Greenville County is not only known for its beautiful green spaces, waterways, and upscale shops — unfortunately, it is also known as the worst area in the state for traffic fatalities. There have been over 300 road deaths since 2014, making accidents a norm that no one in the Upstate wants to claim. In fact, South Carolina itself is ranked as one of the most dangerous states in which to drive, averaging 1.88 deaths per 100 miles traveled.
Auger & Auger has represented countless victims of vehicle collisions. After attending to your medical needs, your next call should be to our Greenville auto accident attorney, who will send a team to the scene of your accident to gather documentation, statements, and logistics. There’s a lot involved in winning a personal injury case and securing the compensation you deserve.
While no one can foresee a car accident, they are rarely mere accidents. Often, they result from negligence, error, or reckless behavior on the part of a driver. We believe that the at-fault party must be held accountable for their decisions.
A collision can result from any number of factors — speeding, reckless operation, impaired driving — but distracted driving is the number one cause of accidents across the country. South Carolina is not immune from this problem. In 2016, there were 5,698 injury collisions from distracted driving.
What exactly is taking the drivers’ attention away from the road? Our Greenville auto accident attorney has seen victims suffer devastating results from the following driving distractions:
● Cell phones – Lawmakers failed to pass a bill into law that would have made the use of electronic devices behind the wheel illegal. Texting, talking, emailing, and online browsing while driving are substantially increasing the risk of collision. Remember that your notifications can wait until you arrive at your destination. If it really can’t wait, pull over in a safe location and put your car in park before using your phone.
● Eating – It’s not unusual for people to run through the drive-thru for a snack, but that’s not the problem. Instead of stopping to eat, they usually rummage through the bag, unwrap the contents, and have their meal behind the wheel.
● Grooming – Putting on makeup, brushing your hair, and straightening your tie take attention from the road. Wait until you’re pulled over, and the engine is off — or tidy yourself up in an office restroom, not in the car.
● Passengers – If you routinely drive with children, friends, or clients in your vehicle, you know how distracting it can get. Encourage anyone riding in your car to keep the noise level down so you can concentrate solely on the road.
The aftermath of a car crash can be chaotic, and it’s likely that preserving evidence isn’t the first thing on your mind. However, it will become important when you seek compensation for your injuries, and some types of evidence will last longer than others. Your primary concern should be to call 911 and pursue medical attention for your injuries, but once you’ve done that, we recommend contacting a Greenville car accident attorney as soon as possible. Your lawyer may be able to gather some evidence before it’s destroyed, and their investigative team will start working on your case right away.
First, it’s helpful to understand that most car accident claims are settled out of court, so there is a good chance you and your attorney won’t need to prove anything in a trial. However, negotiations with the other party or their insurance carrier are based on how much evidence is in your favor and whether the other parties believe you would likely win in court. For this reason, it’s essential to understand the four elements of proving a personal injury case at trial, whether or not your case is resolved that way:
● Duty of care. In motor vehicle accidents, drivers are expected to drive as carefully as a “reasonable person” would. In court, a jury might be asked to decide if a “reasonable person” would have run a red light, exceeded the speed limit by forty miles an hour, cut off a semi-truck, etc.
● Breach of the duty of care. After establishing that the other driver had a duty of care, your lawyer will work to prove that they breached or failed in this duty. For example, if you can prove that the other motorist sailed through a red light when you had the right of way, you could argue the driver didn’t act as a reasonable person would and therefore breached their duty of care.
● Causation. This breach caused or at least heavily contributed to your accident. Because of a South Carolina legal statute called “modified comparative negligence,” it is not necessary to prove that the breach of duty solely caused your accident. But you will need to prove the breach was mostly (more than 50 percent) the cause of the crash if you want to collect damages. (We’ll discuss the implications of modified comparative negligence later in this article.) It’s also important to note that even if the other driver broke a traffic law, you would still need to prove that their actions led to the accident in order to receive compensation.
● Damages. Finally, you will need to establish that the accident caused by the other driver’s breached duty of care caused you damages. These may be economic damages, or ones that would typically cost you a fixed sum of money – medical bills, car repair costs, lost income if you could not work for some time while recovering from your injuries, etc. You could also suffer non-economic damages, which include more intangible losses like pain and suffering or loss of consortium or companionship if a loved one has died. Punitive damages are also considered non-economic but are not based on any loss the plaintiff suffered. Instead, they are occasionally awarded in cases where the jury wants to punish a defendant whose actions were particularly reckless or egregious.
We encourage car accident victims to speak with an attorney before filing a claim with the relevant insurance carrier to ensure that all damages are considered. Many people aren’t aware of all the damages they may have suffered or could incur in the future due to their accident. You must consult a lawyer before accepting any offer the insurance company makes, as they frequently extend low offers that don’t cover all of the accident victim’s damages.
Here is a more detailed look at some potential damages you may have sustained from your car accident:
● Medical costs. In some cases, these go beyond the bill you receive when you are discharged from the hospital. You may need follow-up care with other doctors for weeks, months, or even permanently if your injury causes chronic pain and problems. The cost of any future care should be considered, and your car accident lawyer will help with estimations. You might also have related expenses, like the cost of physical therapy, purchasing mobility aids such as a cane, crutches, or a wheelchair, prescription costs, and even travel expenses if you need to see a doctor who isn’t close by.
● Lost income. Your attorney will ask how many days or weeks you missed at your job. Even if your employer provided you with paid time off after your accident, you still deserve to be compensated for those days that you could have used another time. If your injuries left you permanently unable to work or to do the same type and amount of work you did previously, you also have a right to compensation for the future loss of income. Your lawyer can help you calculate this as well. If you lost a loved one upon whom you relied for financial support, you should also consider their lost future earnings.
● Pain and suffering. Your auto accident lawyer will inquire about your physical pain and emotional and mental suffering. Car accidents are often traumatic experiences, and many people develop anxiety, depression, insomnia, or other mental health struggles.
Because modified comparative negligence statutes allow two parties to share liability for an accident, determining who is entitled to damages and how much comes down to percentages. In a court case, the jury or judge will be expected to assign percentages of responsibility to each party.
As long as your percentage of the fault falls below 50 percent, you are entitled to collect damages from the other party, but your percentage of responsibility will reduce your award. As a result, if your damages are estimated at $50,000, and if you are 10 percent at fault, you would receive $45,000. Given this model, insurance companies will go to great lengths to prove you were even partially at fault because if they’re successful, they won’t have to pay the total settlement.
Because the other driver’s insurance carrier is likely to suggest you were to blame for the car crash, you should begin working on proving the other motorist’s negligence right away. The first step is to call an auto accident lawyer before you contact, file a claim with, or take any phone calls from the insurance carrier. This serves two purposes:
● Your attorney can help you determine the right amount of damages.
● Your lawyer can handle communications with the insurance company for you.
The second point is critical, because insurance adjusters will often call in a seemingly friendly manner and express a desire to fulfill your claim quickly. They may then say they simply need to ask you a few questions, and you agree because you’d like to receive a settlement soon. Unfortunately, these calls are usually recorded, and the insurance adjuster may seize on something innocent you said and claim it’s evidence of your culpability. This is why we recommend you don’t talk to the insurance company without first speaking to a lawyer.
Every case is different, and some types of evidence may be more important in some cases than in others. Your Greenville auto accident lawyer will ask you questions and assign an investigative team to uncover as much evidence as possible. Here are the types of evidence you may discuss and guidance on how to preserve them when possible:
If you can do so, we recommend taking pictures right after the accident happens, paying attention to the following areas:
● Any damage to your car, both on the interior and exterior.
● Damage to the other driver’s car.
● Any skid marks, broken glass, or other debris in the road that appear to be from the crash.
● Any other solid objects that either vehicle might have impacted, such as highway guardrails, fences, gates, trees, etc.
● Anything that could have blocked your line of sight, such as an overgrown bush, utility equipment on the side of the road, parked vehicles, etc.
● Any injuries you suffered in the crash, even if they seem minor at the time. For example, if you have a welt on your arm from where it slammed into the door during the accident, take a picture of that.
● Ideally, you should capture as much of the scene as possible, even areas that may not seem important to you. If your phone has a “360” or “panoramic” mode, try using that to capture everything, turning in one direction until your phone is back in the position it started from.
Although many of the documents you’ll need to review at the scene of an accident aren’t evidence of the crash itself, they will help you with other aspects of your case. Do your best to write down or take pictures of the following information:
● The other driver’s name and contact information.
● The other driver’s license number, license plate number, and insurance information, including their carrier name and policy number.
● Names and contact information for any witnesses you notice at the scene.
● The responding officer’s name and badge number, so you can follow up with them if you have any difficulty locating the accident report later on.
Although being in an accident is certainly stressful, we advise you to do your best to stay calm. Stick to gathering the above information – there’s no need to argue with the other driver about who is at fault. In fact, you shouldn’t discuss fault at all, especially since you may not know everything that happened yet. If the other motorist becomes agitated or threatening, don’t engage. Go back to your car and wait inside for law enforcement to arrive.
In the event that the other driver leaves the scene, don’t attempt to go after them. Write down their license plate number or the most detailed description you can manage of their car and let the 911 operator know what’s happened. They can dispatch additional units to track down the fleeing driver.
Today there are frequently video recordings of accidents, especially if they took place near an intersection with a traffic camera. However, the police report may not always reflect this. In many cases, officers are very busy and don’t have time to hunt down video footage of every car crash they respond to. This is another reason why it’s beneficial to contact a Greenville auto accident attorney as soon as possible – our investigative team will start the process to obtain any available footage immediately, before it’s lost or recorded over.
Doorbell cameras are very common now, and in some cases, they may also pick up a nearby accident. Another step our investigative team takes is to knock on doors in the area, both so we might locate additional witnesses and so we can ask about doorbell camera recordings.
Most modern cars also have several electronic devices on board, and sometimes we’re able to retrieve data from the vehicle itself.
After an accident, the responding officer will prepare a police report, typically available to the public for free or for a small fee, depending on the local agency. Sometimes it may take longer depending on how busy the police department is, but usually, accident reports are ready within a week or two.
The police report contains general information, like the names, contact info, driver’s license numbers of both motorists, and the officer’s name, rank, and badge number. It also has a description of the accident as the officer understood it, and in some cases, they may have taken the time to draw a diagram. The officer will also note if anyone at the scene had injuries and what they believe to be the sequence of events of the crash. There is another section for “contributing factors,” which the insurance company may use to argue that you were at fault.
Keep in mind that this report reflects the officer’s impression of what happened based on what you, the other driver, and any witnesses still at the scene reported to them. Often there is little evidence at the scene, and there may be conflicting reports of what happened, so it’s possible the officer was mistaken or misunderstood the situation. Again, law enforcement officers may have many issues to respond to and limited time to spend at each accident scene. If you see something on the police report that doesn’t appear accurate, highlight it and let your lawyer know. We may be able to find evidence that the “contributing factors” or other details on the report were incorrect.
When there isn’t significant electronic evidence, we may send our team to canvas the area where the accident occurred. In some situations, we might find witnesses who weren’t interviewed at the scene for various reasons but who did see the accident happen. Their testimony can be very valuable. Occasionally we may even talk to people who didn’t see the accident itself but observed other facts that may be relevant, such as the other car showing signs of damage before the accident or the other motorist driving recklessly shortly before the crash occurred.
It’s important that you seek medical attention after your accident, even if your injuries seem inconsequential. There are three reasons for this:
● Sometimes injuries are much more serious than they immediately appear, and you want to rule out any problems that could worsen without treatment.
● Some injuries have few or no symptoms right away, but you may suddenly find yourself in pain a few hours or even days later.
● You want to document what happened in case you feel worse later on, so it will be more difficult for the other driver’s insurance carrier to argue that the accident didn’t cause any damage.
When you’ve been involved in a local collision, our Greenville auto accident attorney knows there can very well be life-changing consequences for you and your loved ones. Even with minor injuries, you will still be forced to pay medical bills and insurance co-pays which can easily throw your budget off track. Your family doesn’t deserve to be in financial distress because someone else made a poor decision behind the wheel.
Auger & Auger Personal Injury Lawyers have over five decades of legal experience pursuing your legal rights in civil court. If another driver was found at fault for your accident, they must be held accountable. Call us today to discuss how we can help you.
Call (864) 991-3532 today for your free consultation, and with our zero-fee guarantee, you won’t own anything until we recover your compensation.