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In Case of Car Accident: A Lawyer Can be Your Best Friend

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Parsippany, NJIf you were ever in the market for a good lawyer, chances are it would be after a car accident. Not to soften the consequences of an accident for which you might have been at fault, but rather to represent your interests - and plain, old-fashioned fair play - in the face of the other guy, having caused the accident in the first place, getting off scott-free.

Car accidentThere is little doubt as to the risk.

There are more people on the road. Truck traffic has increased. Seniors, healthier and more mobile than a generation ago, are driving longer - and there are more of them, as the general population ages and the first wave of baby boomers prepare to retire. There are, and will be still, even more people on the road with slowing reaction times.

There's the fast and the furious - young people in souped-up cars, weaving in and out of traffic like maniacs. This writer narrowly avoided an accident just the other day, on a major thruway, when two young speedsters flashed past our minivan on either side and raced to the open spot of highway in front of me, slamming on their brakes in the process and narrowly colliding. Following behind, towing a heavy trailer and doing the speed limit, I winced at the prospect of not slowing down in time.

Today's cars are much better built than the previous generation of vehicles. They're tighter, more responsive, and they wrap you in a cocoon of technology. You feel invincible in the road-deadened cockpit, the music blasting, as you yak on your cell phone and play with the mp3 player.

It's all a recipe for an increase in motor vehicle collisions. The worst part of this sordid tale is that you may be the innocent bystander. Someone else might have caused the crash. And yet you may very well be left holding the short end of the stick, because the other guy made sure he did what he needed to do, to minimize the blame, and any subsequent hit on his insurance rates.

Trisha Wellman, a Quebec woman, was hit by a young girl driving alone with a learner's permit (she was legally required to drive WITH someone in the vehicle), and also driving without insurance. The result? The youngster was fined, whereas Wellman was left with a myriad of health problems that may be permanent.

Barbara Dunn from New Jersey had her five kids in their minivan when a 22-year-old woman ploughed into them with her SUV. The latter was fined $95 for failure to yield. Dunn's medical problems from that incident are ongoing.

Jodi Cornelius, from Oneida, Wisconsin was pummelled into a ditch by a loaded gravel truck travelling well beyond the speed limit through an intersection, according to police records. The driver was unhurt, but Cornelius was taken to hospital in an ambulance and still suffers health problems. The investigating officer issued Cornelius a ticket, which she disputed and a judge later revoked. But now, as a result of the ticket being issued, Cornelius was told that she couldn't sue for damages. Worse, the trucking company pursued her insurance company for the cost of a replacement bumper for the truck. That's an $800 bill, and Cornelius is unsure if her rates will go up as a result.

And that's just the tip of the iceberg. There are countless stories - and you want to avoid being a character in one, especially the victim.

It's always good policy to read your policy. It's a lot of legal lingo and double-speak, but it's there for a reason and spells out what you're covered for.

In the event of an accident, always report it to your insurer, even if it appears minor, and even if you are convinced, or it is concluded that you are not at fault. State laws generally protect you from a rate hike if you are deemed not at fault, but there's always the possibility that the other party will make a claim - paid out by his own insurer - who might then go after YOUR insurer for compensation, based on THEIR interpretation of the facts.

It's a sticky business that could leave you like a fly on flypaper. Stuck.

Hope you never have one - an accident, that is. However, statistical chance dictates that you will, one day. Hope everybody's okay when it happens.

And when it does, it's best to know your rights and be an educated consumer. Do your homework, and leave nothing to chance. The alternative could be the other guy just having a bad day, but leaving you with a bad life.

When the law of averages comes around and knocks on your door, consider knocking on the door of a good lawyer to make sure you are taken care of in the judicial process, instead of taken to the cleaners.


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