If you’ve been involved in a car accident, you may be wondering whether or not you need to hire a lawyer. Every car accident is different, and while there is no “one-size fits all” approach when it comes to handling the aftermath of an unexpected accident, this article discusses when it is in your best interest to speak with a lawyer versus when you can likely handle your case on your own. That said, many personal injury law firms, including our firm, offer free consultations so you can discuss the specifics of your case directly with an attorney. This helps you understand if it makes sense to proceed on your own or if you’re better off with an experienced legal team on your side.

The content in this article is based on over 60 years of combined experience handling car accident claims throughout the state of South Carolina. If you have any questions, or would like to discuss your situation with a reputable South Carolina injury attorney, please reach out to our team today at (803) 888-2200. We’re available for you 24/7 and look forward to speaking with you.

When You Likely Don’t Need a Car Accident Lawyer:

There are a few situations in which you may not need a car accident lawyer to help you with your case. This includes if:

Nobody Was Injured and Nobody Needed Medical Care

If your accident did not result in any injuries, then you likely do not need to hire a lawyer to represent you for your case. However, it’s important to keep in mind that injuries may take weeks to appear – what may seem minor the days following an accident can cause issues down the road. So, don’t be quick to make this determination and always get checked out by a doctor to be sure.

An example of an accident where you likely do not need to hire a lawyer is if your vehicle was hit while nobody was in the car. In this instance, you can likely handle the process on your own.

You’re Seeking Compensation For Property Damage Only

If you are seeking compensation only for property damage, you can likely handle this process on your own. Seeking compensation for property damage after an accident that wasn’t your fault is a relatively simple process in South Carolina. 

First, you will report the accident to the police and receive the accident report containing the at-fault party’s insurance information. Then, you must complete your FR-309 form and submit it to both the DMV and the at-fault party’s insurance company, ideally within 15 days of the accident. 

If the insurance company declines to compensate you, the claim will go to arbitration. During arbitration, an independent third-party or panel will hear your case, and decide your damages. To begin the arbitration process, you must contact the Clerk of Court for Common Pleas in your county. You can find that information here.

It Was a Single Car Accident

If the accident was a single car accident and only the driver was in the vehicle, you likely do not need a lawyer. For example, if you were driving and lost control of your vehicle due to poor weather conditions and crashed into a stop sign. 

However, passengers injured in single vehicle accidents may be able to recover compensation if the crash was caused by driver negligence.

When You Should Call an Experienced Car Accident Lawyer:

After a car accident, you may be facing unanticipated, expensive medical and repair costs, long physical healing journeys, and even emotional trauma, such as the fear of driving again. Here are a few common situations we’ve seen where it is definitely in your best interest to speak with an experienced car accident lawyer.

Multiple Parties Were Involved

When multiple parties are involved in the accident, such as in a pileup accident, it can be very challenging to handle your case on your own. Typically, when multiple parties are involved, it is difficult to identify who was at-fault for the accident and insurance companies will try blaming everyone else instead of their client. Having a lawyer on your side will help manage the communication between multiple parties and ensure you are protected.

It’s Unclear Who Was At-Fault

South Carolina is a “modified comparative negligence” state. Essentially, this means that every driver involved in an accident is given a certain percentage that they are found to have been at-fault for the collision. 

In order to qualify to recover compensation for your damages in South Carolina, you must be found less than 50% at-fault. The percentage you are found to be at-fault directly impacts the amount of compensation you can receive, so it’s important that you work with a lawyer to protect your rights.

When it is unclear who was at-fault – or – it’s clear you were not at fault but the other parties are still trying to blame you, it’s definitely in your best interest to speak with a reputable attorney as soon as possible. 

You Were Injured

It’s important to note that when an accident leads to injury, the insurance company may “lowball” your settlement offer, meaning offer you less than the true value of your case. A lawyer won’t let this happen. Our lawyers will give you the legal support you need so that you can focus all of your time and energy into healing.

You’ve Missed Work Due to Your Injuries

If you’ve missed time from work due to your injuries, a lawyer can help make sure you are compensated for any lost wages. Speaking with an attorney is also critical if your injuries prevent you from returning to work in the same capacity.

The Police Report is Unclear or Inaccurate

When the police report is unclear or inaccurate, you may still have options under South Carolina law. Surprisingly, this is not an uncommon situation to be in, and a lawyer can help you set things straight.

The At-Fault Driver Was Impaired

If you have any inclination or know for a fact that the at-fault driver was impaired or driving under the influence, it’s in your best interest to hire an experienced attorney. A lawyer will help you navigate the complexities that appear when a drunk driver causes the accident such as the potential for punitive damages, as well as help you understand if you have a case against additional entities, such as a dram shop liability lawsuit against a bar or restaurant.

A Minor Was Injured in the Accident

If a minor was injured in the accident, depending on the amount recovered by the minor, the court will have to approve it. In this case, it’s a good idea to have an experienced lawyer on your side.

You Were Driving for Work at the Time of the Accident

If you were in a car accident while working and were not at-fault, you may qualify to receive compensation through both a personal injury lawsuit and workers’ compensation benefits. 

Cavanaugh & Thickens, LLC, has award-winning workers’ compensation and car accident lawyers, and we can help you understand your options under state law based on the specifics of your accident.

You Have Emotional Damages

Serious car accidents can impact people beyond physical injuries. Emotional damages from car accidents such as PTSD, stress, anxiety, panic attacks, lack of enjoyment, and other emotional pain and suffering should never be overlooked.

Emotional damages are very real, but it can be difficult to financially value these damages on your own. An attorney can help you understand how much compensation you should receive for these, and additional, non-economic damages.

The Insurance Company is Causing Issues

After an accident, many people assume that the insurance company has their best interests at heart and will fairly compensate them for their damages. Unfortunately, more often than not, this is not the case. Sometimes, even when there is clear fault for an accident, the insurance company may still try to trick you into admitting partial fault. It’s important to keep in mind that an insurance adjuster’s goal is to find ways to limit or deny your claim altogether, as they’re trying to save their company money. 

Here are some common tricks to be on the lookout for – 

  • Minimizing Injuries

Insurance adjusters may ask you questions aimed to minimize the severity of your injuries. A common example is asking how you feel at a specific moment. A typical, automatic response like “I’m okay” can actually be used as evidence against you that your injuries are not severe, even if that’s not what you intended and is not the case.

  • Inconsistencies

Especially during a recorded statement, an insurance adjuster may try poking holes in your story by asking you questions and comparing your answers to the accident report and other accounts from that day.

  • Fault

Insurance companies may also try to get you to admit partial fault for the accident by asking you hypothetical questions, such as, “Could you have avoided the accident if you had done x, y, or z?.” These questions should never be answered, as they are designed to get you to admit some degree of fault for the accident.

  • Delaying your claim

Commonly, insurance companies will use a variety of tactics to delay your claim. This can include ignoring your outreach, “losing” important documents, transferring you to multiple people, and much more. Their goal by doing this is to frustrate you to the point where you either A) give up entirely or B) let the statute of limitations pass, making your claim invalid.

If you’re facing any of these situations, it’s important to talk to a reputable South Carolina personal injury lawyer who has ample experience representing car accident cases as soon as possible.

The Settlement Offer Seems Low for the Damages You’ve Sustained

It is very rare that an insurance company’s first settlement offer is a fair offer. While we always recommend reviewing the first offer with a lawyer, it’s especially important if the settlement offer doesn’t cover your past, present, and future damages caused by the accident. Remember, the first offer does not need to be the final offer. Car accident lawyers are trained and experienced in insurance negotiations.

There Are Questions About Insurance Coverage or Status

If there are any questions about what insurance coverage is available or the status of the at-fault party’s insurance, contact an attorney. An experienced lawyer can complete the necessary steps to identify all insurance coverage available, such as excess liability coverage, umbrella policies, underinsured/uninsured coverage, and more.  

The Accident Resulted in Loss of Life

If you lost a loved one to a car accident, we are so sorry. While no amount of compensation can bring your loved one back, we are here to help you get the justice and resources you deserve. The very last thing that you should have to worry about is handling the legal process. A compassionate legal team will take care of all the legal intricacies and help you and your loved ones recover.

How Will a Car Accident Lawyer Help My Case?

After an accident, many people don’t think about hiring a lawyer because they don’t know if they need one or understand how much a lawyer can truly help their case. 

Hiring a lawyer will allow you to focus on your health, ensure you get the compensation you deserve from the insurance company, intervene if you are not being treated properly, and much more.

If you’ve been in an accident that you did not cause, a lawyer can help you with many elements of your legal case and beyond, including but not limited to:

  • Prove Negligence – Your lawyer will gather evidence to prove all three elements of negligence under SC law.
  • Value Your Damages – We will help you understand what you deserve for your past, current, and future economic (actual, fixed financial damages such as medical bills) and noneconomic (pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment, physical pain, etc) damages under SC law based on decades of combined experience.
  • Gather Evidence – Our lawyers will gather available evidence such as witness testimony, photos, and more – as well as additional evidence such as black box data, security footage, and more.
  • Handle Negotiations – Lawyers have vast experience working with insurance adjusters and know what to look out for, how hard to push, and won’t settle for less than you deserve.
  • Fight For You In Court – If your case cannot be fairly settled, a car accident lawyer will go to court and aggressively fight for you.
  • Optimize Your Claim – A lawyer will optimize your claim to ensure you are seeking the entirety of the compensation you’re owed.
  • Protect You – From keeping you updated on the status of your case to protecting you from common mistakes, we will always keep your best interests at the heart of everything we do.

Get a Free Car Accident Case Evaluation Today with Cavanaugh & Thickens, LLC

Cavanaugh & Thickens, LLC is an award-winning South Carolina law firm, and we have recovered millions of dollars for our clients. With our team, there are no upfront fees or costs, and we are currently accepting new clients. 

If you’re ready to take back control of your future and get the justice you deserve, simply call our office today at (803) 888-2200 to get a free consultation directly with a reputable injury lawyer. We look forward to speaking with you.