Auto accidents are a leading cause of injury and death for South Carolinians. In 2019, there were 21,127 reported traffic collisions in Richland and Lexington counties alone (nearly 60 per day), resulting in 326 serious injuries. Fifty-five people lost their lives on Columbia roads that year. Although motor vehicle crashes can be caused by a number of different factors, driver error accounts for at least 9 out of every 10 car crashes in the U.S. every year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
This is a distressing fact to consider—because it means that most auto “accidents” aren’t accidental at all. In fact, they could be prevented if drivers were more careful behind the wheel. What’s even more distressing, however, is finding yourself the victim of a serious crash. And it only takes 1 wreck to inflict lifelong physical, financial and emotional damage.
Serious car accidents leave significant issues in their wake, including chronic medical problems, financial hardships and life-altering circumstances, such as a permanent disability, that make it virtually impossible to earn a livable wage. When a wreck results in a fatality, it creates tremendous anguish, emotional distress and financial hardship for those left behind.
At Chappell, Smith & Arden, P.A., our Columbia car accident lawyers help crash survivors and their families pick up the pieces and recover from devastating collisions. Since 1993, our attorneys have been dedicated to helping car crash survivors and their families recover the money they deserve.
What To Do After a Car Accident (10 Steps)
To protect yourself, your rights and a potential claim after an auto accident, here’s what you should do when (and if) possible:
- Determine if anyone has severe or life-threatening injuries. Right after the crash occurs, figure out if anyone has been seriously (or fatally) injured. If so, call 911 immediately.
- Get to a safe area. If the accident happened in the middle of traffic, move to a shoulder where you can safely wait while the next steps are taken. If, however, the accident occurred out of the path of traffic and there’s no risk in leaving the vehicles where they are, it’s better not to move them because that can aid in the investigation and fault determination.
- Call the police. Police can help clear the wreckage and make sure injured parties get the medical care they need. Officers can also facilitate step 5 (below). Additionally, police will investigate the crash and write an accident report detailing their findings. This report can be essential to establishing liability for an auto accident.
- Exchange info with the other involved motorist(s). This should include identity and contact information (like names and phone numbers), as well as vehicle-related information (like the make/model of each involved car and the license plate number) and driving/insurance-related information (like each motorist’s driver’s license number, insurance carrier and policy number).
- Get witnesses’ contact info. If there were witnesses and you weren’t too severely injured, get the name and contact info for every witness. When you do this, it can be helpful to take a few notes about what that witness saw and whether anything was seen that could help determine or prove fault.
- Take pictures and videos. If possible, use your phone to snap photos and record videos of your vehicle, your injuries, the accident scene and the other involved vehicle(s). This evidence can be invaluable later in a disputed claim, as it can show key details about what caused the accident and how much damage the accident caused.
- Notify your insurance company. Many insurance companies require you to promptly notify them if you’re involved in a car accident. Failure to do so (or waiting too long) might raise a red flag for the insurer. They may use this as a reason to deny your claim. For this reason, call your auto insurance provider as soon as possible following a crash to put them on notice.
- See a doctor. Regardless of whether you feel injured after a car crash, see a doctor and get checked out. Shock and adrenaline can mask certain serious injuries, and some injuries may not present themselves for days (or even weeks) following the crash. If you see a doctor, you can get immediate treatment and avoid any complications. This will also help officially document the nature of the injuries you suffered in the accident.
- Write down your account of the accident. As soon as you can after the accident, write down a detailed account of what you witnessed and experienced before, during and after the crash. Include the day, date, time and location of the crash, as well as details about the weather, what you saw and what you did.
- Talk to a lawyer. Set up a free consultation and get answers about your rights and options. An attorney can explain what laws are relevant in your case, calculate how much your claim is worth and inform you about the next steps to get you on the path toward financial recovery.
How We Can Make a Difference In Your Car Accident Case
While you embark on the long road to recovery, the experienced Columbia car accident lawyers at Chappell Smith & Arden, P.A. can assist you in mapping out your case and recovering the maximum amount of compensation you need and deserve for your trauma. Many options exist when litigating a wreck, and we will inform you about each one so you can be directed toward the best course of action.
Why choose us?
Because we promise to…
Obtain and present necessary evidence
It may be difficult for you to obtain the necessary evidence in your case. In addition to reviewing any evidence you were able to recover at the accident scene, we can get a copy of the police officer’s accident report and visit the crash scene to seek out other forms of evidence (such as the airbag control module, camera footage from a nearby business or home and cell phone records from the other driver’s phone provider).
Secure your medical records
Health providers may not have the adequate staff or time to respond to medical record requests expediently. Therefore, without an attorney, it may be a long time before you receive your medical records and bills. It’s imperative to follow their procedures in such cases, which are not always apparent. A skilled car accident lawyer will be able to discover and follow these procedures, so you receive a quicker response.
Health care providers may provide you with incomplete medical records, making it necessary to follow up to obtain all the necessary documentation. Also, the medical records may not be sufficient to prove that your injury was caused by the defendant’s negligence or show the extent of your injuries. Since doctors often don’t mention causation or exact injuries in their medical records, a good car accident lawyer can ask the doctor to clarify their statement in a separate letter that will satisfy the legal requirements for your claim.
Determine all of the parties who are liable for the accident
In some crashes, fault is clear and simple. Perhaps another driver ran a red light or was texting behind the wheel, resulting in your accident injuries and property damage. However, many cases are not so cut and dried. If your auto accident involves multiple vehicles, a government or commercial vehicle or a defective vehicle part, for instance, there may be more than 1 party liable for damages. By identifying all liable parties, we can help maximize your payout.
Communicate and negotiate with other parties
Our attorneys will skillfully communicate and negotiate with other parties involved in the accident, including the adjuster. For instance, if you receive benefits from a health, disability or workers’ compensation insurer and they put a lien on your claim, we can work with the lien holder to reduce the lien to maximize your recovery.
Fight to ensure you get fair compensation
A good car accident lawyer will also be able to negotiate with the insurance company to make sure that the settlement is fair and you receive all entitled compensation. Insurance companies often try to present low offers in the beginning. We will help you determine whether the offer is fair or needs to be further negotiated. Should negotiations not lead to an acceptable agreement, we can challenge those attempting to undercut (or avoid making) these payouts and help you file a lawsuit if necessary.
Ensure compliance with all procedural requirements and deadlines
Our attorneys will also help you meet all procedural requirements and deadlines for your claim. For example, the statute of limitations for personal injury claims in South Carolina is 3 years from the date of the injury. We will ensure that you don’t miss these important deadlines when filing your lawsuit.
Restore your life
Finally, we understand how difficult the aftermath of an auto accident can be, and we want to help you recover some of what you’ve lost. It’s so important to have an experienced legal advocate on your side, helping protect your rights to justice and financial recovery in your case.
Our Clients Love Us
“Chappell Smith & Arden made my case absolutely painless. They were professional, diligent, compassionate and extremely attentive. Mark Chappell and his team went above and way beyond to make sure I was compensated for someone else’s wrongdoing.”
“They are absolutely AMAZING! It’s very rare to not only ﬁnd great customer service, but genuine people who care about their clients. They truly go above and beyond to help, even after they’ve helped with your claim.”
“Chappell Smith & Arden were our attorneys for our car accident case. They were very reassuring and patient with us during a long and stressful negotiation with the drivers Insurance company and were highly successful in arranging a deserved ﬁnancial settlement. We recommend Chappell Smith & Arden for whatever legal representation is needed.”
“Chappell Smith represented me in a workers comp case they did a wonderful job. Kind courteous and they actually care about their clients. They understand the stress these cases bring, especially for someone like me that suffers from PTSD. They actually take time and listen and are genuine when they ask if they can help you.”
“One of the “BEST” Law Firms. They treat you like family. They are always available when you need them. They work hard to get what you need and deserve. If you are looking for excellent representation, look no further. Chappell, Smith and Arden are here for YOU!”
How Much Is Your Car Accident Case Worth?
The value of your car accident case will hinge on a number of different factors, which an experienced attorney can identify and analyze to evaluate the monetary value of your specific car accident case.
While every case is different—and while the specifics of a given case will be pivotal in determining its value—in general, the following are some of the primary factors to consider when trying to assess the value of a car accident case:
- The types of injuries sustained. Generally, when car accidents result in more severe injuries, victims can require intensive emergency treatments and/or longer-term medical care. In these cases, car accident settlements can include damages for all past and future medical needs related to the crash injuries. This typically means that more serious injuries can increase the amount of damages because more expensive medical treatments are required for recovery.
- The level of property damage incurred. Another aspect of car accident settlements can include the property damage caused by a crash, including vehicle-related damage. If the damage is more extensive and/or the vehicle is totaled, this aspect of car accident awards can also be higher than if less property damage occurred.
- The negligent party and the nature of the negligence. Whether the liable party is a commercial driver is another element that can impact the value of car accident claims. That’s because, if a commercial driver’s negligence contributes to a crash—and this driver and/or their employer has a history of similar negligence—punitive damages may be available, again, potentially increasing the value of a car accident case.
It’s also worth noting that how soon you file your case may impact its value. This is generally because the longer victims wait to proceed with car accident cases, the more likely it is that evidence to support their claim will get lost or become unavailable. For instance, accident witnesses’ memories can fade, witnesses may move or change their phone numbers, pictures of the wreck may get damaged or lost, etc.
It’s generally best for crash victims to move forward with their case sooner, rather than later, if they’re serious about their financial recovery.
What’s more, you can’t necessarily trust insurance companies to be honest about the value of your case. This is because insurance companies are usually focused on protecting their interests and profits, rather than victims’ rights to financial recovery. For this reason, it’s best to retain an experienced car accident attorney to ensure that your rights, interests and claim for compensation are protected throughout the recovery process.
Understanding your car insurance coverage
Auto insurance exists to help cover your expenses in the event of an accident or collision. In South Carolina, all drivers are required by law to carry at least minimum insurance coverage on their cars and trucks. Unfortunately, insurance often falls short and fails people when they need help most. Learn more about South Carolina’s minimum insurance requirements.
Holding Negligent Parties Accountable
$3.5 million Head-on car crash
$1.6 million Fatal pedestrian-vehicle accident
$1.2 million Multiple vehicle wreck
$1.2 million Fatal drunk driving (DUI) crash
$750 thousand Motor vehicle wrongful death
$600 thousand Catastrophic car accident
$550 thousand DUI rear-end accident
$545 thousand Police chase vehicle collisions
$500 thousand Multi-care interstate pile-up
This list is not a description or characterization of the quality of the ﬁrm’s representation and is in no way a guarantee of a speciﬁc result for your case. Every case is diﬀerent, and our South Carolina injury lawyers and the court will evaluate each case on its own merit.
Our Attorneys Are Here to Help You
Founded in 1993, the mission of Chappell Smith & Arden, P.A. is to help injured clients get the justice they deserve. Our exceptional, experienced attorneys are licensed to practice in several areas, including all federal and state courts in South Carolina, all state courts in North Carolina, and federal district and appeals courts across the nation. We are also qualiﬁed to serve clients in the Supreme Court of the United States.
Get Experienced and Compassionate Help After a Columbia Car Accident
Our Columbia car accident lawyers are ready to help you start financially recovering from your crash. Contact us to start getting helpful answers about your options and to discover what you can do as you move forward to protect your rights and claim.
Schedule a free, no-obligation initial consultation with one of our lawyers today. During this meeting, you can find out more about your rights, as well as how we can help you. Along the way, we will keep you informed about the status of your case and offer legal guidance so you can make decisions that benefit your future.
We are passionately committed to advocating for accident victims’ rights and fighting to help them obtain the full amount of compensation they deserve. While no settlement can change the past, it can help you reclaim your life and move on to a brighter future.