When you have been injured in an accident, the most important thing to do—once everyone involved is safe and secure—is to preserve your right to recover compensation from your injuries. The first and best way to do that is to document everything you can. Should you decide to file a personal injury lawsuit in the future, these documents can become critical evidence that can greatly help your case.

In some cases, such as car accidents, calling the police and getting an accident report is the first step. In others, such as falls or dog attacks, the shock and social pressures of the situation may make it unclear what you should do.

At the Scene of Any Accident

The most important thing to do following an unexpected accident is to call the authorities and get a medical examination as soon as possible. After a shocking experience such as a car wreck, the body creates adrenaline and endorphins that disguise pain and keep you moving. Once these effects wear off, you may be in worse shape than you originally thought. Many debilitating injuries do not show themselves immediately, such as:

  • Internal bleeding
  • Whiplash-associated disorders
  • Head trauma, especially concussions and other traumatic brain injuries

In fact, we recently published a list of 20 common delayed symptoms following accidents.

An immediate medical exam also serves another vital purpose: injury documentation. For insurance companies and defense counsel, a major line of attack is questioning whether an accident really caused the injuries claimed. Medical records immediately following an accident can help you prove that your injuries were caused directly from the accident.

Proving Injuries After a Car Accident

Our firm has created a quick guide for responding to a collision with a motor vehicle, including information you should collect while you’re still on the scene, if possible. This includes:

  • The date and time of the accident
  • The license plate and driver’s license number of the other driver
  • The names and contact information of all parties involved
  • The names and contact information of any witnesses to the accident

In addition, if you’re able to, we recommend taking photos and/or videos that show:

  • The damage to the vehicles involved
  • Road conditions, including weather and obstacles
  • Any immediately apparent injuries
  • Businesses or residences next to the site, as they may have surveillance cameras or witness information

South Carolina law requires filing an accident report for an auto collision that caused any bodily injury, death, or over $1,000 in property damage.

Slip-and-Fall Injuries on Private Property

If you are injured due to conditions on another party’s property, such as by slipping and falling on poorly maintained surfaces, you may have a premises liability claim.

In this case, be sure to take photos of the conditions and surroundings of the accident. If it involved slipping or tripping, show the condition of the floor where you fell. Falls often happen in grocery stores, restaurants, and other businesses that may have wet or uneven floors. If you fall in a business, let the staff know what has happened—the manager, if possible—and that you plan to see a doctor. However, it is wise not to give any statements or sign any paperwork before speaking to an attorney.

Homeowners’ insurance often covers property accidents such as falls that occur on someone’s property, but under SC law, private property owners have fewer duties to keep guests safe than businesses do. For this reason and more, insurance companies will likely look for a way to deny a claim, so having this evidence can greatly help your case.

Dog Bites and Attacks

Dog owners in South Carolina are strictly liable for unprovoked attacks against people who are in public or legally present on private property. This includes guests on the owner’s property. As awkward as it may be, it is important that you get an incident report from the police, who may also call animal control to provide an additional report.

The owner may claim you provoked the dog to bite; if true, they may not be liable. Documenting the scene and getting witness contact information can help you establish that you did not provoke the attack.

You should also collect as much information about the dog and location as possible, both for identification and for your safety. If you can’t confirm that the dog is vaccinated against rabies, doctors may advise you to seek post-exposure rabies vaccinations. This series of shots is the only way to defeat rabies, but it is also an expensive procedure that should be part of your personal injury claim.

Ongoing Documentation: Paperwork and Photos

Photos of your external injuries can help your claim. It’s best if they can be firmly dated, such as images taken on your phone, but never post about the accident or your injuries on social media. To document the full progress of your injuries and recover as best as possible, be sure to follow up with your doctor, attend all appointments and keep them updated on any new pains or possible issues.

If you don’t have a legal team doing so for you, it’s also important to collect receipts and invoices for your expenses due to the injury, such as:

  • Medical bills, including visits to physical therapists
  • Prescription and non-prescription medication costs
  • Transportation expenses for medical treatment
  • Miscellaneous health expenses (braces, canes, and other medical equipment)
  • Lost wages or reduced earning capacity

An experienced personal injury attorney will review your claim documentation in order to make the strongest possible case for your accident, injuries, and damages. In addition, with Cavanaugh & Thickens, LLC, you will have a medical records coordinator on your team who is responsible for collecting and organizing medical bills on your behalf to ease the burden on you.

How We Can Help

At Cavanaugh & Thickens, LLC, we understand the process of insurance claims and negotiations, and we are here to protect your rights. Contact us today at (803) 888-2200 to schedule a free case review in our Columbia office.