A recent blog post by Eric Turkewitz (a New York personal injury attorney) caught my eye. In the blog post, he relives a car accident that he and his family were involved in over the Thanksgiving holiday. I have been in two car accidents. My Edwardsville, Illinois car accident was in 2008. A driver ran a red light and t-boned the car I was riding passenger in. In 2011, I was broadsided by a semi truck driver who ran a red light in St. Louis, Missouri. I was lucky in both crashes as I was injured but neither were as bad as they could have been. Following impact, like Eric, I immediately found myself wearing two hats – the car accident lawyer and the car accident victim. After both crashes, the accident victim seemed to overpower the lawyer role. I was emotional, scared, and angry. I was worried for the driver of my car. I was worried about the other driver. I was upset that my cars were so messed up. All of this emotion, even with my legal training, clouded my judgment.
As a personal injury lawyer, I have represented countless numbers of individuals who have been injured. When I speak with my clients, I tell them not to talk to anyone but me. I try to educate the public on what to do in case they are ever in a car accident. I educate people to remain calm, to not speak with the other driver, to take photographs of the damage, to try to remain still if injured, to not walk around if in the middle of a roadway, to call police, to obtain insurance information. All of these things make the victim better prepared to make a claim, if needed.
You would think after over 10 years of doing this, I would know what to do when it happened to me. Well, I am a horrible car accident victim. I did not sit still in case I was injured – I immediatelly hopped out of the car (during both crashes) and assessed the damage – even though I was in the roadway where I could be hit again. I yelled at the other drivers – telling them how careless their actions were. I didn't take photographs. I was argumentative with the police, even though I had no reason to be. And I have to tell you, when it came time to make a claim with the insurance companies, I didn't have the best case! The at-fault driver was able to say I was walking around the scene just fine. The police officers, while supportive of me regarding fault, said I was argumentative. I had created an uphill battle for my legal case, no doubt about it. Don't get me wrong – the fact remained that I was not at fault for either crash. But had I followed my own advice, things would have been easier.
I also felt connected to Eric's closing paragraph. Safety first – absolutely. Eric tells us about how he was told as a child to never stop his car on a bridge, even if the tire was flat. To stop a car on a bridge would be very dangerous. Instead, he was told to just keep driving the car until he was able to pull over in a safe location. Now, most of us have heard many times to never drive our car on a flat tire – it will ruin your beautiful rims! But what's worse? Leaving your family in the car while you get out to check the tire and being struck by another vehicle? Worse yet, your family being struck by another vehicle? Eric is right. It is just a car. This is why we have insurance. So before you worry about saving a piece of tin, protect yourself and drive out of danger.