If you haven’t already been in a car accident before, it is more likely than not you will at some time in life. No matter how careful and defensive of a driver you are, it just takes one distracted, drunk or reckless driver to change your life permanently. Our firm is interested in the safety of the people in our community and work to help our clients recover financially for the harm caused to them by other people so the can get on with their lives.
Unfortunately, there are those drivers that cause catastrophic injuries that either have very little or no insurance. That is why, before going on to discuss this topic, we would highly encourage anyone reading this to make sure that you have adequate Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage in your own insurance policy. Many people think it is enough to purchase the minimum coverage just to get their car on the road and to cover minor accidents. That is a very false impression of what insurance is for.
Insurance is not only to insure you for any harm you may cause to another, but more importantly, it is to protect you if you are injured by another that has little to no coverage. Serious injuries that require intensive care can end up costing hundreds of thousands of dollars. A ruptured or bulging disc injury to the neck or back can require fifty to one-hundred thousand dollars for surgery alone. This does not even to begin to account for the loss of employment, loss of enjoyment of life, the grief and a lifetime of pain and suffering that can come along with that.
Even if you have health insurance, your health insurance carrier will want to be reimbursed for any funds that they paid for your injuries. They will want either the other person’s insurance or your own auto insurance to cover their losses. The worst possible scenario is when the health insurance is employer provided as a benefit. Under a law called ERISA, that employers health insurance carrier can take 100% of any recovery you receive if there is not enough auto insurance coverage by either the other driver or you.
The fact is that Uninsured and Underinsured coverage added on to your policy does not cost that much more. If you do not know whether you have this kind of coverage, call your insurance agent or company and check that you have adequate coverage to protect yourself and your family.
As a way to help reduce the incidents of injuries from auto accidents in Bakersfield, we are providing this as a way so that people can learn about the risks and responsibilities associated with getting behind the wheel to help people realize what causes auto collisions to avoid those behaviors and to help people recognize those risks so they can drive more defensively.
There may be a time where you just happen to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. An auto collision can happen to anyone, which is why we are providing this to help you be prepared just in case. As many people already know, most collisions can be prevented and avoided if a driver had driven their car or truck while paying attention with their eyes on the road, making good decisions about the kinds of conditions to drive in, adapting to driving conditions like traffic or weather, being sober, no being reckless, too aggressive or engaging in road rage.
One of the most common causes of car collisions in the Bakersfield and Kern County areas is people being distracted and causing serious property damage and personal injuries. There are countless distractions for today’s drivers. Cell phones, GPS units, radios, and outside events are just some of the myriad distractions that compete for the modern driver’s attention. Using a hands-free device for your cell phone, entering your destination into your GPS unit at the beginning of your trip, and using steering wheel mounted audio controls to manipulate your vehicle’s radio are all good ways to reduce the likelihood of an accident due to distracted driving.
Reckless driving is a big problem in the greater Bakersfield area, especially on the major surface streets. Excessive speeding not only endangers those around you, but it puts you at a greater risk of harm as well. Going faster than the flow of traffic gives you less time to react to a sudden change in conditions and increases the likelihood that you will be in an accident. Whether because of speed, weaving in and out of traffic, or tailgating, injuries due to reckless driving are entirely preventable. All it takes is patience and attentiveness to spot a reckless driver and avoid him.
Everyone who has taken a basic driver’s education course knows that driving while drunk is a terrible idea, but drunk driving remains a major cause of preventable accidental injury and death Kern County. There were over 230 alcohol involved accidents in Bakersfield alone in 2013 (source http://www.ots.ca.gov). Drunk drivers have slower reaction times, more difficulty focusing on their immediate surroundings, and less control of their basic motor functions than sober drivers do. All that makes driving drunk a recipe for disaster, and something that should be avoided. If you see a drunk driver, stay away from them and notify law enforcement.
Here in Bakersfield, we don’t get much in the way of weather. It stays cold all winter, and blazing hot all summer. So when it does rain or snow in the valley, it seems like everyone suddenly forgets how to drive safely. Speeding, tailgating, and many other forms of reckless driving suddenly become commonplace on our streets seemingly every time it rains. Remember, rain on a road that has been dry for a long time will make the road oily and very slick. It will take your vehicle farther than normal to come to a complete stop no matter what kind of car you drive, so allow more room between you and the other drivers to help mitigate the increased risk of accidents. No court is going to accept “It was raining” as a valid defense in a personal injury case.
In an area the size of Kern County, getting from place to place can sometimes take hours. This is particularly true for people who regularly drive long distances, like delivery drivers, and anyone with an extended commute. As the distance between your starting point and ending point increases, so does your likelihood of an accident. This is especially true late at night or in the small hours of the morning. Driver fatigue during these or any times of day causes slowed reaction time, dulled reflexes, and inattention to the things that are going on around you. Falling asleep at the wheel can cause your vehicle to go out of control and injure or kill you or other motorists on the road, so plan your trip carefully. If you are already tired and have a long way to drive home, consider putting off your trip until you have had a chance to rest. Or split driving duties if there is someone with you. There are very few times when taking the risk of driving while drowsy is necessary. Don’t needlessly put yourself at risk.
Chances are you either know someone with a teenage child who is starting to drive, have a teenage child yourself, or at least remember what it was like when you first started driving. Youthful enthusiasm combined with a lack of experience is a dangerous combination on the road, and teen drivers have a higher rate of accidents than any other age group. In 2008 alone, teen drivers were responsible for 593 fatalities in the state of California (https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/wcm/connect/763ec3a4-5767-4b48-8f68-b2c8665c5c70/yngdrvbystate.pdf?MOD=AJPERES). Make sure to give teen drivers plenty of room, and if your teenage child is going to start driving soon, please teach them good road safety behaviors.
This one usually doesn’t make the top ten lists, but with the recent rash of recalls by what seems like almost every major auto manufacturer, proper vehicle maintenance has been put in the spotlight. Vehicles of all types are complex machines, and they all require regular maintenance. Oil and tires are two of the parts replaced on vehicles the most often, but everyone should have their vehicles inspected regularly for wear and tear and more serious issues. Not only will this decrease the risk of accidents, it will prolong the life of your vehicle and save you money in the long run.
This list is not meant to be exhaustive, but we hope it will give you some ideas of other things to look out for while you are on the road. Almost any accident is preventable and attentive and careful driving is the key. We hope that you are never involved in an accident, but if you are, please consult an attorney to discuss your options.