If you were involved in a car accident in Modesto, CA, you may have many questions 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 face following your accident. These concerns are valid, but you have resources to get you through this.
To help, here's a complete guide to handling car accidents in Modesto, CA, and a review of some basic traffic laws in the area.
Statistics on Car Accidents in Modesto, CA
In 2022, there were a total of 1,421 crashes that resulted in injuries or fatalities in Modesto. Among these crashes, 83 caused severe injuries, and seven were fatal.
The number of traffic crashes temporarily dipped during the pandemic. Still, recent numbers suggest accidents are returning to their pre-pandemic levels. However, the number of fatalities has steadily decreased, making traffic crashes less likely to be serious.
Drivers should still exercise caution in Modesto and its surrounding areas. Data reveals worrisome trends that show unsafe driving practices are common.
In 2022, four fatalities involved distracted driving. Speed was a factor in two deaths. Drugs and alcohol played a part in one of four fatal crashes. With seven deaths recorded throughout 2022, some of these accidents combined multiple contributing factors.
Drunk driving has been an ongoing issue in Stanislaus County. In 2020, Modesto ranked first on the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) list of the most crashes involving alcohol among cities of a similar size.
These factors also contributed to non-fatal accidents. Law enforcement determined alcohol was involved in 273 crashes, distracted driving in 164 accidents and speeding in 328 collisions.
Recent numbers for pedestrian and motorcycle fatalities are lower. However, Modesto still has an average of 7.8 pedestrian deaths yearly and 2.6 annual motorcycle fatalities over the past five years.
Beware of Highway 99
Highways and smaller side streets can be dangerous, and car accident lawyers in Modesto will tell you that Highway 99 is one of the most dangerous spots. Here are a few examples.
In June 2023, a motorcycle rear-ended a vehicle towing a trailer. The crash ejected the biker from his bike. Unfortunately, he didn’t survive his injuries.
A few weeks later, a 21-year-old died on Highway 99 near Woodland Avenue after driving off the freeway and hitting a tree. The shock killed him. Police believe the driver was speeding and possibly racing another vehicle when he lost control of his car.
Later in July, a multi-car collision resulted in a fatality. A driver lost control of her vehicle and drove off the road. She sustained minor injuries, but another driver in the crash exited his vehicle, and a pick-up truck struck him, causing his death. This tragedy reminds you to carefully assess the situation before leaving your vehicle and wait inside until first responders arrive if you can’t exit it safely.
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.
California requires that all drivers carry a minimum amount of car insurance and have proof of the insurance available to show police or rescuers in the event of an accident. The State of California requires driver insurance to be between $15,000 and $30,000 in liability insurance ($5,00 for property damage). Assuming the person who caused your accident follows the law, insurance will be available to compensate you for your injuries. If the other driver doesn't have insurance, a Modesto car accident lawyer can help you with the 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 report a traffic accident in California, you will use form SR-1 on the California Department of Motor Vehicles website. A local Modesto accident attorney can help you determine whether a report was previously filed for your accident.
If you ever need a copy of an accident report, you or your Modesto car accident lawyer can obtain one from the Modesto police, as accident reports are public records. However, you must 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 traffic flow, the other drivers must allow the entering car to merge safely.
Here are a few specific scenarios where the yielding law is essential 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 car 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 is reasonable and prudent. This distance will depend on how fast the cars are going, the weather, and how long each vehicle must 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 have 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 essential steps that you should take to help yourself after your car accident.
1. Get Yourself to Safety
If you're not in a safe area after an accident, get to a secure location. However, if you are uncomfortable moving, remain in your car and wait for help. Don't strain yourself, as that could worsen your injuries. The most important thing is your safety.
If you're uninjured, get to a safe location (like off the side of the road), but try only to move your vehicle once police or fire rescue has arrived. The location of your car will help police and your Modesto car accident lawyer determine how the accident happened.
Do not leave the scene of an accident. Even if the accident isn’t your fault, California Vehicle Code 20002 states an officer can charge you 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.
2. Get Medical Help
It can be tempting to refuse medical care at the scene of an accident, especially if you feel okay at the moment. However, remember that you may not feel immediate pain because you're in shock. Many kinds of injuries are slow to develop. Sometimes, like back or brain injuries, people may not feel pain or discomfort until hours or even days after an accident.
If you say you're okay and refuse medical care at the scene, the other driver's insurance company may argue that you aren’t injured because you turned down medical care at the accident. Refusing medical care could jeopardize any claim you and your Modesto car accident lawyer have.
However, if you turn down medical care at the accident site, visit your 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 severe.
To ensure your health and safety, it's essential to seek medical care quickly after an accident, even if you think you're okay.
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 assist anybody injured, including ensuring 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 on the ground. If possible, photograph the other driver’s license plate if 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
Get witnesses' names, addresses, phone numbers, and other contact information. Remember, witnesses aren’t just people standing around or in other cars. They may be passengers in the other vehicle from the accident.
Sometimes, good Samaritans will check on whether you're okay. Try to get their contact information to 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 not to remember every detail — after all, car accidents are stressful and happen instantly.
You shouldn't guess. 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 need to find out if it was red for 5, 10, or 30 seconds. Answering “I don’t know” to the officer’s questions is okay.
Don’t worry about fault or who caused the accident, either. Your Modesto car accident lawyer can help you figure out that information later.
It's natural to want to own up to things we do wrong. However, saying something was “my fault” or “I wasn’t looking” can affect your ability to file an insurance claim with your company or the other driver's insurance company.
7. Contact Your Insurance Company
Most insurance policies require you to notify them immediately after an accident. Delaying can lead to a denial of benefits, so you should be quick to inform them of your accident. 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 the compensation you may be entitled to for your injuries:
1. Do Not Speak to the Other Insurance Companies or Accept Their Offers
The insurance company for the other driver will likely call you after the accident. They may ask you to state what happened. You're not obligated to speak to the other driver’s insurance company or any insurance company other than yours. You can let your car accident attorney in Modesto talk to them on your behalf.
If the other insurance company does get a hold of you, they may try to make you an offer. They may attempt to pay your medical expenses or lost wages.
However, the goal of the other insurance company is to get you to settle your case for less than what it may be worth. Once you accept their offer, they'll ask you to sign a legal document (a settlement of your claim). If you sign a settlement, you cannot ask for more.
At the point in time when you receive an offer, you may be unaware of how severe your injuries are. 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, you could leave yourself with no way to pay for the lost wages or medical care you may need.
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. 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, you may be able to recover other expenses, like rental cars, tow truck bills, and medication co-pays. Always save the receipts of your expenses 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 you won't have to pay anything unless you win or settle your case. Every injury attorney has their way to charge, but in some cases, initial meetings are free.
A Modesto car accident lawyer can handle the details you cannot. Aside from fighting for compensation for your injuries and expenses, a lawyer can help you in other ways. Your attorney can help fix your car, coordinate payment to your treating doctors, and manage 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 more manageable. Accident.com aims to help you find a qualified Modesto car accident lawyer to help you with your case. We can connect you with an experienced lawyer in your area by filling out a quick form to tell us about your accident. You'll receive a free consultation, where an attorney helps you understand your situation and options.
Don't wait to pursue your claim. There are time limits to filing, so contact Accident.com today.