Getting into an automobile accident can be overwhelming and often leaves the victim with a great deal of stressful matters to handle. One step that often gets overlooked is reporting the accident to the appropriate parties.
If you’ve been in a wreck, you need to know about South Carolina car accident reports.
Understanding the law will protect your rights and make the process of seeking monetary damages much easier.
Retaining an experienced Columbia, SC auto accident attorney is one of the most important decisions you can make after being in a wreck. Count on The Louthian Law Firm to advocate for you.
Do Drivers in South Carolina Have to Report Every Crash?
Drivers do not have to notify the police of every car accident. A driver is only required to report an accident to the police if there has been a death or an injury. If you’ve been in a wreck with injuries or death, including someone in your own vehicle, it’s imperative that you call 911 immediately.
There are both health and legal reasons to do this. For your health, of course, calling 911 ensures that appropriate medical personnel arrive to treat those who are injured. You may not believe your or your passengers’ injuries are serious. You may not even believe you are injured at all, but you need to let a medical professional make that call so you don’t inadvertently make the injury worse.
Taking this step is also critical to preserving your legal rights. If you were injured and you failed to report medical assistance by calling 911, you could aggravate what may seem to be minor or non-existent injuries. If the at-fault driver’s insurance company or personal injury lawyer learns of this fact, which they almost certainly will, they will try to shift blame for your injuries back to you and contest any damages claim you may have.
Even if there don’t appear to be any injuries, it’s best to call 911 if you need to open an insurance claim to cover damages to your vehicle. Many insurance companies require accident victims to contact the police before they can open a claim. So call the police, and if it turns out you were in fact injured, all the better so you can protect your health and legal interests.
What Happens When the Police Show Up?
Law enforcement will show up at the scene of the crash and file an accident report, even if the accident appears minor. This report needs to be filed as soon as possible. The police will likely fill out a form that contains basic information such as the date, time, and location plus the identity of the parties involved. This should give you what you need to file an insurance claim.
If for some reason the police don’t show up to investigate the accident, you may need or want to file your own report (see below).
Do I Have to (Or Should I) Make My Own Police Report?
Even though the police report should contain sufficient information to get your insurance claim going, it might be a good idea to make your own report. The law in your state might even require you to do so.
In South Carolina, any driver whose accident is not being investigated by the police (e.g., because they failed to appear at the scene) has to file an accident report if the accident:
- Caused more than $1,000 worth of property damage; or
- Resulted in injury or death
An attorney can assist you with filling out the paperwork. Commonly used accident reporting forms include Form FR-309 and Form FR-10.
The reason you might wish to make your own report, even if the police file one, is that law enforcement can sometimes leave out critical accident details. You should include the following, if possible, in your own report using Form FR-309:
- A detailed description of the crash, including the number of people in each automobile
- The name and insurance information of everyone involved in the wreck
- Names of witnesses, their contact information, and their accounts of the crash
- Details about damages and injuries sustained
- A diagram of the accident scene
- Photos and videos of the damage and video statements
Who Else Needs to Know About the Accident?
South Carolina car accident reports need to be sent to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and your insurance company.
Notifying the DMV
The police accident report, along with any forms or paperwork you file and proof of liability insurance covering your vehicle, should be submitted to the DMV within two weeks of the accident. Preferably, this should be done right away in case of delays and so you can expedite the claims process. The DMV requires this paperwork to verify that the drivers involved in the accident were insured and had at least the minimum liability insurance coverage required by state law.
These items should be sent to:
South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles
Attn. Financial Responsibility
P.O. Box 1498
Blythewood, SC 29016-0040
Notifying your insurance company
Drivers should report an accident to insurance and send them anything they or the police filed.
This is especially important if you make your own report, since the police report can sometimes leave out crucial details. The more information your insurer has, the easier it will be to process your claim. Taking this step is also necessary if the at-fault driver fled the scene, didn’t have insurance, or didn’t have enough insurance as required by law. You may have uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage that can help pay for your losses.
Additional Considerations About Accident Reporting
Accidents can cause victims to panic, but staying calm and focused is essential to minimizing your injuries and maximizing your recovery of legal damages. We therefore suggest these additional tips:
- After seeing your doctor, follow all recommended treatment regimens and keep up with subsequent appointments.
- Make your own personal notes about what happened and include as many details as you can.
- Keep all reports and statements factual and don’t admit fault for the accident.
- Don’t accept the first offer that your insurance company gives you.
- Don’t speak with the at-fault driver’s insurance company.
Talk to an Experienced Columbia, SC Car Accident Attorney
Lastly, and at your earliest convenience, reach out to a car accident lawyer who knows what it takes to seek the fullest amount of compensation you deserve for your injuries and property damage. The Louthian Law Firm is ready to assist you. Call us today.