california crash law

The Most Dangerous Cities in California: Why, and What You Should Know

California residents are no stranger to the topic of crime and danger, as many cities in California have a reputation of being busy, densely populated areas, which are sometimes affiliated with high crime rates. How much of this stigma is true, and should you worry about it? A recent article discussed the data and ranked the ten most-dangerous cities, adding data to the discussions and resulting in some surprising results. While the article focused on crime rates and property crime, it failed to take into consideration a few key data points, such as number of traffic accident fatalities.

The California "Dangerous Index"

First, the California cities shown on the index below obviously are home to many residents, but not all the cities are major towns. For example, of the most dangerous, according to this index, only Barstow, San Bernardino, and Santa Cruz are actually large communities. Emeryville, which is the most dangerous California city, is home to approximately 12,000 people; Red Bluff is home to approximately 14,000 people, and Commerce being home to only about 14,000. Also take into consideration what the study is measuring - property crime. Commerce, California is an industrial and shipping city, so there are hundreds of warehouses, so it makes sense that there would be more property crime there.

Consider Other Factors

The authors of this article were direct in saying their article was "infotainment," so it is not by any means meant to be a conclusive study. However, if you're wondering what other factors to consider about whether a city or region in California is safe or dangerous, crime rate, including violent crime, car accident rates, fatality rates for youth and adults, and other metrics should be taken into account. For example, consider that the total number of car accident deaths in a single year (2013) in Southern California were as follows: Los Angeles County, 630 traffic deaths; County of Orange, 185 traffic deaths; Riverside County, 225 traffic deaths; San Bernardino County, 264 traffic deaths; County of San Diego, 201 traffic deaths. When considering where to live in California, this statistic may be more insightful into the safety of an area than the rate of property crime.

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It is also important to remember that statistics often are over general. For example, in 2013, 32 percent of all drivers killed in a car crash in California tested positive for drugs, legal and illegal. So even if an area has a high number of traffic related deaths, it does not mean that area is necessarily inherently dangerous, because in many of the statistics, personal decisions were involved, such as the driver who ends up dying in a motor vehicle accident being the one who decided to take drugs or drive while under the influence of alcohol or prescription medicine. 

True Threats to Safety

When deciding where to visit or live in California, people serious about making the move or visit will obviously look at many factors. Of course violent crime is an important statistic to look at, but many California cities have low crime rates compared to similarly sized cities in other states or part of the country. Consider the number one cause of death of adolescents is unintentional injury, and in that category, traffic related crashes resulting in death are the number one cause of death. So whether or not an area is safe to drive in may be a bigger threat to your family's safety than the property crime rate. Of course, the more cars, the more car crashes, and the more injuries related to car crashes are likely to happen. Because California has so many residents living in many large cities, there are lots of traffic related deaths in these cities, such as Los Angeles, Orange County, and the Bay Area. 

 

Deaths From Injuries Rising Among Youth in America

CNN published findings from a report today in which the rise in accidental deaths among young people in America are analyzed. For many years, the total death rate among 10-19 year olds declined significantly, according to the report from the National Center for Health Statistics at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The decrease was between the years 1999 and 2013 and represented a 33% decrease in accidental deaths; however, between 2013 and 2016, the death rate rose 12%. Tragically, car accident fatalities play a large role in the uptick. 

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The increase in accidental deaths and serious injuries is not only attributed to car crashes, however. As the table below shows, drowning, suicide, homicide, and poisoning are also causing more deaths in recent years than in the past. Many experts point the blame at easily accessible recreational drugs and social media. Even as other causes of death and permanent injury rise in other areas, the fact remains that among 10 to 19 year-old adolescents, traffic injuries were the leading cause of death in 2015. The US Department of Health and Human Services' report entitled Deaths: Leading Causes for 2015 is an easy to read, informative study that would likely be of tremendous value to parents of children and teenagers. If nothing else, it gives parents and youth alike an objective reference point that shows the dangers young people around the world face. As parents often face a challenge from teenagers not wanting to hear it from their mom or dad, the study and data are indisputible proof that car accidents (shown in the table as "motor vehicle traffic") is, without question, a serious cause of unintentional injury and death among youth. 

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Parents interested in the data presented in this study may also benefit from visiting the National Vital Statistics System, which tracks public health data and includes statistics on vital matters such as traffic deaths, pedestrian versus auto deaths and injury, and drug and alcohol-related injury and death. 

What Can Concerned Parents Do?

The statistics showing an increase in traffic deaths do not specifically mention California, but California drivers are part of the data set, and the causes of death and injury most certainly apply to young people living here.  Parents can first help their families and loved ones by being aware of the threats and familiarizing themselves with the numbers. Once parents understand the threats to young peoples' safety, they can have a more insightful conversation with their kids and teenagers about the issues. Some marriage and family therapists recommend printing off data such as the studies referenced here, and allowing the teenager or young adult to review the material for themselves before trying to talk too in depth about the issue. Jumping right into it can come off as "preachy," and many young teenagers are becoming more comfortable with their own analysis skills and ability to form an educated opinion. Have them read it and ask them what they think.

Set Rules, Set an Example

Car accident deaths are often the result of a bad combination of texting while driving, alcohol or drug use, careless or distracted driving, or any combination of these factors. Checking your phone when driving can be a against family rules, for example, although for the rule to have any weight, parents must obey it too! The more young people see their parents practicing safe driving habits, the more likely they are to incorporate these habits into their own driving.

Discuss The Obvious

California residents who have driven here for a long time sometimes do not realize that our roads are, in many ways, not the norm. Not everyone is aware that the bad traffic and seemingly crazy driving on the 405 and 5 Freeways are actually especially dangerous and chaotic - not every freeway or highway is like this. In Southern California, for example, we have some of the most dense population, with the large majority of working adults commuting to and from work in their own vehicle, instead of using public transportation. This presents a unique challenge - our roads are more busy, and the volume of drivers using our roads and freeways is extremely high. Young drivers need to know that not only are they relatively new to the challenges and dangers of operating powerful and heavy vehicles, they are doing so in an especially dangerous place. It's ok to discuss the frequent car accidents and scary crashes we see on the side of the road with our teenagers. After all, many of California's metro areas are among the most dangerous driving thoroughfares in the country! 

Helping Teenagers Respond to Crashes

Despite our best efforts, parents cannot prevent crashes, and whether or not it was your teenager's fault that a car crash happened, your loved one needs to know how to respond in the event they are part of a car wreck. They need to know that they have to pull over and call the police if anyone was injured. They may not know that they need to take photos of the scene of the crash, ask that a California Highway Patrol report, or local police report, be taken. Your loved one should know that if they may be hurt or injured, they need to seek proper medical attention, which may include an ambulance ride to a nearby hospital or urgent care facility in order to assess their injury.

Many teenagers will resist this, but it can be a crucial step in diagnosing the extent of their injury. In California, the police and Highway Patrol are supposed to ask if the injured wants to be transported to a hospital. Also, teenagers are in the stage of life where they are starting to understand money and financial constraints, so they should know that if they do take the ambulance or go to the doctor, the other driver's insurance company can be held responsible for paying the bills (assuming the car crash wasn't their fault). Taking photos of the scene of the wreck is an easy one for young drivers to do, but some don't know that they should take pictures of the vehicles involved, the scene of the crash, the surrounding area, and any bruises or lacerations they may have gotten during the car crash. 

Seek Appropriate Counsel

After a car accident, adults and teenagers alike may have questions - this is normal, and the road to financial and physical recovery can be tricky and confusing. Dealing with medical bills, police reports, insurance companies and auto repair shops can take a toll on your wallet and your nerves. Depending on the extent of your injuries, it may be wise to discuss your crash and your injury with a lawyer or attorney who handles personal injury cases. There are many injury law firms in California who handle cases throughout the state. A good injury attorney will be able to point you in the right direction, give you a general evaluation or assessment of the value and strength of your case, and help you get a fair and reasonable settlement for your pain and suffering. You should never have to pay up front, as most law firms who handle injury cases work on a contingency fee and only take a fee if they win your case. 

"You Don't Need an Attorney for Your Car Crash Injury Claim"

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For personal injury attorneys in California who practice exclusively injury law, it is only a matter of time before they take a case where the client was told at one point by someone at an insurance company that they didn't need an attorney to help them. The longer injury lawyers practice, the more frequent this story becomes. Clients are told shortly after their car accident by the other driver's insurance company that they "don't need a lawyer for this kind of claim." Because this advice has drastic consequences, a brief look as to why an employee of an insurance company, especially an injury claim adjuster, would say this is worth looking into.

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What Do Insurance Adjusters Do?

Insurance adjusters evaluate claims and, if necessary, offer money to settle the claim. What does "settlement" entail? It basically means that in exchange for money, the claimant will not sue the insurance company's insured in a court of law. This all happens before any lawsuit is filed against the person who caused a crash. Insurance adjusters are therefore middlemen that are supposed to protect the interests of their insured. The more claims an adjuster can settle or close, the better they are at their job in the eyes of their bosses, and they are often compensated accordingly. In short, if an insurance adjuster can get you to settle your claim, they win, and personally it is good for their careers.

What Exactly Does "Evaluate Claims" Mean?

Insurance adjusters evaluate claims. Basically this means they investigate what the claimant is saying in comparison to what their insured says. However, their evaluation is not objective, whereas a jury evaluation of a case is supposed to be objective. If the insurance adjuster's client/insured says they didn't cause the accident, the insurance adjuster will stick by their client, regardless of what the facts say. This means they can deny your claim, even though there's a lot of evidence to show that their guy is at fault. So even though they are tasked with evaluating the claim and trying to get the claimant to go away, their view favors the interests of their company.

Why Don't Adjusters Want Me to Speak With an Attorney?

First, remember that insurance adjusters are expected to move files off their desks. The quicker they can get rid of your file, the sooner they can move on to the next file, and so on. The involvement of an attorney does not necessarily mean your claim will go unsettled longer, but it most certainly means that when your claim settles, it will be for more money. Injury attorneys specialize in getting their clients money, plain and simple. The money comes from the at fault party's insurance company. In short, if an attorney is involved, the insurance company is going to have to pay more money to make the claim go away. This is bad for the individual insurance adjuster's performance metrics.

Insurance adjusters also handle so many car crash cases that they become accustomed to getting their way with plaintiffs who are not represented by an injury lawyer. They get used to having the upper hand in the negotiation, and they are used to getting their way. They also know that the tables turn when an injury law firm is involved, as an experienced injury lawyer will know far more about the law, case results, and how the courts actually work.

The Insurance Company says ________________. Is this true?

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Insurance adjusters are not bad people, but they do have often have a narrow perspective as to how an injury case might play out if an attorney is involved. Again, they settle so many cases for pennies on the dollar that they don't realize a case they settle for $500 may be worth $15,000 or $50,000 if an attorney is involved. They view themselves at injury authorities, even though they are not trained in the law, and don't know what happens to cases that they don't settle that end up in litigation and going to trial. Insurance adjusters therefore often try to coach claimants as to how the process works, even though their approach is heavily favorable to the insurance company's bottom line, and geared towards low settlement.

"My Adjuster is Very Friendly. I Don't Want to Cause Problems for Anyone."

Friendliness is a proven negotiating tactic that is taught to insurance adjusters in most insurance companies. Hint: if you've seen a commercial on television for an insurance company, you can rest assured the adjusters for those companies have all been trained how to present themselves in a friendly manner during negotiations with claimants. Also, remember that none of this is personal. You will never meet the insurance adjuster, and even in the event that your case requires a lawsuit be filed, you will probably never see the individual who injured you again. The insurance policy is there to protect you in the event of injury, and so when you are injured by someone else's careless or reckless driving, the law has provided a way for you to recover, physically and financially. 

If you pursue your claim, it is extremely unlikely that the actual individual who hit you will know or care how much their insurance company settles for. For example, an auto insurance policy for $50,000 covers your injuries up to that amount. Whether you settle for $500 or $50,000, it does not affect the person who injured you personally, as the money comes from the insurance agency. This is why we pay insurance premiums. Every month, every California driver pays money to be insured. In return, if they cause an accident and hurt someone, that money is used to protect the negligent person. Thus, your efforts to get a fair settlement and have your medical bills and pain and suffering paid for have nothing to do with the individual who hit you, but become the responsibility of the insurance company to resolve.

Isn't All This Overly Skeptical of Insurance Companies?

The more injury claims an attorney sees, the more aware he or she is of the many ways in which insurance adjusters are able to convince injured people to do things that will ultimately result in the claimant receiving less money. Insurance companies are insanely profitable, as evidenced by their high profile advertising campaigns, the stadiums their brands are on, and their pervasive presence in advertising culture. Insurance companies spend billions of dollars every year in advertising, and in return, they earn billions of dollars in profits. If you are injured and want to get your medical bills paid for, that is why the insurance policy exists, and why California law requires drivers to have insurance. Insurance companies employ good people, and are not necessarily corrupt, but they do have a bias, and that is to settle all claims for as little money as possible, as this is how they stay profitable.

If You Are Injured

California law provides for full recovery if you were injured, meaning you should be in the same position you were after the car accident or other injury-causing accident as you were before the accident. If your injury is long-lasting, catastrophic, or permanent, this may not be possible. Still, the law makes sure the negligent/at fault person is responsible for making you whole, so if you can't be put back together, you are owed money for pain and suffering. The Lions Injury Lawyers are passionate about getting fair value for injury claims. They fight endlessly to recover as much money as possible for their clients, which will cover all medical expenses and also include money for pain and suffering, lost wages from time off work, and money for other incidental and inconvenient or painful lifestyle changes. The Lions Injury Lawyers spend 100% of their time practicing injury law, and are exclusively dedicated to personal injury clients. Speak with an actual injury attorney today to make sure you're not being taken advantage of as you seek to settle your claim.

Unintended Consequences of Car Modification

Most car owners who modify their cars are aware that the modifications tend to decrease, not increase, the value of their vehicle when they want to sell it. Why is the vehicle worse less money after modification, when modification can cost a lot of money? Your tastes are unique and don't necessarily match the tastes of other drivers. But there are several even more important reasons to carefully consider any modification to the external appearance of your vehicle.

This is how law enforcement may perceive you, regardless of how you're driving

This is how law enforcement may perceive you, regardless of how you're driving

Safety First

People change the appearance of their vehicle to get a certain look, something perhaps sportier than the original version. Or, maybe they want to stay up to date in trends of color and wheels. But many car owners may not consider that their modifications can have safety implications, and may not even be legal. For example, you may have driven behind a vehicle that has darkened plastic covering their rear lights, usually on a dark colored or black vehicle. The appearance makes the car look more uniform in color, as the back lights are less pronounced. What you may also have noticed is the brake lights are not as bright on these vehicles. Owners of these vehicles risk being rear-ended due to their brake lights not being bright enough, resulting in the driver behind them not being aware that the car in front is braking. 

Some modifications, like tinting light covers, especially brake light covers, can be illegal. There are millions and millions of vehicles on California roads, so what are the chances a driver of a vehicle with illegal brake light modifications will get pulled over? Maybe slim. But the chance that they'll get in a car accident certainly rises, posing a public safety hazard. This is why this particular modification tends to be against DMV standards. Also, if the vehicle has modifications that contributed to the crash, even a rear-end accident that results in injury, liability will almost always go against the car that has the modification. Thus, if you modify your car and are injured, the chances that you're placed at fault are high. Then, in many cases neither the other party's auto insurance, nor your own, will pay for your medical expenses.

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Also consider that seemingly minor modifications, if enough to convince a police officer or California Highway Patrol officer that your vehicle's appearance had something to do with causing the crash, you may be liable for any injuries caused to other parties. A car modification to make your vehicle look "cool" may not feel so cool, after all.

Visibility is Good, But Excessive Visibility is Bad

Some car owners have followed trends shown in the "Fast and Furious" movies, and other car racing movies, and install neon lights under their vehicle. Again, these modifications tend to be illegal, and the owner can be tickets. If the owner is ticketed on multiple occasions, the car may be impounded and their license suspended. What's the big deal of a little neon light? First, if you have neon lights under your car, the vehicle is very visable - too visable to other drivers, in fact, making it a distraction and a safety hazard. If you cause an accident and the other party says they were distracted by your lights, you're unlikely to convince the California Highway Patrol that your under-carriage lights had nothing to do with the crash. In fact, many California injury attorneys will attest that in almost every case where one of the vehicles has significant modifications, that vehicle is placed at fault on the police report.

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The Presumption of Guilt

Stereotypes are often unfair and inaccurate, but they still matter. You  may have an impeccable driving record and be an upstanding citizen in every way, and a great driver, but if you're involved in a crash that injures someone, the appearance of your vehicle matters. It may not seem fair, but California injury lawyers almost unanimously agree that the appearance of your vehicle comes into play when deciding who should pay for the damages. An extreme example may be helpful: if you're driving a sports car with bright paint, modified wheels, and other changes to the vehicle, and you're involved in a crash with a brown minivan, and the driver of the minivan says you were speeding and driving crazy, who do you think the police officer is going to believe? And modifications sometimes aren't needed at all: a sports car involved in an accident with a more "normal" car will often result in the sports car driver being put at fault.

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Which Modifications Matter?

If your tint is too dark, you can expect raised suspicion by the officer who makes the car crash report. If you have after-market wheels on your car, that will also likely go against you. This is not fair, of course, as the kind of rims on your vehicle likely had nothing to do with causing the crash, but these statements are made based on many years of observation by experienced California car accident lawyers who have dealt with thousands of injury cases. Under-carriage lighting, especially neon, is a big no-no; if you want to do this to your car, it is recommended that you don't drive with the lights on. You're asking for a ticket, at a minimum, and if you're involved in a car crash and someone gets hurt, your chances of not being put at fault are very low. Don't tint your tail lights; it's most often against DMV code, and it often results in rear-end accidents. Flashing lights on the interior that can be seen from outside are a big no-no. Basically anything that could distract other drivers and are not necessary to the safe operation of your vehicle are frowned upon by law enforcement, and do in fact contribute to car crashes. Mirror paint, or metallic paint jobs can often be distracting (this is, of course, obvious and on purpose), and the drivers of these vehicles will often attest that the number of tickets and perceived harassment by law enforcement is simply not worth it. Not to mention, most of these chances to your car are expensive, some costing many thousands of dollars!

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What if You're Involved in an Crash That Results in Injury?

If you were injured in a car crash, there are a lot of things to consider right away: your health, your auto insurance, the other driver's auto insurance, a police report or California Highway Patrol report, medical bills, lost wages - the list goes on and on. Most people have a decent idea of where to start and how to go about it, but there are endless loopholes designed to keep money with the insurance companies and out of your pocket. A call with an experienced car crash lawyer who practices in California may be beneficial. Also, if you were driving a modified vehicle and were involved in a crash where someone was injured, you  may benefit from speaking with an attorney, especially if you feel you were unfairly put at fault. Speaking with an injury law firm may save you a lot of time, headache, and money in the long run, and most lawyers offer these consultations at no up front cost.

The Lions Injury Lawyers practice injury law, and have seen many of the examples contained in this blog post play out in real life cases. If you or someone you love was involved in an accident that resulted in injury, you owe it to yourself to discuss the matter with an attorney, if only to reassure yourself you're going about things properly. The Lions Injury Lawyers represent clients throughout California, from San Diego all the way past San Francisco and including the Inland Empire and more remote parts of California. 

 

Insurance and Your Injury Claim

Most people injured in a car accident in California are aware that both their insurance and the at fault party's insurance will be involved in handling the injured person's claim, and that it is the insurance company (and not the individual) who pays the medical bills and property damage. Beyond that, many injured people are not quite sure how it all works, which is completely normal considering we only have to file a claim when we're injured by someone else, which hopefully does not happen often. The role both insurance companies play can be confusing, frustrating, and irritating to the injured person. A better understanding of the role insurance companies and their adjusters play can help someone who is injured better navigate their claim.

No, filing a claim against the at-fault party does not put that person's home or assets at risk

Insurance companies provide drivers and homeowners a certain amount of coverage in exchange for your monthly payment of the insurance premium. In California, the minimum amount of liability insurance for drivers is $15,000 per individual and $30,000 per accident. This means that in order to legally operate a vehicle on California roadways, you need to have at least this much coverage. But what does this cover? The "state minimum" amount means that if you injure someone, your insurance company will cover the injured's medical expenses, pain and suffering, and other damages. The at-fault driver's insurance is the first line of defense, so that means the injured plaintiff's attorney will first communicate with this insurance company prior to filing a lawsuit in most cases. It also means that the amount on the insurance policy is the most the insurance company will pay to resolve the matter. If the injured's medical expenses are much more than $15,000 (hospital bills totaling $100,000 and the at fault driver's policy covers only $15,000, the injured person can still only recover $15,000). Only after the at fault driver's policy has been exhausted can the injured person access their UIM (under-insured motorist insurance policy).

Many individuals who are injured in a California car crash don't want to be "mean" and file a claim against the person who hit them. They don't want to file a lawsuit, don't think litigation is "right," and a host of other reasons not to pursue their claim. The biggest misunderstanding is that by filing a claim, somehow the at fault driver's personal life will be greatly affected. In most cases, this is not the case. If the driver caused an injury due to his or her negligence, his insurance premiums may go up, but they won't lose their home or have to sell their assets. 

Insurance adjusters for the at-fault driver need to pay you to go away

Insurance adjusters are there to make this all go away. They will request a recorded statement, your medical bills, access to your medical records going back many years, and many other things in order to evaluate your claim. They're allowed to ask for all of this, but you don't have to give it to them, and giving them everything they want is unlikely to result in a fair settlement for you. Why? The more they ask for, the more they're likely to find excuses to minimize the amount they decide to pay you, if they are willing to pay at all. Their job is simple: close the claim for as little money as possible. Some insurance adjusters are very pleasant to work with, even seeming to become your friend over the process (a tactic that makes you feel guilty for declining their offers), and others can be confrontational, rude, and insensitive. Whoever the insurance adjuster is, and for whichever insurance company, their job is to make you go away. 

No, your insurance premium won't go up if it wasn't your fault

People injured in car crashes immediately worry about their finances. Many people worry that their insurance premiums will rise if they claim an injury. This is not accurate. If it wasn't your fault, it is the other driver's insurance company, not yours, that will be paying the bills. You should get the medical care you need and take care of your health, as the other party's insurance is responsible for reasonable medical costs associated with the injury their insured caused.

Negotiating for more money with an insurance adjuster on your own is generally a bad idea

Insurance adjusters will almost always offer far less than what your injury is worth. They don't generally itemize their offer, so you don't know how much they're paying for your medical bills and how much they're paying you for pain and suffering. Many insurance companies offer $500 to resolve a claim. Experienced injury lawyers regularly see $500 offered for claims that settle for $15,000, and sometimes over $100,000. How can an insurance adjuster offer so little if the claim is worth so much more? The answer is simple: if they offer and the injured person accepts, the claim is closed and the insurance company will not have to pay more money in the future. And, many people surprisingly accept the first or second offer. 

What's a fair settlement for your injury?

If you were injured in a car crash, you're entitled to be compensated for the cost of your medical care and pain and suffering. But what is pain and suffering worth, and how do you calculate it? The answer is that an injury attorney is able to compare your case against other cases in the past and calculate an "industry standard" amount. Without knowing how much other injury claims are settled for, you cannot possible know how much your claim is worth. 

Finding an injury attorney

In order to get your medical bills paid for and be compensated for your losses, you may be well served by hiring an injury attorney. Most California injury law firms do not charge clients up front, meaning they only get paid if they win your case. You're far more likely to get a fair settlement by working with an attorney than going it alone. When looking for a car crash attorney, you should seek a law firm that focuses on injury claims exclusively, not a lawyer who does a little bit of everything. Location is generally not important, as most of the paperwork and negotiations can happen anywhere. The most important thing to look for is, in the opinion of many injury attorneys, a law firm that handles a lot of injury claims and is excited to work on your behalf.

The Lions Injury Lawyers, P.C. practice only injury law, and are ready to discuss your claim and answer any questions you may have. Located in Newport Beach, California, The Lions handle cases for clients in Orange County, San Diego County, and throughout the state of California, from Los Angeles County all the way north to the Bay Area. Contact The Lions Injury Lawyers today for a free case evaluation with an attorney.

Social Media Makes You A Dangerous Driver (and it's not just you!)

California roads and highways can be a challenge for even the most experienced and focused driver, with tens of millions of commuters taking to the roadways daily. Long before the rise of smart phones and social media, California roads were a stressful and sometimes dangerous place to drive. Now, with many drivers checking and updating their social media platforms during their commute, the roadways are even more dangerous. Tragically, car accidents that result in injury and death are now often the result of one driver being distracted, and the culprit for the distraction is often the driver's cell phone. What are they doing on the cell phone that is so distracting? Checking social media.

California Law Prohibits Using Your Handheld Phone While Driving

It's not news that distracted driving causes hazards. As cell phones became more popular in the late 1990s, the California state legislature responded by making it illegal to use a handheld device while driving. At the time, use of a cell phone was limited almost entirely to talking on the device. Now, the capability of an average smartphone allows its user to engage in an endless list of distracting activities, from taking photos and videos, to trading stocks and playing video games. 

Courtesy: NHTSA

Courtesy: NHTSA

Distracted Driving Causes Accidents

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), an estimated 660,000 people use their handheld devices every day while driving. Many experts would argue the actual figure is exponentially higher than that. State and local laws are beginning to catch up to the bad habit, with many jurisdictions strictly enforcing laws prohibiting distracted driving. For example, in Orange County, California, police officers on motorcycles have been slowly driving between lanes during stopped traffic at intersections and checking to see who is on their phones. When the lights change and traffic begins to move again, they pull over the individual who was on their phone. Just because traffic is stopped does not mean you are legally allowed to check your cell phone. The law prohibiting cell phone use applies whether traffic is moving or not. New distracted driving laws are going into effect in California, but their efficacy is yet to be determined.

Sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for 5 seconds. At 55 mph, that’s like driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed.
— NHTSA

Instagram, Snapchat, and the Urge to Update

Especially prevalent among young drivers such as teenagers and college students is the urge to update social media while driving. Tragically, this often results in disastrous consequences such as serious injury and death. As if the possibility that your social media usage while driving might result in serious injury or death from a car accident you cause weren't enough, consider that your social media usage can be used against you as evidence of negligence while driving. If you are involved in a car accident in California that results in injury, the injured party's attorneys may subpoena access to your social media accounts. This means the injured person's attorney will know the content, and most importantly, the timing of your social media usage. This can allow their lawyers to easily connect the dots and prove that your social media use happened at the same time of the accident, thus proving your fault and liability for the injury or death. Sounds scary, right? Luckily, such a scenario is easy to avoid. Simply put, don't update or check your social media accounts while driving!

What You Can Do About It

First, change your own habits, if you're in the habit of checking your phone while you drive. This makes you safer, and it makes those around you safer as well. Second, if your loved ones use their phones while driving, talk to them about the very real consequences of using handheld devices while driving. If you are driving and see someone on their phone and driving in a dangerous or reckless manner, you can:

  • Get their license plate information, if you can do so safely
  • Make note of the make and model of their vehicle
  • Pull over to a safe place, or have a passenger in your vehicle call the police
  • Notify the police of this information. If the driver poses a hazard to others on the roadway, it is appropriate to call 911

Injured In a Crash Where The At Fault Driver Was on their Phone?

If you were injured in a car crash and think the at-fault driver was on his or her cell phone at the time of the incident, you should discuss the facts of the automobile accident with an attorney. If you or your passengers were injured, an injury attorney who practices personal injury in California will be able to make sure evidence regarding cell phone usage at the time of the accident is preserved, just in case it is needed later. For example, even if you saw the driver who hit you on their phone, if they deny it to their insurance, their insurance will take their insured's word, not yours.

The police are unlikely to make a determination, as the "he-said-she-said" scenario can be difficult for law enforcement to make accurate determinations as to what happened after the fact. However, an injury attorney that regularly handles California injury cases will send the appropriate letters and file the necessary paperwork to make sure they're able to access the cell phone and data records of the defendant. Also, if the distracted driver had their phone plugged into their car via USB cable at the time of the accident, the car's "black box" may have a record of the phone's usage, depending on the make and model of the car, and how long after the accident the information is pulled from the black box system.

California Distracted Driving Injury Questions

Wondering what to do following a California car accident where you suspect one of the drivers was on their phone? The Lions Injury Lawyers, P.C. practices personal injury law and represents injured clients throughout the state of California. A call to The Lions will put you on the phone with an actual injury attorney (not a salesperson), so you'll be able to ask questions to an experienced and knowledgable lawyer regarding the facts of your injury. If you were hurt in a crash and it was not your fault, the law entitles you to more than simply payment of your medical bills. The Lions make sure their clients are fairly compensated for lost wages, loss of consortium, changes in lifestyle (pain and suffering), and of course the costs related to medical treatment related to the crash. At the very least, a phone call to an experienced injury attorney regarding your California car accident will help you better navigate the often confusing world of injury settlements with auto insurance providers.