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Driving on Wet Roads 101

Millions of California commuters woke up to wet roads this morning, and as is the case every time California gets significant rainfall, water on the roadway has undoubtedly attributed to more than a few car accidents already this morning. Because some parts of California, such as Orange County and San Diego County can go many months in between rainfalls, our driving habits become tailored to driving on dry roads. As those who have been involved in a car accident due to wet weather will attest, a vehicle stops and goes differently when there's water on the road, and the difference is significant. Here are a few things to keep in mind that might help you avoid a car accident.

Give Yourself Space

Your car takes longer to stop on a wet road than it does on a dry road. The best thing you can do to avoid causing a rear-end car accident is give yourself space between the front of your car and the back of the nearest car in front of you. Of course you can't control other drivers' actions, but you are the only one who determines your speed. Most car accidents related to water or ice on the roadway are caused by drivers who rear-end the car in front of them because they don't give themselves enough room to stop. Tragically, many of these accidents result in injury to both the driver who causes the accident, and they also often result in injury to the passengers and driver of the car that was rear-ended. The more road you can see in front of you, the more likely you are going to be able to control your vehicle and come to a safe stop.

Pump Your Brakes

What about getting rear-ended? A rear end accident can cause severe injury, and can cause injury even at relatively low speeds. Many California drivers don't think there is anything they can do to avoid being hit from behind, but this is not entirely accurate. Rear-end accidents happen when the driver from behind does not stop in time, and hits the car in front. What many drivers don't consider is that by pumping their brakes, they cause their brake lights to turn on and off, which may alert the driver from behind that they are stopping. The flashing on and off of lights may catch the attention of the driver behind you, giving him or her an added 'heads up,' and possibly resulting in their ability to stop sooner. It isn't your job to teach the driver behind you how to drive, and the tactic is certainly not foolproof, but it is better than getting rear-ended and possibly injured!

Decent Tires Matter

Don't drive on bald tires. The tread of your tires matters, and the lower the tread gets, the less able you will be to stop suddenly on a wet road. Nobody likes replacing their tires, as most people can think of a lot of things they'd rather spend a couple hundred dollars on than tires. However, a car accident can cost you more than a couple hundred dollars, even if you're not at fault. And, if you're in an accident, and you're injured, the cost can easily creep into the thousands or tens of thousands of dollars. By comparison, putting a decent set of tires on your vehicle may not be such a terrible expense after all.

Pay Better Attention

It may be as simple as paying better attention that keeps you out of an accident. Your car won't stop as quickly when the roads are wet, and even if you're aware of this, chances are someone around you is not paying attention. Don't assume that everyone on the roadway is even considering that the driving conditions have changed and that the added precipitation on the road could be dangerous. Watch for vehicles who are driving recklessly and stay out of their way. Keep an eye out for vehicles driving too fast for the conditions. Let them pass, and even move aside if safe in order to let them go by - it is worth it to be behind an aggressive driver, even if you have to change lanes for a second. Also, watch for surges of water on the roadway, such as from drain pipes and from water coming off irrigation ditches and hillsides. 

If Involved in a Car Crash, Take Care of #1 (Yourself)

If you are unfortunate enough to be involved in a car crash during a rainstorm, you may be tempted to just get home as soon as possible, meaning you may not call the police or California Highway Patrol, or seek appropriate medical care. If you're injured, you need to seek medical attention as soon as possible. This means going to the Emergency Room, or Urgent Care, or your primary care physician as soon as you are able. The decision to forego medical treatment can limit your ability to recover financially for your injuries. Don't let the convenience of going directly home keep you from seeking appropriate medical care. In the long run, for both your health and your financial stability, the sooner you seek medical care, the better.

Get Help Dealing With Insurance Adjusters

If you were injured in a car crash, and especially if the crash happened during rainy conditions, don't expect the at-fault driver's insurance company to just pay your medical bills right away. In fact, because weather was a factor, they may seek to diminish the amount of liability they will take responsibility for, or deny liability altogether. Don't get taken advantage of by loopholes you're not aware of. A good injury attorney who represents clients in California car crashes will be able to guide you along the way and make sure you get a fair settlement for your medical bills and pain and suffering. The Lions Injury Lawyers, P.C. represent injured clients throughout California, and have recovered good settlements for their clients in motorcycle, auto, trucking, pedestrian, slip and fall, and dog bite cases. If you were injured and it was not your fault, you owe it to yourself to speak with an experienced attorney who can help you avoid the headache and frustration of trying to negotiate with an insurance adjuster on your own. Putting your case in the hands of an experienced professional can mean the difference of getting good health care, and can result in tens of thousands (or more) dollars added to your settlement. Contact the Lions today, and speak with an actual injury attorney (not a salesman). 

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.

Holiday Parties, Drunk Driving and You

At no other time of the year are more people celebrating with friends, coworkers, and loved ones, and many of these celebrations include lots and lots of alcohol. As your mother likely said at least once, it isn't you she's worried about, it's the "other guy." Tragically, every year there are thousands of drunken driving accidents throughout the state of California, and every year innocent people die due to the negligence and carelessness of others. While being hit by a drunk driver may seem like an entirely unavoidable happening, and sometimes that is the case, there are a few things you can do to lessen the chances of your being involved in a drunk driving crash.

Be Aware of your Surroundings

The first thing you should remember is if you're driving during Christmas and New Year's, especially in the evening time, there is a higher chance a driver near you is intoxicated. That may sound paranoid, but awareness to your general surroundings while driving during the holidays (or any other time of the year, for that matter), may be the difference between being involved in an injury-resulting car crash, and not. Watch for erratic driving, drivers not using headlights, drivers with their high beam or brights on, and any other unusual driving behavior.

Drunk Drivers Are Out There

Especially when you're driving at night, and especially around highly populated areas that have a high concentration of restaurants and bars, you should just assume that at least some of the other drivers on the road have been drinking.  If you assume this, your best bet is then to look for unusual behaviors, and to keep your distance from other cars. Don't drive too close to anyone. For example, even if all the cars around you are fine, if you're rear-ended at a high speed by a drunk driver from behind, if you're too close to other cars, the crash is much more likely result in injury or death. Drive with plenty of open space around you, and stay out of the left lane if reasonable and possible.

Use Lyft or Uber, and Request Your Ride Early

Lots of people attending holiday parties plan on using Uber or Lyft, but they sometimes forget that there are only so many ride hail service cars on the road, and sometimes the wait can be long and frustrating. Unfortunately, sometimes people who at first request a ride hail service like Uber or Lyft simply get tired of waiting and decide they're in good enough condition to drive. These same people end up injuring or killing others when they drive. Plan ahead: some ride services allow for scheduling ahead of time. Or, leave a little earlier than when most people will be leaving and ensure you'll be able to get a car. Finally, even if it is your habit to hail an Uber or Lyft, don't forget that traditional taxi services are still out there in many cities, and there may be a taxi available even if the other services are not.

Let the Driver Drive

Don't be a distraction to the driver. This applies to your Uber or Lyft driver, or your sober driver. Your driver has enough to pay attention to - don't be an annoying or disruptive drunk in the back seat that makes his or her job more difficult.

If Injured, Document Everything

If you're unlucky enough to be involved in a car crash this holiday season, take care to document as much as you can. This means taking photos of the scene, and calling the police or California Highway Patrol if the facts of the accident make such a call reasonable and necessary for your safety. Don't assume it will get sorted out in your favor in the future, even if the cause of the accident seems obviously not your fault. Go to Urgent Car, the Emergency Room, or your primary care health provider as soon as possible if you were injured. Any delays in treatment will allow the at-fault driver's insurance company to deny liability, which means the can avoid paying for your medical treatment. Auto insurance companies are very likely to believe their insured's version of events. It is common for even drunk drivers to tell their insurance they did nothing wrong; the auto insurance then sides with their insured, and you have to fight to make things right. If it was not your fault, in the end, the law entitles you to money for your medical bills and your pain and suffering.

California Injury Attorneys: What to Look For After a Car Crash Injury

Don't go it alone against sophisticated car insurance companies when you were injured in a crash. The tricks the insurance companies use are far too complicated, and they use so many of them, that even the highly educated and savvy person will have little chance of settling for fair value on their own. This means if you try to settle the case on your own, you are likely leaving money on the table, and accepting less than fair value for your injury case. You should look for an injury law firm that specializing in personal injury claims, has experience in California, and is able to communicate with you regularly from the time of the crash until settlement.

The Lions Injury Lawyers represent car accident victims throughout the state of California. Their staff and attorneys will assist you every step of the way. Questions about your crash, what to do (and what not to do)? Talk with an attorney at The Lions today, and move forward with confidence that you're setting yourself up for success. You've already gone through what should be the hard part - a car crash that results in injury can turn your life upside down. Don't let the aftermath be worse than the crash and injury. Get the healthcare you deserve, make sure you don't walk away with debts you cannot pay, and get money in your pocket for the pain and suffering you've experienced.

 

 

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.