10 Things to Do If You’re in a Car Accident
Written by T. Ryan Langley on February 23rd 2015.
The moments after a car accident can be terrifying and confusing. Whether you walk away on your own to talk to the other driver or get caught up in the sea of police and EMTs, it can be hard to know where to go, what to say and who to trust. Follow these tips from Hodge & Langley Law Firm's experienced attorneys to know what to do, from a legal standpoint, to protect yourself after a car accident:
- Call 9-1-1 or have someone else do so immediately. Even if there are no injuries, you’ll want police on the scene to verify the accident and collect information.
- Get to a safe place. If you can safely move your car to the side of road, do so, but don’t try to drive severely damaged or smoking cars. Otherwise, leave the car and walk to the side of the road where you are safe from traffic. Stay on the scene.
- Collect important information. Unfortunately, some people will try to flee the scene of an accident. As soon as you are safe, write down (or type in) the make, model and license plate of the other car or cars involved. If possible, collect the names, phone numbers and insurance information of those involved in the accident and any witnesses. When the police arrive, ask for the officer’s name and the police report number. Finally, if possible, take photos of the wreck and the area around it.
- Don’t tell stories, speculate or blame. Do not offer anyone else information about yourself beyond your name and insurance company. Anything you say about what happened, whose fault you think it is, or your role could later be used against you. It’s best to offer only the very basic details until you’ve had a chance to speak with your lawyer and insurance company. When speaking to the police, tell only the details you know for sure, and avoid speculation like, “I guess I took that turn too quickly.”
- Collect and keep the FR-10 form. At the scene of the accident, the police officer should give you a green form called an FR-10. You must take this form to your insurance agent within 15 days of the accident, or risk suspension of your driver’s license. The FR-10 is an insurance verification form that notifies the Department of Motor Vehicles that you had liability insurance on your vehicle at the time of the accident. This form also serves to alert your own insurance company that you have been in an accident. That way, if there is any question as to who was at fault, the company will have an insurance adjuster investigate the accident on your behalf.
- Report to your insurance company. Contact your insurance company right away preferably the same day. This can be done over the phone, online or even on mobile apps. Contacting a lawyer early on also can help you navigate the process.
- Do not give recorded statements or sign forms at the accident site or over the phone. Wait until you’ve first hired an attorney.
- Do not rely on your insurance agent to give you the best advice. Insurance adjusters frequently have competing duties, and the adjuster often feels a greater obligation to the company for which he or she works than you, the policyholder. It is because of these competing duties that an attorney is the best resource from which to obtain advice regarding what you’re legally entitled to and what legal recourse that you may have.
- Don’t assume that you don’t deserve compensation. In South Carolina, as long as you are not more than 50% at fault for the accident, you may still be entitled to compensation after an accident. Our system is called comparative negligence, and the jury will determine the amount of another party’s liability for the accident as well as your own. Each party’s portion of liability determines the percentage of the resulting damages that he or she must pay, if any.
- Don’t delay. Timing is crucial when investigating accidents and making claims. Evidence can disappear, your injury could turn worse, witnesses can move on. Plus, there are statues of limitations—rules about how long you have to file—that can vary based on the age of people involved and the seriousness of the accident. So contact an attorney right away to ensure that your rights are protected now and in the future. At Hodge & Langley Law Firm, your initial consultation is free, so there’s no reason not to get the law on your side from the beginning.