Too many tourists lurk where 501 meets Seaboard, and we've all seen the result: some poor motorist stranded on the shoulder next to his mangled vehicle. Unfortunately, today your number was called and now you're the guy every passing driver gawks at. Most of us have had the misfortune of experiencing an accident, and nearly all of us will at some point in our lives. Get the general information you need to protect your legal rights and find out what to do after a car accident in Myrtle Beach.
First things first -- if someone needs medical attention call an ambulance right away. Pull your car over to the shoulder to avoid obstructing traffic. Plus, driving away from an accident is a criminal offense. Once you've gotten your vehicles to a safe location, you should probably call the Myrtle Beach police unless the property damage was extremely minimal.
The next step in deciding what to do after a Myrtle Beach car accident is to gather contact info for all parties involved. Be sure to get their names, addresses, phone numbers, license plate numbers, driver's license numbers, insurance information and vehicle descriptions. If there are witnesses, get their names and addresses too.
However, under no circumstances should you apologize for causing the accident or admit responsibility. That statement will be admitted in court to prove that you were, in fact, at fault for the accident, even if you were just being a nice guy.
If the police weren't involved but the accident resulted in more than $1,000 in property damage or caused an injury or death, all drivers must submit a Traffic Collision Report, Form FR-309 within 15 days of the accident. You can mail the form to:
S.C. Department of Motor Vehicles
P.O. Box 1498
Blythewood, SC 29016-0040
If you don't properly submit this report, the DMV will take this as evidence that the vehicle was not insured, and you might be subject to legal penalties for driving without insurance. To request a copy of the accident report (whether completed by the police or otherwise), submit Form FR-50 along with $6.00 to the above address.
Myrtle Beach drivers are required by South Carolina law to carry a minimum amount of auto insurance, unless they meet the specific requirements to be an uninsured motorist. This insurance is referred to as "liability insurance," because it insures the policy holder in case he or she causes an accident. The minimum liability coverage is known as 25/50/25:
- $25,000 for bodily injury or death per person;
- $50,000 total for bodily injury or death per accident;
- $25,000 for property damage.
Additionally, South Carolina requires driver to carry "uninsured motorist coverage," which will pay for medical expenses and property damage to your own vehicle in case the at-fault driver did not have insurance. The minimum coverage 25/50/25, the same as above, but it applies to your own expenses instead of the other party's.
Filing a Lawsuit
Before you decide to file a lawsuit you may want to consider scheduling a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney. Lawyers in this field almost universally work on a contingency fee basis, which means they are paid a percentage of your eventually recovery instead of on an hourly basis. Yes, this means you pay them nothing up front and they have a strong incentive to maximize compensation in each case.
Regardless of how you proceed, filing a lawsuit is a matter of drafting a complaint. A complaint is a brief document that explains the basis of your lawsuit, names the people you are suing and requests monetary compensation, known as damages. A complaints and a Civil Case Cover Sheet can be taken to the Horry County Circuit Court at either 9630 Scipio Lane or 1301 Second Avenue in Conway to get a case started.
Every lawsuit has an inherent time limitation that stops you from filing after too much time has passed. This statute of limitations prevents people from dragging defendants into court for ancient injuries after evidence has disappeared and witnesses have forgotten all the details. The South Carolina statute of limitations provides three years from the date you were injured to initiate your lawsuit. After three years has passed, you forfeit your right to compensation regardless of the strength of your case.
Types of Lawsuits
The most common cause of action after an auto accident alleges that defendant operated his vehicle negligently. Negligence governs injuries that were caused accidentally, which is why it is so common after car accidents. To succeed, the plaintiff must show that the other party was not exercising a reasonable level of care under the circumstances, and that this lack of caution caused the accident.
Historically, if a plaintiff contributed to his own injuries, even slightly, he was barred from any recovery. This harsh doctrine has been softened by South Carolina's modified comparative negligence statute. Under this law, fault is assigned to each plaintiff and defendant and the plaintiff's total recovery is reduced by the percent he or she is found to be at-fault. For example, if you racked up $1,000 in medical bills as a result of an injury which was found to be 10% your fault, you will be able to recover 90%, or $900, from the other party. However, beware the so-called 51% rule â€“ if you are found to be more at-fault than the defendant, you will recover nothing.
For serious accidents involving a fatality, the deceased individual's family members may be able to sue for wrongful death. This type of lawsuit aims to recover lost wages, lost companionship and funeral expenses.
If a defective part was involved in the accident, you could try suing the vehicle manufacturer themselves in a products liability lawsuit. To succeed, you must point out a design or manufacturing defect that caused the accident. Proving a defect usually requires the analysis of an automotive expert, and the case can get quite technical.
Car Accident in Myrtle Beach? Consider Getting Legal Help
The information above was all general in nature, but if you have specific questions about a case, you may want to contact a local attorney specializing in car accidents. A South Carolina car accident attorney can answer your questions about the law and any insurance claims processes you may have to go through, as well as represent you in court, if needed.