Car insurance mess-advice needed BADLY

Last Tuesday I got in a car accident. I was crossing an intersection when I collided with a car that was traveling down the cross street. I had thought the intersection was clear, and stopped for what I thought was long enough. As I started to cross the intersection, a white SUV came across and it sideswiped my car.

The incident scared the living hell out of me. The other driver, a vietnamese woman, came out and repeated asked why I hit her and demanded I give her my driver’s license. At the time I was so scared I was in actual phyiscal pain and thought I was hurt. It took me half an hour to stop hyperventalating from the fear. I was taken away in an ambulance, and checked over. I was found to be uninjured, and after I was released met a police officer who returned my license (he took it at the scene) and gave me a ticket for failing to yield.

This evening, a liability investigator called me and asked me a ton of questions about the accident. I answered truthfully. While I do acknolege that she had the right-of-way, the road was clear to the extent of my line-of-sight (which was a block and a half or so). The investigator told me that the other party is making medical claims and I guess suing which has me incredibly freaked out. I am insured liability for up to 100,000 dollars, but I really feel the other party is blowing this way out of proportion.

I was wondering if you think it would be worthwhile for me to try to fight the ticket. The person on the phone mentioned something called ‘comparitive negligence’ which seemed as though would allow me to claim the other driver was partially at fault for the accident. Does anybody know anything about this?

I am sick with anxiety right now. I’m paranoid the person I talked to on the phone was the other parties’ insurance agent, or maybe their lawyer or something :eek: the main thing is I’m scared I’m going to be manipulated into being reamed hard by all the expenses :frowning:

Before you totally freak out, here are a few things to consider. You’ll know if you are because you’ll be served with papers. If this occurs your insurance company most likely has attorneys on staff who will defend you. Unless there was an amazing amount of physical injury which your description doesn’t seem to include, it most likely won’t be for more than the amount of your insurane policy

In any case, if sued you should definitely talk to a lawyer. Another thing you should do is call you insurance company and talk to them about this. You should probably only talk to your insurance firm’s people and the police.

In any case, this is not legal advice and should by no means be construed as such.

Clam down. You have many avenues. You need to begin writing down everything you can possibly remember about the accident.

Here’s a list:

Time of day

Weather and visibility

Traffic conditions

Other driver’s information

Sequence of events leading to collision

Your own perception of the accident

Location of damage to your vehicle

Location and damage to the other vehicle.

Precise location of impact at intersection

Precise location where vehicles came to rest

Some other advice:

DO NOT TALK TO ANYONE EXCEPT YOUR OWN LAWYER!

REFER ALL AUTHORITIES TO YOUR LAWYER.

CONSULT AN ATTORNEY EVEN IF YOU DO NOT HIRE ONE.

SIGN NO DOCUMENTS UNLESS A LAWYER REVIEWS THEM FIRST.

REPORT THIS TO YOUR INSURANCE AGENT IMMEDIATELY.

Get a copy of the accident report (this will take a few days).

Take photographs of the damage to your vehicle.

Take photographs of the accident scene.

Identify and detail any skid marks resulting from the accident.

Locate and photograph the other vehicle.

Get estimates for your vehicle’s repair.

Now, tell us about the circumstances surrounding the accident using the clearest language possible (unless this violates some sort of SDMB policy). I will be back to assist you once you begin to produce some definite information. Most of all, remain calm. You made a tremendous mistake talking to ANYONE except the police officer. Even that was not in your best interest.

Please detail exactly what you told the police officer. Also detail exactly what you told whatever agent contacted you. Did you get their contact information?

Do not reveal any personal information in this thread about yourself or the other driver.

Once you have gathered all of the above information and assembled it into a coherent set of documents, you will want to contact your local bar referral service.

These organizations charge you a modest donation fee to connect you with an attorney who specializes in your exact area of law. You will pay about $50.[sup]00[/sup] to $75.[sup]00[/sup] for over $100.[sup]00[/sup] worth of services. Do this at your earliest possible opportunity. Accurate legal advice is a critical defense in this situation.

In my day it was called contributory negligence, but unless you left out major details it doesn’t appear there was any on her part. Was she speeding? Did she ignore a traffic control device? Was she distracted by a cell phone, dropped cigarette, screaming kid?

Furthermore, even if contributory negligence can be found, you can still be sued. The only difference is the amount of damages will be decreased by whatever percentage can be contributed to her negligence.

However, your insurance company has a bigger interest than you in preventing any unfair settlements or damage claims occur. But if you don’t trust them, or are sued, or in any other way feel uncomfortable, you should hire your own attorney.

Fighting the ticket would not likely make much of a difference in the outcome, as often claims are paid and suits are filed in cases where, for whatever reason, neither party was ticketed. If you managed to get it dismissed it would likely be on a technicality and the accident investigation would still show that you failed to yield the right-of-way, and you would still be found at-fault. Unless your state is such that the ticket AND the accident would cause higher insurance premiums. When I was in the insurance business many years ago, in my state you would be charged “points” for an accident and “points” for a moving violation, but you didn’t get “double points” if the moving violation you were ticketed for resulted in an accident. But I don’t know if that is still the situation, even in my state.

Of course IANAL so none of this should be construed as legal advice.

Good stuff, lorinada.

Some other advice:

Do not rely upon your insurance provider to do what is best for you. They will pursue whatever path it is that reduces their own liability, not yours. You must now begin to aggressively investigate all methods and techniques involved in ameliorating your own exposure. Have you read “Bonfire of the Vanities?” Take that stance.

For instance:

You mentioned checking both ways before preceding. You stated that your visibility was over one city block.

Question:

How did this other driver manifest so suddenly and then collide with you despite your precautions? Their speed may have been excessive. Skid marks at the scene of the accident can be interpreted by an expert witness (i.e., traffic engineer) so as to accurately delegate liability.

Suggestions:

Investigate where the other driver lives or works. Maybe they had just pulled out of a parking space quite near the accident site and accelerated in a hazardous fashion, thereby giving you little chance of properly noticing them in order to avoid the collision.

You will need to read the other driver’s statements at the accident scene in order to assess their version of the events.

This is merely one example of the details you’ll want to examine. You have to protect your driving record and ensure that if there is mutual liability (i.e., shared responsibility or contributory negligence), it is well documented.

lorinada, contributory negligence and comparative negligence are different legal doctrines. Contributory negligence is an affirmative defense that completely defeats the plaintiff’s right to recover. Comparative negligence, by contrast, apportions liability to the parties, and reduces the plaintiff’s award by the percentage of liability attributed to her. Some comparative negligence jurisdictions, but not all, will not permit a plaintiff to recover any damages if she was equally at fault. Others will not permit a plaintiff to recover if she was 51% at fault.

Now, Incubus, before you post anything more as Zenster has suggested, I’m going to suggest that you do not. If you’re truly being sued, it’s best to discuss the case only with your lawyer (meaning, since it’s likely that your insurer will defend your claim, as they have agreed to do so as part of your contract with them, your insurer’s lawyers). I remember a thread a while back that I thought was in the Pit, though I can’t find it now for some reason (probably my own incompetence), in which some helpful Doper explained precisely why soliciting legal advice from an anonymous message board can be a very bad idea.

Finally, found that thread. http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?s=&threadid=120964&highlight=legal+AND+advice

I stand corrected. Thanks!

Listen to the (learned) Hand.

However, do take all of the information I mentioned to the interview with your attorney.

I trust Mr. Hand has no problem with that.

Mr. Hand, for the record, please give me your own assessment of the documentation advice I provided Incubus. I’m somewhat confident you would want a client to show up armed with this sort of data.

Too late for this advise but…
Only give information to YOUR insurance company, the police (no more than the facts) and to your lawyer, if necessary. Admit no guilt and never give anybody information that calls you unless you know for sure that they are on your team.

On the subject of visibility, there are people called Forensic Meteorologists whose job it is to provide weather-related data in lawsuits. If visibility was reduced and there was nothing you could do, this person could help confirm that for you.

sigh this is something I really wish never happened. Even if I had just barely nudged this other person in a parking lot I’d probably be facing the same lawsuit.

What really pisses me off is that the woman spoke english to ME, but when the cops came, she suddenly ‘forgot’ she knew English, and both her kids swear up and down that she doesn’t know. So apparently they weren’t able to get a statement from her. I really feel like I’m being taken advantage of in a situation that doesn’t even favor me from the start.

I wish the insurance people could have gotten on the ball about this quicker. I would have remembered all the details much better. At the very least, I hope this encourages the city to put a stop sign on the one-way street that the woman was coming from.

You need to figure out a way to show in court that this woman falsely portrayed herself as unable to speak English. Get a statement from her cow-orkers or get your agent to call her on the phone.

Her intentional deception of law enforcement officers will go a long way towards damaging her credibility in court. Especially when she starts making claims about pain and suffering related to soft tissue injuries (which is certainly where she seems to be going). The attending police officers will make splendid witnesses to this fact. You also need to get a copy of her driving record and see if she has been in lots of accidents before this one. Also try and find out if she is currently (or has been in the past) involved with other soft tissue injury or slip and fall type accident litigation. Many people try to make a career out of fraudulent injury claims.

Try to find out where her children go to school. Their teacher will probably have interviewed the parent at some point. She was most likely much more voluble with her childrens’ instructor.

Zenster, I’m going to have to plead general ignorance and stupidity. It sounds like you’re giving good advice to Incubus; I don’t have anything to add, subtract, multiply, or divide. IANALBAAFAMWAL*

I Am Not a Lawyer But Actually a Five-Assed Monkey With a Lisp

Incubus, you might be able to find out something about the other driver by using internet databases, such as PublicData.com or DMV-Driving-Record-Search.com. (Warning: they’re not free; you have to pay to search their databases.)

Zenster, How does one go about finding the local bar referral service?

Please visit this site. I am not sure if it will connect you straight into the donated services bureau but any lawyer you contact through it should be able to direct you to them.