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Tips

DISCLAIMER: Although Escamilla Law Group Attorneys are licensed in Arizona, California, and Utah, the Tips and Articles on this page reflect applicable Arizona Law. If you have a specific question on one of these topics, please contact our office for assistance.

Fault in Arizona is called negligence, which is just a fancy word for being careless. When someone is careless, they can cause an accident. Maybe they're not paying attention because they're looking at their phone. Nowadays, phones are very sophisticated. We used to have a problem with texting and driving. Now, people are shopping online and watching videos while they're driving. When someone does something careless and they hit you, they're at fault for the accident. That's when we become involved because there's property damage and people are injured.

When you are injured, you might have a large amount of related expenses, like ambulance bills, hospital bills, physical therapy bills, chiropractic bills, pain management bills, and sometimes surgery or other large bills. At our firm, we focus on helping injured parties resolve those issues. Sometimes, people have what's called first-party insurance. The nice thing about Arizona is if you use any first-party coverages, it's a big advantage to you. Sometimes, people are afraid to use their first-party coverage because they fear the insurance company will retaliate against them by raising their rates. In Arizona, there's a statute that protects people in that scenario, A.R.S. 20-263. This statute basically states that you're free to use your first-party coverage without having to worry about your insurance company raising your rates as long as you are not at fault for causing the accident.

We look at your coverage and the other person's coverage to strategize how we can best pay those bills and maximize your recovery. One of the things we look at is whether or not our clients have health insurance. There are different strategies involved. It’s always recommended to have a professional attorney look at your specific situation. In order to determine negligence, usually we have to wait for a police report or speak with witnesses. Requesting 911 calls has helped establish negligence at times also. We always recommend requesting a police report when you're involved in an accident. It's much easier to get past the negligence hurdle when the accident is not your fault and you have a police report to back you up. If you can't prove the other person was careless, then you could have a much more difficult time establishing liability.

Therefore, we always request the police report and to help properly document the accident. Once an officer is at the scene and the officer establishes the party responsible for causing the accident, everything is basically locked-in and sealed in a police report. It's very difficult to change that report. Often, the other party’s insurance company will ask you for a recorded statement. I rarely allow for a recorded statement of my client if we have liability relatively clear. It is typically important to stay away from providing a recorded statement in a scenario where liability is relatively clear since you typically have nothing to gain, and a lot to lose. Since insurance companies know this, more often than not, they request a recorded statement from the non-responsible party. As mentioned, I typically politely refuse their request for a recorded statement for my clients. Unrepresented victims sometimes don’t know this, or the insurance company uses something I call “I’m your friend and will help you tactic,” and make it seem like this is in your best interest so they can help you better. Remember, the third-party carrier (the insurance representing the other party that is responsible for the accident) is there to protect their insured and their money, so they are doing it to see if they can build a better case against you. What my team does to establish liability is we collect the police report and show it to the responsible carrier. Typically, that's sufficient for them to accept responsibility, which is ultimately what we want. Providing a recorded statement to the opposing insurance company is sometimes helpful in very limited strategic scenarios, but it always recommended and a good idea to consult with an attorney that focuses on personal injury and review your specific scenario prior to agreeing to a recorded statement with the opposing insurance company. Feel free to contact our firm to review your specific case. Our consultations are complimentary and there is never any obligation to hire us. We enjoy informing victims on how to best protect their rights.

Ultimately, our goal is for the responsible party and their insurance carrier to accept responsibility. We call that “accepting liability.” Once liability is accepted, that is the first hurdle. The second hurdle is determining what type of damages correspond to the victim as a result of the accident. The type of damages involved sets the tone for the type of case that we have. The more injured a person is, the higher the damages, which typically results in a, higher the case value. The less injuries you have, typically, the smaller the case value you have. We're looking at general factors like whether there was an ambulance. Was there a hospital bill, doctor bills, radiology bills, wage loss, and many others. For a good understanding of damages, again, I recommend you consult with an experienced injury lawyer to review your specific scenario and your specific applicable damages. The third hurdle to keep in mind is determining what type of policy limits apply to your scenario. In Arizona, we have policy limits to consider, and we have to be cautious of our state minimal limits. In Arizona, our minimal policy limits are 15-30-10, where the maximum the insurance company is going to pay is 15,000 per person, up to $30,000 for one accident (no matter how many victims are involved), and $10,000 in property damage. That is the minimum coverage required Arizona. Considering how expensive medical care can be, these limits are quite low and can be exhausted very quickly in moderate injury case. These limits are frequently surpassed in more serious injury cases, so it is important to always be mindful of your limits and your damages, in addition to knowing what polices are available to assist, like the third-party policy, your personal policy, or your host vehicle policy, or whether any relative living at home with you has a policy that may assist you. Again, that is why it is highly recommended you consult with an attorney that practices personal injury law to guide you through your injury case so that is best managed to maximize your results.

For more information on Fault In An Arizona Auto Accident Case, a free consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (623) 562-3838 today.

Accident Victims have to be extremely mindful of the statute of limitations. If a private party hits us in a typical motor vehicle accident, we have two years from the date of the accident to resolve the matter. Typical is the operative word here, because, for example, if you are hit by a private party, but you are working for an employer, you may have a worker’s compensation scenario and your statute may be reduced to one year. There may be other statutes that you have to worry about. For example, if it's a claim involving a government entity, you have 180 days to file what's called a notice of claim. A notice of claim has to be properly served on the proper government entity within 180 days. I would highly recommend that you visit a licensed attorney who does this sort of work and discuss any situation where you've been hit or injured by a government entity. Don't wait. Notice of claim matters provide for a very short period to properly investigate the claim and prepare the matter for service, so it is recommended you act quickly if you are involved in a potential notice of claim accident or injury. Notice of claim matters can be tricky and move fast. In fact, there are many injury attorneys that do personal injury matters but will not take notice of claim cases because they can be difficult and complicated in addition to having a very short statute of limitations. At ELG, we have done numerous notice of claims matters involving Phoenix Police Department, Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, Department of Public Safety, several cities, school districts, and many other state political subdivisions. In these cases, once a properly served notice of claim is filed, the victim or plaintiff in such a matter has one year from the injury date to formally file a lawsuit if needed.

That is why it is important you consult with a personal injury lawyer that can guide you and explain what statute of limitations is applicable to your case. At ELG, we can help review your facts and explain what statute of limitations is applicable to your scenario.

I sometimes see people claim that you have two years to file a claim. That is wrong. You have two years to file a lawsuit, not a claim. If you file your claim the day before the two years is up, that is not filing a lawsuit and you may have compromised your statute of limitations. Once you miss your statute of limitations, a court will forever bar you from filing suit, and since the insurance company will know you can never sue them, they will not settle any pending claim. If that happens, you will be compensated nothing even if your injury was clearly caused by the negligence of another person. That is why it is important that you file a lawsuit within those two years, in regular cases, or sooner as noted above. By filing a lawsuit, you preserve your statute and then you can proceed to litigate the case or continue any existing negotiations, and even settle your matter.

For more information on Statute of Limitations Questions on Auto Accident matters, a free consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling us at ELG (623) 562-3838 today.

On March 29, 2019, the body of Samantha Josephson was found by turkey hunters in a field about 90 miles from Colombia, South Carolina, where Ms. Josephson was last seen requesting an Uber rideshare vehicle. As the investigation continued, it was determined that she voluntarily got into a car, but it was not the Uber vehicle she ordered. As it turns out, Nathanial Rowland, who was not operating as an Uber driver, was charged with picking her up, posing as an Uber driver, and murdering Ms. Josephson.

This was a horrible tragedy that may have been prevented with a few precautionary steps. Using Rideshare companies such as Uber and Lyft can be very helpful and convenient, however, they must be used cautiously. Here are a few precautionary tips to keep in mind when using these platforms to help keep you safe:

  1. Whenever possible, stay inside until you see your car arriving or the application has signaled your driver’s arrival. By doing so, predators that may be looking for potential victims will not be able to see you ahead of time and trick someone into believing they are the requested vehicle. Predators pretending to be rideshare drivers can spot victims that appear to be looking for a rideshare vehicle, often times outside restaurants, bars, or clubs. By staying inside until you have been notified that your vehicle is outside, you avoid being lured into the wrong vehicle.
  2. Most rideshare platforms tell you the make, model, color, and license plate of the car picking you up. If you find a rideshare application that does not give you that information, switch to one that does, like Uber and Lyft. Once you have that information, make sure to verify all that information, including the license plate number BEFORE you get into the rideshare vehicle.
  3. Here is where it pays to NOT be chivalrous, and it’s OK! Although I like to be a gentleman and put my wife in the car and close her door, then walk around the car and get in last, when ridesharing, I don’t do that…I get in the car first, then let my wife get in on her own. Why? In this scenario, I rather assure her that someone will be in the car with her, rather than putting her in a rideshare vehicle by herself, then walking around to let myself into the car. This prevents having a potential driver take off with her in the vehicle by herself while I am walking to the other side of the car. In this scenario, a true gentleman gets in first!
  4. As you approach the car, check child safety locks. Don’t be shy. Check the side of the door for them to be unlocked. Know where to look for them on the inside of car doors. If they are up, they are off. If they are down, don’t get in. Double check the plate and name of driver and if everything is correct, then switch them to up to make sure you can get out in an emergency.
  5. Travel together and share a car with friends where possible.
  6. Check your rideshare app for in-route safety features. Uber has recently upgraded their safety policies and added safety in-route information and services, so study your rideshare platform and know where to find the in-route safety information.

These are some ways that can help you, your friends, and your loved ones have safer rideshare experiences. However, always use caution common sense when utilizing rideshare services.

At ELG, we have handled numerous rideshare accidents. Different laws and strategies apply to different types of situations and facts.

You were hit by someone working for a rideshare company like Uber or Lyft

Each state will have its own regulations and laws, but in Arizona, if you were hit by someone driving for Uber or Lyft, your accident is regulated by the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT). ADOT regulates Transportation Network Companies (TNC), which are commonly known as “Rideshare” companies, such as Uber and Lyft. ADOT requires rideshare companies to cover their drivers with minimal insurance limits, with the amount varying depending on different scenarios.

  1. When a driver is logged onto the rideshares company’s app and identified for hire but is awaiting a fare, minimal limits of $25,000/$50,000/$20,000 per accident applies. Basically, $25,000 per liability coverage to any one person, $50,000 liability coverage to more than one person per accident, and $20,000 in property damage coverage;
  2. That amount goes up significantly to $250,000 single limit liability coverage per accident if the driver has accepted a fare, even if the driver has yet to pick up passengers, so the driver may be either with passengers or on his way to pick up passengers on an accepted fare. Either way, the $250,000 liability limits will apply. ADOT also requires rideshare companies to provide a $250,000 endorsement in uninsured motorist coverage to passengers.

If you are hit by a rideshare company driver that was working and they are liable for your accident, the good news is that coverages higher than the current state minimal coverages will apply. However, it is very important to find out whether the driver was, first on the application platform, then whether he or she accepted a fare or had passengers at the time of the crash since that will significantly affect the level of liability coverage that will apply.

If you have been hit by a rideshare driver that was working and you and/or your passengers were injured, we can assist you determining what type of coverage will apply to your accident and what to do. We have handled many of these scenarios and are skilled in this novel and developing area of injury law. Feel free to email or call us to set up a free consult for your case review.

You were hit while you were a passenger in a rideshare company vehicle (Uber or Lyft Driven Vehicle)

If you were a passenger in a rideshare vehicle and were injured in an accident during your ride, please call us for a case review since different coverages may apply depending who was the at-fault driver. For example, if the at-fault driver was not your rideshare driver, we may have to look at the other driver’s personal policy to see what limits may apply. If the at-fault driver was your rideshare vehicle driver, the $250,000 policy limit will apply; however, keep in mind it is a single-limit aggregate, so the number of injured victims may affect the level of coverage applicable specifically to you since it may have to be shared and divided among other injured parties. The more injured victims involved, the more it may dilute the amount of the single-limit aggregate policy. Further, this may get more complicated if liability percentages are assessed to your rideshare driver and other vehicles involved in the accident. Also, if the crash was caused by another driver and not your rideshare driver, but the other driver is uninsured, as mentioned earlier in this article, ADOT requires rideshare companies to apply a $250,000 uninsured motorist endorsement that may assist you as a passenger.

Sometimes, there may be other ways to apply additional policies, but a complete and detailed investigation of the facts and people involved needs to take place. At times, these investigations can get complicated. However, they need to be completed to assure those accident victims obtain the maximum compensation available and applicable to these types of crashes. That’s why we always recommend you consult with a licensed attorney and law firm that has experience in personal injury, and more specifically, experience with rideshare matters. Again, feel free to email or call us for a free consultation and case review. We would be happy to set a convenient time for you or your passengers to meet with one of our attorneys. Remember, at ELG, we do not use “intake specialists” instead of lawyers for our consultations, so unlike some law firms, your consultation will be a licensed lawyer, guaranteed.

Sometimes, when accident victims visit the hospital, Hospital representatives tell you not to use your health insurance. Be careful! In some states, like Arizona, this can be a big mistake.

First and foremost, you have to understand that hospitals do not wait for their money. If you don’t use health insurance, there is a good chance that they will bill you personally no matter whose fault the accident was. That is reason enough to be sure to use your health insurance. However, and more importantly, having health insurance is a big benefit to an accident victim especially in states like Arizona. Keep in mind, the hospital will not investigate how a crash or accident occurred. That is not their job, and hospitals really do not care whose fault the crash was. Regardless of fault the hospital will want to get paid. Sometimes, when a motor vehicle accident happens, it takes time to generate a police report. Sometimes that report is not generated for several weeks. And even though the accident was not your fault, the hospital will likely and quickly request payment. They will not wait for a police report to be generated. Therefore, if you have health insurance, the hospital essentially receives payment or hold the account from collections because it is anticipating payment through your health insurance. Therefore, even if the police report has not been generated, your account is in the payment process and avoids collections when you use your health insurance. Later, if a copayment or coinsurance is owed, the hospital will bill you for that but only for that, thereby you are avoiding the entire bill.

There are other important benefits to using your health insurance also. Most of the time, your health insurance will have a beneficial contracted rate with the hospital and other providers. Just to use a rudimentary example, let’s say the hospital bill was$5,000. Let’s say your health insurance has a contracted rate to pay the hospital $500 for that visit, and your copayment is $100. In a typical case, when a personal injury attorney sends out his or her demand, we send it out for the entire amount of the damages. In this case, I bill the responsible insurance carrier $5,000. Sometimes the carrier will ask me “does your client have health insurance?” My standard response is “it is irrelevant if my client has health insurance are not. Your insured caused the damages and is responsible for these damages and if my client happens to have health insurance that is a benefit for my client and not your insured.” As you know health insurance premiums can be high and typically it is my client or my client’s family that pays for these premiums and not the auto insurance carrier that is responsible for the damages. Therefore, in many states like Arizona, the benefit of health insurance is passed on to the victim of a motor vehicle accident and not the responsible auto insurance carrier. So in the example above, I bill the responsible carrier $5,000 and typically recover $5,000for my client. Then, from those $5,000, I’d much rather repay and reimburse the health insurance carrier $500 that they originally paid, than to pay the hospital $5,000. If you subtract the $100co-pay in this hypothetical I netted my client a windfall of $4,400 because they were savvy enough to use their health insurance correctly. Therefore, typically people who use their health insurance receive a much better settlement than those who don’t use their health insurance.

It is also important to note that an attorney may be able to apply this strategy to government issued health insurance. For example, in Arizona we have state issued health insurance through Medicaid called AHCCCS (Arizona Health CareCost Containment System). Again, this is health insurance that a victim of a car accident had to apply and qualify to receive the benefit. So again, this is a benefit you or your attorney should try to apply for the victim of a car crash, rather than allow it as a benefit for he person that caused the crash. Many times, our office has been able to do that and have the benefit applied to the victim of the accident, rather than the person who caused the accident as related to government issued health insurance. Moreover, at times, we have had success getting the government issued health insurance to assist with a reduction of their lien (the amount that has to be repaid). That’s why it is recommended you review your matter with a reputable and qualified personal injury attorney that has experience in this area because it is important to keep this strategy in mind when dealing with a car crash and resulting medical bills in the context of Medicaid, AHCCCS, Medicare, Tricare, or other government sponsored health insurance

One more thing to keep in mind that may be beneficial is hat sometimes there is no need to reimburse private health insurance. Hiring a qualified personal injury attorney is important so that he or she may assist you to make this determination. An attorney will typically have to go through a comprehensive analysis to determine whether your private health insurance has a right to reimbursement.

When a car crash is caused by another driver, it is highly recommended you notify 911 and request the police come out to the scene as quickly as possible. It is also recommended to make sure that you request police come out to the scene of the accident. This is important so that you can document how the crash happened. Sometimes people that caused the accident will tell you that it was their fault, and everything will be fine because they have auto insurance to cover the accident. However, in the numerous automobile accident cases handled by our firm, we unfortunately see that sometimes the responsible person may try to change their version of how the crash happened. For example, when they call their own insurance carrier they might describe it differently. That may cause a serious issue for a crash victim that did not request a police report. If that happens, the case for liability becomes a word versus word battle if there are no independent witnesses. That may result in the insurance company for the responsible person denying liability because more often than not, they will take the position of their insured absent a police report or appropriate witnesses. That’s why even if the at fault person says it is their fault in everything will be covered by their insurance it is still highly recommended that you, as an accident victim, call 911, report the crash, and request the police come out quickly.

Also, keep in mind that just because the police come outdoes not guarantee that they will make a police report. That’s why it is also important that when the police do come out to the crash scene, you insist the investigating officers create a police report and cite the at fault party with an infraction. That way it is clear as to who caused the accident and it is more likely that the other person’s auto insurance carrier will accept liability over the crash. Once the police report is created and the at fault party is identified, you have much more solid documentation of how the accident happened and who is at fault for the crash.

Lastly, be careful when an officer tells you that the situation looks like minor property damage to the vehicles and no police report is required. Again, it is highly recommended you insist on requesting a police report be made because even if there is relatively low property damage, and you may not immediately experience the effects of any injuries, sometimes injuries are felt a day or two later. If that is the case and you did not create a police report, again your case may become more challenging when it comes to proving liability for the car crash. Also, keep in mind that not having a police report will also make it more challenging to have your vehicle repaired or have repairs, rental car expenses, and storage fees, or loss of us e claims paid or reimbursed by the responsible auto insurance carrier.

Therefore, even though it may take a little longer to wait for the police to show up, to sum up, it is typically recommended to report the crash to the authorities and always insist on a police report documenting your accident.

1). First, check that you and everyone in your vehicle is OK.

2). Call 911 for injuries and to request a police report.

3). If safely possible, take pictures and video with your cell phone. Remember to take photos of all the vehicles involved and from several different angles including close-ups and wide-angle pictures. Review any videos or photos you took to make sure you captured all the damage.

4). Seek the medical attention you need immediately. Although you might feel fine after the car crash or you think your injuries are not too serious, injury symptoms sometimes appear hours or even days after the car crash. Getting medical attention quickly isn’t just the best thing for your body and personal health, but it will also strengthen any personal injury claim you may file later. If you wait too long to see a doctor or medical professional, even though you were in pain or felt discomfort immediately after the crash, if you wait too long, you may not have that injury timely documented and it will be much harder to relate the injuries and pain to your crash. Therefore, sooner is always better when dealing with injuries following a car crash.

5). Follow the advice of your doctor.

6). We recommend you schedule an appointment quickly with a personal injury attorney. There are many pitfalls and strategies that the attorney can identify to protect or strengthen your claims after a car crash. It is very important to make sure the appointment is with an attorney and not a secretary, a paralegal, or in intake specialist. We have seen many injury law firms try to pawn off and set initial consult appointments with anon-attorney staff member because the attorney is busy or not available for the complete intake. Be wary of that issue, and insist your appointment is scheduled with a state bar licensed attorney. If the law firm’s attorney is not available for your appointment, be flexible and offer a different time, or you may want to consider calling another attorney that will take the time to meet with you. At Escamilla Law Group, all our new consults are only handled by state bar licensed attorneys.

7). Hire a lawyer that you’re comfortable with to help you. It is preferable that an attorney assist you to open all relevant claims, including contacting your own insurance company.

It is important to note that this is not an exhaustive list by any means. Car crashes are complicated, and every case is different. Also, every state has different laws and strategies that may apply. That’s why we encourage you to contact and meet with a personal injury attorney that has a focus on personal injury claims and injury cases. He or she should be able to guide you carefully depending on the specific nuisances of your claims. At Escamilla Law Group, we have handled thousands of injury claims, and although we sometimes see similar fact patterns, no two cases are identical, and each requires personal input and case management.

Unfortunately, we all know every time our car tires touch a roadway, we expose ourselves to the risk of automobile accidents. Some difficult scenarios play out when the person who causes the accident does not have valid automobile insurance. This mainly comes up in three scenarios—(1) when the person that crashes into you stops at the accident scene, but admits they have no insurance; (2) when the person that causes the crash remains at the scene and gives you and/or the police an auto insurance card, but you later determine the insurance is lapsed or invalid, and; (3) when the person that causes the accident by crashing into you immediately flees the scene of the accident never to be found, otherwise commonly known as a hit and run.

Any one of these scenarios can be scary, frustrating, and let's admit it, infuriating. How could someone be so irresponsible and not obey current laws that require drivers to carry valid auto insurance when driving? Unfortunately, this happens all the time. Think about it, sometimes people lose their employment, are financially distraught, have an arrest warrant, or worse, are under the influence of drugs or alcohol while driving. Although we can agree that driving without required insurance is an irresponsible scenario regardless of circumstance, working on personal injury matters, I see these situations arise regularly. Remember earlier, I mentioned that when your auto tires touch the road, you run this risk? That is why I always recommend to family, friends, neighbors, clients, and people that discuss these issues with me to always carry uninsured motorist insurance coverage, commonly known as “UM” coverage. Since I can’t rely on irresponsible drivers to protect my family, friends, and people in my vehicles, I protect myself at all times by carrying uninsured motorist coverage.

Therefore, if you have been hit by someone and identified that they have no insurance, you need to look at your auto insurance declarations page (commonly called a “dec”page) to see if you carry uninsured motorist coverage.

UM should not be confused with collision coverage. Some people I meet tell me, “don’t worry, I have that coverage” when I reference uninsured motorist. Sometimes, what they mean to tell me is they have collision coverage on their vehicle. This is different. Collision coverage applies when anyone hits their car, regardless of fault, collision will get their car repaired or paid at fair market value if a total loss (minus any applicable deductible). It is true, if someone carries collision coverage and they get hit by an uninsured motorist or suffer a hit and run, their car will be repaired or paid at fair market value as noted earlier, however, collision coverage does not address bodily injuries. Therefore, the car damage will be addressed, but if the driver or the driver’s passengers requires medical care, such as an ambulance, hospital, therapy, or chiropractic care, collision coverage will not address it. However, UM will address the injuries and subsequent bodily injury claims. Therefore, it is important to carry collision coverage to protect your car in a crash, but it is also tremendously important to make sure you carry an automobile policy with meaningful uninsured motorist coverage.

If you do have uninsured motorist coverage, uninsured motorist will cover your bodily injury claims caused by a third-party crash where the responsible driver that caused the crash(tortfeasor) has no insurance or fled the accident scene and was not found. The wonderful component of uninsured motorist coverage is that it not only covers you as the driver, but also covers family members, friends, and all passengers in your vehicle up to the policy limits you purchased on the policy.

The other benefit afforded by uninsured motorist (UM) that sometimes gets overlooked is that it covers more than just your medical bills. Although it does cover medical bills such as ambulance, hospital, doctor, therapy, and chiropractic bills related to your auto accident, as well as those of your passengers, it covers more! Uninsured motorist also affords coverage for other common auto accident bodily injury claims, such as pain, suffering, discomfort, and inconvenience as a result of injuries, lost earnings caused by the accident (wage loss), loss of love, care, and companionship of our clients familial and/or marital relationship (loss of consortium), loss of enjoyment of life, and any other damages deemed fair and reasonable resulting from the accident.

In addition, uninsured motorist (UM) is portable in Arizona, meaning, once purchased and added to your policy, it follows you no matter what vehicle you are traveling or using. Even if you are in a bus, on a bicycle, in a friend’s car and that friend does not carry UM and you get hit, it will not cover your friend, but if you purchased uninsured motorist, it follows you and you get the benefit of having it. And, there is more…in fact, people are often very surprised to learn this when I educate themas to accident law, uninsured motorist follows your resident relative family members and spouse, even if they are not named on your policy or with you when an accident occurs. For example, if you have a child who is traveling in someone else’s vehicle (we call that the“host” vehicle), and that host vehicle gets hit by an uninsured motorist even if the host vehicle does not have uninsured motorist, your policy at home will follow your child and apply to him or her! This is even if your child is a minor child or adult child, and whether your child is listed or not listed on your policy. It does not matter so long that child, or qualified resident relative, lives with you.

These are all great reasons to carry uninsured motorist coverage, but everyone is shocked and sometimes even excited to hear this next part. Uninsured motorist is relatively cheap in price compared to liability insurance! Yes, liability insurance is typically substantially more expensive than uninsured motorist coverage. In fact, sometimes uninsured motorist coverage for a month can be as cheap as the cost of a Starbuck’s cup of coffee or two! In fact, when I sometimes encounter people that don’t have UM and we discuss it, I explain it this way, “you pay a lot of money to carry liability insurance to protect others you don’t know, right? Think about it, you pay a few more bucks and you protect you and the most important people in your life!” Once we cover it that way, I often see my clients add it shortly after that. I am not trying to sell anyone insurance—in fact, I am not licensed to sell these products, but as an attorney practicing exclusively in personal injury law, I am licensed to explain the coverages you have and explain what may be beneficial to my customers and their family. Obviously, every auto insurance carrier sets their own pricing and you would need to shop around for it, but typically, you will be pleasantly surprised to find that regardless of carrier, it is typically much cheaper than the liability coverage required by law in Arizona. It is recommended you consult with your insurance carrier or insurance agent directly to discuss adding uninsured motorist to your auto policy, as well as pricing. Suffice it to say, I am a personal injury attorney that works in this area daily, and I would not drive without appropriate uninsured motorist coverage.

Every time my tires hit that road, I feel more comfortable knowing I am relying on my insurance carrier to protect my family and me rather than drivers that I do not know and may be driving without insurance.

Can I reduce my Risk of Being Involved in a Motor Vehicle Accident? Good News—Yes You Can!

As discussed in other articles I’ve written, every time we get in our cars and our tires touch the street, we run the risk of being involved in a motor vehicle accident. There is no magic pill that will completely remove that risk, however, there are certainly ways of reducing your risk of being involved in a motor vehicle accident. Below,I break things down to 3 sections that may help avert an auto accident: (1)Vehicle Maintenance; (2) Driving Habits& Defense Driving; and (3) Insurance. Here are a few tip for reducing your risk of being a victim of a motor vehicle accident:

(1) Vehicle Maintenance:
Brakes—having a properly maintained vehicle can help you best prepare to avoid a crash. One important mechanical feature that is clearly needed to help prevent accidents is a good working vehicle brakes. Our vehicles need to be ready to stop quickly when called upon to do so. Obviously, the quicker we can stop our cars, the better our chances of avoiding a motor vehicle accident. Properly maintained brakes are extremely necessary for our safety and the safety of others. For example, squeaky brakes can often be an immediate sign that your car’s braking system needs mechanical attention. Listen for squeaky brakes. Squeaky brakes may signal a defective rotor, wasted brake pads, or other mechanical issues. If you brake and your vehicle creates a high-pitched squeak or other abnormal sound, you should have your brakes checked as quickly as possible with a reputable brake repair shop or dealer.

Also, regularly check your brake fluid level in your master cylinder. The brake fluid is part of the hydraulic system in a car that applies the necessary force to the brake calipers, which in turn puts pressure on your cars brake rotors to cause your car to stop. If you don’t have enough brake fluid, it may impede your car from stopping properly or cause air to enter your brake lines, also affecting stopping ability. If you have an extremely low brake fluid level, it may indicate a leak in the lines or a malfunctioning master cylinder. Fortunately, there are many brake shops that provide a free inspection, so if you don’t know what to look for, it is relatively easy to find a local brake shop that will inspect your brakes for you.

Tires—it is very important to periodically do a safety check on your vehicle tires. First, make sure there is enough tread on the tires. If the tread is low or almost gone, you need to replace your tires immediately. Also, making sure your tires are properly inflated to the correct and recommended tire pressure is important, especially as the weather changes. In general, lower temperatures will cause your air pressure to drop, and hotter or summer driving conditions will cause higher pressure in your tires. Therefore, as seasons change, you should adjust your tire vehicle’s tire pressure accordingly. Your vehicles recommended tire pressure is usually easy to find and typically found on the driver’s-side inner door frame on a sticker placed by your vehicle’s manufacturer. Be sure to use that sticker as your guide to set your vehicle’s tire pressure, and not the recommended pressure on the actual tire. The recommended tire pressure set by the manufacture is specific to your vehicle, while the stamped on the side of your tire is a more generalized recommendation. Like with brakes, I have been able to find local tire shops that will check tires and tire pressure free of charge, so if you are not sure how to check your tire pressure or do not have a tire pressure gauge, it is relatively easy to find a local tire professional that can assist you.

Headlights and vehicle lighting—it is important that all vehicle lights are fully functional. It is recommended you turn on your vehicle lights at night and walk around the cars to make sure they are all illuminated.

It is better if you have a friend assist you so that you can also pump your brake lights and test your turn and hazard lights also. That way your friend can point out any lights that are not working so you know which need replacement. In older cars, headlights consisted of glass casings covering headlight lamps. It used to be easy to clean the headlights since they would return to clear and normal with a simple car wash. Today’s modern vehicles have headlight lamp housing that is typically enclosed in a clear polycarbonate plastic casing. Even though a common car wash will clean off dirt and grime, often, the plastic will wear down and lose clarity with time. Even a car wash will not be able to bring back the clarity of the plastic, so it is important to check your headlamps for cloudiness. If the plastic is worn and is no longer clear, it will affect your visibility during night driving, causing your lighting of the road, cars, and elements to dim. This logically results in poor visibility and increases the risk of an accident or crash. If you notice your plastic casings getting cloudy, it is important you fix the issue immediately. Many times, a new casing is not needed. The cloudiness can sometimes be fixed by aftermarket products or by carefully removing the casings and sanding them with fine grit sand paper. This may be done without removing the casings as well, however be sure to properly tape off you car to avoid sanding the paint.

It is also good to know that, today, many car washes that offer detailing also offer headlight buffing to bring the clarity back to the plastic casing. This can be done professionally to restore your lights to full brightness and avoid the expense of purchasing new headlight enclosures which can be much more costly. Windshield Wipers and Wiper Fluid levels—it is easy to neglect windshield wipers since often times, they’re not used regularly. However, it is also important to regularly replace windshield wipers even though they are not heavily used. Even if you are not using your wipers frequently, they may get worn by the elements. For example, if they are in the heat and sun frequently, that may cause the rubber to become worn. Having dirty or worn wiper blades can cause your windshield to streak and become difficult to see through under wet conditions. If this occurs, it can impede your vision and increase the risk of a car crash. It is also important to make sure your vehicle has a full level of wiper fluid. This will assist you in conditions where another vehicle or driving conditions dirty your windshield and again, impede visibility. Having a full level of wiper fluid will best ensure you can easily clean off the offending debris and reestablish visibility. It is always recommended to have your dealership check your wiper blades and wiper fluid levels every time you take your vehicle for an oil change. Many will do this free of charge and only charge if you if wiper blades or fluid are actually replaced.

(2) Driving Habits & Defensive Driving:
Driving Habits—driving habits can have a dramatic impact on reducing the risk of suffering a motor vehicle crash. Obeying traffic and speed laws are obvious factors that can assist us avoid motor vehicle accidents. However, other crucial factors can additionally assist you avoid a crash. For one, maintaining sufficient space to stop between you and the vehicle in front of you is very important. In my work, the most common type of car crash that injures vehicle occupants are rear-end car collisions. By properly guarding the space between your car and the car in front of you, you are substantially reducing the risk of being involved in one of the most common car crashes.

Remember, the car in front of you can stop at any time for any reason. For example, there may be a pedestrian crossing in front of that car, there may be an animal that suddenly jets out in front of that car, the car in front can break down, there may be a large object on the road forcing the car to stop, the driver may think he or she saw a possible hazard on the road, or any other reason. The point is that the car in front of you mays top at any time for any reason. If that happens, you should save sufficient space between you and that car to safely stop your car as well. I can’t count the times I’ve been told by people consulting with me where they rear-ended someone and blame the car in front of them for abruptly stopping. At that time, I am typically left with no option but to tell them the accident is still their fault, not the car in front of them, since the car in front of them can stop basically for any normal reason I mentioned above, and the person driving behind them is still required to stop also. They usually do not like hearing my explanation, but typically understand once I educate them. Therefore, please be sure to maintain that safe distance between you and the vehicle in front of you. Further, when you come to a stop, it is also recommended not to cozy up to the car in front of you. It is typically a wise idea to keep a safe distance between you and the car in front of you. Why? Well sometimes, when you are at a complete stop and the driver of the vehicle traveling behind you is distracted, you may need that extra cushion to move out of the way and avoid being hit. In that scenario, if you watch your rearview mirror and you note that the car is not stopping behind you, you may have enough room to move to the side of the road and avoid a potential rear-end crash to your vehicle.

Additionally,I memorize the position of my hazard signal button on my car. For example, when driving on the roads or freeways, and I see a back-up or stop, I immediately bring my car to a safe stop while simultaneously pressing the hazard flashers on my car and look up at my rear-view mirror. On one occasion, I saw the driver of the vehicle behind my approaching hot—too fast and not watching me. My hazards where on, but the driver was clearly not going to stop. I saved enough distance between my car and the vehicle in front of me that I was able to quickly move my vehicle to the right of the road. The vehicle behind me screeched her tires and ended up a couple of feet in front of where my vehicle originally was before I moved. Had I not moved, that driver would have hit me with enough force to cause serious rear-end damage to my car and likely have injured me, herself, and likely the person in the vehicle in front of me since I would have clearly been pushed into the car as well. However, by leaving enough space when I stopped behind the car in front of me, I was able to avoid the crash, and there was no property damage caused, and more importantly, no one was hurt by avoiding that car crash.

Driving Temperament—it is easy to get upset at that annoying driver who cuts you off. First, you never want to be “that guy.” Make sure your driving habits are courteous. I try my best to make my driving situations personal. What does that mean? For example, we have all encountered that slow car in front of us that won’t move out of the way. Instead of becoming upset, I try to think of the driver as someone’s grandfather, grandmother, dad, aunt, or relative. That helps me personalize the driver—sore mind yourself it is not a slow car, but someone’s relative driving that slow car. Then, I try to find a safe alternative, like making a turn a block earlier than usual—some kind of alternate route that will get me to my destination at relatively the same time. That often helps me. Now, you will always encounter that driver that is annoying and exhibiting unsafe driving habits. As hard as it may be, you must not allow their unsafe habits influence you to drive in an unsafe manner also. It is easy to process a scenario where an uncourteous driver cuts you off, and now, it becomes a challenge for you to try to cut them off. This is never recommended. This obviously substantially increases your risk of being involved in a car crash since you are now engaging in riskier driving than you otherwise would have avoided. It also increases the probability of being involved in road rage, which also increases the probability of injuries and harm to you, others, and property. One thing people don’t immediately process when faced with this scenario is to think, “if I am in an accident, what is the process?” I am not sure why, but people sometimes find it easy to set aside the fact that they may be hurt or hurt others, but aside from the potential of severe injury and harm, there are other immediate pragmatic consequences. For example, once a car crash happens, waiting for the police may take an hour or two. Plus, imagine having to wait another hour or two in the emergency room waiting room, and then not having a car for a day or two, or even weeks. Imagine all the things you did today. Would you be able to accomplish those things after waiting hours for the police plus hours in an emergency room? Probably not, or if you can, it would be at a severe inconvenience. So, if injury is not enough of a deterrent, think about the inconveniences caused by an accident. You may miss work as a result of the crash, then imagine the paperwork and amount of phone calls you will need to provide just to get the process started. Also, not to mention, you may have to visit with an attorney too to discuss the accident and strategies to assist you. Now, imagine having a car crash and having 6 to 8 hours chewed out of your day because of an annoying crash that could have been easily avoided. That would put a damper in anyone’s day, week, month, or year for sure. That is exactly why when I experience an uncourteous driver, instead of engaging inroad rage, I tell myself, that person will likely end up in a car crash with someone, and as long as I can help it, their crash will not include me. So, when I get cut off by a discourteous driver, I back off and basically tell myself, I am not the one this person is going to hit today. I have too many things to accomplish today and getting involved in a crash is not one of them! If you use a similar approach, I may be assisting you avoid a consult with me or one of our ELG attorneys. Although I enjoy helping people and can share an amazing amount of information and strategies to assist victims of car, motorcycle, or truck crashes, I would rather you avoid a crash and not have to meet with me.

(3) Insurance:
Protect yourself, your family, and loved ones by ensuring you purchase a good roadside hazard insurance plan. Also, be weary and ask a lot of questions when considering roadside hazard insurance through your auto insurance carrier. Even though it might sound lucrative, often, roadside hazard insurance through your automobile carrier results with the carrier contracting with a network of smaller vendors. If your auto insurance carrier uses a network of smaller vendors, their service can sometimes be inconsistent and vary drastically in service quality depending on the vendor that may need to assist you when you call. You can certainly ask your carrier’s representative or agent about this to get your questions answered. I personally carry AAA. This coverage is usually more beneficial in that they have a large network of AAA tow trucks and service vehicles ready to roll out quickly across the country. I like that AAA usually provides me with text updates with arrival time estimates. In my experience, they typically have been efficient, and their efficiency usually means faster response times and getting you to quickly minimize the time you are a potential risk on the road. Also, make sure you have sufficient liability, property damage, uninsured motorist (UM),underinsured motorist (UIM), and medical payments (med pay) insurance. See other articles I’ve written on these insurance products to find out more on how they can apply and assist you.

Sergio Escamilla

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