June 2017

Automobile Accident? What you need to know and do

Author: Daphne S. Withrow, R.N., Esquire, Partner, Olivetti McCray & Withrow, LLC

Have you been injured in an automobile accident? These are words we have all heard on radio and television commercials, but other than making a phone call, what do you really need to do after an accident? Here are a few suggestions:

Regardless of whether the accident is your fault or that of another party, if you have suffered injuries, you should go, either by ambulance or on your own, to the nearest hospital emergency room for an examination by a health care professional. This is important for several reasons.

First, oftentimes due to shock or injury, you may not be aware of the full scope of the injuries you have suffered. Hidden damage to internal organs and blood vessels may have occurred, which are life-threatening and should be treated right away.

Secondly, if your injuries are determined to not be life threatening, but do pose the likelihood for future medical care and treatment, an emergency room visit and X-ray or CT scan may provide the baseline evidence of the injury such as a broken bone or head injury.

What do you do after the ER visit? If you have been examined and treated and life threatening injuries have been ruled out, the health care professional will often discharge you from the hospital and refer you to return to your primary care physician (PCP) or other medical specialist within two to three days of the accident. It is important to follow these instructions to either obtain additional medical treatment and/or to rule out the possibility of other injuries. If it is determined that the other driver is at fault and you have injuries and medical bills for which you may be compensated, it is important to show that you have been compliant and followed through with all recommended medical care and treatment. It is also important to contact your insurance carrier and report that you have been involved in an accident.

How do you know if you need an attorney? Navigating a personal injury claim with an at-fault driver’s insurance company can be tedious and time-consuming. More important, it may ultimately be hard to know if what you are being offered by the insurance company is a fair settlement. Keep in mind that there are potentially two areas of coverage under the at-fault driver’s policy: one for your vehicle, which is classified as property damage (PD), and the other for bodily injury (BI). These are two distinct areas of coverage and may be handled by separate insurance adjusters within the same insurance company. In addition, you may be working with your own insurance company if the medical treatment for your injuries exceeds the coverage available to you by the responsible party’s insurance—if you have elected to purchase underinsured motorist insurance (UIM) on your vehicle’s policy or if you have been injured by an uninsured motorist (UM). South Carolina law mandates that all vehicles carry liability insurance coverage minimums of $25,000 per single injury, $50,000 per occurrence as well as $25,000 for property damage. Additionally, for the protection of those who may be injured by an at-fault driver in an uninsured vehicle, uninsured motorist (UM) insurance coverage is also required in South Carolina in the same amounts as liability coverage.

The property damage portion of your claim is usually settled first and is relatively straightforward. If you have suffered bodily injuries and have hired a personal injury attorney, he or she will often assist you with the settlement of the property damage claim and can advise you how to maximize your settlement for either the reparable damage to or total loss of your vehicle.

The bodily injury portion of your claim can be more difficult to handle, especially if you are simultaneously trying to recover from your injuries. If treatment of your injuries exceeds the insurance coverage provided from the at-fault driver, under certain circumstances there are ways to maximize your potential benefits that involve “stacking” of available policies among individuals living in the same household. This is where a skilled personal injury attorney can make a difference in your final settlement. Your main focus should always be to return to your previous state of wellness and follow all the advice provided to you by your health care providers. If possible, keep a file with any documents and bills you receive as a result of the accident so that, if and when necessary, your accident treatment history can be fully outlined.

If you decide to utilize the services of a personal injury attorney to handle your claim, it is important to know that most, if not all, work on a contingency basis. This means that the attorney will get paid an agreed upon percentage of whatever is recovered from the insurance company on your behalf for your bodily injury. An attorney can navigate your claim by working with the at-fault driver’s insurance company as well as your insurance company, if appropriate. It is important that your attorney obtain your medical bills and medical records, understand your injuries and monitor your recovery so that a timely claim can be made with the insurance company and you can receive reasonable compensation. Patience with the healing process and compliance with your health care provider’s instructions are key components under your control that may help to successfully settle your bodily injury/personal injury claim. 

Olivetti, McCray & Withrow, LLC Attorneys at Law is located in The Professional Building at 2 Corpus Christi Place, Ste 105, Hilton Head Island. For more information please call (843) 341-9260 or visit westolivetti.com.

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