According to statistics gathered by U.S. Department of Transportation Highway Association, there was a total of 37,133 fatalities resulting from car accidents in 2017. Based on AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, 939 of those were in situations where a driver ran through a red light, causing the accident. This means that more than two (2) people are killed every day in the U.S. because someone is impatient or reckless and runs through a red light.
Traffic accidents resulting from someone running a red light should be handled differently from other accidents, e.g. rear-end collisions, because liability can become an issue if one does not take the right steps.
So, how do you protect yourself following a red light accident, where the other party runs through the red light?
The following steps are not inclusive of all steps that can or should be taken after a car accident. Additionally, these steps are interchangeable based on the circumstances of the accident, such as (1) the severity of the car accident, (2) the number of occupants in the vehicles, (3) the severity of any injury suffered by the occupants, and (4) the location of the accident.
Step One – Check for Injuries
Check with all occupants to see if anyone is injured. Do not move anyone who appears to be unconscious, or complains of back or neck pain, because moving such a person may exacerbate an injury. If warranted, call 911, an ambulance or paramedics.
After everyone is safe and stable, then exchange the required information with the other driver. This means exchanging names, addresses, driver license numbers and insurance information.
Step Two – Call Law Enforcement
Even if the responsible party admits to running the red light, you should ALWAYS call law enforcement to come to the scene and take everyone’s statement.
If the accident occurs in Santa Clarita, the appropriate law enforcement is LA County Sheriff. However, if the accident occurs in the San Fernando Valley, the appropriate law enforcement would be LAPD.
Why do you need this step if the other driver admits fault to you? It is not unusual for drivers who admit to running a red light to change their position and later claim that they entered the intersection on a green light and hence, they is not at fault for the accident.
By having law enforcement prepare a Traffic Collision Report, the deputy or officer will speak with all involved, and when questioned at the scene by law enforcement, people generally tell the truth because they are afraid that lying to law enforcement will get them into trouble. So, the responsible party will most likely admit to running the red light, and that admission will be part of the Traffic Collision Report. Once part of the Traffic Collision Report, the responsible party will be hard pressed to change his or her story later.
Step Three – Look for Witnesses
Intersection accidents can be tricky, especially if the responsible party refuses to admit fault. So, take a look around for possible witnesses to the accident. If you locate a witness, either ask them to wait for law enforcement, or get their name(s) and phone number(s).
If you obtain the witness’ name and number, make sure you keep that information secure – best practice is to take a photo of the information so you have a backup. Make sure you give the witness’ information to any law enforcement that comes to the scene.
Step Four – Take Photographs
Before moving vehicles, take photos of the scene and the position of the cars, from multiple angles.
Step Five – Seek Medical Attention
Accidents at intersections tend to be more serious because they often involve excessive speeds. So, it is particularly important to be checked out as soon as possible. Best practice would be to visit Urgent Care the same day or the following day.
Urgent Care will likely prescribe pain medication and muscle relaxers. It is important to note that although such medication may reduce your pain, they are not a substitute for treatment of an underlying condition, such as whiplash, a misaligned spine in the neck or back area, a pinched nerve or a bulging disk.
So, following Urgent Care, it is important to seek consultation from an orthopedic surgeon or a chiropractor. Such health care practitioners can help with whiplash injuries, pinched nerves, and bulging disks.
Step Six – Consult with an Attorney
As indicated through this article, red light accidents are tricky and if you do not take the right steps, you can harm your case.
One way to harm your case is to speak with the adverse insurance company (the insurance company that represents the other driver) before consulting with an attorney. Why? Because the adverse insurance company will ask for a statement, over the phone, under oath, and if you are not properly advised by an attorney, you can and will hurt your case, both on the liability side and the injury portion of your case.
So, seek consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney (accident attorney) as soon as possible. If you are contacted by the adverse insurance company, avoid speaking with them until you speak with an attorney or simply advise the adjuster that you wish to consult with an attorney before speaking with them.
Remember that personal injury attorneys (accident attorneys) work on a contingency basis. This means that there is no money out of your pocket, and the attorney only gets paid when there is a recovery on the case.
The Mason Law Firm is managed by Mason Rashtian, who has been litigating car accident cases since 1997. We represent clients all throughout California, including the Santa Clarita Valley, the San Fernando Valley, and all throughout Los Angeles County.
We can be reached at (661) 476-5678 or (855) MASON-LA (855-627-6652). Please feel free to call us for a free consultation.