When accidents happen

By Candice Navi

On the day of the June SATs, Chase Morgan ’10 was heading down Coldwater Canyon. While making a turn near St. Michael’s, Morgan ended up in the wrong lane, facing opposing traffic. Morgan sharply turned again to return to his lane, causing his car to skid 180 degrees, completely roll over and end up back on all four wheels.

“I was in a state of disbelief after, as well as during, the accident,” Morgan said. “It was like a dream, I just had no control. Some people ran over to help me and security guard [Sanders] Jackson drove my car into a parking lot. The car was near totaled, but I escaped injury miraculously.”

The only piece of advice Morgan has to offer now is to follow the speed limit posted along the road.

“Sometimes they are silly, but other times they protect idiots from themselves,” Morgan said.

In fact, nearly 6,000 teenagers are killed in car crashes and 300,000 are injured every year, according to the American Automobile Association.

“Everyone is bound to have an accident now or later, so with teens that first accident usually comes a little sooner than later,” said Century City-based attorney Navid A. Natanian, who specializes in plaintiffs’ motor vehicle accidents and general and serious personal injury cases.

“Knowing how to react in certain situations is crucial so without many years of driving experience and the accompanying confidence in their own driving skills, teens are more prone to allow distractions to impair their ability to pay attention to their driving,” Natanian said.

The first of the three basic steps laid out by Allstate Insurance Company for coping immediately after an accident is to remain calm and assess any possible injuries you and your passengers may have.

“If you feel injured, depending on severity, of course, it’s best to stay in the car, call an ambulance and get checked out before going directly home,” Natanian said. “After an accident you must pull to the side, but depending on where you are, that may be a task in itself.”

Neither driver should leave the accident scene so that they can exchange information and file an accident report with the police.

“Call the police if someone is injured and it is not a bad idea to call their parents either,” auto insurance agent Dave Pontecorvo said. “Get as much information from the other party before leaving the scene.”

At the scene of the accident it is difficult to judge who truly has your best interest in mind, from bystander to the other driver. It is important not to discuss liability and fault with anyone at the scene except the police and later with your insurance agent, Natanian said.

Tow trucks tend to show up shortly after an accident has occurred and unless called for by someone, they generally cannot be trusted, Natanian said.

“There are often people that work for tow truck companies and body shops that are looking to profit from someone else’s unfortunate loss,” Natanian said. “Just like anything else in life, a little trust and a little caution must go hand in hand.”

If you feel any amount of pain at the scene, it is important to seek medical attention to ensure that injuries do not become serious. Health should be the driver’s top priority and getting checked out is recommended, Natanian said.

In order to file an accident claim to your auto insurance provider later, be sure to get the name of the vehicle owner, the date of the accident, type of loss or damage, location of the occurrence, injuries, the condition of your vehicle and whether or not the police or fire department was notified.

“After any accident, the parties must exchange information; that is the law,” Natanian said, “However, it is usually taken more seriously by law enforcement whenever an accident results in any injury, or property damages in excess of $500. If the other side is unwilling to wait around you must take their vehicle license plate and advise them that you are waiting for police or law enforcement to arrive.”

If there were many injuries in the accident, the other driver does not have insurance or is unwilling to resolve a claim, Natanian recommends hiring an attorney.

“If it’s a minor accident with no injuries and not excessive property damage, there will usually be no need for legal action,” Natanian said.

Claire Kao ’10 was driving alone on Mulholland Drive at the speed limit of 35 mph.

On a blind turn, she hit a cement truck that was parked in her lane. The airbags immediately went off.

“I smelled something burning and I had a weird, dull headache,” Kao said. “I couldn’t see clearly for the first minute after, so I didn’t know the extent of the damage; I was trying to convince myself that it was only a minor fender bender.”

Kao was uninjured.

“It horrifies me to think what would have happened if I wasn’t wearing my seat belt,” Kao said, “I could have come away with much worse injuries if I were driving faster.”