South Bend is the fourth largest city in the Hoosier state, boasting more than 100,000 residents in the latest census data. Its proximity to Michigan, centrality in northern Indiana, and its international airport attract business people who need to travel throughout Indiana, the Midwest, or even the world.
The French played a major role in South Bend’s early history. Father Marquette, a French missionary, discovered the St. Joseph River as early as 1673, and French explorer Robert LaSalle discovered the mouth of the river in 1679. But it wasn’t until 1820 that Pierre Navarre became the first European to settle permanently in what would one day become South Bend. In 1842, Father Edward Sorin, another French missionary, established the University of Notre Dame du Lac in South Bend.
The St. Joseph River attracted several businesses that set up factories along the waterway. When the first steam locomotive roared into South Bend in 1851, businesses shifted from the river to the railroad. A year later, Henry Studebaker started his Studebaker wagon shop, which would one day morph into an automotive manufacturing company.
South Bend was finally incorporated as a city in 1865. From its earliest days, the city has been integrally tied to commerce and has relied on people coming in and out of the city to support its economy. Today, the University of Notre Dame is the city’s largest employer, and thousands of college students come to South Bend every year from across the country and around the world.
State Road 2, State Road 20, and US-31 all flow in or around South Bend, bringing plenty of traffic with them. Drivers unfamiliar with South Bend’s roads make the trip to catch a Notre Dame football game, taste some chocolate at the South Bend chocolate factory, or visit the Studebaker National Museum. With so many people traveling in and out of the city, car accidents are bound to happen.
An Indiana car accident lawyer may be able to help if you’ve been injured in a South Bend car accident. How so? Here are a few reasons.
1. Fault Can Be Confusing in South Bend
The people of South Bend are used to divisions. With a time zone border to the west, a state border to the north, and various professional and collegiate sports rivalries, South Bend residents are well aware of how one area can differ from another despite their close proximity.
Hopefully, then, most South Bend residents can understand why a South Bend car accident would be so tricky. Because of South Bend’s proximity to Michigan, it can be difficult to understand how fault might play into a car accident in that area. An accident in South Bend may be handled differently than one just five minutes away in Michigan.
Indiana is a fault state, which means that each driver in a car accident is responsible for a percentage of damages that correlates to the percentage of the accident they are responsible for causing. For example, if you get into a car accident and you have $50,000 in damages and you’re 20 percent at fault, you can expect to recover $40,000, or 80 percent of your damages, from the at-fault driver’s insurance company. You would have to go to your own insurance company to recover the remaining $10,000, because you’re responsible for 20 percent of your damages.
You’re only able to recover from the other driver’s insurance company if you’re less than 51 percent at fault. Otherwise, you can only go through your own insurance company for compensation.
What makes South Bend car accidents tricky is that Michigan is a no-fault state. That means that it doesn’t matter what percentage you’re at fault for the accident. You can only recover through your own insurance company. It doesn’t matter if you’re 0 percent at fault; you can’t recover through the at-fault driver’s insurance company.
The question many South Bend residents have is simple: Which fault rules apply? If you get into an accident in South Bend with a Michigander, would Indiana or Michigan rules apply? What if you’re a South Bend resident and you drive across the Michigan border and get into an accident?
What matters is where the car accident occurs, not where the drivers are from. If you get into a car accident in South Bend, Indiana fault rules apply. If you get into a car accident in Michigan, Michigan no-fault rules apply.
That means South Bend drivers have to be more careful than other Hoosiers when it comes to making sure they’re fully insured. You may be able to recover in an Indiana car accident if you’re uninsured or underinsured as long as the accident wasn’t your fault, but that likely won’t be the case in a Michigan car accident.
An Indiana car accident attorney can help you understand how fault works after a South Bend car accident and determine from which insurance company you can seek compensation.
2. South Bend Has a Large Student Population
In the fall of 2016, more than 8,600 undergraduates enrolled at the University of Notre Dame. 2,500 of those are first year students. 79 percent of students live in housing owned, operated, or affiliated with Notre Dame, and 21 percent live off-campus.
That means that every year, thousands of students and their families unfamiliar with South Bend travel to the city. Families help with move-in, and friends come for sporting events and other campus activities throughout the year. New students live in the city every day, learning to navigate unfamiliar roads to enjoy the best of what South Bend has to offer.
The unfortunate downside of this is that car accidents are more likely because of so many newcomers each year. Not only are they unfamiliar with South Bend’s roads, but they’re also typically young drivers. Drivers age 15-19 only accounted for 7 percent of the U.S. population in 2013, but were responsible for 11 percent of the total costs of motor vehicle injuries, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). To be sure, most Notre Dame students are on the higher end of that age range, but most first year students are somewhere between 17-19 years old, making them not only new to South Bend’s roads, but still relatively new to driving in general.
Many students are also not from the state of Indiana. Only 36 percent are from the Midwest in general, and as mentioned before, fault rules can vary between Midwest states. That means that at least two thirds of students may be unaware of Indiana’s traffic laws or how Indiana’s insurance rules differ from their home state’s rules.
If you’re injured in a South Bend car accident and you’re an out-of-state student, an Indiana car accident attorney can help you determine how your out-of-state insurance policy works in Indiana and how fault may affect your case. If you’re injured in a South Bend car accident by an out-of-state student, an Indiana car accident lawyer can help you negotiate with the out-of-state insurance company to get the compensation you deserve.
3. Bad Weather = More Car Accidents
Take new student drivers, a steady flow of out-of-state drivers, and multiple highways, and add South Bend weather. What do you get? More car accidents.
South Bend is centrally located, but its northern position in the state puts it right in the region to receive lake-effect snow. That means that while the rest of Indiana gets a couple inches of snow, South Bend is often buried in feet of snow due to its proximity to Lake Michigan.
Indiana is also known for its quick-changing weather conditions, frequently going from sunny to rainy to snowy in a matter of hours. The St. Joseph River, which flows right through the heart of South Bend, is also known to flood from time to time.
All of these extreme weather events present hazards to South Bend drivers. Even a lifelong South Bend resident can’t fully prepare for the crazy weather every year. Imagine, then, how much more stressful it is for a business person arriving for the first time at the South Bend International Airport to drive in such weather or for a first year student to find their way back to campus during a downpour. Their vehicles may not be suited for such extreme weather.
An Indiana car accident lawyer can gather the evidence surrounding your car accident and help you determine if the other driver’s negligence contributed to your accident.
Help from an Indiana Car Accident Lawyer
If you or a loved one has been injured in a South Bend car accident, call an Indiana car accident attorney today at Hensley Legal Group. Since 1998, Hensley Legal Group has been fighting to get Hoosiers involved in car accidents what they deserve. Don’t let the insurance company give you the runaround. Call us today or contact us online for a free consultation.