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Winnebago County personal injury attorneysAfter your car has been towed and you have been to the doctor comes the part of an auto accident that most people hate the most: dealing with insurance. While every car accident is different, there are several common mistakes that people make when they have a car accident claim.

Not Doing Your Own Research on Your Car

If the insurance company has declared your vehicle a total loss, the value of your car must be determined. The insurance company will almost always attempt to determine the value, but be wary of their estimate. The mistake many people make is to simply accept the insurance company’s value without doing their own research. An offer from the insurance company is just an offer. If you can demonstrate your car was worth more than they are offering, you may be able to get more for your car.

Negotiating a Settlement Yourself

On a basic level, it may not seem like it should be that hard to negotiate a settlement with the insurance company for property damage, your medical costs, and your pain and suffering. After all, you may feel that you have access to all the data, and you were the one in the accident.

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Winnebago County personal injury attorneyAs the old proverb goes, two wrongs do not make a right. In fact, when applied to an auto accident or other type of personal injury, two wrongs can actually create an even bigger problem. Countless television commercials, billboards, and phone book advertisements bombard you daily about your rights to collect compensation following an accident. What they may not tell you right away, though, is that your contribution to your own injuries could impact the amount you may be able to recover.

Determining Who Was Negligent

Assume for a moment that you are in your car, sitting at an intersection, waiting for the light to turn green. You are listening to music on the radio, but are not otherwise distracted by a cell phone, or any other additional stimulus. Without warning, a drunk driver slams into the back of your vehicle, causing extensive damage and leaving you with broken bones and a neck injury. While the other details of the case, including insurance coverage and criminal charges, may not be so clear, the assignment of fault in this example would be very straightforward. The actions of the drunk driver caused the accident and he or she would likely be completely liable for your injuries.

Now consider a more complex hypothetical situation. In this case, you are driving 15 miles per hour over the speed limit while talking on a hand-held cellphone when another driver, who is also texting, runs a red light and broadsides your car. In this example, both you and the other driver were engaged in illegal—possibly negligent—behaviors that may be seen as contributing the subsequent accident and injuries. If you file a personal injury claim, it may be left to a judge or jury to determine each party’s percentage of fault before damages can be awarded.

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Rockford personal injury attorneysAggressive driving is a common factor in traffic accidents across America. In fact, a 2009 study from the American Automobile Association (AAA), which used information from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) Fatal Accident Report System (FARS), had found aggressive driving to be a factor in as many as 56 percent of all U.S. car crashes between the years 2003 and 2007. What does these statistics mean for non-aggressive drivers, and what can victims do after an accident has occurred?

What Constitutes Aggressive Driving?

Most people see the terms “aggressive driving” and “road rage” as synonymous, but road rage is actually a form of aggressive driving—certainly one of the more concerning displays of it. Other forms of aggressive driving include:

  • Speeding;
  • Following too closely, or “tailgating;”
  • Racing;
  • Improper lane changes;
  • Driving on the shoulder;
  • Driving in the median;
  • Passing where prohibited;
  • Failure to yield the right of way;
  • Failure to signal;
  • Driving too fast for road conditions;
  • Improper turns;
  • Reckless or erratic handling of a vehicle;
  • Failure to obey traffic signs or controls; and
  • Failure to observe warnings or instructions.

All these maneuvers and behaviors may place the driver and other road users at risk for an accident. If a crash does occur, aggressive drivers may be held liable for the injuries or damages experienced by victims.

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Winnebago County car accident attorneysThere are currently nine states—plus Washington D.C.—in which recreational marijuana has been legalized. A substantial number of other states have decriminalized low-level possession of marijuana, implemented legal medical marijuana programs, or both. Illinois is one of those that has done both. The increasingly lax laws regarding marijuana use have led many to wonder what the impact will be on public safety. Two recent studies that seem to contradict each other offer a fairly reasonable insight into the effect of legalized marijuana on the rate of car accidents.

More Accidents

The first study was conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and looked at insurance claims for crashes filed between 2012 and 2016. In 2012, Colorado and Washington became the first two states to legalize recreational cannabis use for adults over the age of 21. The researchers looked at those two states along with Oregon and compared their accident claims with neighboring states that did not legalize recreational use. The study estimated that crash rates were about 3 percent above what they would have been if marijuana had not been legalized. While the increase is not dramatic, it is statistically significant, according to the study.

No Effect on Fatalities

The second study was published by researchers from the University of Texas and Rice University and examined car accident fatality rates between 2009 and 2015. Their findings indicated that there was no increase in fatalities in Colorado or Washington compared to other states during the first three years of legalization.

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