Accident While RVing in New Jersey: Know Your Rights
The RVing lifestyle has lured many adventure lovers with its possibilities. The enticement of adventure, exploration and the freedom of open road has seen many travel enthusiasts opting for the RVing life.
Additionally, the affordability of RVs has attracted people of all walks of life. From young adults who would otherwise be saving for a deposit for their first mortgage, to retired seniors and empty nesters looking to downsize and travel.
According to research by the RV Industry Association, approximately 11.2 million Americans own an RV, with another 9.6million intending to buy one in the future. In another surprising statistic, 22% of RV owners are between the ages of 18 and 34.
However, RV drivers can pose a real danger. From the inexperienced younger drivers to older drivers unaccustomed to larger and oversized vehicles, RV driving requires specialized skills to operate and maneuver around safely.
However, even with the most experienced of RV drivers, accidents do still happen. Accidents can have significant emotional, physical, and financial consequences for all involved parties.
RV accidents in particular, can complicate your insurance and legal issues.
Understanding RV accidents
RV accidents can either be due to human or mechanical errors.
However, regardless of the high number of RV owners and enthusiasts and their large size, they have a pretty low rate of accidents.
An average of 26 deaths and over 75,000 hospitalizations happen annually due to RV-related accidents.
Significant causes of RV accidents
● Wind gusts
RVs have tall sidewalls and are top-heavy. As such, strong winds can easily sway them and cause them to flip over.
Additionally, when driving beside/near a large truck, like an 18-wheeler, it creates a vacuum that can draw you in. This can cause your RV to sway and lose balance.
● Driving tired
Driving while tired significantly increases your probability of causing an accident. Fatigue can impair your judgment, coordination and response time.
It is advisable to stop and rest every couple of hours of operating your RV.
● Mind-altering substances
Intoxicating substances such as subscription medication and alcohol can impair your ability to make the correct decision and react appropriately.
RVers must resist the urge to drive while under the influence of any drugs, prescription or otherwise, and alcohol.
Driving an overloaded RV strains its suspension, brakes, and chassis. Going above the recommended weight can easily lead to accidents.
It’s against the law to drive an overloaded RV. Should an accident occur due in your overloaded RV, it is deemed human error and the insurance doesn’t offer compensation.
Scale your RV to the right weight to prevent massive physical and financial risks to you and other road users.
RVs are not designed to be operated at a high speed. High speed slows down braking time, increases pressure on different automotive parts and predisposes you to accidents. Driving your Rv at the recommended speed for the size and load is not only safer, but it also saves you fuel and keeps your RV running well.
● Inexperienced drivers
RV drivers should hold a legal driving license and be above 21 years.
However, regardless of your experience and age, handling an RV requires extra skills like learning the best braking distance, pinpointing the position of pivot points, and knowing how to handle the backing up process.
All these skills equip you to handle the RV correctly and maneuver it well, especially on busy roads or in bad weather.
● Runaway trailers
A trailer or towable car may hitch out from an RV and run down the road, posing a danger to others. To avoid this, ensure you balance the RV weight and use the proper hitch size and safety chains.
Using the correct hitch lock ensures the grabbing mechanism stays strong and safely hitched.
● Mechanical disrepair
Motorhomes need frequent maintenance to keep various parts working perfectly. Preventive care on brakes and other components can save you thousands of dollars and prevent you from incurring unnecessary legal cases.
● Blind spots
Because of their height and length, RVs have many blind spots. You can easily merge into other lanes, run over property, or back into something or someone without your knowledge. Use cameras and mirrors diligently.
Your rights in case of an RV accident in New Jersey
● Documenting the scene
After an RV accident, you have a right to document the scene by taking videos and photos.
This includes pictures and videos of the involved parties, road conditions, vehicle and other property, signage, obstructions, and other factors that indirectly or directly contributed to the RV accident. Also, don’t forget to take photos of any injuries.
This documentation becomes an integral part of the evidence if the other party disputes the claim or when filling for one. Don’t apologize for documenting the scene.
● Talking to witnesses
Collect the contact information of the people who witnessed the accident. This includes their names, telephone numbers, and address. If possible, request them to describe what they saw happen.
Witnesses at a future date may become helpful in proving the person liable for the accident. However, you cannot force the witnesses to give out their personal information. Therefore, ask nicely and politely request their cooperation.
● Calling 911 and/or the police
Regardless of whether the RV accident has no injuries or it’s just a fender-bender, you must call the police. Doing so ensures you receive an official accident report that protects you in case the other party disputes the accident occurrence and circumstances at a future date.
Additionally, you need a documented police report for your insurance claims.
● Requesting medical help
Even if you do not have visible external injuries, don’t rule out the possibility of internal damage. After an accident, your adrenaline levels rise which can mask injuries.
No one, not even law enforcement, should prevent you from seeking immediate medical attention and prioritizing your safety and healthy wellbeing.
Don’t forget to request treatment records, medical bills, and other specialist recommendations. They may come in handy when filing for injury compensation and legal action.
● Contacting legal counsel
It is vital to consult a personal injury attorney and request for their immediate presence after an RV accident. Your lawyer is key to preventing the destruction of any evidence and protecting your rights.
After an accident, you may also be experiencing trauma from physical and emotional injuries. Having your lawyer by your side safeguards your interests and gives you peace of mind.
Remember to seek a trusted and knowledgeable personal injury attorney in NJ with a positive track record in handling RV accidents.
● Remaining silent
After an RV accident, remember you don’t have any legal obligation to anyone. Do not apologize or admit fault for any indirect or direct behavior, This may indicate you might have caused the accident.
For example, if the other party starts complaining about injuries, don’t express your sympathy since they can interpret it as indirectly admitting fault.
Avoid any discussion of the occurrence with the involved parties. Doing so can distort your memory, thus preventing you from recognizing their opinion vs. the reality.
The other party might also use your response to gather more evidence and make biased conclusions.
Finally, do not at any given time discuss the RV accident with any third party, especially the other party’s insurance company. Instead, refer them to your lawyer.
● Requesting for the Insurance Information
Under NJ law, RVs should operate with insurance coverage; however, some drivers use their RVs uninsured, which complicates things in case of an accident.
However, whether you have RV insurance coverage or not, if an accident occurs, it’s your right to confirm the insurance details of the other motorist. Check and document the other motorist insurance company, agent contact, and policy number for future claims and references.
● Requesting for the police report
It’s within your legal right to receive the police report. This report consists of all pertinent information like the weather, road conditions, date, eyewitness statements, citations, location, accident diagrams, and any other aspects the police deem essential.
Remember, the police report acts as crucial evidence in case of court cases and claims.
● Taking legal action
If you find it difficult to negotiate with the involved at-fault party insurance company, you can seek legal action and sue for compensation.
However, you have to prove beyond doubt that the accident was due to negligence, carelessness, and recklessness.
Remember, the insurance company will poke holes in your information to reduce the payout compensation. That said, avoid representing yourself in court since you might short-sell your claim payout. Instead, seek an experienced personal injury lawyer to handle questions, claims, and negotiators.
Final thoughts on RV accidents and your rights
Whether minor or significant, an accident is the worst nightmare for every RV driver. The aftermath of the accident can cause physical, emotional and financial injuries.
However, knowing your rights and following them religiously, can save you a lot more harm and injury.
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