If you were involved in a car accident in Modesto CA, you may have a lot of questions on your mind about what to do. Getting medical care, missing work, having a broken car and finding legal help from a Modesto car accident lawyer are all common problems you may be facing following your accident. These concerns are valid, but you have resources to get you through this.
To help, here's a full guide to handling car accidents in Modesto and a review of some basic traffic laws in the area.
Statistics on Car Accidents in Modesto CA
If you were in a car accident in Modesto, you aren't the only one. According to the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS), almost 2,000 people were killed or injured in car accidents in Modesto in 2018. That number includes 125 pedestrians and bicyclists that were hit by a car.
Almost 200 of those accidents involved the use or presence of alcohol at the scene of the accident. Underage use of alcohol is a significant problem in the area, as the state’s statistics show that Modesto is 17th out of 59 counties in accidents by drivers under 21 who had been drinking at the time of the accident. Legal-age drinking is a worse problem. Modesto ranks 9th out of 59 in car accidents involving drunk drivers between the ages of 21 and 34.
Besides alcohol, it can be difficult to say what causes each accident. Many crashes have multiple causes. However, according to the California OTS, 275 accidents were caused by speeding. Hit-and-run accidents, where a car hits a pedestrian or bicyclist and flees, accounted for 178 injuries or fatalities in 2018.
Beware of Highway 99
Both highways and smaller side streets can be dangerous in Modesto, but Highway 99 is notorious for accidents. Here are a few examples.
In July 2021, a man’s vehicle rolled over into a ditch. Although the man was wearing a seat belt, he was ejected from the vehicle into the road and then hit by multiple cars on the highway. Tragically, the man didn't survive.
In another case near Highway 99, at the intersection of East Keyes and Mountain View Roads, emergency crews had to rescue a driver who was trapped inside his vehicle that had been damaged in a crash. The driver sustained minor injuries when another driver ignored a stop sign, entered the intersection and drove into the path of the man’s vehicle. The other driver died at a local hospital after the collision.
Laws That a Modesto Car Accident Lawyer Can Help You Understand
A car accident lawyer in Modesto can help explain unique car accident laws for the area. However, while your attorney can explain how the laws apply to your specific accident, there are some general rules you should understand anyway.
California requires that all drivers carry a minimum amount of car insurance and that they have proof of the insurance available to show police or rescuers in the event of an accident. Drivers must have between $15,000 and $30,000 in liability insurance ($5,00 for property damage). The benefit of this is that, assuming whoever caused your accident is following this law, there will at least be some insurance available to help compensate you for your injuries. If the other driver doesn't have insurance, a Modesto car accident lawyer can help you with next steps.
If you're in an accident, California law requires you to file a report of what happened. However, if you call the police when the accident happens (as you should) the police will make the report. If you need to file on your own, you can do so online using form SR-1, through the California Department of Motor Vehicles website. Your Modesto accident attorney can help you determine whether a report was filed for your accident.
If you ever need a copy of an accident report, you or your Modesto car accident lawyer can obtain one through the Modesto police, as accident reports are public records. However, you'll need to fill out the Request to Inspect Public Records form.
Many accidents happen when drivers enter highways or roadways carelessly. California law says that drivers who enter a highway from any road, driveway or parking lot must yield to traffic. Once the driver does enter the highway and the flow of traffic, the other drivers then must allow the entering car to merge safely. Here are a few specific scenarios where the yielding law is important to understand:
- Drivers making left turns or U-turns must always yield to oncoming traffic unless they have a marked turn arrow and the other driver has a red light.
- Modesto is home to many mountains and mountainous roads. Drivers in Modesto may find themselves on partially blocked roads where only one vehicle at a time can pass. California law states that the vehicle that's going downhill must yield to the vehicle going uphill.
- Drivers must yield the right of way to pedestrians. Even if a pedestrian isn’t using a marked crosswalk or other area reserved for people to cross a street, drivers still must yield if possible.
Rear-End Accidents and Tailgating
Rear-ending is also a common cause of accidents. Every driver must follow the driver in front of them at a safe distance. If a driver is tailgating, that driver can be held responsible for the accident. Tailgating means following another driver closer than what's reasonable. This will depend on how fast the cars are going, the weather and how much distance each car needs to stop.
However, a driver doesn't need to be tailgating to be liable for a rear-end accident. In many cases, drivers aren't tailgating. They're just not paying attention and don’t see the car in front of them with enough time to safely stop. A Modesto car accident lawyer can help you determine whether the car behind you was closer than it should've been.
What to Do if You're in a Car Accident in Modesto CA
Immediately after a car accident, you may be in shock. That's normal. However, there are some important steps that you should take to help yourself after your car accident.
1. Get Medical Help
It can be tempting to refuse to get medical care at the scene of an accident, especially if you feel okay at the moment. However, remember that because you're in shock, you may not feel as much pain as you normally would. Many kinds of injuries are slow to develop. Sometimes, like with back or brain injuries especially, people may not feel pain or discomfort until hours or even days after an accident.
If you do say that you're fine and you refuse medical care at the scene, you could have a problem later on if you feel pain. The other driver's insurance company could argue that you aren’t injured because you turned down medical care at the accident. This could jeopardize any claim you and your Modesto car accident lawyer have.
However, if you do turn down medical care at the accident site, visit your own doctor as soon as possible. Long delays between an accident and medical treatment can make others think that you're not injured or that your injuries aren't serious.
So, to ensure your health and safety, it's important to seek medical care quickly after an accident, even if you think you're okay. Depending on what first responders think, you could go to the emergency room. If the hospital discharges you, follow up with your primary care doctor.
The emergency room doesn't do certain tests or scans that your primary doctor can order for you. For example, an emergency room may do an X-ray but not an MRI. These tests taken later on by your own doctor may reveal injuries that the emergency room didn't detect.
2. Get Yourself to Safety
If you're not in a safe area after an accident, get yourself to a secure location. However, if you don't feel comfortable moving, remain in your car and wait for help to arrive. Don't strain yourself, as that could worsen your injuries. The most important thing is your safety.
If you're uninjured, get yourself to a safer location (like off the side of the road), but try not to move your vehicle until police or fire rescue arrive. The location of your car will help police and your Modesto car accident lawyer determine how the accident happened.
Speaking of moving to safer locations, don’t ever leave the scene of an accident. Even if the accident isn’t your fault, you can be charged with a crime for leaving the scene. Aside from the legal problems, leaving the scene will prevent you from speaking to the police about the accident, and you won’t be there when medical help arrives.
3. Call for Help
Call the police or emergency responders for help. You can call Modesto's Traffic Accident Report unit at 209-572-9592 if you and the other people in the accident are unharmed. If you or another person is seriously injured, call 911 immediately.
The law also requires that you provide assistance to anybody who's injured. This can include making sure they're safe and calling for an ambulance.
4. Document the Area
If you're physically able to and can do it safely, take pictures of the accident scene. That includes your car, any other cars, damage to vehicles and the surrounding area, road conditions, and pieces of cars that may be on the ground. Don’t forget to photograph the other driver’s license plate in the event they try to flee the accident scene.
If there is a dispute later on about how the accident happened, your Modesto car accident lawyer could use your pictures to reconstruct the event.
5. Get Witness Information
If possible, try to get the name, address, phone number and other contact information of any witnesses. Remember, witnesses aren’t just people standing around or in other cars. They may be passengers in the other car from the accident.
Sometimes, good Samaritans may come to see if you're okay as well. You should try to get their contact information also so you have multiple accounts of the accident.
6. Tell the Police What Happened
Tell the police everything you can remember about the accident. However, remember that it's natural to not remember every detail — after all, car accidents happen in an instant and are stressful.
You shouldn't guess at things that you don't know. For example, if the police ask how far the other car was away from you, you may not know. If the officer asks you how long the light was red, you may not know if it was red for 5, 10 or 30 seconds. It's okay to answer “I don’t know” to the officer’s questions.
Don’t worry about fault or who caused the accident either. Your Modesto car accident lawyer can help you figure that information out later on. Even if you think you're at fault, there's no legal obligation to admit that. You're not the one deciding fault. Leave that to the police.
It's natural to want to own up to things that we do wrong. However, saying something was “my fault” or “I wasn’t looking” can affect your ability to make a claim with your insurance company, or the other driver's insurance.
7. Contact Your Insurance Company
Most insurance policies require that you notify them as soon as possible after an accident. Delaying can lead to a denial of benefits, so don't hesitate. Your Modesto car accident lawyer can help you file a claim correctly so you can pursue the benefits you need to recover from the accident.
After the Collision, an Accident Lawyer in Modesto CA Can Assist
Within 1-3 days after the accident, there are still some things to keep in mind to make it easier to get compensation for your injuries:
1. Don’t Speak to the Other Insurance Company and Don't Accept Any of Their Offers
The insurance company for the other driver will likely call you after the accident. They may ask you to give a statement of what happened. You're under no obligation to speak to the other driver’s insurance company, or any insurance company other than your own. You can let your car accident attorney in Modesto speak to them.
If the other insurance company does get ahold of you, they may try to make you an offer. They may attempt to pay your medical expenses or lost wages. They may seem nice, friendly and wanting to help you.
However, the goal of the other insurance company is to get you to settle your case for less than what it's worth. Once you accept their offer, they'll ask you to sign a legal document (a settlement of your case). If you sign a settlement, you cannot go back and ask for more.
At the point in time when you may receive an offer like this, you may not know just how serious your injuries are quite yet. You may not know when you’ll return to work or whether you’ll need surgery or some other medical care. If you settle your case then, you could leave yourself with no way to pay for the lost wages or medical care that you may need in the future.
Your Modesto car accident lawyer can handle these insurance offers and guide you on the path that gives you the best chance at compensation and recovery.
2. Don’t Fix Your Car on Your Own
Many people try to bring their damaged vehicle to their “friend who is a mechanic,” or they try to fix the car themselves. You shouldn't do this. You could lose your insurance benefits if you don't allow your insurance company to look at your car. Any damage is considered evidence, and not giving your insurance company the chance to document the damages could be considered as ruining evidence.
Additionally, most insurance policies require that you have your car repaired by a mechanic of their choice. So, sit tight and refer to a car accident attorney in Modesto for guidance on how to proceed with car damages.
3. Save All Documents
You may believe that medical expenses, car repair bills and compensation for injuries are the only expenses you can recover after a car accident. However, other expenses, like rental cars, tow truck bills and co-pays for medications can also be recovered. Always save the receipts of your expenses that are related to the accident, and give them to your Modesto car accident lawyer.
How to Find a Modesto Accident Attorney
Accident lawyers in Modesto will often take your case on contingency, meaning that you won't have to pay anything unless you win or settle your case. Every injury attorney has their own way to charge, but in some cases, initial meetings are free.
A Modesto car accident lawyer can handle the details you can’t or don’t want to handle. Aside from fighting for compensation for your injuries and expenses, a lawyer can help you in other ways. Your attorney can help in getting your car fixed, coordinating payment to your treating doctors, and managing all the insurance companies that may be involved with the accident and your medical care. Your attorney will fight for you, should the other side try to blame the accident on you.
There is a lot to consider after a car accident. Getting legal assistance can be a big help in making everything easier. At Accident.com, our goal is to help you find a qualified Modesto car accident lawyer to help you with your case. By filling out a quick form to tell us about your situation, we can connect you with an expert lawyer in your area. You'll receive a free consultation, where your attorney can help you understand your situation and the options you have.
Don't wait to pursue your claim. There are time limits to filing, so contact Accident.com today.