After a car accident, as soon as you’ve pulled yourself together and made sure everyone’s taken care of, one thought is certain to cross your mind—how much is this going to cost me? Even if you’re able to walk away from the accident, the fear of financial injury can be devastating enough to leave you in shock.
There is some good news, at least: while car accidents may impact your insurance premiums, they do not affect your credit score by themselves. Credit scores are not calculated with information unrelated to debt and credit. What will affect your credit score are unpaid bills, and car accidents present a high risk of incurring those. With the help of a South Carolina car accident attorney, you can help position yourself to recover financially as quickly as possible.
Risks to Your Credit Report After a Car Accident
Auto insurance should reimburse you for some or all of your immediate costs, but that does not mean they will do so quickly. And if there is a problem, they may not reimburse you very much or at all.
Your immediate costs will include:
You may start losing money immediately if you depend on your car for your job or if your employer refuses to work with your transportation issues. And if you have been using your car to do certain types of work, such as ridesharing, your insurance company can refuse to cover you at all.
You should get medical care as soon as possible after an accident, although you may not immediately know you need it. The human body can sustain hidden injuries that do not manifest for days or weeks, such as whiplash, internal bleeding, and traumatic brain injuries.
Getting checked out after an accident can save your life, and it will at least create medical documentation for conditions that may become problematic later. Unfortunately, this can leave you with copays in the meantime, as well as over-the-counter home health expenses such as pain medication and braces.
How will you get where you are going? How will your kids and family members get where they need to go? You will need to make new arrangements for everything, especially if you live in an urban or rural area. Rentals and rideshares can add up quickly.
Depending on your car insurance policy, you could have to pay for repairs out of pocket while awaiting reimbursement. Although the insurance company sometimes pays at the point of service, you will likely have to cover at least as much as your deductible.
Property Loss and Replacement
Even if the car itself survives, the crash can destroy much of what you had on hand. Impacts can ruin vital possessions that you need to replace out of pocket as quickly as possible, such as phones, computers, work tools, essential documents, and children’s car seats which must be discarded after any wreck.
Raised Insurance Rates
Your premium might increase significantly if you had any responsibility for the accident, especially if the accident involved injuries. According to Forbes Advisor, South Carolina insurance premiums jumped an average of 39% after an accident.
With all these bills to handle, even a minor accident can be a financial disaster if things were already tight for you. Snowballing costs can lead to unpaid debts, damaging your credit score. Worse yet, you may not get the help you hoped for from auto insurance.
How Do You Protect Your Rights?
South Carolina requires a minimum level of insurance for each registered vehicle—$25,000 for bodily injury per person; $50,000 for bodily injury per accident; and $25,000 for property damage.
And the other driver in the accident may be uninsured or underinsured. Since South Carolina has an “at-fault” or tort-based insurance system, the driver who was at fault is the one who will ultimately pay the costs of the accident unless you have certain types of first-party coverage.
But here’s the catch – auto insurance companies make money by not paying out any more than they can help. They will try to take as much time as possible to investigate the wreck and look for ways to shift any portion of fault to you. Insurance investigators and adjusters will review the evidence and produce a percentage determination of fault. This percentage determination may reduce the amount of damages that a claimant can recover without filing suit.
Insurance adjusters, therefore, have an incentive to lowball and pressure a claimant. But it is much harder for them to manage that with an experienced personal injury attorney. We can handle your insurance claim process for you—we work with these companies every day, and we know what to expect. We can help maximize your claim and recover your medical expenses, lost earnings, and more. That can be especially helpful in that it allows our clients to focus their energy on recovery, rather than juggling calls and emails from the insurance company along with the other aspects of the aftermath of a wreck.
If you have been in a car accident in South Carolina, you generally have three years from the date of incident to pursue a tort claim against a private entity, and less if the accident involved a state or federal employee. Time is of the essence. Call Cavanaugh & Thickens, LLC today at (803) 888-2200, and schedule a free consultation to talk about your accident. We can speak with you in our offices in Columbia or Charleston.