There is usually a middle step between a car crash and a South Carolina car accident lawsuit, and that middle step is dealing with the insurance companies of each driver. Depending on the facts and circumstances of the crash, dealing with the insurance company can add weeks or months to the total time it takes to obtain compensation for your injuries. Oftentimes, dealing with the insurance companies can be more stressful than pursuing a car accident lawsuit. What can you expect as an injured motorist in a South Carolina car accident?
After the Crash, Contact Your Insurance Company and Your Attorney
The reason many people find dealing with the insurance companies so frustrating is because they attempt to handle their claim without the assistance of an experienced South Carolina car crash lawyer. Without legal counsel, the insurance claims process can be intimidating and confusing. Is it okay for the insurance company to take pictures of my car? What documents do I need to send to the insurance company? Should I give a statement to my insurance agent? Here’s what the typical insurance process involves:
- You contact your car insurance agent. Your agent will initiate the claims process with you, which usually involves completing a form (either online, over the phone, or through the mail). Once your claim is filed, an adjuster will be assigned to your case.
- The adjuster investigates your claim. The insurance adjuster assigned to your case will then investigate your claim and determine what coverage you are entitled to receive under your policy. The adjuster may take pictures of your car and the damage to it, your injuries, and other pertinent objects. Your adjuster may ask you for a written or recorded statement about the crash (you should be very careful about giving these statements without an attorney present to assist you – what you say to the adjuster can impact the amount of compensation you are able to recover).
- The adjuster offers you a settlement. In some cases, your insurance agent will offer you a settlement based on your policy and the facts of your crash. If the other driver is believed to be at fault, your insurance company may pursue a legal action against the other driver’s insurance company to recover the amounts it paid to you. The other driver’s insurance company may also offer you a settlement for your injuries if it believes its driver may be at fault in causing the crash. You should take any settlement offer made to you – whether by your own insurance company or by the other insurance company – with your attorney before accepting the offer.
If you decline to settle your case with the at-fault driver and/or his or her insurance company, you should be prepared to file a car accident lawsuit soon after such discussions break down. You only have a limited amount of time to file a lawsuit, and (unfortunately) this time does not stop while you are going through the insurance claims process.
Is South Carolina a Fault-Based State?
When it comes to car insurance following a crash, any state in the United States is either a “fault-based” state or a “no fault” state. In a “no fault” state, each driver’s own insurance pays for the harm their separate client suffers. In other words, Driver A’s insurance company pays for the harm Driver A suffered, and Driver B’s insurance pays for the harm Driver B suffered. Except in extreme cases where one driver acts intentionally in causing a crash, drivers usually do not have an ability to sue the other driver or his or her insurance company, even if the other driver was technically at fault in causing the crash.
South Carolina, however, is a “fault-based” state. This means that the driver who is determined to be at fault in causing the crash is responsible for the damages and injuries suffered by the other driver(s). If those damages exceed the at-fault driver’s policy limits, the injured motorist can bring suit against the at-fault motorist to recover the damages he or she suffered.
How to Handle the Insurance Adjuster
After your car accident, you will almost certainly be contacted by one or more insurance adjusters. No matter how pleasant the insurance adjuster seems, and no matter which company he or she works for, remember this – the insurance adjuster does not work for you. The insurance adjuster has one “client,” and that is the insurance company. The adjuster’s job is simple: Resolve your claim as quickly as possible and for as little money as possible. Depending on whether the adjuster works for your insurance company or the other driver’s, the adjuster may employ one or more persuasion tactics to get you to settle your claim.
Expect that the insurance adjuster will make at least one (and perhaps several) offers to settle your claim. Each offer will contain the same basic elements: (1) A proposal to pay you a certain amount of money by a certain date; (2) an agreement by you to waive any further legal rights to compensation you might have; and (3) a deadline by which you must accept or decline the offer. Before accepting the offer, however, you should ask yourself:
- Does the amount being offered adequately compensate me for my past and future accident-related expenses?
- What are my rights to compensation against the other driver and how strong would my claim be?
- How quickly do I need to be compensated?
It is always advisable to discuss any proposed settlement offer with your South Carolina car crash attorney before accepting the offer. Each settlement offer may differ from previous offers you received, and it is important that you understand the legal ramifications of accepting the offer.
Contact an Experienced South Carolina Car Crash Attorney
The law office of David R. Price, Jr., P.A., is a Greenville-based car crash law firm dedicated to assisting victims of injury car crashes in South Carolina. Contact our firm by phone or online after your crash and let us assist you in recovering the compensation you need.
David Price is a Personal Injury, Civil Litigation, Collections, and Criminal Defense Attorney who practices in Greenville, SC. He graduated from the University of Georgia School of Law, and has been practicing law for 12 years. David Price believes in helping those who have been injured. Learn more about his experience by clicking here.