The aftermath of a car accident can be a scary time – and the outcome of a possible court case is probably the last thing on your mind. But when the dust settles and you are pursuing a car accident claim to recover money to pay medical bills, repair property damage and make up for lost wages, you’ll want to make sure you haven’t done anything to jeopardize your right to full compensation.

Here are the seven mistakes you can’t afford to make. They could end up ruining your car accident case:

  1. Not contacting an attorney as soon as possible.
    Legal representation is crucial to protecting your right to get the money you deserve under South Carolina law. A qualified car accident attorney can guide you through the entire process, handle all communication with the insurance company, gather evidence, help you line up proper medical care and help you build and prove a case so you can recover maximum compensation for medical costs, lost wages, pain and suffering, emotional distress and other losses. Hiring a lawyer will bring professional negotiating skills to the table and let the insurance company know you are serious.
  2. Not stopping at the scene or contacting law enforcement to report the accident.
    In South Carolina, drivers involved in a crash that causes property damage, injury or death must stop at the scene. They must also provide proof of insurance at the accident scene and submit proof of insurance to the South Carolina DMV within 15 days of the accident to avoid suspension of their driver’s license and vehicle registration. Failing to follow these rules could negatively affect any legal claim you may have.
  3. Giving your insurance company a recorded or written statement without the advice of an attorney.
    While it’s important to tell your insurance company that you were involved in an accident, it’s just as important that you not let them record a statement from you without seeking advice from an attorney. You also should not offer a written statement about how the crash happened, including filling out an online report. You don’t want to inadvertently say anything that could put your case at risk.  This is especially true when it comes to dealing with the other driver’s insurance company.
  4. Not calling the police to report the accident.
    It’s important to call law enforcement to report the accident. The police will come to the scene and file a report. They may also ticket any drivers who violated traffic laws. It is important to have this police report. It could be used to prove how the accident occurred in case the responsible party tries to tell a different story as the court case proceeds. It is important to keep in mind, though, that the police do not decide civil responsibility for a crash. That’s the role of the courts.
  5. Not seeking prompt medical attention.
    Even if you feel fine after the accident, it’s crucial that you get checked out by a doctor as soon as possible. You might think you feel all right, but serious, life-altering injuries such as internal bleeding, brain injuries or soft-tissue injuries may not be apparent right away. Also, an injury might end up being worse than you first thought. Seeking medical attention is important for your health, and it is also important for protecting your legal options. Waiting to go to the doctor could jeopardize your right to recover compensation. The person who caused the accident might claim you weren’t really hurt or that something else caused your injuries.
  6. Failing to gather as much information as possible from witnesses.
    Make sure to write down information about the drivers involved in the accident, as well as any witnesses. Collect names, contact info and insurance information from the other drivers and vehicle owners involved. Get names and contact info from any witnesses. These witnesses could be critical for backing up your story about what happened in the accident.
  7. Not taking photos and documenting what happened at the scene of the accident and after.
    Documentation of the scene is key to a car accident case to help answer questions about who is responsible or to prove certain details. You should write down everything you can about the accident scene and take pictures of the entire area and damage to vehicles. Make sure to write down everything you remember. Having extensive documentation about what happened after the accident is also important for building your case. You should keep a record of any injuries, medical records, lost wages or anything else related to the accident. It’s also a good idea to keep a journal about how your injuries have affected your day-to-day life.
About the Author

Mark Joye is the Head of the Litigation Department at the Joye Law Firm. A Board-Certified Trial Advocate with nearly 30 years of litigation experience, he currently serves on the Board of Governors for the American Association for Justice and is a past president of the South Carolina Association for Justice. In a recent trial, Joye headed a trial team that secured $17 million for a family killed in a tractor-trailer accident.

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