as well as the general area that impacted the accident. In addition to contact, license and insurance information, you should also record into your smartphone details of the accident, including the location, description of the road, etc. You should take pictures of the accident scene close up as well as from a distance. Do not forget to capture snapshots of the scene, including traffic signs, crosswalks, etc. All of these details may be needed later on. Moreover, if there were any witnesses, you should retrieve their contact information and record what they saw with your smartphone. You could always wait until a later day to contact the witnesses for their accounts of the accident, but their memory might not be as sharp as time passes. If you are able to record the whole post-accident scene, then that may be also very helpful to your case in the future.
Filing a Police Report
You are entitled to a police report after an accident. If you call the police, they will show up on the scene, interview both drivers and document what they see along with witness statements, etc. Before the police leave, be sure to ask them for their names so you can obtain copies of their reports without much hassle. In the event that you are not comfortable with speaking with a police officer because you are too shaken up from the accident, you can go to the station the following day and file a report. However, the officer will record your initial refusal, which might be used against you in court.
Statute of Limitations
If you live in South Carolina, you should be aware there is a state law that restricts the amount of time that you are allowed to bring a lawsuit to court. Even though the statute of limitations in South Carolina does not affect car insurance claims, insurance companies require claims to be made within a reasonable time after the accident, not exceeding a few weeks. However, this state does have a statute of limitations for a case that could result from a vehicular accident, including car damage, personal injury or wrongful death claims. The law allows you three years to approach the state courts for civil action, starting from the day of the accident. However, in this state, if there was a death as a result of the accident, then the clock starts on the date of the victim’s death. It’s imperative to be mindful of the time because your case could get thrown out of court if you file after the time limit. Unfortunately, car accident lawyers often see this happen to their clients. Ensure that this does not happen to you by prioritizing your claim and seeking legal representation within an appropriate amount of time.
The Right to an Attorney
If you believe that your case will be handled and resolved peacefully through the car insurance claim process, then you will want to file your lawsuit once you have leverage from the insurance company to use during settlement talks. However, this does not mean that you should not speak to an attorney prior to filing a lawsuit. After your accident, contact a local lawyer for a free consultation and review your rights if you have any questions about your timeline for filing a suit or other possible case complications. Once you are ready, you can hire an experienced car accident attorney who can help you throughout the process.
Finding yourself in a car accident is an unfortunate situation, but you can stop your situation from getting worse by hiring the right lawyer to be by your side. If you or someone you know has been injured from a car accident, suffered property damage, lost wages due to the accident, etc., then you should contact a local attorney who specializes in personal injury law who can help. Most lawyers offer a free consultation and only charge you if you win your case. Beforehand, they will discuss what percentage of the settlement would cover their fee. Without the right representation, your chances of obtaining justice may be slim; therefore, it is important to choose your attorney wisely as well as taking the right steps after your car accident.