Motor Vehicle Accidents
What Should I Do If I Experience a Motor Vehicle Accident?
No one plans to be involved in a motor vehicle accident. They happen quite suddenly and may lead to catastrophic injuries that upend the life of the victims and their families. If you or someone you love has been in a motor vehicle accident, your first concern is recovering from physical injuries. Unfortunately, full recovery may take a long time. The economic impact of the accident may then start to take shape. That is why it is important to seek legal advice if you or someone you know suffered a catastrophic injury from a motor vehicle accident. You may be entitled to financial compensation that can help you get back on your feet.
What Should You Do at the Scene of an Accident?
What you do at the scene of an accident may help ensure the safety of those involved, as well as make it easier for you file a successful personal injury claim later. First and foremost, when you are in an accident, it is important to stay calm. Accident victims may be in shock immediately after a wreck. Check to see if anyone in your car is injured, then turn on your emergency flashers.
Before you call 911, make a note of your exact location. While waiting for first responders, remember that everyone needs to remain at the scene. However, if your car is in harm’s way, move your vehicle off the road into a shoulder if it is safe to do so. Otherwise, keep all vehicles at the accident scene until the police arrive.
Many people use their cell phones to document the scene, including taking pictures of the road conditions, vehicles, and license plate numbers. This can be extremely helpful in proving fault later on.
If there are witnesses, ask them for their contact information. Soon after the accident, the wrecked cars will be towed away, and witnesses will leave. Collect as much evidence as possible to support any future claim. However, do not talk to other drivers involved except to get their contact information. Refrain from saying anything about how the accident happened or who may be at-fault. Even if you are not hurt, do not say anything to indicate that you have no injuries. Some injuries may not be apparent right away, including bruises, whiplash, and internal injuries.
Once law enforcement officers arrive, give your information clearly without admitting any fault. Alabama laws require drivers to provide the following information:
- Driver’s name and address
- Names and addresses of all passengers
- Driver’s license number
- Vehicle registration numbers
Provide this information to the police, other drivers, and owners of damaged property. The responding officers may give out an SR-13 form if the property damages exceed $250 or if there are fatalities. These forms will need to be submitted within 30 days to the Alabama Department of Public Safety.
If the officer asks you any additional questions regarding possession of drugs or alcohol or any other action that may result in criminal charges, you have the right to say you would like an attorney present before answering. At the same time, act politely and do what the officer says. If the officer issues you a traffic ticket, you must sign it. Signing a traffic citation is not the same as admitting guilt. Arguing about whose fault it is or making demands may work against you.
Do not refuse medical care at the scene, even if you think you are not injured. Many injuries surface days after an accident. After your initial medical examination, follow through with all treatment recommendations, including physical therapy. Keep detailed records of the care and medical bills; this is essential to obtaining maximum compensation for your injuries.
It is also a good idea to request a copy of the accident report by contacting the local police department. Reaching out to the insurance company as soon as possible to report the accident is also a must. If you fail to notify your insurance company, they may consider it a breach of your policy, giving them a reason to raise your rates or even cancel your insurance. However, do not agree to a settlement offer before speaking with a car accident lawyer.
When to Seek Legal Help
Many car wreck victims are unsure as to whether they should contact a lawyer. They may believe that bad things just happen sometimes and are willing to let it go. However, there are many situations that warrant seeking the advice of an experienced attorney.
First and foremost, if you or someone you love was seriously injured, your medical bills may start piling up. This can also affect your future earning potential. You may start to worry about your ability to go back to work. If another party is at-fault for the accident, you may be entitled to financial payment to compensate for these losses.
Second, your insurance company may offer you a settlement, but it may be less than you need or deserve. Before you accept any settlement, reach out to a car accident lawyer who can explain the terms of your insurance policy, your rights, and the applicable laws in the state of Alabama. Even if you decide to take a settlement, it is better to be prepared by talking with a lawyer before an insurance company offer comes your way.
If medical expenses and damages are higher than the liable party’s insurance coverage provides, there might be other ways to seek compensation. This can be especially important if there are serious injuries or permanent disability, as this can incur future medical expenses and affect future earning potential. In times like these, it is more than wise to reach out for help.
How Can a Lawyer Help You After a Motor Vehicle Accident?
The experienced car accident lawyers at Hodges Trial Lawyers, P.C. can help you deal with the pain and stress of a motor vehicle wreck by doing the following:
- Holding at-fault drivers accountable for their actions
- Protecting your legal rights
- Seeking the compensation you need to pay for bills and recover
Some car wrecks are the result of multiple liable parties, which can make a case more complicated. There are many other situations that may require experienced legal guidance from a seasoned trial lawyer, including the following:
- Insurance companies deny claims as a result of technicalities or other reasons
- The need to collect and evaluate evidence to determine the cause of a complicated car wreck
- Catastrophic injuries or wrongful death
- Accidents involving commercial trucks
Sometimes individuals are deemed at-fault and are looking to have their names cleared. Many times, cases are ambiguous and experienced legal representation is essential to protecting the rights of those involved.
Types of Motor Vehicle Accidents
The causes and types of wrecks influence the extent of injuries and property damage and may also affect the complexity of filing a personal injury claim. Some of the most common categories of motor vehicle accidents include:
Whether the crash occurred on a major highway, a neighborhood street, or in a parking lot, anyone whose life was affected by a motor vehicle accident should understand what steps to take and how Alabama laws apply in these cases.
Multi-Vehicle Car Wrecks
Multi-vehicle car accidents may be the result of a chain reaction. If one vehicle hits another in a rear end collision, the impact could propel the vehicle to collide with the car in front of them. It is also possible for one car to crash into another and force the second vehicle to collide with a car in another lane or into oncoming traffic. A car accident between two cars could create an obstacle that other drivers cannot avoid.
Accidents involving more than two vehicles can present complex legal challenges. Alabama has a fault-based auto insurance system. Therefore, before injured parties can obtain financial compensation for their losses, they must prove that the other party was negligent or intentionally caused the accident. Victims are not eligible for compensation if they are found to be even partly at-fault for the accident.
It can be difficult to prove liability when there are multiple vehicles involved in a car wreck. Witnesses may not be able to identify the vehicle responsible for an accident if there is a pile-up. In some cases, accident reconstruction experts must investigate the scene and provide legal testimony to determine who was at-fault.
Every year in the U.S., there are more than 10,000 crashes involving buses. Buses are more difficult to operate than cars or trucks. Although bus drivers are required to undergo additional training, bus accidents occurred when drivers were operating their vehicles in unfamiliar terrains, such as tour buses driving on rural roads. Inner-city buses account for very few fatal bus accidents. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, approximately 40 percent of fatal bus accidents involve school busses:
Accidents involving commercial trucks are less common than multi-vehicle car wrecks; however, they are much more dangerous. The fatality rate of crashes involving large trucks is four times more than the rate involving cars or SUVs. One reason is because a fully loaded truck can weigh more than 20 times heavier than a car. Establishing liability in a truck accident can be complicated, as multiple parties may be involved, including the following:
- Truck drivers
- Truck companies
- Loading crews
- Leasing companies
- Vehicle manufactures
Other parties may also be involved that are responsible for the safe operation of the truck in question. The multiple layers of potential liability require the skills of an experienced lawyer to help identify fault in a complex case.
When a motorcycle collides with another vehicle, the results can be tragic. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the risk of fatal injury in a crash is between 28 and 35 times greater for a motorcyclist than a car passenger. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 80 percent of all motorcycle accidents result in injury or death. Whereas passengers in vehicles have the protection of seat belts, airbags, and a large steel frame, motorcyclists have only a helmet. Essentially, the motorcyclist is at the mercy of other motor vehicle drivers to be vigilant and share the road.
Each year, between 4,000 and 6,000 pedestrians are struck and killed by motor vehicles in this country, with about 100 fatalities occurring annually in Alabama. Most accidents involving pedestrians occur in urban areas and at night. Distracted driving, speeding, and drunk driving are common causes for crashes involving pedestrians. Another common scenario is when a driver makes a right turn on red and is not watching for pedestrians in the crosswalk. Unfortunately, pedestrians who get hit by a car may suffer devastating injuries, including broken bones, internal bleeding, and traumatic brain injury. Indeed, many times, the pedestrian suffers terrible harm, while the driver or passengers of the vehicle are not injured at all. Pedestrians have less than a 50 percent chance of surviving a crash above 30 miles per hour.
In general, drivers should assume that pedestrians always have the right of way and will not be held liable if they are hit by a car. However, pedestrians may be deemed at least partly at-fault if any of the following are true:
- The pedestrian was jaywalking.
- The pedestrian was not in a marked crosswalk.
- The pedestrian failed to exercise reasonable care and thus caused the accident.
- The driver was forced to take evasive measures to avoid hitting the pedestrian who was not exercising reasonable care, such as crashing into a tree or parked cars.
Some pedestrian accidents are ruled as shared fault, such as when the pedestrian was jaywalking, and the driver was speeding. It is easy to see why many personal injury claims arising from motor vehicle accidents involving pedestrians can be complicated and require the services of a skilled car accident lawyer.
Motor vehicle accidents involving bicycles are rare, accounting for about two percent of all motor vehicle accident fatalities and injuries in this country. However, according to the CDC, bicyclists die on the road at a rate double that of vehicle occupants involved in the crash. Bicycle accident fatalities are often due to traumatic brain injury. Wearing a helmet can help reduce the severity of head injuries.
If you get into an accident with a car or a truck while you are riding a bicycle, you may be able to file a personal injury claim. If your crash involved a commercial truck, multiple parties may be found to have been at-fault. However, because Alabama is a contributory negligence state, you may not be eligible for compensation if you were found partially at-fault. Alabama drivers must obey laws to help ensure the safety of bicyclists, including providing at least a three-foot margin when passing a bike on the road.
Our youngest drivers tend to be our most vulnerable. Motor vehicle crashes are still the leading cause of death among those under the age of 20. The younger a driver is, the more likely they are to crash. According to the Alabama Department of Public Health, motor vehicle fatalities account for almost half of the preventable deaths for Alabama residents under the age of 18. Driver inexperience was cited as the cause of death in many of those instances.
Huntsville Accident Lawyers at Hodges Trial Lawyers, P.C. Advocate for Victims of All Types of Motor Vehicle Accidents
If you or a loved one were hurt in any type of motor vehicle wreck, the Huntsville accident lawyers at Hodges Trial Lawyers, P.C. are here to provide compassionate guidance and legal counsel. Call us at 256-539-3110 today for a free consultation or contact us online. Located in Huntsville and Athens, Alabama, we represent clients throughout North Alabama, Madison County, Limestone County, Marshall County, Jackson County, Morgan County, and Lauderdale County.