Few people in Columbia or anywhere else in South Carolina live their entire lives without ever being involved in an auto accident. In fact, the car insurance industry estimates that the average driver gets into a wreck every 17.9 years. That means many people are involved in three or four crashes over the course of their lifetime. In addition, nearly 1,000 people lost their lives in 2017 to traffic related accidents in South Carolina, making it essential that those we share the road with always employ safe driving habits.
What You Should Know Following a Car Accident To Avoid Being Taken Advantage Of
Let's be honest - there are a lot of entities that see dollar signs after someone gets injured. Medical providers are prone to run up big bills, loan companies want to exploit you, and then there are the TV lawyers screaming about money. Regardless of whether we ever meet for a free consultation, I want to make sure you are aware of a few key points so that your rights are protected in the wake of a crash:
1. You do not have to provide the at-fault driver's insurance company with recorded statements or records authorizations.
One benefit of having an attorney is not having to deal with insurance adjusters. Following a collision, the negligent driver's insurer may try to convince you that providing a statement or signing a HIPAA release is in your best interest. That is rarely the case and is one of several common mistakes people make after a car accident. More often, they will use your recorded statement to minimize your degree of injury, then request your entire medical history in hopes of finding some remote record from years ago that lets them argue you had "pre-existing conditions."
2. If you have health insurance, all medical bills should be submitted to your insurer.
Hospitals and other medical groups in South Carolina frequently tell patients they cannot use health insurance to pay for treatment related to a car accident. That is simply untrue, and borders on illegality. Likewise, if your own health insurance company tries to convince you not to submit a claim, and rather pay it with money recovered from the wreck, do not listen.
3. You only need a lawyer in certain situations.
Not every auto accident warrants legal representation. Simply put, if hiring an attorney is going to result in less money and more hardship for you, then don't do it. On the other hand, if you have sustained a significant injury, missed time from work, have concerns over the wreck's impact on your future health, are being mistreated by the insurance companies, or have medical bills greater than the negligent driver's insurance limits, then I certainly recommend consulting with an attorney before entering into any negotiations or settlement.
4. The negligent driver's insurance policy may not be your only source of recovery.
This is extremely important. Many of the catastrophic auto accidents my law firm has handled involved situations where the negligent driver only had minimum limits coverage. In South Carolina, that means $25,000.00. So what do you do if your medical expenses or lost earnings exceed that figure?
First, we want to make sure there aren't any other insurance policies applicable to the driver. For instance, the driver may have been operating someone else's car at the time of the collision, allowing us to recover the coverage on that vehicle, plus the negligent driver's own car. Another example would be if the at-fault person was working when the wreck happened. In those situations, we may be able to seek recovery not only from the individual, but from the business for whom he was working.
Second, we need to check whether you have "underinsured motorist" coverage through your insurer. South Carolina law requires insurance carriers to offer it to you. If you have it, and your damages exceed the amount of money available from the negligent driver who hurt you, then an underinsured claim may be necessary. Additionally, there are some situations where you can "stack" your underinsured policies following an accident.
Third, if the wreck was caused by a drunk driver, the facts may permit a claim against the bar or restaurant that overserved him. This is known as a dram shop action, and we are currently handling several such cases.
5. Settlements are tax free, and should factor in every loss - past and future.
The money you receive in relation to your injuries is 100% tax free. The only exception is money specifically paid for punitive damages. Furthermore, South Carolina's auto accident laws are intended to place all your damages on one side of the scale, then ask how much a reasonable person would accept in return for what you have experienced. Some lawyers say you can't put a dollar figure on pain or mental anguish, but that is untrue. We assign dollar amounts to medical treatment, baseball tickets, or a piece of art because we recognize it has value. As people, we also recognize that their is value in being pain-free or unburdened by trauma.
People who have been involved in car wrecks - including my own stepmother - often experience problems many years later. I have watched her undergo multiple surgeries that would not have been necessary but for an accident when she was in college. I make this point as a reminder that any settlement or verdict must factor in not only what you have been through, but what you are more likely than not to endure in the future. We work with a number of experts in this area to help make sure clients are fully compensated for anticipated future hardships.
For more answers and guidance, call me today at 803-790-2800. You are also welcome to request a free copy of my book, Safety First, Justice Always: Your Guide to South Carolina Auto Accident Law.
Representing Accident Victims Across South Carolina
If you are considering speaking with a lawyer, make sure it is someone who has handled cases like yours in the past; someone with a strong track record. While every accident case has its own unique facts, having experience with everything from going up against trucking companies, taking on bars for overserving patrons, helping pedestrians who get hit while lawfully crossing the street, or overcoming the bias that motorcyle riders face, can be very beneficial. You should also consider an injury attorney who has helped people not only in Columbia, but throughout our state. My law firm is selective when it comes to taking on new clients because we want everyone we represent to receive the care and individual attention their case mandates. In addition to car accidents caused by negligence alone, we also review and accept:
- DUI Crashes
- Pedestrian Accidents
- Motorcycle Accidents
- Truck Accidents
- Bicycle Accidents
- ATV Accidents
Regardless of the unique aspects of your case, my primary goal is to help you obtain the best possible medical care, along with fair compensation. I want my clients to get well, and hopefully get back to the life they knew as quickly as possible. Bottom line, I am committed to protecting your rights and treating you like a member of my own family.
Read One Client's Experience Following Injuries Caused By a Drunk Driver
Contact Columbia Car Accident Lawyer Kenneth Berger
Whether you were just in a wreck and don't know what to do, or have tried to deal with the insurance company on your own and become frustrated, I am here to help you regain control. While you focus on getting well, I focus on obtaining full justice for every harm and loss caused by the accident.
To schedule a free case evaluation and begin receiving guidance, use our live chat feature or call my law firm at 803-790-2800. If you're not ready to talk, but still want to learn more about your rights, allow us to mail you a complimentary copy of Safety First, Justice Always: Your Guide to South Carolina Auto Accident Law.