According to the latest data from the U.S. Department of Transportation, there were nearly 6.3 million car crashes in the United States in 2015, a number that was the highest it had been in more than 10 years. Out of those crashes, there were 32,166 fatalities and more than 1.7 million injuries. Nearly one in three car crashes will result in a serious injury or fatality. If you drive, you should be prepared to take steps to protect yourself if you are in a car crash, and that includes gathering the proper records and evidence in case you decide to pursue a car accident claim.
If you were in a car accident caused by the negligence of another party, and you pursue a car insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit against them, the success of your claim or lawsuit will depend on your ability to prove fault and the extent of your damages. Having proper paperwork helps your case.
Car accidents can be jarring and stressful. Make sure you keep these records so that you have peace of mind you have all the documents you need, should you decide to pursue legal action if the negligence of another made you a car accident victim.
1. Police Report
If you’re seriously injured in a car accident, it’s always a good idea to call 911. Police can file a formal report of the scene of the accident, as well as interview witnesses and the other parties involved. A police report is a document that holds major clout in the eyes of insurance companies and in court.
When talking with police, be honest about what happened, but do not make statements that place fault or blame on you if you are a victim. In the stress of the car accident environment, sometimes victims offer an apology, even when they did nothing wrong. Don’t do this.
As you talk to police, be sure to point out:
- Any traffic violations the other party carried out
- Any suspicious behavior you observe in the other party, such as the smell of alcohol or marijuana
- Anything the other party said, such as admitting guilt
If there are witnesses of the car accident, ask them to stay at the scene until police arrive, so police can question them, as well. At the very least, ask for the name, driver’s license number and phone number/email address of witnesses, so they can be contacted for statements later.
Get a copy of the police report by contacting the police department that came to the scene. Give your name and the names of any other drivers involved, as well as the name/badge number of the officer who came to the scene, and the date and location of the accident. You’ll want to take note of all this information at the accident scene.
2. Car Accident Evidence
In addition to the police report, it’s helpful to document your own evidence of the car accident. Shoot photos or videos of the damage to your car, as well as damage to any other vehicles involved. If property was harmed in the accident, take photos and videos of that. If there are signs of a car accident like skid marks, take photos of those, too.
You can also document any physical injuries to you or other passengers. If you hear questionable statements from any party, write them down in addition to telling police about them. If your injuries prevent you from gathering evidence at the car accident scene, ask someone for help in doing so, including from police.
After the accident, you may also want to contact businesses close by, who may have had video surveillance and footage of the accident. A video of the accident while it occurred can be extremely helpful.
3. Medical Records
It’s essential to keep all records of medical treatment you receive. It’s helpful to create a binder dedicated to housing all records from your car accident, so you have everything organized in one place. Make sure to keep all your bills in addition to treatment documents. Treatment documents include treatments received, diagnoses, prescribed medications and any other files that contain medical recommendations.
Your medical treatments may last months or more. Gather records that range from emergency medical services you receive at the scene of the accident, all the way to physical therapy that occurs weeks or months after the accident. Verbally request these at your appointments, or call the medical/billing department at your healthcare provider to obtain them.
4. Lost Wages Proof
If you have to miss time off work due to your injury, you’ll want to quantify how much money you’ve lost by showing proof of income. To do this, gather any pay stubs and/or tips records that show your income.
If you receive any documentation from your employer, keep those records, too. If your injury prevents you from returning to work altogether, keep any documentation that shows those losses.
5. Vehicle Repairs and Damage
As you get your vehicle repaired after the accident, keep all records documenting repair work. If your vehicle was totaled, you’ll want to get documentation that shows the estimated value of your car before it was destroyed. If your vehicle was towed away from the scene, contact the towing company and ask them to keep the vehicle intact until it can be examined and documented.
You can consult with several auto body repair shops to get an accurate estimate of damages. Your car insurance company will likely play a prominent role in assessing damages, as well, so retain all documents sent from them.
6. Personal Account
Because you may not file a claim or lawsuit until well after the car accident has occurred, the more details you can remember and have access to, the better. Keep in mind, though, that the statute of limitations for filing a personal injury lawsuit in Alabama is two years, which means you must file a lawsuit within two years of your accident.
To keep the details of your accident fresh in your mind, keep an accident journal. This will help especially when you provide testimony in your case. It will also be of great assistance to your legal team.
Begin your journal on the day of your accident. In your journal, document everything that happened at the scene of the accident and how your injuries progress. Also, note vehicle repair chronology. A journal can help you see how the severity of the accident impacts your life, from the medical treatment you have to receive, to how it affects your work. Make sure to date each entry and write about how you’re feeling physically, mentally and emotionally.
Contact a Birmingham Car Accident Lawyer for Help
If you are a car accident victim, the Birmingham car accident attorney team at Pittman, Dutton & Hellums can help. We offer no-obligation, free consultations and will only take on your case if we believe we can win. You don’t pay unless your case is successful.
If you’ve compiled records like those mentioned, those are helpful in how we determine what your case is worth. Contact us for a free consultation today.
One of the biggest threats to your safe driving is also probably one of your favorite companions: your smartphone. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports texting while driving is one of the most dangerous types of driving behaviors, since sending or reading a text takes eyes off the road for about 5 seconds. That’s enough to cover a football field’s distance while traveling at 55 miles per hour. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reports taking your eyes off the road for more than 2 seconds doubles your risk of a crash.
Distracted driving isn’t just a danger caused by smartphone usage. Other causes of distracted driving include:
- Looking up directions
- Talking with a passenger
- Turning around in a seat
- Searching for something that dropped
- Doing another task (like eating or applying makeup) while driving
Distracted driving is deadly. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports in 2016, 3,450 people died in crashes involving distracted drivers, and more than 390,000 people were injured in crashes involving distracted drivers in 2015.
If you’re the distracted driver in a crash that seriously injures or kills someone, your distracted driving may be deemed negligent in court. Avoid costly settlements and the pain of knowing you’ve hurt or even killed someone else. Never drive while distracted. Follow these tips.
Know Where You’re Going Ahead of Time
If you need directions for your destination, before you put your car into drive, input where you’re going into your GPS system. Better yet, review the entire route before driving so you have a better idea of how you’ll navigate. If you need to re-route or get clarity into directions, pull off to the side of the road first.
Set Your Playlist Before Taking Off
Scrolling through a music player filled with potentially thousands of songs is enough to take your eyes off the road for several seconds. Set up your playlist before you drive, and put your music player somewhere unreachable so you’re not tempted to grab it while driving. If you need to change the radio, make sure you’re completely stopped.
Use Technology to Keep You Safe
Technology can actually be an asset to staying safe while driving. Apple phones with iOS 11 operating systems and later come with a Do Not Disturb While Driving feature, which keeps phones silent and keeps screens dark. People who message you while driving will receive an auto-reply that you are driving. OneTap is an app that works similarly for Android. There’s also an app called Drivemode for Android that enables hands-free message and call responses. Check the cell phone laws for your state before using a phone in any capacity while driving, since text messaging while driving is illegal in most states.
Pull Over When You Need to Turn Your Focus Away from the Road
Knowing that just 2 seconds is enough time to double your chance of an accident, pull over to the side of the road whenever you need to handle something. This can include:
- Having a serious conversation with a passenger
- Looking up anything on your phone
- Checking the car manual because you’re unsure about what a car light means or what a button does
Every time you drive, your goal should be to put all your focus on the road in front of you whenever your car is turned on. If you are unable to, you should halt driving.
Don’t Be Afraid to Speak Up to Passengers
A study reported by the American Council on Science and Health found conversations with passengers in a car degrade driver awareness, negatively impacting reaction times, lane position, speed, distance and driver response. Before you drive with passengers in the car, tell them your focus is on safe driving, to protect not only you, but them. Ask for conversations to be quiet so they don’t distract you. If you are not comfortable talking with passengers while driving due to the risks, let them know before you drive.
Put Food and Drinks in the Back
Eating and drinking behind the wheel should never happen, but there may be times when you pick up food to-go to take home or to work. Don’t let tantalizing smells tempt you while driving. Put food behind your seat so you’re not inclined to nosh while on the road. Keep a lid on drinks, and put them as far away from you as safely possible so you don’t deal with spills or a hot beverage landing on your lap while you’re driving.
Take the Pledge
Imagine what your life would be like if you killed someone because you were driving distractedly. Not only would you have to face time in court and possibly in jail, but you’d have to live every day knowing you took away someone else’s chance to live because of your negligence.
Nothing is more important than safe driving while you are in a car. You can join more than 30 million people who have taken the It Can Wait pledge, which states the driver will always drive distraction-free and that the driver pledges to be an advocate for the cause. Taking a minute to commit can reinforce that you’ve put forth the effort to declare that you support distraction-free driving. By taking on an advocate role and sharing your views with other drivers, you can help to decrease distracted driving in your community and beyond.
A recent vape device explosion has increased concerns for the Food & Drug Administration (FDA). Already, the FDA has recommendations to avoid “vape” battery explosions. The latest explosion in September 2018 mimicked a smoke bomb detonation in a vehicle. One passenger was airlifted to a hospital, and the driver suffered severe burns.
The vape device shattered and exploded, causing a fire in the vehicle and burning a hole in the driver’s seat. The driver had allegedly recently purchased new batteries for the device.
As we’ve covered, vape pens have posed dangers for years. In May 2018, the first known fatality from an exploding vape pen was reported. Vape pens’ lithium-ion batteries are thought to be the cause of vape pen explosions, which have also caused house fires. The batteries are the same ones used in cell phones, laptops and other electronics. Here’s the latest on the dangers of vape pens and how to stay protected.
More Vape Pen Users Are at Risk
The first modern electronic cigarette, or vape pen, was invented in 2003. Since then, vape pens have become commonplace and can even take the form of actual pens or USB flash drives. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that vape pens are not safe for kids, young adults, pregnant women or adults who do not currently use tobacco products. Given that they’ve caused at least 195 explosions and fires from 2009 to 2016, vape pen safety is questionable for all users.
Vaping is particularly popular with teens, who are more likely to use vape pens than cigarettes. A 2017 study reported by the American Psychiatric Association found about 13 percent of junior high students and nearly 28 percent of high schoolers in America used a vaping device in the past year.
More than 30 percent of teen vape pen users will start smoking within 6 months, compared to only 8.1 percent of teens who don’t use vape pens. Two-thirds of teens don’t realize nicotine, which can harm adolescent brain development, is in most vape pens, saying only flavoring is in the pen.
In 2018, the FDA called vaping an “epidemic” for high school students, with more than 1.7 million high school students using vaping devices on at least a monthly basis. The FDA has stated the agency may ban flavored electronic cigarettes, which attract some younger users. While vape pens have been useful in helping some adults quit smoking, the FDA is considering those benefits against the risk of kids becoming addicted to tobacco, with vaping as a gateway.
Dangers of Vape Pens
It wasn’t until only recently that the FDA required vape pens to submit product ingredients listings. Besides the sometimes harmful ingredients vape pens contain, they also may have been manufactured with inherent dangers that can cause explosions or fires at any time.
Lithium-ion batteries are dangerous because if the strip in the battery that keeps electrodes from touching is breached, the electrodes can come into contact and emit heat that causes an explosion. Some of these batteries contain a skin-burning compound, too. Since a person is often holding on to their vape pen when it explodes, these dangers become more intense.
While lithium-ion batteries are widely used in a variety of devices, minor design errors can be deadly. Anyone who uses a vape pen can protect themselves by researching the brand to investigate past problems and complaints. Some manufacturers may cut corners. That’s why buying vape pens without proper research, like buying them from a classmate or off the street, increases likelihood of danger.
The following can all contribute to an increased likelihood of lithium-ion battery failure:
- Excessive vibration
- High heat
- Batteries that are charged below freezing
When a lithium-ion battery is overheating, some warning signs to watch out for include excessive heat, hissing and bulging. It’s best to put the device in a safe place (outdoors on a non-compusitble surface) and move as far away from it as possible if you notice these signs.
Some ways to increase safety while using vape pens include to:
- Use vape devices with safety features
- Keep loose batteries in a case to prevent contact with metal objects
- Only charge the vape device with the charger that came with it, never with a phone or tablet charger
- Don’t leave a vape device charging unattended, including while you’re sleeping
- Replace the batteries if they get wet or damaged
The vape device should also come with thorough instructions and recommendations. Read all those and follow them when you use your device.
When Is the Manufacturer to Blame for Exploding Vape Pens?
Lithium-ion batteries can pose significant dangers, and it’s the manufacturer’s responsibility to keep all consumers safe, especially when these are used in vape pens. If you, your teen or a loved one is a victim of an exploding vape pen, the manufacturer’s negligence may be to blame.
Some warning signs of negligence include when a manufacturer fails to test vape pen devices altogether or rushes a product to market without proper testing, knowingly uses defective components, and doesn’t provide clear warnings to consumers about dangers.
If you or a loved one has experienced serious injuries because of an exploding vape pen, contact the Pittman, Dutton & Hellums Birmingham defective product attorney team. We offer free consultations and can help you recover the compensation you deserve.