Just as with most things, there are a few misconceptions and myths floating around when it comes to auto accidents. These include anything from how an insurance company will handle your claim, to what drivers involved an accident should or should not do when it happens. And, just like any other situation, some of these misconceptions can cost you deeply, financially, and otherwise.
Listening what the facts are, rather than relying on myths, rumors, and misconceptions can help a person to protect themselves, as well as their friends and family, from the consequences of being wrong.
#1 Leaving the Scene is OK if the Damage is Minor
Some people believe that if there is only minor damage, or if the owner of the property they hit can’t be found, it’s OK to leave the scene. However, if you have just hit something or someone, you must stay put. Failure to stay is referred to as a hit and run, or hit skip, and it’s illegal. Someone who leaves can face criminal charges, regardless of what you hit, or the extent of damage.
Laws in Ohio require any driver involved in an auto accident to stop and then provide their contact information to all who are injured, the other drivers of all cars involved, and to the police if they are on the scene. If you hit property that is stationary, such as a parked car or a mailbox, and you can’t find the owner, you are required to leave contact information with the property, in order for the owner of that property to contact and locate you at a later time.
The minimum penalty for leaving the scene of an accident In Ohio is a misdemeanor. However, stronger penalties and risks are also possible, and include, but not limited to the following:
- If someone is seriously injured, the charge could be a felony of the 5th degree, which results in a class 5 suspension of the driver’s license, and 6 points on their record.
- A class 5 suspension can last anywhere from 6 months to 3 years
- A 1st degree misdemeanor can lead to a $1,000 fine and/or 6 months in jail
- Insurance rates will most likely rise due to the additional points added to their record
So, anyone thinking it’s not a big deal to leave an accident, even if it’s just a mailbox, it really is.
#2 No Harm in a Low Speed Impact Auto Accident
It’s often thought that a low speed impact incident will not cause much damage or injury. But, that isn’t necessarily true. Even if there isn’t much visible damage to the vehicle, a driver or passenger in a car involved can still experience significant injury.
Low speed accidents, even with low impact, can cause injury. In fact, speeds as low as 2.5mph can lead to injury. Soft tissue, such as tendons, ligaments, and muscles located in a person’s back and neck are prone to injury, through jolting around on impact. The elderly, or people in poor health are vulnerable to injury at any speed.
Tears to the soft tissue and can cause long lasting pain that isn’t necessarily difficult to treat, but relief can be temporary. These types of injuries can linger for a very long time, if not a lifetime. In addition to age and health, the following will also contribute to injury in a low speed accident:
- Position in the car – rear occupancy has a greater risk of whiplash, especially if the headrests are lower than those in the front seats
- Use of the car’s headrests – headrests can reduce the movement of the head from going backward
- Seatbelt use – wearing a seatbelt will lessen the body from jolting forward to avoid hitting a head on the windshield, steering wheel, dashboard, or the seat in front of a passenger
- Head position on impact – a head that is rotated on impact can lead to a more serious neck injury as it is not in a natural position when hit
While the injuries from a minimal impact auto accident might not be life-threatening, the pain from such injuries can be chronic, and last for years.
#3 Significant Injuries are Known Immediately
Not true. Injuries, especially the soft tissue injuries mentioned above, might not be noticeable right away. One reason is because a sudden shot of adrenaline will often mask pain. Once the shock and adrenaline wear off, reality might creep in, along with pain.
Also, some injuries don’t manifest immediately, and take time to fully develop. Because of this reason, Ohio laws provide accident victims 2 years to file a lawsuit against another for both personal property damage and personal injury.
#4 A Car Accident Always Increases Your Insurance Premium
The state of Ohio happens to be an at-fault state. This means that the driver who is at fault will be responsible for the cost of damages. When an accident occurs, the driver who is not at fault can make a claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance policy, and that hopefully covers all the cost. However, it doesn’t always cover the cost completely, if they are underinsured. When that happens, you can then file a claim with your own insurance company, but only if you have uninsured/underinsured motorist’s coverage.
Unfortunately, some drivers think they can’t make a claim on their own insurance policy, without risking their premiums going up, even if they are not at fault for the accident. But, the truth is that there is a law protecting drivers who are not at fault. If the driver was not responsible for the accident, and did not break any laws in relation to the accident, Ohio will not allow an insurance company to raise their premium.
#5 The Police Report is Not the Final Word
Sure, the police report plays a significant role in any attempt to receive compensation from the insurance companies and other parties involved. The officers who write up the report most likely used their experience and training to best determine what occurred, in detail. They gather eyewitness accounts, measurements, and other evidence to best assess what exactly happened and who is at fault. They put this all down in a report, and it’s then used by the attorneys, judge, and jury in a case that goes to trial.
Insurance companies also look at it, and have their own investigators create a report based on their findings. While their investigations tend to align with the officers, it doesn’t always. And, if your case is settled, it’s based on their judgment of what happened, and that’s not necessarily in agreement with the police report.
Then again, the insurance company doesn’t have to have the final word either. If you don’t agree with what they are willing to offer, you can always go to court. You will want an experienced car accident legal team in Cleveland who knows about auto accidents and the laws that protect you from financial distress that an accident can bring to your world. The Chester Law Firm of Cleveland knows all about the above misconceptions, and will work hard at getting you the compensation you deserve.