Honolulu Car Accident Lawyer
Despite the appeal of paradise throughout the state, Hawai’i residents and vacationers are impacted by car accidents, the same as anywhere else in the country. Car accidents are always a headache to deal with, even those which are minor fender benders. The more severe a car accident, the more severe the consequences are to an individual, their property, and possibly their future. If you or a loved one have been involved in a car accident, you need the help of an experienced Honolulu Car Accident Lawyer. Personal Injury Attorney Dennis W. Potts has more than 40 years of experience and understands how difficult a time this can be for you and your family.
Car Accident Statistics
According to the Association for Safe International Road Travel, approximately 1.3 million people are killed in car accidents each year – averaging 3,287 each day. Out of this number, approximately 100 were killed in Hawai’i in 2014, indicated approximately 7 deaths per 100,000 people. This is a low number compared with the rest of the country, although not as low as states such as New York. This number also represents a significant drop from the prior ongoing annual average of 135 car accident deaths in prior years.
However, out of this number, nearly half of all fatalities in car accidents in Hawai’i were due to alcohol-involved crashes. The state of Hawai’i has carefully examined the crash statistics in the state over the last several years and has implemented many local policies and laws to help curb the incidence of car accidents. However, despite the increased efforts of law enforcement officers, car accidents cannot be completely prevented, and therefore victims of severe car accidents are still entitled to bring a claim for damages in certain situations.
Causes of Car Accidents in Hawai’i
After numerous studies were completed, Hawai’i determined that the leading causes of car accidents throughout the state include:
- Intoxicated drivers
- Distracted driving
As a result of these studies, Hawai’i took immediate actions to combat the number of accidents occurring on the roadways by implementing laws and policies which would cause drivers to receive increased traffic citations or criminal charges after such negligent behavior.
During 2012, Hawai’i reported the extreme steps it took to lower the number of serious injuries and fatalities caused by intoxicated drivers. The state instituted a “52/12” enforcement program which includes one sobriety checkpoint each week during the year in order to reduce the number of drivers operating a vehicle while under the influence. During implementation, 600 checkpoints throughout the state resulted in 450 arrests.
The number of arrests of intoxicated drivers almost doubled between 2008 and 2011, in an effort to curb the number of devastating accidents on the roads. It is clear from the annual statistics that this effort has made a difference throughout the state, dropping the total fatalities by approximately 1/5.
The state has also unveiled campaigns to combat distracted driving which is another leading cause of car accidents in the state. The prevalence of cell phones and the ever-increasing incidence of social media use has altered the way drivers act in their vehicles. Many drivers utilize Google Maps while driving, while others insist on texting or making Facebook posts while driving. This type of distracted driving has severe consequences on the driver and on anyone on the road. Distracted driving has recently been found to be more dangerous than drunk driving, and it is ever evident in the ongoing crash data. During 2012, police departments issued nearly 5,000 citations related to the operation of a motor vehicle while using a handheld electronic device.
Another major cause of car accidents throughout the state involves speeding. The Hawai’i Department of Transportation has also taken extreme steps to curb the number of speed-related accidents and corresponding fatalities through administering heightened traffic citations to speeders.
However, despite the best efforts of law enforcement officers over the last decade, car accidents continue to occur throughout the state and have lasting repercussions on accident victims and their families. Many accidents occur to tourists throughout the state, ruining what should have been a stress-free vacation far away from the mainland. Unfortunately, tourists who were accident victims could spend months and even years pursuing insurance claims and personal injury claims after an accident. It is important to speak with a personal injury attorney you can trust after a car accident, who is well versed in Hawai’i personal injury law. It is difficult to bring a claim for damages from a different state, especially one which is across an ocean, but you should continue to pursue your right to damages after a severe accident.
Car Accident Recovery in Hawai’i
After a car accident, the most important thing to keep in the forefront of your mind is to receive medical care for any injuries. There are many legal impacts of a car accident, but none of them matter prior to your own treatment. Severe accidents could require immediate transportation to area hospitals and could result in the following injuries:
- Broken bones
- Spinal cord injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries
Many of these injuries not only require immediate medical care that could last months, but a complete lifestyle change. The impact of these injuries could also force victims to take a leave of absence from their job, or find a different line of work. Many jobs in Hawai’i are in the tourism industry, and the inability to walk or lift heavy items could be extremely detrimental to an ongoing career in the same industry.
Car Accident Damages
After a severe accident, there are many expenses which begin to pile up for victims. Hospital fees alone for just a few days of medical care can be astronomical, depending on the victim’s health insurance plan. However, the failure to have decent health care coverage should not impact the victim’s ability to bring a claim for damages when a severe accident caused by the negligent actions of another person led to terrible injuries.
Medical expenses alone are not only what should be considered when bringing a personal injury claim, since the extent of a victim’s injuries could have a lasting impact on their life and your finances for years to come. Therefore, a claim for damages after a car accident should be carefully considered by the victim and their attorney. Typically, a claim for damages will include expenses and projected expenses related to the following:
- Medical care
- Rehabilitative care
- Lost wages
- Future earnings
- Pain and suffering
As discussed below, Hawai’i insurance policies will only consider medical expenses. Therefore, if your case falls within an exception to the No-Fault insurance requirements, you will also be able to include damages which take into account future earnings and the emotional impact of the accident. An experienced attorney will work with you throughout the personal injury claim process to help you calculate the total amount of damages which you are entitled to receive, including the projection of future earnings.
No Fault Insurance State
Hawai’i is a “no-fault” insurance state, which means that typically, a victim of a car accident is not allowed to seek additional damages outside that which is covered through their own insurance. However, the No Fault insurance laws provide that a victim must receive the first $10,000 relating to medical bills from their insurance company. The $10,000 limit is the minimum coverage an individual must have through their insurance company for personal injury protection. This is vital as it provides for medical care that is greatly needed in the days after an accident. This initial $10,000 can also go toward recurring physical therapy.
However, the victim may seek outside damages in the following situations:
- Where the total amount of damages is more than what is covered under the insurance policy; and
- Where the accident resulted in permanent physical injuries, or a permanent change to an emotional state.
Unfortunately, victims will not be able to claim any damages outside of these specific two situations. Therefore, it is extremely important to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible after an accident. Your case may fall within an exception, and an attorney will assist you in working through these questions.
However, as a starting point after any car accident, victims must first turn to their insurance policy and the responsible driver’s insurance policy prior to filing a claim for damages. Most small car accident claims will fall within the policy limits of the insurance policy and therefore do not require an additional claim to cover the damages stemming from the accident.
If it is determined that the victim of a car accident is able to bring a claim for damages (such as in a situation where the medical costs exceed the insurance policy limits), there are further considerations to keep in mind relating to the Hawai’i personal injury laws.
Hawai’i is a modified comparative negligence state, which means that a victim will be able to recover from the responsible party after an accident. However, the amount of recovery will be limited if the victim themselves are found to be at fault. Furthermore, if the victim is determined to be more than 51 percent at fault, they will lose their ability to bring a claim entirely. Any percentage which the victim is determined to be at fault will reduce the total amount of damages the victim would otherwise be entitled to receive.
For example, if a victim is injured in a car accident and their total medical bills equal $20,000, they will be entitled to bring a claim for damages, presuming they fit within one of the above-mentioned exceptions to the At-Fault insurance restrictions. If the victim is found to be 10 percent at fault for the accident, possible due to speeding, the claim for damages must be reduced by 10 percent. Therefore, in this example, the victim will only be entitled to receive $18,000 in damages.
The modified nature of the comparative negligence rules further limit the victim from bringing a claim entirely if the victim is found to be more than 50 percent at fault. It is therefore important to determine precisely the percentage which your own actions could have contributed to your injuries or the severity of the car accident.
There are no specific rules that determine the definitive amount each party is found to be “at fault,” and therefore this percentage will only be reached after discussions and negotiations with attorneys, the court, and the insurance companies involved. If your actions during the car accident led to your injuries, or further exacerbated your injuries, it is important to speak with Honolulu Car Accident Lawyer immediately to determine how your actions could affect your claim for damages.
Statute of Limitations
If your car accident falls outside of the No-Fault insurance policies, is important to speak with an attorney as soon as possible after a car accident. The limitations period for bringing a personal injury claim begins running the day of the accident. In Hawai’i, victims are afforded a two-year limitations period during which to file either a personal injury claim or a property damage claim. Unfortunately, if you fail to bring a claim during this two-year period, you effectively lose your ability to recover anything further beyond the insurance policies. Therefore, while your recovery is always the first priority after any car accident, it is important to keep the possibility of bringing a claim for damages at the forefront of your mind to ensure you do not lose your ability to bring a claim.
Dennis Potts Law | Honolulu Car Accident Lawyer
If you or a loved one have been injured in a car accident, do not hesitate to contact Dennis Potts Law. Dennis Potts is an experienced personal injury attorney who will fight for your right to recovery after a car accident has left your life in disarray. Car accidents impact more than just your physical well-being, and can have an ongoing impact to your career and your future. The Hawai’i laws relating to car accidents can be cumbersome, and Dennis Potts is here to assist you during this traumatic time, and will help determine whether your injuries rise to a level that a claim could be brought outside the insurance policy coverage. Contact our Honolulu office today for your initial free consultation.