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Legal Advice Columns

The following articles are reprints of Van O'Steen legal advice columns which appeared in The Arizona Republic and other newspapers across Arizona.

Van O'Steen

Car Accident Law

Car Accident

What to Do After a Car Accident

Van O'Steen

Although car accidents happen daily, most Arizonans don’t know the proper procedures to follow at the scene of an accident.

Often, people involved in car accidents unintentionally harm some of their rights under the law, especially if they have been injured.  An example is the victim of a car crash who gets out of his car and says, “I’m not injured.”

Car Accident Requirements

Car Accident Requirements

Van O'Steen

Car accidents, however minor, are upsetting, and clear thinking immediately after the accident occurs is almost impossible.  For this reason, keep the following checklist of Arizona legal requirements in the glove box of your car for easy reference.

Car Accident Injury

Injuries From Accidents Often Show Up Later, Especially From Car Crashes

Van O'Steen

People who are involved in car accidents sometimes impair their rights under the law by assuming they are not injured and telling this to witnesses and investigating police officers.

The problem with telling people immediately after an accident that you are not hurt is your statement can be used against you if you discover later that you actually were injured, and you are seeking compensation for your injuries.

Collision Liability

Collision Liability for Personal Injury and Property Damage

Van O'Steen

If your car is rear-ended while you are stopped at a traffic signal that is red, the driver of the other car almost always will be legally responsible to pay all your damages resulting from the car accident, including injuries.

Law Requires Assistance in Some Car Accidents

Van O'Steen

A Phoenix firefighter employed by Rural/Metro was dismissed from his job for disobeying a supervisor's order to stand-by at one location while other emergency vehicles attended victims of a serious auto accident  at 99th Avenue and Indian School Road.

Failure to Wear Seatbelt Can Be Strapping Legally and Financially

Failure to Wear Seatbelt Can Be Strapping, Legally and Financially

Van O'Steen

Seatbelts save lives and reduce the number and severity of injuries. This should be sufficient motivation for everyone to buckle up.

'Wrongful Death' Law Deals with Intentional or Careless Acts

Van O'Steen

For longer than Arizona has been a state, we have had a provision in our civil code establishing liability for those who cause the death of another by intentional acts or careless accidents. This area of the law generally is referred to as "wrongful death."

Car Accidents Can't Be Blamed on Driving Without a Valid License

Van O'Steen

Driving without a valid driver's license is against the law.  Those who are caught doing it will be issued a citation. Everyone knows this.

You may be surprised to learn, however, that driving without a license has no bearing on responsibility for a traffic accident, including those involving personal injuries. Arizona courts have ruled that a person’s failure to obtain a driver's license is no evidence that the person was not a safe driver.

Your Shop or Mine? Insurance Consumers HAve Choice

Van O'Steen

Getting your car repaired can be one of the most troublesome aspects of an automobile accident, especially for those where no injury occurred.

In most cases, an insurance company will be compensating you for the amount reasonably necessary to repair your car. The company may be yours or it may be the other driver's.

Shoddy Repair Work Can Add to Headaches After Car Accident

Van O'Steen

Auto repairs are troublesome under the best circumstances. The experience can be made more complicated when repair of damage caused by an accident is to be paid by an insurance company—yours or the other driver's.

Driver Courtesy Causes Car Accident

Van O'Steen

A friend recently sent me a news clipping describing a tragic but interesting legal case. A 10-year-old girl named Margaret was seriously injured when she was struck by a car while attempting to cross a street.

Margaret had safely crossed to the center of the street and was waiting for traffic to clear when a truck driver stopped and motioned her to cross in front of him.  She did, and was struck by a car passing in the lane next to the truck.

Police Have Authority Over Car Accidents on Private Land

Police Have Authority Over Car Accidents on Private Land

Van O'Steen

There is a widely held—and incorrect—belief that police in Arizona have no authority over traffic violations and accidents occurring on private property. Although police have less discretion to issue citations for traffic violations on private property, you should not assume they have none.

Arizona Rule for Bicyclists Keeps Freewheelers in Check

Arizona rule for Bicyclists Keeps Freewheelers in Check

Van O'Steen

I can remember being taught as a child to ride my bicycle against traffic. By doing this, I was told I could see approaching cars in the lane nearest me. This was thought to be the safest practice for bicycle riders.

Some time later, the rules changed. Bicyclists now are required by Arizona law to ride with traffic. In fact, the law generally imposes the same duties on bicycle riders as those imposed on drivers of cars.

Law Limits Information Driver Must Provide After Car Accident

Law Limits Information Driver Must Provider After Car Accident

Van O'Steen

Most people would rather go the dentist than be questioned by a police officer. We are justifiably reluctant to speak freely where important legal rights and duties are involved. The law can be mysterious and confusing.  Law officers can be intimidating no matter how benign their purpose.

Yield to the Vehicle on the Right

Yield to the Vehicle on the Right

Van O'Steen

An uncontrolled intersection is one with no traffic lights, stop signs or yield signs. These are common in residential neighborhoods. It is apparent that many drivers either do not understand or do not respect the rule regarding right of way at these intersections, and they substantially increase the risk of an injury accident.

Disclaimers Don't Always Release Others from Liability

Van O'Steen

“Not responsible for loss or damage to car or contents by fire, theft, or trespassing. Car driven by employee at owner's risk. No employee may alter these conditions or increase responsibility."

That paragraph is a disclaimer. It was printed on a parking lot claim ticket I recently received.

Umbrella Insurance

Umbrella Insurance Is Worth Considering to Fill Out Coverage, Protect Against Personal Injury Claim

Van O'Steen

Insurance rates for all types of coverage generally are high. One of the best insurance values available, however, continues to be an umbrella policy.

Liability insurance protects the policyholder from claims and lawsuits made against him or her by others. Car accidents, falls, dog bites, medical malpractice and many other careless acts are covered by some form of liability coverage.