Categorized | Opinion

Hurt riding in someone else’s car?

By David Peel

David PeelSingle car accidents are quite common. Often times the car loses control runs off the road and strikes a tree or fence.
Sometimes passengers do not want to make a claim against their friend who was driving the car. And this is totally understandable. However, it is only by making a claim against the at fault driver that the person’s insurance can become responsible for what occurred.
In Tennessee you cannot sue an insurance company directly by naming them in the lawsuit. We have rules to prevent a jury from ever knowing that insurance is involved. I suppose no one wants the jury to become that “fair.”
So if you are the passenger of a vehicle where the driver loses control and injures you, you really have to make a claim against that person. But the order in which those claims are paid may surprise you.
In a single car accident, the car owner is the first in line to pay their insurance. Followed by the at fault driver if they have coverage that exceeds the owners. And finally, your own uninsured motorist coverage under your own policy.
And I know what you’re thinking, how could my insurance pay when I wasn’t driving and it wasn’t even my car?  But that is exactly what it does. Do you know how much uninsured motorist you actually have? Most people only have the minimum 25,000 per person limits to match the minimum liability limits in the state of Tennessee. If you are insured with companies like Direct insurance, you probably don’t have UM at all unless you specifically requested it. They will be happy to sell it to you, but they are used to people paying the absolute minimum they can get by with and UM is not required by the state law.
Younger drivers account for a disproportionate share of accidents in general and certainly single car accidents. Often times, I see the same accident over and over. Usually a younger driver is rolling along and their wheels go off the right side of the road into some gravel. An older driver would just hold that and then ease back up on the road slowly. Younger drivers, who have excellent reflexes, tend to jerk the car back to the left very abruptly. Then, when they realize they’ve overcorrected they tend to jerk it back to the right way too hard. Now by doing this maneuver, they have just imported the only actions into a car that will allow it to roll on a flat surface.
If you’re teaching someone to drive, have them lay a couple wheels onto the gravel shoulder and just hold it for a few minutes to realize that it’s okay and not to panic when they feel that shutter. After all, you can drive an entire car with four wheels on the gravel road, two on gravel into on the pavement are okay as well. What if you’re riding with someone and they are driving way too fast? What if they’ve been drinking and they seem to be more impaired than you thought they were?
Since a likely scenario in that situation is both of you being injured or killed, anything short of that would be a better outcome.  Some folks will just reach over and grab the emergency brake at a stop sign giving themselves time to unlock the door and exit the vehicle. In more extreme cases, some people have reached over and turn the car off at a stop sign and take in the keys to prevent further danger.  Because doing anything while the car is moving is just entirely too dangerous, it is imperative that your children know that they can call you from any side of the road anywhere and you will come get them no questions asked.  Sometimes they make a poor decision about who they are ridding  with. They are shamed of that and do not want to be in trouble for maybe being somewhere they weren’t supposed to be. None of that will matter at their funeral. So I encourage you to speak to your children about always knowing that they can call mom, dad or grandma to come get them even at two in the morning, even where they weren’t supposed to be. Nobody intends these accidents, but there are some perceivable steps that we can take to minimize them and keep your family safe.
Peel seeks justice for those injured in car accidents, work place incidents, medical malpractice, and nursing homes. He often addresses churches, clubs and groups without charge. Peel may be reached through PeelLawFirm.com wherein other articles may be accessed.
— What do you think? Send Letters to the Editor to thomas.sellers@journalinc.com.

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