"Your best teacher is your last mistake." ~ Ralph Nader
It is said that in life you learn a lot more from mistakes than from successes. After representing more than two thousand clients injured in motor vehicle accidents, I have come to recognize common mistakes people make. Sometimes these mistakes are relatively minor and have little effect on the outcome of a case. However, other mistakes are major and can single-handedly ruin the outcome of a case.
I am writing this three-part article in the hopes that people who have yet to experience a motor vehicle accident, or perhaps people having just recently been a victim, can avoid the mistakes that so many others have made.
This three-part article will first explore mistakes commonly made BEFORE the accident. The second part will detail mistakes made DURING the accident time-frame. The last part identifies frequent mistakes made AFTER the accident.
MISTAKES MADE BEFORE AN ACCIDENT
A. Seat belts:
Seat belts save lives. However, studies show that nearly 40% of the US population still admits to either sometimes or never wearing a seat belt. The argument that people are injured more seriously when wearing a seat belt versus not wearing a seat belt is a tired argument that is simply not supported by the vast array of research that has been documented over the past 20 years.
Furthermore, under Colorado law, a jury is free to completely disregard injuries and can substantially discount awards of money based on an injury victim's failure to use a seat belt at the time of the collision. Front seat and back seat passengers should always wear their seat belts. If you don't, you are making both a medical and legal mistake.
B. Vehicle Selection:
The general rule is that large vehicles are safer for occupants in motor vehicle accidents than smaller vehicles. While those very small European vehicles are great on gas and are awfully cute, the survival space in one of these vehicles (especially if it is struck by a large vehicle such as a Ford F 350 commercial pickup truck) is very small. As for my family, we will not own one of these smaller vehicles.
Not surprisingly, motorcycles are considerably less safe than any tiny car on the road. I wish no one ever again has to see the after-effects of a motorcyclist having been rear-ended by a car. Even at lower speeds, motorcycle riders are just asking for catastrophic injury every time they ride. And of course, even though it is not the law in Colorado, helmets save lives. You should NEVER ride a motorcycle without a helmet, no matter what.
Vehicle selection for accidents is important. The more steel, bumpers, and barriers between you and the other vehicle - the better. Think about safety, survivability and the risks associated with the vehicles you drive. To simply assume that "vehicles are vehicles" and what you drive will not make a difference in a collision is a mistake. You should research the safety qualities of your vehicle. Here is an online link to help you do this.
C. Going Cheap or Bare On Insurance:
The insurance needed to avoid financial disaster in the event of even a moderately severe motor vehicle injury accident include health insurance, large limits MedPay coverage, disability insurance, life insurance and substantial Uninsured Motorist coverage.
Your health, likelihood of avoiding financial ruin, and your likelihood of fully recovering from your motor vehicle collision is largely dependent on having sufficient insurances and adequate coverage limits. Ideally, you should have all the above insurances to protect you and your family. Also, if your homeowner's insurance company sells a million dollar umbrella with an Uninsured/Under-Insured Motorist rider, you should purchase this coverage as well.
Remember, sixty percent of all personal bankruptcies in the United States are caused by medical bills. Seventy-five percent of those medically-related bankruptcies involved families THAT HAD health insurance. Clearly, simply having health insurance is not complete protection for you or your family in a major or even moderate automobile injury accident.
D. Higher Risk Driving Times
A person substantially increases her risk of being hit by a drunk driver by simply driving on the roadway between 10 pm and 4 am. Stay off the road if at all possible during these hours.
Many of our clients thought that they would get a jump on their work day by heading to work before the rush hour traffic, only to become another drunk driving statistic. If working early or late, do it from home.
Additionally, stay off the roads during holidays, avoid late evening and early morning driving, avoid driving during weekend evenings, and avoid driving near sports stadiums during home games. These are places where the drunks are. Also, avoid driving during snow storms. And certainly, on that rare occasion when you go out on the town and "let your hair down," do not drive. Also, make sure your designated driver stays sober.
When you choose to drive is as critical as what and where you drive. At some point, everyone will find themselves driving during a less than opportune time. But it is a mistake to simply assume that when you drive is not a factor in avoiding collisions.
At Anderson, Hemmat & McQuinn, we want to help you avoid the all too common mistakes which may harm your medical, financial, and legal future. The next blog will focus on mistakes made during an auto accident. As always, if you have questions about these issues, call us and we can arrange a time for you to meet with one of our attorneys for a free consultation.