If you’ve been injured in an auto accident, you probably have a lot of questions about the steps you need to take to recover compensation, if you can recover compensation, assuming that someone else was liable for the incident. There is much more to establishing liability than simply telling the police that someone else was responsible. There has to be an investigation, and there will probably be multiple entities conducting that investigation.
The police may investigate, the insurance companies of any involved drivers may investigate. If you are wise, and contact an attorney to represent you, then your attorney will also investigate. While the police may be impartial, the insurance companies won’t be, and that’s where you recover compensation. This is why it’s such an important decision to hire a South Carolina auto accident attorney to investigate the incident on your behalf, determine liability, file a claim with the appropriate auto insurance company, and build your case.
Common Causes of Auto Accidents Where One Driver Is Liable for the Incident
Many of the auto accidents that occur in South Carolina involve one liable driver, while others may involve liability on the part of more than one driver. The clearest cases, when it comes to establishing liability, involve the most common causal factors of auto accidents. These include distracted driving, drowsy driving, drunk driving, speeding, aggressive driving, violating various traffic laws, following too close to the vehicle in front, and failing to yield right of way,
Sometimes, an auto accident that involves speeding doesn’t actually involve one driver breaking the speed limit, but rather involves a driver who is traveling too fast for conditions. They may be within the speed limit, but not driving at a reasonable speed for weather or traffic conditions. When it comes to distracted driving, texting while driving is one of the biggest concerns. Both distracted driving and drowsy driving can be just as dangerous as drunk driving. Finally, even if someone has a blood alcohol level that is under the legal limit, they could still be held liable if they are intoxicated at all (even just buzzed) and they cause an accident.
Establishing Liability Without the Benefit of the Police Report
When you get into an auto accident in South Carolina, you are legally obligated to contact the police and to file a police report. However, you cannot use this police report to prove liability when it comes to seeking compensation for your injuries and losses. This is why it is so important to gather evidence at the scene of the accident.
You would be wise to take as many pictures as you can of the scene, including the injuries, the vehicle damage, the location of the vehicles, the traffic and weather conditions, any relevant signs or traffic signals, etc. These photos will help you to prove how the accident occurred as well as the severity of the damages that resulted from the incident.
You probably already know that you need to exchange contact and insurance information with the other driver, but you may not be aware of how important it is to also gather the contact information of any eye witnesses who saw the accident and/or helped after the accident. If you end up filing a lawsuit against the at fault driver, these witnesses may help to prove your case.
You can also use expert witnesses to prove liability and the value of your damages. This one way that an attorney can be extremely helpful when you are pursuing compensation after an auto accident. Your attorney will have access to the expert witnesses who can help to prove your case. These may include medical experts and accident reconstructionists.
Finally, although you cannot use the police report to prove negligence, you can use the responding police officer as a witness. That officer can also refer back to the police report to refresh his or her memory of the incident, though they cannot actually use the police report to establish liability. Yet, if the police report mentions the cause of the accident, and the police officer reads the report to refresh their memory of the accident, then they can certainly present this information by stating that they recall determining that the auto accident was caused by other driver speeding, aggressive driving, distracted driving, or something else.
What If You Are Partially Liable for Your Auto Accident Injuries?
If you think you might be partially liable for your auto accident injuries, you would be wise to keep this information to yourself until you talk to an attorney. Remember that your words can be used against you, and you might not actually be liable for the incident, even if you think you could be. You should wait for an investigation to determine liability, rather than admitting to something that might not even be true. Even if you are partially at fault, you can often still recover compensation from other driver’s insurance policy, depending on your degree of fault.
Comparative Negligence in South Carolina Auto Accident Claims
Comparative negligence is a system in which multiple drivers may be partially at fault for an auto accident, and whomever holds the least percentage of liability can recover compensation. It is a system with rules that vary by state, and in South Carolina, the rule is that you must be 50% or less at fault for the auto accident to recover compensation. In other words, your partial fault must not be greater than the other driver in order to receive any compensation. Then, you can only recover compensation up to the percentage of fault that is not your own. For example, if the other driver is 70% at fault, and you are 30% at fault, you can recover 70% of your damages. The other driver will not be able to recover compensation, because they are more than 49% at fault.
Talk to an Attorney Before Admitting to Any Partial Negligence
Even if you think you may have been partially negligent in your auto accident, it is important to talk to an attorney about this before saying something to that effect to an insurance company claims adjuster. In many cases, people think that they may be partially responsible, but it turns out that they were not, as revealed by a thorough investigation. Yet, saying that you may be partially at fault can harm your auto accident claim and make things more difficult. Once an investigation is completed, fault will be established, and your attorney can assist you with recovering the compensation that you are owed, even in a comparative negligence case. Contact the dedicated Greenville auto accident lawyers at Bryan Ramey & Associates for a free consultation.