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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. 

 

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.