Introduction and the Basics

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Introduction and the basics

"10 Mistakes That Wreck Your Car Crash Case"

Car crashes occur daily in Missouri and Illinois, and throughout the United States. We see them on TV, read about them in news apps and in social media. We all have stories about them. If you are reading this book you have probably been involved in one. I wrote this book to provide a guide for how to handle your car accident claim. It is written in the negative – about mistakes people make – to get your attention and avoid pitfalls I have seen hundreds of others make.

Drivers who violate safety rules injure and kill people. People who have driven for years or decades sometimes forget about the importance of safety rules while driving. We are all trained to follow the Rules of the Road and to operate motor vehicles safely. However, when that doesn’t occur, fathers, mothers, and children are easily injured. Typically, the rule violations are excessive speed, failure to keep a careful lookout, failure to yield the right of way and violations of traffic signals (set out in MAI 17.01 et seq.). Missouri drivers must use the “highest degree of care” or what “a very careful person” would do under the same circumstances (MAI 11.01).

In 2013, 757 people were killed in Missouri traffic accidents. Despite safety laws requiring them, only 80% of Missourians wear seatbelts. As a result, 6 out of 10 vehicle occupants killed in Missouri traffic accidents in 2013 were unbuckled. Further, despite impaired driving laws, 30% of Missouri traffic fatalities in 2013 involved a substance impaired driver. The leading cause of fatal car crashes, other than substance impairment, is speeding and improper lane usage. And – don’t drive inTEXTicated!

In the United States:

  • Over 37,000 people die in road crashes each year
  • An additional 2.35 million are injured or disabled
  • Over 1,600 children under 15 years of age die each year
  • Nearly 8,000 people are killed in crashes involving drivers 16-20
  • Road crashes cost the U.S. $230.6 billion per year, or an average of $820 per person
  • 3 million accident claims per year
  • A car driving 55 mph travels 81 feet in 1 second. In 3 seconds, such a car travels 243 feet. The Illinois Rules of the Road require that a driver “slow down when approaching and crossing an intersection, going around a curve, approaching the top of a hill or traveling on a narrow or winding roadway.” It insists that “drivers must be aware that there may always be dangers present due to pedestrians, traffic, weather, mechanical problems, or road conditions.” Drivers should “always be prepared to react to another driver.” Driving defensively — do not assume that you know what the other driver is going to do. View the Missouri and Illinois Rules of the Road for many other rules and guidelines about driving.

    The phenomena of road rage and aggressive driving is ridiculous. How silly is it for us to get mad that a vehicle is driving too slow, or that we have to go around a car, or that a bicycle is on the roadway and we have to spend a little energy going around them. When road rage happens, drivers act unsafe and violate the rules of the road. It adds to stress.

    When you are in a car accident, you only have a claim for personal injuries if the other driver was negligent, or caused injury to you. If the accident was your fault, no one else should pay you for your injuries, unless you had medical payment benefits or some other benefits through your insurance. If the other driver broke the rules of the road, drove unsafely and carelessly and injured you or a passenger, you do have a claim. Those claims usually divide into property damage and personal injury claims. Usually, you should handle your property damage claim yourself as you never want a lawyer to take a fee out of the money recovered for your vehicle-you are already not going to get full value for your vehicle damage. Typically, people have high loans on vehicles and insurance companies pay wholesale or other reduced costs to pay for property damage.

    Make sure you get all your medical care quickly and thoroughly after the car crash. You will want to undergo treatment until you are at your maximum medical improvement. For a medical or personal injury claim, hire a lawyer for moderate and severe injuries and consider resolving small claims yourself. The guide below tells you how to differentiate between the size/importance of the claim and how to choose the right lawyer for your case. Be careful in dealing with insurance companies – some are fair but many cannot be trusted. They are incentivized to treat you unfairly – caveat vendor or seller beware – and you are selling your claim.

    Review of this book should assist you with resolving your small car accident claim yourself without the need for a lawyer to be involved. My lawyer brethren may not like this, but I often tell folks with only an ER visit or a couple doctor or chiropractor visits to settle their claims themselves. A lawyer like me only adds value to cases where the injuries, medical treatment and damages are more serious. You can resolve your property damage claim, get full payment to repair your car or get a new vehicle. If you get basic medical attention after a car crash and are completely healed from that treatment, you can provide the medical bills and records to the insurance claim representatives to get payment for pain and suffering and resolve the claim yourself. Only if your injuries exceed this basic medical treatment do you need an experienced and qualified lawyer to assist you.

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