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What To Do After A Car Accident In Ohio

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What To Do After a Car Accident in Ohio

No matter how good a driver you are, there is always a risk you will be involved in an accident. Car accidents are simply an everyday fact of life here in Ohio. And even if you are 100 percent certain the accident was not your fault, it is important to remain calm and not angrily confront the other driver. Instead, here is a checklist of items that will help you deal with the immediate aftermath of your accident.

1. Get Medical Attention

Obviously, your first priority is making sure nobody is seriously injured at the accident scene. If you have any reason to think someone is injured, always play it safe and call 911. You should never delay seeking medical treatment for yourself or your passengers.

2. Contact the Police

Even if you do not require medical help, it is still important to call 911 and seek police assistance. Indeed, Ohio law requires all car accidents to be reported. This does not necessarily mean that you suspect any criminal or illegal activity related to the accident (e.g., the other driver was drunk). Rather, the police serve as a neutral party who can take statements from you, the other driver, and any witnesses, and prepare an official report. Insurance companies often want to see such a report before paying any claims.

Always wait for the police. Do not leave the scene until after the police have arrived, taken your statement, and given you permission to go. If you leave the scene prematurely, that may be interpreted as an attempt to “flee” and avoid taking responsibility for the accident.

3. Be Honest, But Don’t Volunteer Information

When you do speak with the police, do not lie or try to cover anything up. If you believe the other driver was at fault or violated traffic laws, you should say so. But do not volunteer any information that might constitute an admission of fault on your part. Along those same lines, do not apologize to the other driver, even if you think you might be partially to blame. Anything you say at the accident scene may be used against you by an insurance company or a defense lawyer in court.

4. Collect as Much Information as You Can

You do not have to stand around passively and wait for the police. At a minimum, you should exchange contact, vehicle, and insurance information with the other driver. You should also gather contact information from any witnesses or bystanders at the scene. Ask them questions about what they saw–but again, do not volunteer any information yourself or acknowledge liability for the accident.

You should also use your smartphone–or a disposable camera, if you have one–to take pictures of the accident scene. Make sure to get clear images of any damage to the vehicles. You should also photograph the area surrounding the accident, including any road signs and street markings. This can prove invaluable in helping to recreate the scene later.

More generally, take note of anything that you think might be useful later. For example, was it raining at the time of the accident? Wet road conditions may definitely be relevant when determining whether the other driver was driving safely under the circumstances.

Finally, make sure you ascertain the ownership and insurance status of any other vehicles involved in your accident. Many times the person driving the car is not the owner. And the owner may still be liable under Ohio law for damages caused by the driver, especially if it is a company-owned vehicle driven by an employee.

5. Contact Your Insurance Company

It is illegal to drive a car in Ohio without having a minimum amount of insurance coverage. You must present proof of insurance to a police officer at an accident scene. And you must contact your own insurance company as soon as possible following an accident, even if you believe the other driver was to blame.

You should only provide basic information about the accident when first speaking to your insurance company. Remember, do not admit liability yourself or get into issues of fault. Depending on the terms of your policy, your insurance company may pay to cover certain damages upfront, such as car repairs and medical bills, which it can then later recover from the negligent driver’s insurer.

6. Keep Records of Everything

Once you have left the accident scene, it is critical to document everything thing you do afterwards. This includes keeping copies of all medical records and bills, car repair quotes, proof of any lost wages due to taking off time from work, and anything else that may illustrate your total damages arising from the accident.

7. Do Not Sign Any Third-Party Documents Related to the Accident

You may be approached by representatives of the other driver’s insurance company–or in some cases, even the other driver–to sign a statement absolving them of liability. You should never sign any such document without first consulting an attorney. Aside from the police report and any statements made to your own insurance company, you should not even speak to any third-party representative without the assistance of counsel.

8. Contact a Toledo Car Accident Lawyer If You Have Any Questions.

Many car accidents are simple “fender benders” that require nothing more than an exchange of insurance information. But if you run into any kind of trouble, either from the other driver or even your own insurance company, do not try to handle the matter alone. An experienced Toledo personal injury lawyer can review your accident and advise you of your legal options.

Speaking with a Toledo car accident lawyer does not mean you plan to sue the other driver. It just means that you want to seek advice from someone who knows how to deal with these types of situations. In particular, you want someone on your side who knows how to negotiate with insurance companies and, if necessary, pursue your legal rights in court.

If you have been in a car accident and require prompt legal assistance, call the offices of Groth & Associates, Attorneys at Law, in Toledo or Bowling Green right away.

Rear-End Car Accidents

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Rear-End Car Accidents

Many if not most Ohio drivers have experienced a minor “fender bender” sometime in their lives. In the best case scenario, these types of rear-end car accidents only result in a minor vehicle damage and no personal injuries. Unfortunately, far too many accidents do not represent the best case scenario.

According to figures published by the Ohio Department of Transportation, during the six-year period between 2006 and 2012, there were 318 fatalities and over 8,700 injuries reported in rear-end accidents throughout the state. Although rear-end accidents only account for around 4 percent of all motor vehicle crash-related fatalities (and 13 percent of serious injuries) in Ohio, that is still a significant number.

Not surprisingly, rear-end crashes are more common in urban areas like Toledo and Bowling Green, where there is more traffic congestion and thus more opportunity for inattentive drivers to run into one another. The Ohio DOT also reported that rear-end crashes tend to “peak” from Wednesday and Friday and between the hours of 3 p.m. and 5 p.m.

Where and Why Do Rear-End Accidents Occur?

Unlike other types of car accidents, most rear-end crashes do not occur at intersections. The Ohio DOT actually found that more than 58 percent of rear-end accidents took place at non-intersection locations such as freeways and interstates. The reason for this is actually quite simple: In heavy traffic cars have to make a lot of sudden stops, which in turn increase the risk of a rear-end accident.

The Ohio DOT also identified “driver inexperience” as the main cause of rear-end accidents. Indeed, drivers under the age of 25 accounted for more than 43 percent of all accidents. And in about a third of rear-end collisions, the driver’s error was following the vehicle in front of them too closely.

Is the Rear Driver Always at Fault?

This leads to a common legal myth surrounding rear-end accidents–namely, that they are “always” the following driver’s fault. Some people think that if they are in the front car, they can simply demand compensation from the rear driver. That is not how personal injury law works in Ohio.

The plaintiff in a car accident lawsuit always has the burden of proving the defendant was at fault. The defendant, in turn, may try to argue the plaintiff was at least partially responsible for the accident. This is known as comparative negligence or comparative fault. A jury ultimately hears all of the evidence and apportions fault.

Ohio follows a 51-percent comparative fault rule. This means that a plaintiff can only recover damages if he or she is deemed less than 51 percent responsible for the accident. You can still recover some damages even if the fault is 50/50, but any final award must be reduced by your share of the blame.

In the context of rear-end accidents, the trailing driver is often held responsible based on state traffic laws that require all drivers to maintain a safe distance between vehicles. And in fact, as the Ohio DOT noted, the most common cause of rear-end accidents is a driver following too closely, i.e. not maintaining a safe distance. Therefore it is often the case that the rear driver is legally responsible for the accident.

That said, there are also other scenarios where the driver of the front vehicle may be partially at-fault. For instance, if the front driver stopped suddenly for no apparent reason, or their brake lights were not functioning properly, that could render them liable rather than the rear driver. So could a case where the front driver signaled but did not a execute a turn.

There are also cases where more than two vehicles are involved in a rear-end accident. You often see this happen on the highway: Car A rear-ends Car B, and in turn Car B rear-ends Car C. In this situation it is possible any or all three of the drivers may be partially responsible. Car A, as the rearmost vehicle, may have “pushed” Car B into Car C, while at the same time, Car B was trailing too closely to Car C.

Because of the potential complexity of a rear-end accident, it is important to contact the police to get an official report. You should also, assuming you do not require immediate medical attention, take pictures at the scene, which can later help a judge or jury reconstruct what happened.

Understanding Whiplash Injuries

While rear-end accidents are less likely to produce the type of catastrophic injuries seen in side- and front-end collisions, that does not make such accidents any less serious. One of the most common injuries suffered in rear-end accidents is whiplash, which is actually a colloquial term for a certain type of neck sprains.

Whiplash occurs when a rear-end collision suddenly pushes the occupants of the front car forward. It takes a second for their head and neck to “catch up” with their bodies. This causes a hyperextension of the neck that mimics the cracking of a whip–hence the term “whiplash.”
Whiplash is often a deceptive injury. It is not solely a function of how fast the vehicles were traveling–in other words, it occurs in rear-end accidents that occur at relatively low speeds. You also may not experience the symptoms of whiplash. It may take a few hours or even several days.

Whiplash itself is often diagnosed as a “soft tissue” injury. That may not sound too bad, but such injuries can often produce chronic pain that lasts for months or years after the accident. In the short term, whiplash can produce a number of serious symptoms, including pain and stiffness in the neck, inability to move the neck fully, and in severe cases there may also be blurred vision, ringing in the ears, and memory problems.

Do You Need Advice Following a Rear-End Accident?

If you have been involved in a rear-end accident, it is important to speak with an experienced Toledo personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. It is critical to assess your legal options, as well as your potential liability for the accident. Even if you just need help sorting things out with the insurance company, Groth & Associates, Attorneys at Law, can help. Call our offices in Toledo or Bowling Green today if you need to schedule a consultation with one of our qualified Toledo car accident lawyers.

Common Car Accident Injuries In Ohio

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Common Car Accident Injuries In Ohio

While today’s motor vehicles are as safe as they have ever been, car accidents remain a leading cause of serious injury and death in Ohio. According to a 2015 study published the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are approximately 3.9 million emergency room visits every year attributed to “motor vehicle traffic injuries.” The injury rate is particularly high among people between the ages of 16 and 24.

The CDC said the following types of car accident injuries are the most commonly diagnosed by emergency room doctors:

  • sprains and strains of the neck and back, reported in about 24 percent of all cases
  • skin contusions (bruising), about 15 percent
  • spinal disorders, about 8 percent
  • sprains and strains to areas of the body other than the head or neck, 6.5 percent
  • fractures (broken bones), 6.1 percent
  • open wounds, 3.7 percent

Neck Injuries

The CDC noted that motor vehicle accidents are far more likely to result in a neck or back injury than any other type of accident. The most common neck injury you are likely to experience in a car accident is whiplash–the sudden, rapid movement of your neck back-and-forth. Whiplash usually occurs in a rear-end accident, when individuals in the front vehicle are suddenly propelled forward.

Whiplash often manifests itself as pain or stiffness in the neck. A person may also find they cannot move their neck as easily as before–i.e., their range of motion is limited. In serious cases whiplash can produce headaches, dizziness, fatigue, and even affect your vision and hearing. And while whiplash is often classified as a neck “sprain,” it may also describe injuries to the spine or the disks between the bones in your spinal column.

Back Injuries & Spinal Disorders

Any damage to your spinal column may be life-threatening, or at the very least life-altering. According to the Mayo Clinic, “more than 35 percent of new spinal cord injuries” are the result of car accidents each year. A car accident can dislocate, crush, or compress one or more of the vertebrae in your back. This in turn can lead to partial or total paralysis.

Head Injuries

Even if your back and spine do not suffer permanent damage in a car accident, there is still the risk of a traumatic brain injury, also known as a concussion. Such injuries often occur when a person’s head violently strikes the steering wheel or dashboard following a collision. While a mild concussion may only leave you with temporary headaches or dizziness, more serious traumatic brain injuries include skull fractures, internal bleeding, swelling of the brain, blood clots, and permanent damage to brain cells.

Unlike other, more acute injuries such as a broken bone or spinal cord damage, you may not realize that you have suffered a traumatic brain injury until several hours, days, or even weeks following the accident. For example, two days after your accident, you may start to experience concentration and memory problems, or suddenly find yourself overly sensitive to light and noise. These are often symptoms of a concussion.

Internal Injuries

Aside from the brain, other internal organs may also be severely damaged in a car accident. Broken ribs are a common occurrence when there is a blunt-force impact to the chest. And when ribs are broken, they can cause multiple additional injuries inside the body, such as a punctured lung. The impact of the accident may also rupture your spleen, kidneys, heart, or aorta.

Fractures

Not all fractures refer to broken bones. You may suffer hairline or stress fractures–small cracks in your bones–during an accident and not immediately realize something is wrong. Children are also highly prone to buckle fractures, where part of the bone ruptures without completely breaking.

The two most serious types of car accident-related fractures are comminuted fractures–where the bone breaks into three or more pieces–and compound fractures, where the bone not only breaks but breaks through the skin. The latter carries a substantial risk of infection around the wound, which in and of itself can be deadly, especially if an accident victim is not treated right away or receives inadequate care.

Psychological Trauma

While it may not be a category of injury considered by the CDC and most emergency rooms, it is important not to discount the psychological trauma and other long-term mental health injuries that may follow a car accident. Many accident victims later experience anxiety and depression. In some cases a doctor may even diagnose a victim with post-traumatic stress disorder.

You may think that is an exaggeration. But according to some medical studies 50 percent of car accident victims may develop PTSD. A car accident is, after all, one of the most common traumatic events that a person can experience. And even after a person’s physical injuries have healed, they may continue to exhibit symptoms when in or around automobiles.

Seeking Compensation for Your Car Accident Injuries

If you were in a car accident that was caused by someone else’s negligent or reckless actions, you have the right to seek compensation for all of your physical and mental injuries. Depending on the extent of your injuries, you may be entitled not only to compensation for past and current medical expenses, but also any projected future care you might need.

Of course, negligent drivers (and their insurance companies) may balk at your reasonable demands for compensation. They may try to argue that you are exaggerating or even faking your injuries. This is why it is important to maintain detailed medical records of all care you receive following an accident. It is also why you should not hesitate to seek medical attention even if you are not sure anything is wrong. As discussed above, many accident-related injuries are not immediately apparent.

You also need to work with a qualified Toledo personal injury lawyer who can deal with insurance companies and the legal system on your behalf. Contact the offices of Groth & Associates, Attorneys at Law, to schedule a free consultation today with one of our experienced Toledo car accident lawyers in Toledo or Bowling Green.