Car crashes can be life changing, especially when you or your loved ones are the victims. Watch the various Victim Impact Panel stories on YouTube and you’ll hear the recurring theme – “it happened in a flash”, “we never saw it coming”, “we were driving one minute and the next minute we were hit”…..
Vehicle crashes are usually classified by attorneys as falling into distinct categories: Head-on Collisions, Hit-and-Run, Lane Crossover, Multi-Vehicle Crash, Rear-End Crashes, Rollovers, Sideswipe or T-Bone Collisions, and Single-Vehicle Crashes. These are descriptive enough for an attorney to follow an established procedure for discovery. It’s a good idea to write down the basics –
* When – What was the date of your car accident?
* Where – Where did your accident occur?
* Who – Who were the other drivers involved?
Were you hurt in the collision? You are not alone. Over 37,000 people die in road crashes each year with an additional 2.35 million injured or disabled. Road crashes cost the U.S. $230.6 billion per year, or an average of $820 per person. Regardless the details, car crashes inflict pain and suffering from injuries, in addition to causing frustration, stress and confusion. Are you properly insured? All states require that automobile liability insurance policies carry minimum coverage, with the average minimum being:
– $15,000 for bodily injury or death of one person in any one accident;
– $30,000 for bodily injury or death of two or more persons in any one accident;
– $10,000 for damage or destruction of other’s property in any one crash.
But are these amounts really enough? Insurance is meant to protect a driver’s current and future assets. If the policy does not provide enough car insurance to cover damages caused by a driver to people or property, there could be legal action to sue for the additional costs. If you think about it, $15,000 for bodily injury may not even cover the cost of an ambulance, emergency room, pharmacy, etc. for a person injured in a traffic crash. If the injured person has medical expenses that exceed $15,000, as is usually the case, it is entirely possible for that individual to bring a lawsuit against you to recover the additional medical expenses not covered by your automobile insurance.
Additionally, most states do not mandate medical insurance for the driver be covered by car insurance. Therefore, if you are injured in a motor vehicle crash and you have inadequate or no private medical insurance, you will be held responsible for all costs of medical care provided to you. Check with your insurance agent to determine whether you should consider adding Medical Payments (Medpay) for treating injuries to you and your passengers without regard to fault. It also pays for treating injuries resulting from being struck as a pedestrian by a motor vehicle.
Knowing the extent of the injuries resulting from the crash will be helpful for the attorney guiding you through the claims process. Any medical documentation is good to have. Consider the aftermath of a car crash – piles of medical bills, missed work, the insurance paperwork – all very time-consuming and costly. Auto insurance in itself is quite complicated. All states regulate the insurance industry, and many offer policyholders coverage options, for example, choosing full tort or limited tort. What is the difference? Full Tort allows a person to sue for pain and suffering. With Limited Tort, an insured forfeits the right to compensation for pain and suffering. Typically, Limited Tort offers you a small discount on your monthly premium. But buyer beware – when you are injured in a car crash, saving a few dollars a month on car insurance doesn’t come near to being sufficiently compensated for the emotional and physical suffering of a crash, which can be life-changing and stay with you for a long time after the incident.
Don’t forget the police report. Most states require a police report for traffic collisions, especially those involving injury or death. These types of police reports are public records, so request a copy. Were there any witnesses? If so, try to collect their contact information. What about auto defects? Every year, vehicle safety features get more advanced in their design to prevent injuries. But these products often fail — consider the recent recall of 85 million Takata air bags. The problem was centered on aluminum nitrate, the chemical compound used to inflate air bags. When exposed to moisture, drastic temperature changes, or age, aluminum nitrate can break down and become unstable, leading air bags to explode, sending pieces of metal into cars, injuring their drivers and passengers. Those explosions led to significant injuries including bone fractures, lacerations, traumatic brain injuries and blindness. Vehicles made by 19 different automakers have been recalled to replace frontal airbags on the driver’s side or passenger’s side, or both in what NHTSA has called “the largest and most complex safety recall in U.S. history.”
Other factors to consider when documenting a vehicle crash include road defects. There are many road conditions that could cause you to lose control of your vehicle and crash, including objects on the road, ice/snow/black ice, confusing signs or lack thereof, potholes, steep shoulders (drop-offs), unsafe work zones, pooling water that can lead to hydroplaning, windy roads with no lines, and wheel ruts. Documenting these defects can be time-sensitive, as evidence might disappear with a change in the weather or repairs being completed.
Review Your Auto Insurance Coverage
Buying a new policy? Updating an existing one? There are recommended minimum coverage for auto insurance that covers Tort (pain & suffering), Bodily Injury Liability, Property Damage Liability, Medical Expense Benefits, Uninsured/Underinsured Motorists Coverage (UM/UIM), Roadside Assistance, Missed Work and Funeral Benefits. Having the proper insurance coverage might result in a slightly higher premium, but it will save you thousands when you need it most. Speak with your insurance agent about adjusting your deductibles if you are worried that your monthly premium will be too high.
Of particular importance is the UM/UIM coverage that applies to the driver, as well as family members living in the same household, in the event of a car crash. UM/UIM coverage will help pay for the costs related to accidents with uninsured or underinsured drivers whether you are a driver, passenger, pedestrian, or the victim of a hit-and-run. According to a 2014 study by the Insurance Information Institute, 12.6% percent of American drivers had no insurance. The most recent data from the Insurance Research Council show higher estimates – a little over14% percent of the driving population is uninsured. Nationwide, there’s about a 1-in-8 chance a crash will involve an uninsured driver, with a 1 in 5 chance of finding an uninsured motorist on the road in six states. Recommended minimum coverage limits are $100,000 per person / $300,000 per occurrence. With these limits, UM/UIM can help pay for medical bills, pain and suffering and property damage.
Remember, you can change your car insurance policy at any time – just call your insurance agency or agent – before the unexpected happens.