Motor vehicle (truck, sport utility vehicle, cross-over, pickup truck, van, automobile) collisions are one of the leading causes of injury and death in the United States. Since auto travel is so common in our lives, there is a tendency to forget that automobiles can be dangerous and deadly when not operated safely. It is important for all drivers to pay attention to the road and other drivers at all times. Most collisions occur because people let their guard down, stop paying attention or otherwise become distracted while driving. Remember, you owe a duty to yourself to drive safely, and you also owe a duty to drive safely to everyone else who may be put in harm’s way.
It is against the law to drive while texting, emailing or using a hand held phone. The laws restricting the use of devices that cause distracted driving were passed to preserve and protect life and health. Texting or emailing can wait until there is a safe and appropriate time. Studies have been conducted which show that distracted driving increases the risk of a collision beyond that of driving under the influence. Please keep yourself and others on the road safe and avoid driving while distracted.
It is against the law to drive while intoxicated. There is zero tolerance for illegal substances in one’s blood. For adults in California, the blood alcohol concentration legal limit is .08 grams per deciliter (g/dL). Even though one may not be legally over the limit, a person may be in violation of law if they “appear under the influence” regardless of actual blood alcohol level. Person under 21 years of age are not allowed to have any alcohol in their blood.
Drunk driving or driving under the influence is unlawful because it is unsafe. The risk of harm to the driver and other persons is increased exponentially when one drives under the influence. Personal safety is a number one priority and please do not drive if you are under the influence. The best way to avoid arrest, a ticket or hurting yourself or someone else is to have a designated driver, call a cab (or Uber or Lift), or walk.
In California, a driver is required to have a minimum of $15,000 in bodily injury liability insurance coverage. This coverage is designed to provide compensation to someone who suffers injury because of a negligent driver. Absent an express waiver, every automobile insurance policy also has something called Underinsured motorist coverage. This is designed to protect the injured person in the event the negligent driver does not have enough insurance to compensate the full extent of the injured person’s harms and losses. In order for the Underinsured motorist provision to be of benefit, the policy amount must be in excess of the negligent driver’s insurance policy coverage limits. Using the state minimum as a guide, the injured person’s Underinsured motorist coverage must be for an amount greater than $15,000.
Regarding Uninsured motorist coverage, the injured person is protected by their own automobile insurance policy if the negligent driver lacks valid insurance. Believe it or not, in today’s times, people still drive without valid insurance. When this happens the injured person must make a claim on their own automobile insurance policy. This coverage can also be applicable in cases of Hit and Run.
It is a crime to flee an automobile collision scene. The law requires that people involved in a collision exchange names, contact information and insurance information. Even so, negligent drivers leave the scene of collisions. If you or a loved one experiences a Hit and Run situation, try to obtain the license plate of the fleeing vehicle, as well as the make, model and color of the car. It is also important to call the police to report the event. Although you should be covered under your own automobile liability insurance policy for injuries suffered from the Hit and Run driver, you will be required to present proof to your insurance company that a collision occurred and your vehicle was contacted by the vehicle that fled. A police report is a key document that your insurance company will ask about.
The aftermath of an auto collision can be overwhelming and confusing. But there are certain things you can do to protect your rights. Keeping calm and gathering as much evidence as possible at the scene of the collision are few things you can to do help yourself.
DO immediately call for medical help if you or someone is injured. Even a slow speed collision can cause a serious injury if, for example, you hit your head on the door or any other part of the car. Also, some people are more prone to injury than others. A small impact may not hurt most people, but it can cause serious harm to a small percentage of people. It is not uncommon for a person who has been in a car accident to feel fine immediately afterward and not have any symptoms for a day or two. If you don’t feel right after a car accident, you should get yourself checked out. Getting prompt medical care and attending to your recovery should be your first priority.
DO call the police. The police will document the accident, otherwise it is your word against the other person’s.
DO exchange information with the other parties involved, such as address and phone number, license plate number, make, model and year of the vehicle, driver’s insurance information; car registration number; driver’s license number.
DO get the names, addresses, and phone numbers of all witnesses.
DO take pictures of the collision, damage to the vehicle, and the area around the scene of the collision such as any tire skid marks and/or debris on the road.
DO draw a diagram of the accident; note the date and time; the type of weather; the location of the collision.
DO report the accident to your insurance agent as soon as possible.
DO seek legal advice before you sign any documents presented to you by the insurance company.
DON’T leave the scene of the collision.
DON’T talk about the collision with anyone other than law enforcement. If you are generally a nice person and want to make other people comfortable in a nervous or stressful situation, don’t blame yourself for causing the collision if you did not cause it.
DON’T assume that your injuries are minor, or will resolve on their own. See a doctor who can give you a full assessment. Often, pain and injuries don’t present until 24 to 48 hours after the collision.
DON’T wait to seek legal advice if you have been injured. The longer you wait the harder it is to prove your case.
DON’T give any unnecessary information to the at-fault driver’s insurance company. If you give a statement, it may be used against you in the future.