Category Archives: Car Accidents

Apology means guilt?

Is Saying I’m Sorry an Admission of Guilt?

Imagine this. You’re driving along on Eastern, trying to get to your favorite donut shop. The tunes are playing loudly on the radio and you’re not paying much attention to the road as you sing along. The light ahead of you turns red and the cars stop, but you miss it. You slam on the brakes, unexpectedly. Suddenly, your rear fender finds itself lodged in the front fender of the car behind you. Horrified, you call the police and your personal injury lawyer. Then, you get out of your car and apologize profusely. After all, your mom raised you to be polite and apologize for things. But did you just admit your guilt? And can it cause you legal difficulty if your case goes to court?

Outcomes of Apologies in Court Cases

There’s two possible outcomes when you apologize after an accident. In one case, a sincere apology can lessen a person’s anger, thus making it less likely that they will seek legal action. In the other case, it’s a question of “anything you say can be used against you in a court of law.” By apologizing, they may argue you indicate your liability in the matter and it gives the other party a compelling case against you.

Thirty-six states have recognized the detriment that an apology can cause to a potential defendant and have enacted “Apology Laws”. First applied to medical malpractice, the laws protect anyone who makes a statement of sympathy or benevolent gesture following an accident. As long as the person doesn’t actually admit guilt, such statements are not admissible as evidence. Unfortunately, Nevada is not one of those states, so legal protections for an apology are limited.

So, how do you apologize without admitting guilt?

First, think about if an apology really is important in the situation. It might be your gut reaction, even if you did nothing wrong, but is it necessary? In our example above, there was obviously a lapse in judgment by driving distractedly, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you should apologize for being in an accident.

Second, if you decide that an apology is worthwhile, don’t admit any fault or place any blame. It’s important to not give any indication that you are liable. You shouldn’t express any opinions or hunches about what caused the accident or how it could have been avoided.

Third, consider finding something different to say, instead of “I’m sorry.” Simply saying “I’m sorry” is relatively ambiguous and can be applied to many different situations, including accidents, funerals, and arguments. Find specific language for the sentiment you are trying to express. In our above example, you might say, “I understand how frustrating this situation is” instead of “I’m sorry I stopped so abruptly.”

Dr. Ken Broda-Bahm, a Ph.D. in persuasive strategies, gave two suggestions on how to show you are sorry: one, acknowledge pain, death, loss, and inconvenience; two, don’t let acknowledgement get confused with responsibility. In short, there are many occasions when apologizing is meaningful, and can even be beneficial, but don’t let anyone mistake saying “I’m sorry” for saying “It’s my fault.”

In general, when you’ve been in an accident, the old adage probably still holds true: “It’s better to say nothing at all.” And if you have been in an accident, please call our office today at 702-450-4868 and we can explain your legal rights and remedies under the law.

holiday accidents

Holiday Accidents and Driving

Holidays in Las Vegas are some of the best times around. Holiday parties, festivals, and other activities are in full swing around the Las Vegas valley. There are so many opportunities to enjoy the atmosphere of the season. It’s a time to reconnect with family and friends, indulge in some fabulous food and drinks, or follow some holiday traditions. Whether you are going to Ethel M’s to see the Cactus Gardens, the Motor Speedway to see the Glittering Lights display, or taking in some ice skating on the Strip, you can hopefully count on having a lot of fun, but you should do so responsibly. Nothing ruins the season like a car accident.

A study done by the Fatality Analysis Reporting System, spanning 1975 to 2002, found that the deadliest days for accidents are the 4th of July, December 23rd through 25th, and New Year’s Day. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that in 2010, the economic cost of accidents reached $242 billion. This number represents actual costs, like medical bills, lost work, and other tangible things. If you add in the intangible items like lost quality-of-life, the number jumps to $836 billion. That is a significant amount of economic damage to consider when we weigh our responsibility to society.

What causes holiday car accidents?

Drunk Driving

Several things can cause accidents around the holidays. The most obvious one is alcohol-related. According to the CDC, 1,025 people died in alcohol-related accidents between the years of 2002 and 2012. 1 out of every 3 deaths in traffic accidents involves a drunk driver in the US. 7.5 percent of all accidents in the month of December are caused by alcohol-impairment. In our state, a whopping 35 percent of accidents in 2016 were caused by drunk drivers, many of them with a blood alcohol level (BAC) well above the 0.08 level allowed by law.

While the numbers seem to be lower in the last several years, there are still plenty of people who get behind the wheel while drunk. Approximately 1.8 percent of people self-reported driving drunk in the previous 30 days. Perhaps millions more over the course of the year will drive while impaired. The NHTSA said that in 2010, alcohol-related accidents cost over $44 billion. Just in the last week or so, DUI crashes have left a woman in the hospital and a UNLV student injured and property damaged. It’s not worth it, both in cost of life and economic damage, to be a part of these statistics.

Drowsy Driving

Another factor that might cause accidents is drowsy driving. In 2015, the NHTSA reports that 90,000 accidents were the result of drowsy driving. This number has gone up drastically in just a few years, as only 66,000 were reported in 2011. When you are out late, enjoying a holiday party or coming home from looking at the lights, even if you haven’t been drinking, you are still at risk of causing an accident. The National Sleep Foundation reported that as many as 37 percent of adult drivers have reported falling asleep while driving. If you aren’t awake to steer, you can’t control what your car does or does not hit.

We’ve talked about drowsy driving before. There are many notable accidents caused by drowsy driving in our town, including a Greyhound bus in 2001. If you are driving and drowsy, for whatever reason, make a phone call to a friend, get an uber or taxi, or pull over and sleep. All you are losing is time, and time and that’s better than the alternative.

Distracted Driving

Another possible cause of accidents during this holiday season is distracted driving. It’s tempting to take a picture of those Christmas lights with your phone or text your significant other with an ETA, but statistics show that cell phone use, and other forms of distracted driving, can be problematic. It’s currently against the law in Las Vegas to drive with a device in your hands, so put it down. If you want to take a picture, send a text, or even talk on the phone, pull over. You won’t be missing anything by doing so, and it might save you from tragedy.

Marijuana impaired driving

A new risk for Las Vegas during this holiday season is the possibility of marijuana-impairment. The research on the effects of driving under the influence of marijuana is still in the early stages, but the CDC does warn that the risks are real. It is illegal to drive while under the influence of marijuana in Nevada. While there are not currently any roadside tests for marijuana, there are several in development.

While you can control yourself and how you drive, that is not the case for other drivers on the road. Even when we aren’t thinking about it, there are always risks associated with driving. At the Law Offices of Laura Hunt we urge people to act responsibly while driving. If you or a loved one is involved in an auto accident during this holiday season, please call our office today at 702-450-4868 and we can explain your legal rights and remedies under the law.

 

Photo “Car keys and a bottle of beer” by Amanda Mills acquired from Public Health Image Library, under public domain license.

The Weather Wrecked My Car

BAD WEATHER/ BAD DAY – WHAT IF A TREE FALLS ON MY CAR OR IN MY YARD OR BAD WEATHER CAUSES A CAR ACCIDENT

Bad weather can cause more than a bad hair day or a dirty car. Strong winds, heavy rains and blowing debris can cause trees to fall and roads to become unsafe causing accidents to happen. When conditions are less than ideal, accidents occur. The most common cause of vehicle related accidents due to weather is a loss of traction. When weather conditions become inclement and the roads become wet, muddy and sandy, vehicle traction is reduced and cars have a significantly increased chance of slipping and losing control. The best way to reduce your chance of losing traction on wet roads and in windy weather conditions is to drive slower and more smoothly. Try not to follow cars too closely and avoid jamming on the gas and brakes or making sudden and violent maneuvers with the steering wheel. The best way to think of this is if you had to cross a wet floor or a skating ring in your tennis shoes, you would tread in a slow and controlled manner and very carefully.  Use those principles when driving in windy and wet road conditions.

The best option is always to try and stay home in bad weather. Unfortunately, today’s reality just does not allow for that.  Work, school activities and responsibilities take us out on the roads in bad weather.  When you cannot avoid taking the risk, there is some important information that you should know if you are involved in an accident due to the loss of traction because of wet, muddy, snowy or icy roads in Henderson Nevada or if you are involved in an accident or cause property damage as a result of bad weather due to falling trees or debris as a result of bad weather in Henderson Nevada.

Rain And Accidents

I’ll take these topics in two sections.

First what if I lose control of my car due to bad weather

If you find your car starting to skid or lose traction or what we call “hydroplane” on wet roads, don’t panic.  Hydroplaning is when a layer of water prevents direct contact between your tires and the road. Take your foot off the gas and look in front of the vehicle.  Look where you want to go and gently and carefully steer the vehicle in that direction.  Apply very light brake pressure only if it is needed. Once the vehicle is traveling in the direction that you intend to go, you can lightly apply the gas as you regain control. This is a difficult driving situation and your skill will improve with experience.  If it is possible, it is best to learn these skills by practicing in a parking lot that is empty and the conditions are controlled.  I would recommend having an experienced driver teach you how to recover from a skid.  The most important thing to remember in these situations is not to panic and look in front of the vehicle and continue to steer the vehicle where you want to go.

Drivers sometimes have a natural inclination to look at objects they don’t want to hit and steer towards them and end up hitting the objects instead of maintaining their path. If you are able to continue looking where you want to go when you’ve lost control of a moving vehicle, you will be better able to regain control.  It is possible to regain control of the vehicle. However, if an accident occurs as a result of bad weather conditions in Henderson Nevada, the most important thing in any accident that occurs for any reason is to make sure that everyone in your vehicle is OK.  You should immediately call 911 to reach police and emergency medical personnel after any accident. Regardless of whether or not anyone appears severely injured, emergency personnel should be summoned to the scene.  Head injuries or internal injuries often cannot be observed immediately, and medical personnel are trained to detect these life-threatening injuries.  It is important not to panic, but to be calm and controlled and assist others.  Speak clearly when contacting emergency personnel to give them your location and the information that they need.

People often ask who pays for my damages if I am the only one involved in the accident

If you are the only car involved in the accident, you should call your insurance company as soon as you have arrived at safety and the parties in your vehicle have been treated and are safe. Use your cell phone to take pictures of your vehicle, the roadway and the surrounding areas. You will have to make a claim for the damage to your vehicle on your collision insurance. Unfortunately, you will be responsible for your deductible even though bad weather conditions caused you to lose control of your car.  An experienced attorney can help you fully recover your vehicle damage, and often there is coverage available for your injuries.  With 8 years experience working for insurance companies, and the past 8 years spent helping victims of accidents recover their property damage and money for their injuries, I can help you if you have an accident as a result of bad weather conditions.

If a Tree Falls on My House or Car, Am I Covered?

Sometimes it takes just one good storm to topple what was once a sturdy tree in your yard or at a business. Once the storm is over, a lawyer can assist you to determine which insurance will help pay for the cost of removing the branches and repairing damage if the tree fell on your home or car.

Whether your homeowners insurance policy includes coverage for fallen trees typically depends on a number of factors, such as what caused the tree to fall and what kind of damage resulted. Which coverage will cover your car will depend on whose tree fell on your vehicle and why.

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about trees and insurance.

If the tree was otherwise healthy and toppled due to wind, a typical homeowners insurance policy will likely pay to repair damage to your home or other structure on your property, the Insurance Information Institute (III) says.  Be aware of deductibles.

Q: If a tree falls on my own property, will my own homeowner’s policy pay the damages?

A: This question depends on the facts.  A homeowner’s insurance policy generally protects your home against stated causes of loss, defined as perils. “Covered perils” are generally inclusive of wind damage.  Therefore, the reason that the tree to fell is important. If the tree was in good condition at the time of the storm and fell due to wind, a standard homeowner’s insurance policy will likely cover the damages to your home or other structure on your property, the Insurance Information Institute (III) says.

If the tree was rotting before the accident, the homeowners insurance usually won’t cover the damage because they will claim it is a maintenance issue. If you have sustained a large loss and the insurance company claims it is a maintenance issue, you should call a lawyer before the tree is removed and take a large number of photos of the downed tree including roots.

Q: What if my tree fell on my neighbor’s car?

A: Generally, the owner of the fallen tree is not responsible for the damage unless he negligently maintained the tree.  If your tree falls on your neighbor’s vehicle, your neighbor’s vehicle auto insurance should pay the claim if your neighbor carries comprehensive coverage. If your neighbor’s tree falls on your car, your comprehensive coverage applies.

Q: What happens if the tree was on someone else’s property?

A: If you have damage because of someone else’s tree, the Insurance Information Institute (III) states your homeowners insurance will likely cover the damage to covered property.

 

Q: Am I responsible if my tree falls on my neighbor’s property?

A: You are only responsible if the tree was negligently maintained usually meaning rotting and not previously removed.  That would make you a contributing factor to the tree falling down and negligent.  Otherwise, your neighbor will have to file a claim through their own insurance.

Q: Does homeowners’ insurance cover removing tree after it has fallen?

  1. Usually, only if the tree damaged property. If the tree fell without causing damage to a structure on your property, insurance won’t likely cover the cost of removing the debris. Insurance Information Institute (III) says.

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