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When Are Punitive Damages Recoverable After a Car Accident?

When Are Punitive Damages Recoverable After a Car Accident?Many car accidents are just that: accidents. If someone gets behind the wheel while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, though, and a collision results, is it really an “accident?”

Drinking and driving on occasion may seem like a victimless crime, but the consequences of doing so rarely are. When people make the choice to drive while impaired, they are exhibiting a gross disregard for the motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians in traffic around them.

Unfortunately, the potential penalties for a DUI conviction—which vary from state to state but almost always include jail time—are not enough to deter some people from drinking and driving. Even individuals who have already been prosecuted and faced the consequences of doing so are likely to keep driving while impaired.

Up to 75 percent of motorists who have been convicted of DUI will continue to drive under the influence of alcohol, regardless of whether their license has been suspended or revoked. Should they cause a collision, they will face more than just the criminal penalties associated with a DUI conviction.

In an effort to deter people from operating a vehicle while impaired, most states grant drunk driving accident victims the right to recover punitive damages. Unlike compensatory damages, which aim to make the plaintiff feel whole again by reimbursing him or her for any losses associated with the crash, punitive damages intend to punish the defendant.

Every state that allows punitive damages in car accident claims has specific formulas for calculating a reasonable award. In general, though, the total amount is based on:

  • The nature of the defendant’s conduct;
  • The defendant’s driving record;
  • The defendant’s net worth;
  • The extent of the plaintiff’s losses; and
  • How much damage the defendant might go on to cause if he or she continues behaving in such a reckless or negligent manner.

Is Drunk Driving the Only Scenario That Warrants Punitive Damages After a Car Accident?

In an effort to prevent frivolous lawsuits that are solely after punitive damages because there were no significant losses, every state limits the kinds of scenarios in which they may be awarded. When it comes to car accidents, for example, there are only a few situations that warrant punitive damages. As a general rule, claimants can seek such damages if the liable motorist exhibited:

  • Gross negligence;
  • Extreme recklessness;
  • Intentional misconduct; or
  • A willful disregard for the safety of others.

The precise statutes vary by state. Based on the above parameters, though, victims might be able to pursue punitive damages if the liable motorist was knowingly driving a vehicle with serious mechanical issues, like faulty brakes, or taking part in blatantly dangerous activities, like street racing; however, drunk driving remains the most common cause of car accidents that warrant punitive damages.

Some States Cap Punitive Damages

To prevent claimants from taking advantage of the situation and seeking an excessive amount in punitive damages, some states impose an upper limit on such awards. This cap can be a precise dollar amount or a percentage of the liable party’s net worth.

It can also correlate to the total compensatory award. For example, accident victims may be barred from recovering more than two or three times their compensatory award in punitive damages.

Although most car accident claims do not result in punitive damages, there are certain scenarios in which they are warranted. Whether your case will include both compensatory and punitive damages depends on a variety of factors including the state in which you live. For this reason, it is essential to turn to a local attorney who has considerable experience resolving claims similar to yours if you intend to pursue punitive damages.

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7 Tips for Taking Photos of a Car Accident Scene

7 Tips for Taking Photos of a Car Accident SceneIn a previous blog, we discussed the most important steps to take after a car accident. The tips we provided were aimed at helping you file a successful car insurance claim and ensuring the safety of you and everyone else involved in the crash. One of the most critical steps mentioned was taking photos of the accident scene.

A picture is worth a thousand words, but when it comes time to file an insurance claim, a picture can be worth thousands of dollars. The amount of effort you put into documenting the scene could make or break your claim. If there is a dispute related to liability or damages, photographs from the scene can be essential for proving your case.

Read on to find out how to take photos of a car accident scene:

1. Document the Damage

Ever watched a crime show? Those investigators comb every square inch of the scene for evidence, snapping shots of the tiniest details, from footprints to discarded chocolate wrappers. Apply that same scrutiny to your accident scene.

You should take photographs of:

  • Any external and internal damage to the vehicles involved in the crash;
  • Damage to street signs, curbs, and other objects; and
  • Skid marks.

2. Take Photos of Your Injuries

Crash-related injuries can set you back thousands of dollars in emergency medical care and rehabilitation. Take pictures of any injuries you and your passengers sustained during the crash as soon as possible.

3. Get Close

The subtle details of an injury or piece of property damage will be fundamental for proving your claim. While you may be tempted to pack as much information into every picture as possible, close-up shots will more accurately capture the extent of the damage.

4. Shoot Wide

Wide shots help contextualize the accident, providing a useful overview that your insurer can use to understand how the crash took place.

5. Cover All Angles

Insurers can, and often will, dispute photographic evidence taken from only one angle. From their perspective, the image may not even be of your vehicle or may have been manipulated using photo editing software. You may be able to avoid major headaches down the line by snapping pictures from multiple angles.

6. Be Trigger Happy

Gone are the days of running out of film; our advanced smartphones can keep shooting until the charge runs out. Take a “more is more” approach when documenting evidence at the scene of a crash, snapping as many pictures as you can. Picture out of focus? Take it again. Photograph a little shaky? Hit the button. Leave nothing up to chance.

7. Phone a Friend

If you sustained severe injuries that are preventing you from snapping your own pics, ask a friend or family member to visit the scene to take photos. That small favor could be worth thousands of dollars in recovered repair costs and medical expenses.

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6 FAQs About Car Insurance for Teens

6 FAQs About Car Insurance for TeensYour little one is all grown up and ready to get behind the wheel. But those first tentative miles are a high-risk zone for fender benders, dings, and scrapes. To make sure your teen’s breakdowns don’t break the bank, you need to invest in the right insurance to cover any eventuality. Read on for answers to the most frequently asked questions about car insurance for teens:

1. Will my premium increase when I add a teen driver to my insurance?

The risk of motor-vehicle crashes is higher among 16 to 19 year olds than any other age group, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That high risk translates into higher costs, and you’ll be forced to foot the bill of increased premiums. But before you send your son or daughter off shopping for their own policy, remember that in most cases, rates are cheaper for teens when they are added to their parents’ plan.

2. How can my son/daughter reduce his/her rates?

Just like you, insurers want a responsible kid. But due diligence around the house isn’t going to cut it. In many cases, your can land a discount if he or she:

  • Avoids violations or accidents;
  • Completes a Department of Transportation-approved driver’s education course; and
  • Maintains good grades at school.

3. Is it worth investing in a car with added safety features to help bring down rates?

Whatever your age, cars that score better in crash and safety tests can help you cut down your car insurance rates. Vehicles equipped with crash protection, a large protective chassis, and enhanced safety features (such as a rear parking camera) are a hot commodity among insurers.

4. If my teen leaves for college, should I still include them as part of my policy?

Maybe. Policy requirements can vary among states and insurance companies; however, if your son or daughter returns home for extended periods of time, you will more than likely be required to list your teen as part of your policy.

5. Can my son or daughter qualify for a student discount?

It depends. Is he or she doing well at school? Insurers reward conscientious kids as they tend to be involved in fewer accidents on average. To be eligible for a student discount, most insurance companies require that the driver is under the age of 25, enrolled in college full time, and maintains a grade point average of 3.0 or higher.

6. How can I encourage my teen to pick up safe driving habits?

The thought of your baby behind the wheel can be terrifying. But letting go can be easier when you feel confident you’ve armed your son or daughter with the right tools to stay safe on the road. Teach your teen to:

  • Avoid using cell phones while driving;
  • Maintain a safe following distance;
  • Always travel the speed limit;
  • Keep both hands on the wheel at all times;
  • Never drink and drive; and
  • Remain alert.

Always lead by example, and consider imposing restrictions until your teen has proven to be a capable and responsible driver. For instance, you could limit the number of passengers your child can carry, forbid driving after sunset, and install an app on your teen’s phone that disables certain features when it senses that it is in a moving car.

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How Much Uninsured Motorist Coverage Should You Buy?

How Much Uninsured Motorist Coverage Should You Buy?Almost every state requires drivers to carry some form of car insurance, and for good reason. Car accidents are life-changing events that can leave you or your loved ones seriously hurt, and the pressure of hospital bills and lost income will only compound the hardship.

Despite the risk, many people choose to drive without insurance coverage. Roughly 1 in 8 drivers on America’s road in 2015 was uninsured. The percentage of uninsured drivers varies widely from state to state, with certain regions – such as Florida, Mississippi, California, Texas, and New Mexico – reporting some of the highest rates in the country.

Fortunately, there are steps that drivers can take to protect their financial security if they are involved in a crash with an uninsured or underinsured driver. The smartest option is to carry uninsured motorist (UM) coverage. Not only can UM coverage help offset the expense after an accident with an uninsured driver, but it also might pay compensation if you are injured in a hit and run.

How Much Uninsured Motorist Coverage Should You Buy?

The answer to this question varies from one driver to the next. You have to take into account the crash rate in your state, the rate of motorists who choose to drive without insurance, your state’s minimum insurance requirements, and your ability to pay out of pocket for your damages if needed.

How Does Uninsured Motorist Coverage Work?

You can find a comprehensive answer to this question here: https://pennygeeks.com/blog/how-does-uninsured-motorist-coverage-work/.

Most states require drivers to carry liability and/or collision insurance coverage. If you are involved in an accident with a driver who does not have liability insurance, an uninsured motorist coverage policy can help cover your losses. If the driver has insurance but the policy limits are too low to pay for your damages, UM coverage should help offset the difference.

Just like when you choose liability coverage, you have options when it comes to selecting your UM policy limits. Your insurance company may also allow you to choose specific UM coverage limits for bodily injury and property damage. For example, if you drive a cheap care but you want to make sure you have plenty of coverage for medical care, you can choose low coverage limits for property damage and high limits for bodily injury.

Do You Really Need Uninsured Motorist Coverage?

Depending on where you live, uninsured motorist coverage may be a legal requirement. Mandatory requirements for uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage are in place in 20 states and the District of Columbia, and over half the states are actively implementing verification systems to identify uninsured motorists.

Here’s another reason to purchase UM coverage: You could face a steep fine and possible loss of your driver’s license if you are caught driving while uninsured. The specific penalties vary by state.

In some states, you cannot file a personal injury claim unless you have the minimum required car insurance coverage. This rule applies even if you were not at fault for the crash.

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3 Advantages of a Modular Motorcycle Helmet

It goes without saying that driving a motorcycle comes with certain risks. Drunk and distracted drivers, potholes, sand, and poor weather conditions can cause even the safest and most experienced riders to crash. A motorcycle helmet is your best protection against severe injuries and death in the event of a collision. But as you may already know, not all helmets are created equal.

Motorcycles are available in six categories: full-face or open-face helmets, half helmets, off-road helmets, dual-sport helmets, and the more recent modular helmets. Each of these styles has its own advantages and disadvantages.

You may have heard that modular motorcycle helmets offer the perfect balance of safety, comfort, and convenience. Here are just a few reasons why modular helmets are becoming more popular:

1. Safety

The primary objective of any type of motorcycle helmet is to prevent injuries to the head and brain, but modular helmets also protect the face, neck, and ears, which is why they are widely considered the safest design on the market.

2. Comfort

For motorcyclists, comfort is more than a luxury. An uncomfortable helmet is distracting, and a moment’s inattention is all it takes to cause a collision. You might find that a full-face helmet is too snug or restrictive or that an open-face helmet is too exposed to the wind. A modular helmet allows you to adjust its visors and chin guard according your preferences.

 

3 Advantages of a Modular Motorcycle Helmet

While safety should be your top concern when purchasing a motorcycle helmet, you certainly shouldn’t overlook the importance of a comfortable fit.

3. Convenience

Full-face helmets provide complete facial insulation against bugs, dirt, and debris. When riders are off their bikes, though, they have to take off their helmets to eat, drink, and talk with other people. A modular helmet solves this problem by providing full-face protection yet allowing the rider to lift the frontal part into an open-face position.

The One Thing All Motorcycle Helmets Must Have

Helmets come in a range of shapes and sizes with a variety of unique features. But one thing all motorcycle helmets need is a symbol affixed to the inside or outside stating compliance to relevant safety standards.

A DOT sticker indicates that the helmet has been manufactured to meet the requirements outlined in U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) 218. These helmets feature thick, polystyrene-foam linings and sturdy chin straps, and they weigh around 3 pounds.

The Numbers Don’t Lie: Importance of Wearing a High-Quality Helmet

Per mile traveled, motorcyclists are roughly 27 times more likely to die in a traffic accident than passenger-vehicle occupants, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Fortunately, innovations in safety technology are preventing injuries and saving lives. Motorcycle helmets were responsible for preventing an estimated 1,859 deaths in 2016—and they would have prevented another 802 if everyone wore helmets, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

With numbers like this, the importance of wearing a high-quality helmet cannot be overstated. Half helmets, open-face helmets, and other designs simply do not offer the same level of protection as full-face and modular designs, and if you want convenience and comfort on and off the bike, you can’t go wrong with a modular helmet.

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