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Dos and Don’ts of Automobile Insurance Claims Processing

We all see it every day.  Car and truck wrecks happen throughout the Upstate all the time.  For most of us, traffic delays are the main headache caused by wrecks.  But when it happens to you, it’s a whole different story.  If you’re involved in any kind of accident, we at Trammell & Mills want you to remember some basic dos and don’ts that can dramatically affect your legal and financial outcome.

If you’re in any type of traffic accident—large or small—DO stop and contact law enforcement immediately.  If there are obvious injuries, ask the 911 operator to send medical help.  DON’T ever leave the scene of any wreck, no matter how minor it may seem.  Stay and work through the proper process.

DO exchange insurance information with the other driver.  Even if you’re angry, be polite about it.  DON’T do or say anything threatening.  Trade insurance and registration details only.

DO wait for law enforcement to arrive before discussing who caused the wreck, and only talk about details with them.  Avoid the temptation to instantly replay what happened out loud with the other driver.  DON’T say anything to admit guilt or fault or liability at the scene of the accident.  Police and insurance companies will determine who’s responsible.

DO talk with anyone at the scene who witnessed the incident.  Get their story and their contact information.  Record it on your phone if they agree.  DON’T let eyewitnesses who could be helpful walk away without knowing what they saw.  This could damage or lose your case if you go to court.

DO take photos of the wreck scene from several angles.  Show any damage done to either vehicle.  You never know which photo may help win your case if legal action is necessary to settle a claim.  DON’T be left without any evidence to prove your story…or your innocence.

DO contact your insurance agent as soon as possible after the wreck.  Share your photos so they can see what damage was done.  If you have any injury, see a doctor.  The sooner you start the claim process, the quicker you can get medical bills paid or car repairs made.  DON’T wait too long to make a claim.  There is a time limit in South Carolina to make a claim and you don’t want to be denied money because you didn’t act fast enough.

DO be careful about signing any kind of insurance release or waiver. Such documents can be misleading, and you really need the advice of an attorney before putting your name on any kind of quick settlement.  DON’T be tricked into accepting less than you should from an insurance adjuster who doesn’t want to pay you a proper amount.

DO let an experienced attorney push the insurance company for fair payment.  DON’T take legal matters into your own hands and risk losing money that’s rightfully yours.  The insurance claim process after a wreck can be a nightmare.  Call the local attorneys at Trammell & Mills at (864) 485-8585 to make sure you get a fair insurance settlement

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Single Car Accidents Leave Drivers and Passengers with Few Options

I often consult with clients that have been in a single car accident and want to utilize the insurance coverage they have paid on for years because they have “full coverage”. Well, liability insurance is just that, it goes in effect when you are at fault for causing someone or something injury and/or damages. Not when you cause yourself injury or damages. People would be running their cars into trees on purpose to get insurance coverage if that were the case.

Accidents happen and those in the “driver’s seat”, literally and figuratively, have a duty to the passengers in the car.  Passengers traveling in the car during a single car accident often times have claims against the insurance company of the driver.  “Fault”, or liability, is a legal term here used to proceed against the insurance company of the driver. Sometimes that driver is your friend, family member, and/or loved one.  However, their insurance premium is going to go up regardless of what you do because they are going to have a “claim” for property damage or simply for the accident.  Thus, you are causing no more trouble and are actually using resources that your friend, family member, and/or loved one has provided for people like yourself. Medical Payments/Personal Injury Protection is additional coverage everyone should have because it benefits every occupant in a car that has been injured, regardless of who is at fault.

Unfortunately there were more than a few single car accidents in Upstate South Carolina this past week as reported by The Greenville News and Anderson Independent:

Be careful out there on the roadways. Regardless of whether you are the driver or a passenger.

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South Carolina’s Deadly Upstate Roadways

The amount of traffic and pedestrian fatalities seemed to be one article after another this past week/weekend.  As summer begins don’t let your focus change. Always remember your duties to be responsible on the roadways of South Carolina. Here were some of the articles reported by The Greenville News & Anderson Independent:

  • Easley Man Killed on 183– a one car crash involving Mr. Oswaldo Carrera Hernandez, speed was indicated as a factor in the wreck;
  • Motorcyclist, Moped Rider Die in Taylors Crash-the motorcyclist, Joe Pannell, who was wearing a helmet, died of blunt-force trauma on the way to the hospital Friday. The moped driver, Brian Cote, died Saturday morning, about 11 hours after the crash. Highway Patrol Lance Cpl. Bryan McDougald said Cote, was eastbound in a 35 mph zone on East Main in Taylors when he turned into Pannell’s path. Cote was not wearing a helmet;
  • Pickens Man Dies in Moped Crash– A 41-year-old Pickens man was killed Saturday night when the Honda moped he was riding crashed on Mount Bethel Road, when he lost control of the moped and hit a ditch. He was pronounced dead at the scene. The article went on to report that, “Nationally, there were almost 5,200 motorcycle deaths in 2007, up 6 percent from the almost 4,900 deaths from the year before, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.”
  • Dodge Ram Sought in Fatal Greer Hit-RunState troopersare investigating a Greer pedestrian’s death as a hit-and-run and are trying to confirm who was driving the pickup that struck him.The driver of the Dodge Ram left the scene after striking the man, who was westbound on the shoulder of State 290 at 8:55 a.m. Sunday.  The pedestrian has been identified as James Roper James, 49, of Greer;
  • Brothers Killed in Westside Crash-Two brothers from Mexico were killed in a freakish three-vehicle accident on Farrs Bridge Road near the Greenville-Pickens line on Wednesday evening. Jesus and Juan Zamora-Barrera were killed when their Ford pickup collided with the cab of a tractor-trailer cab that was towing a backhoe on a lowboy trailer; and
  • Belton Woman Faces Charges After Fatal Wreck-as reported by the Anderson Independent-A 21-year-old woman, Kelly McCoy of Belton, was arrested and charged with felony driving under the influence and open container after a wreck that killed 56-year old Jack Hall Jr. of Fork Shoals. McCoy was driving her 2005 Honda north on Fairview Road when she crossed over the center line and struck Hall’s Chevrolet pickup truck, killing him instantly.

If you, a loved one, friend, family member, and/or enemy need a free consultation after having been injured as a result of someone’s ignorance, negligence, or omission, please feel free to call upon an experienced personal injury attorney that can assist you in this delicate and confusing process.

Remember:

“Insurance companies don’t make money paying it out in claims. They make money, keeping it away from you. Personal Injury attorneys make money based on a percentage they get for you from the insurance companies. Whose interest are aligned with yours and whose interest are not aligned with yours?”  –Trey Mills

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What Can I Do About Property Damage to my Car After a Wreck?

Don’t panic. You have just been in a wreck and your vehicle was totaled or determined to be undriveable. The other driver was put at fault by the investigating officer. What do you do now?

  1. Take note of which towing service takes your vehicle. This is after you take tons of pictures to the damage on your vehicle and the other vehicles.
  2. Contact the at fault driver’s insurance information that is located on the FR-10, or green incident report, completed by the officer.
  3. Report the wreck to the at fault driver’s insurance company but do not agree to a recorded statement or further inquiry on the phone.
  4. Identify to the at fault driver’s insurance company that your vehicle was damaged and you need a rental.
  5. If the at fault driver disputes the officer’s determination of liability (that they were indeed at fault) then the at fault driver’s insurance company will dispute paying for your vehicle and giving you a rental.
  6. Order the more detailed FR-50, two page accident report, from the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles.  (You will have to send in $6.00 so click on the hyperlink for the address).
  7. Demand a rental car of like kind. They will say no, but ask and plead anyway.
  8. If your car is determined to be “totaled”, then you will need to determine the value of your car based upon its mileage, year, overall condition, and essentially what it would take to replace exactly what you had before the wreck.
  9. Go to comEdmonds.comNADAguides.com, or KBB.comand try and find a vehicle just like yours within a 50 mile radius of where you live to get an idea of what your vehicle is worth. Send those examples to the adjuster if you do not like the number they offer.
  10. Two (2) claimsarise out of the majority of wrecks: a property damage claim and a personal injury claim.  Make sure if you settle your property damage claim that you ONLY settle your property damage claim and not your personal injury claim. Yes, insurance companies trick people all the time by having them sign away both claims.
  11. If the at fault driver’s insurance company is taking an inordinate amount of time and you have coverage on your insurance, then file your property claim with your insurance company. Yes, the otherside was at fault but this will get the problem solved and you will be reimbursed your deductible when the at fault driver’s insurance company finally pays.
  12. If you are not provided a rental vehicle immediately after the wreckand you are without your vehicle for a period of time before you are offered a settlement on your property damage. You are entitled to “loss of use” for the time you are without your vehicle. The owner may recover the value of the automobile’s use during the time in which he was necessarily deprived of its use. Adams v. Orr, 260 S.C. 92, 98 (S.C. 1973).

My clients are most frustrated with property damage. I am most interested in your personal injury claim. That is why I provide you with this very comprehensive guideline when dealing with insurance companies over property claims.

If you have questions about your insurance policy, read my “Full Coverage” article.

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Higher Gas Prices May Equal Lower Roadway Fatalities

Ron Barnett of “The Greenville News” reported that:

If there was an upside to spike in gas prices, it could be that it helped save more than 150 lives by reducing the number of miles driven on South Carolina highways…..

The ups and down of the economic woes we have faced over the past year or more continue to have their far reaching impact.  Likewise, I indicated that drivers were forgoing their insurance premiums as another way to cut costs.

As Mr. Barnett indicated in his article:

Greenville, the state’s most populous county, had the most traffic fatalities in 2008, 70, a decrease from 88 the year before.

The number of roadway fatalities in Pickens County fell from 26 to 17, while Oconee dropped from 24 to 14, Anderson went from 49 to 27 and Laurens was down from 17 to 15, according to the preliminary numbers.

The increase in highway patrolman was also credited as a potential factor in the decrease in fatalities.  As prior articles have indicated:

  1. Biker Deaths were on the rise;
  2. November is the peak month for deer collisions; and
  3. Nobody plans on dying in a freak accident.

Keep driving safely!

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