Proving A Car Accident Case

Not long after the cars are towed away after an accident, the drivers and their insurance companies start pointing fingers at each other. In a traditional fault-based car insurance state like Arizona, an injured party cannot seek compensation against the other driver’s insurance coverage unless that driver is determined to be at “fault.” Fault in the car accident context means that the driver committed some kind of negligent or careless act (texting while driving, not stopping at a red light) which is usually – but not always — a violation of state traffic laws.  Since a car accident case is a civil lawsuit, the plaintiff has the burden of proving that his allegations (his version of the facts) are true “by a preponderance of the evidence” or “more likely than not.” If the plaintiff meets that burden, the defendant is liable for the plaintiff’s damages.  In some cases the circumstances of the accident will make it readily apparent that the other driver acted negligently (and was therefore at fault) but if the facts of an accident are more ambiguous, these are some of the ways to prove fault:  Police Reports  A written accident report from the police can be powerful evidence of which driver was at fault. If the police came to the scene of the accident and were aware that someone was injured, they probably prepared a fairly detailed report containing their account of the accident. (If the police thought there was only damage to the vehicles at the scene, their report may be less detailed and not as helpful.)  Payment of a small fee to the municipality may be required to obtain a copy of the report.  Sometimes the police report clearly contains […]

Steps to Take After a Car Accident

Car accidents are inherently stressful. After an accident — even a minor one — you’re probably shaken up, you might be injured, and you may be angry at yourself or the other driver (or both). So, what should you do if you’re involved in an accident? Focus on Your Safety You first need to ensure the safety of yourself and your passengers. If your car is movable, drive onto the road’s shoulder and out of the way of moving traffic. If your car is disabled, you and your passengers should exit your vehicle and move away from the road. If you or any passengers are injured, call 911 for an ambulance. If any of the injuries are serious, use your judgment about the safety of moving anyone — it may make sense to remain in the car and wait for first responders. Choose Your Words Carefully What you say to the other driver, the police and your insurance company can be used against you when you file an insurance claim or seek compensation for injuries. Don’t argue with the other driver about who was at fault — let the police and insurance companies sort that out. Try not to apologize to anyone or say that the accident was your fault — just give a neutral, truthful version of facts of the accident to the police and insurance company without admitting that you were careless or negligent. Don’t tell anyone you’re weren’t injured in the accident — injuries can take time […]

How to Take Photos After an Accident

Any car, truck or motorcycle accident (even a minor one) is a stressful experience. But once you’ve made sure that no one has been injured and shared some basic information with the other driver, you should do your best to document the accident scene by taking photos either with a camera or even a cell phone. Why Take Photos? Photos will preserve evidence of the crash before anyone has moved the vehicles or cleared the debris (broken glass, broken car parts, etc.)  This can help the insurance companies (yours and the other driver’s) determine what happened and who was at fault. If you’ve been injured in the crash, the photos will enable your car accident attorney to reconstruct the facts of the accident in any legal claim and refresh your memory when you need to give testimony about the incident in a deposition, court hearing or trial. Documenting the Scene First, make sure that the date/time tagging function is enabled on your camera. Then, start taking the photos by concentrating on the following: Your vehicle and its damage The other vehicles involved and their damage Vehicle parts and other debris on the ground Skid marks The intersection, parking lot or other location of the accident Traffic lights and signs at the scene Any damage sustained by stationary objects at the scene – guardrails, signs, trees, etc. Any visible injuries sustained by you or other drivers/passengers (but obviously only to the extent they consent to your taking such photos) Weather conditions […]

Insurance Company Runaround

If you’ve been involved in a car, truck or motorcycle accident, the insurance policies carried by you and the other driver are two potential sources of compensation for your injuries and vehicle damage. But the insurance companies have financial incentives not to make the claims process easy or fast. Why You Need Insurance Company Cooperation After an accident, you’ll want assistance and cooperation from the insurance companies right away. You may have injuries that require immediate treatment (which means you need money to pay medical bills). You may be losing wages because injuries prevent you from working (which means you need money to pay your normal household expenses). You need to get your car or motorcycle fixed (which means you need help paying mechanics and a body shop). Why Insurance Companies Don’t Want to Cooperate But the insurance adjusters don’t work for you – they work for the insurance companies. And their goal isn’t to quickly provide you with the maximum amount of compensation. The adjuster’s job is to save his insurance company money by: Minimizing the amounts paid to you; and Delaying those payments as long as he can. The easiest way for an insurance company to achieve these two goals is by giving you the runaround. What Does Insurance Company Runaround Look Like? Insurance company runaround can take many forms but the classic signs include: Not answering or returning your phone calls Taking a long time to provide you with basic information or required forms Repeatedly asking for […]

Don’t Be Afraid of Litigation

If you have been injured in a car, motorcycle or truck accident, it is important to recognize that insurance companies have become very sophisticated in handling claims and managing accident victims. These companies know that many accident victims are ill-prepared for the financial hardships that can arise when an injury interrupts their income stream.

Recognizing the Signs of a Traumatic Brain Injury

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), an estimated 1.7 million people sustain traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) in the United States every year. Over 50,000 of these people die as a result of their injuries. Roughly 80 percent of people who sustain TBIs seek treatment in emergency rooms. The remaining 20 percent might never even realize they’ve been seriously injured. The symptoms of TBIs are varied and not always immediately apparent to the injured party. In some cases they can take days or weeks to appear. That’s why it’s essential for people to seek treatment any time they’ve sustained a head injury, even if it doesn’t seem very serious at the time. It’s also important for people to educate themselves about the signs and symptoms of TBI so that they can recognize them in the event that they or a loved one has a head injury. According to the CDC, TBI symptoms typically fall into one of four categories. Cognitive After sustaining a TBI, you may have difficulty concentrating or thinking clearly. You may also have trouble retaining new information. Many people report a general feeling of mental “sluggishness” when trying to think and reason after sustaining a TBI. Physical Nausea and vomiting soon after a head injury are tell-tale signs of a TBI. Later on, headaches, blurred vision and increased sensitivity to light can manifest as symptoms as well. Dizziness, balance issues and lack of energy are also fairly common physical TBI symptoms. Emotional These symptoms can be […]

The Most Dangerous Time of Year for Teen Drivers

A few weeks ago, millions of Americans came together to observe Memorial Day with friends and loved ones. Burgers were grilled, pools were opened and the sacrifices of the brave men and women of the armed forces were commemorated. In addition to being the unofficial start of summer, Memorial Day marked another important annual milestone as well – the beginning of the 100 deadliest days for teen drivers. Statistically speaking, the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day is the most dangerous time of year for teens to be on the road. During this period, when the weather is nice and schools are closed for the summer, teens tend to spend more time behind the wheel, increasing their risk of getting in an accident. On average, about 1,000 people die every year in accidents involving teenagers during these 100 deadliest days. The Most Dangerous Time of Year for Teen Drivers With this in mind, it’s imperative that parents of teenagers remind them about the additional risks associated with driving this time of year. According to AAA, distracted driving is the most common cause of accidents involving teen drivers. Cell phones, in particular, tend to be especially dangerous distractions for teens behind the wheel. Parents should set clear safety expectations for their teenage drivers, and do their part to practice what they preach as well. If your teenager sees you checking text messages while you drive, they’re more likely to do the same when they get behind the wheel. You can […]

If I make a Claim Against my Insurance Company, Will My Rates Go Up?

People pay hundreds and in some cases thousands of dollars a year on car insurance and when they get in an accident are afraid to use it! If that’s your thought process, don’t buy the insurance. You wouldn’t buy a new car if you had no intention of using it – why buy the insurance? Rather than think like that, I have a much better answer for the motorists of Arizona. We have a law in place that makes it illegal to raise your rates if you file a claim when the accident is not your fault. For you legal eagles the specific statute is Arizona Revised Statutes 20-263 which reads in part: Vehicle insurance; prohibited act by insurer; hearing; penalty A. No insurer shall increase the motor vehicle insurance premium of an insured as a result of an accident not caused or significantly contributed to by the actions of the insured. Subsection B is even better, B. The director, after a hearing, shall order an insurer that has raised the premium of an insured in violation of subsection A to refund the amount attributable to such premium increase and shall impose a civil penalty not to exceed three hundred dollars. Therefore, if you are hurt as a result of the negligence of an uninsured motorist use your uninsured motorist coverage. If the negligent driver has liability insurance but not enough to fully compensate you for your injuries, use your underinsured motorist insurance. That’s what it’s for and now you […]

Should I settle or hire a lawyer?

This is a great question that should always be asked before accepting any offer made by an insurance company in a personal injury case. In fact, this is the number one question I am asked. So, how do you find the answer? Unless you have been through this before, you should call an experienced personal injury attorney. Nearly all of them offer a free consultation, which should include a ballpark evaluation of your case. When you compare the value with the adjuster’s offer you must factor in the lawyers’ fee to see if it makes sense to hire an attorney. For example, the adjuster offers you $12,000 to settle your case. As a result of the free consultation you learn your case is worth about $15,000. If the lawyer can get you the $15,000, but charges one third of the value of case, you end up with less. That’s simple arithmetic. Try to make the decision analytically based on finances rather than emotion. The settlement amount is not the only factor The amount of the settlement is not the only reason to hire a lawyer. In many cases, the lawyer will find doctors that will await payment so you don’t have to front money for your medical treatment. Also, when the case is over most lawyers will negotiate with the doctors and hospitals to reduce their bills, resulting in more money to you. I’ve even had cases where the medical bills were far more than the insurance coverage. Making sure […]

Federal Study Reveals Most Dangerous Driving Distractions

We’ve all been guilty of it at some point — fiddling with the radio while we change lanes, taking our eyes off the road to gaze at the passing scenery. Even professional drivers aren’t perfect. Distractions happen, and sometimes they can be deadly. Recently, the U.S. Congress funded the Strategic Highway Research Program Naturalistic Driving Study (SHRP 2 NDS) to find out just how dangerous distracted driving is. The study was conducted by scientists from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. Rather than using a controlled testing environment, data was collected from 3,500 volunteer drivers over a three year period travelling in real-world conditions. The volunteers’ vehicles were outfitted with a series of radar units, cameras and sensors that allowed the researchers to record and analyze their driving behavior. By the end of the study, the participants had been involved in more than 1600 incidents. The researchers assessed accident causation based on a number of factors including speed, fatigue, sobriety and distraction. After analyzing the data, the research team concluded that distracted driving was nearly as dangerous as drunk driving. But Which Distractions Were the Most Dangerous? Some distractions that the researchers expected to be particularly dangerous were actually fairly uncommon. These included things like applying makeup while driving, and interacting with children in the back seat. In fact, the researchers found that people tended to drive more carefully with children in the car. Other well-known distractions – texting while driving, for example – were found to be very dangerous. Generally, […]

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