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Off-road jeep incident, what's your opinion?

Ok, so here's what happened i'll start by leading into the incident with the story before it occurred.

My wife, myself, and 2 of my relatives ages 25 and 30 went fishing about 50 miles north of here. Now my wife and i don't drink....... at all. I myself used to be a delinquent and do things like getting drunk when i was underage but after turning about 18 or so i stopped and have't messed with that stuff (including other things besides alcohol). Anyhow, the two relatives got ***** faced while fishing.
Now on the way home they are still keeping the party going (still drinking) in the back seat of my jeep while i'm driving and my wife in the passenger front seat. While traveling back south toward cruces, my relatives start telling me about how they know of all these great places to go off-road and that we'd be passing by one pretty soon on our way. Me being the way i am, always up for some off-road'n, i say sure let's check it out.
So now we take the exit they are talking about and start taking this dirt road out to where they are giving me directions to. At this point it's pitch dark outside and all my jeep had at the time were it's normal headlights. Now we had stopped for a minute to drain our bladders, so when we re-enter the jeep, my wife's seatbelt gets stuck and won't come out. So one of my relatives messes with the seatbelt a little and jiggles it till it acts normal, then my wife puts it on. Now that we are on the seatbelt issue, it's worth mentioning that the two in the back voluntarily refused to wear it. I pointed out where it is to them, they said they never wear seatbelts in the backseat of vehicles. I figure, OK, they are adults, let them do what they want.
So i continue along following the directions they give me, at this point we are on another dirt road i've never been on. The road is relatively flat by jeep standards and i'm cruising at about 20-30mph on it. Next thing i know, the road right in front of me disappears and i react quickly by slamming the brakes. First the nose drops, then the back end drops, things fly around in the jeep. After the crazyness of the incident, i get out of the jeep to look around and see if i broke anything, to my amazement no tires blew, everything looks like it's there, no fluids are falling out. Then i get back into the vehicle to see if everyone is ok, my wife is cool, she's there with the first aid kit open trying to help our other passengers. They both flew off the rear seat and hit there heads against the roll bar in the jeep. One has a large gash in the middle of his head and the other has a cut just above is eye.
So now i need to get them both to the hospital, but i also need to find my way out. Luckily whenever i go off-road at night i activate my hand held GPS garmin just in case. So i use it to follow back out to the road, then i rush on the highway to get them to the hospital.
At this point i stay with them long enough for them to sign in, then i take off back home to grab another vehicle. On the way back i pick up some food in case they are hungry and to help sober them up, and then come back to the hospital. Well one of them has a severe concussion, and they both need stitches for there injuries. After the 6 hours at the hospital with only 30mins spent being treated () i drove them home.

Now roll a few weeks forward:
Let's start with the insurance. They see it as a liability claim but doesn't go against my record because without any vehicle damage it's not technically considered an auto accident....... go figure. They also say that based on there policies with this situation because my two passengers were not wearing a seatbelt but my wife and i were wearing and sustained no injuries then there was negligence on there part. They say that for my half of incident, they will pay part of there medical bills and no more (there words).
Now of course rumors are flying around, mostly from there end with things like that it was a terrible accident that they almost died, there was no alchohol on there part, etc. The part that really gets me is that the one who loosened my wife's seatbelt feels that i am in his debt (like he wants me to pay him) for saving my wife's life because she would've died any other way.
I've also revisited the area where the incident occurred using my GPS in broad daylight so that i can see what happened. It's basically a blind dip in the road, as you travel over a long broad crest, there's a blind 2-3 foot drop in the road. Nice flat dirt road before and after but with a drop randomly placed in it.

So i've thought about that incident a lot over the past month or two. I've at times felt like it was 100% my fault being an experienced off-roader that should have known better. But then after seeing the place in daylight, i didn't feel so bad. These guys were leading me out there with the assumption that they knew where they were going and i went over a drop in the road that was almost unavoidable in daylight much less at night.

Do you guys think that i'm more at fault then the insurance company suggests? Would some of you feel compelled to take more blame for this and pay the rest of the med bills off or did i already do the right thing?

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Old 08-12-2007, 08:13 PM
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Tell the, they needs to STFU, take thier lumps, and walk away from it with no claims.

Sorry, but if I stick your gun in my mouth and pull the trigger, I have no right to sue you because I hurt myself.
Likewise, if I go off-roading and refuse to wear a seatbelt, I expect to bump my head on something!

Just like if I move into the forest, I expect the wild animal to eat my cattle.
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Old 08-12-2007, 11:08 PM
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Those guys should have been wearing seat belts especially off-roading. I don't think you should feel guilty, nor do I think you need to pay for their hospital bills.

Dave
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Old 08-12-2007, 11:15 PM
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No. THEY wanted to go off-roading. THEY were the ones chugging them down (you might want to leave the part about "drinking in your vehicle" out unless you get cornered with a specific question on that, since there might be open container laws that get you in trouble at that point). THEY were the ones that didn't wear the seatbelts. Tell them to sack up about it.
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Old 08-12-2007, 11:19 PM
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Would they have been injured if they were wearing their seat belts?

If no, then tell them they took on the liability the moment they decided to not wear the belts even after you strongly suggested they put them on.

Kind of sucks that family members are trying to screw you over.
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Old 08-12-2007, 11:22 PM
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I know what I'd be saying to them, relatives or not, " tell it to the judge".
Old 08-12-2007, 11:30 PM
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Thanks for all the comments. Yes there is an open container law here but i've been very strict about telling whoever asks the truth, however nasty it may sound. I don't want to end up like them who have been buttering up the story to improve there image in other peoples eyes.

What's funny about the seatbelts is that they asked about them on the way up to go fishing, i pointed out where they are, but then they gave a sort of "a screw it let's just go". Then on the way back they asked again just before we go off-road, i guess they're thinking "maybe i need it" and i once again point out where it is and once again they gave a sort of "a screw it let's go". The reason i think is because you have to reach into the opening of the rear bench seat (if you have a wrangler maybe you know what i'm talking about) to pull out the latch and insert the seatbelt.

As far as the question of "would they get hurt with the belt on?". I can't say for sure yay or nay, but i can say that with at least a lap belt on you can't fly off the seat, and therefore unless you about 7' tall then your head has no way of contacting the roll bar. Not to mention that the rear belts do have the full 3 point setup of a normal seatbelt. So considering my wife and i had no injuries, not even whiplash or headaches, then yes they would have been perfectly fine had they had them on. Only thing i can think of hurting them even with belts on would maybe be an empty bottle smacking them in the head.
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Old 08-13-2007, 12:12 AM
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Tell them to suck it up. Not wearing a seatbelt, that's what you get. Just like everyone else these days, they just want to blame someone else for their stupidity and get something for nothing.
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Old 08-13-2007, 05:40 AM
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OK - lets look at it from another angle - YOU took them off road and YOU let them not wear a seat belt. YOU had the decision to go or no go. YOU could have said "no belts - no go". Additionally - YOU let them continue to drink in your car. Its your fault - you were in charge. Just for arguments sake
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Old 08-13-2007, 06:37 AM
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This would be a comparative negligence case if they decide to sue. Their negligence is refusing to buckle up when instructed. Your negligence is for not insisting they buckle up when riding in your vehicle. In addidition, being an off road driver myself, I would never go down an unknown trail at night for the reasons you unfortunately discovered.
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Old 08-13-2007, 06:51 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Super_Dave_D View Post
OK - lets look at it from another angle - YOU took them off road and YOU let them not wear a seat belt. YOU had the decision to go or no go. YOU could have said "no belts - no go". Additionally - YOU let them continue to drink in your car. Its your fault - you were in charge. Just for arguments sake
That argument only works if the passengers are 7 or 8 years old.
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Old 08-13-2007, 06:53 AM
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That argument only works if the passengers are 7 or 8 years old.
I disagree - there must be some fault with the driver, but not all (as Kurt says). I feel that the driver is in charge and dictates what happens or doesnt happen.
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Old 08-13-2007, 07:02 AM
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Originally Posted by 1fastredsc View Post
....So i've thought about that incident a lot over the past month or two. I've at times felt like it was 100% my fault being an experienced off-roader that should have known better....


Do you guys think that i'm more at fault then the insurance company suggests? Would some of you feel compelled to take more blame for this and pay the rest of the med bills off or did i already do the right thing?
My first vehicle was a Jeep CJ5 (short wheel base) many, many years ago. IMO, you, the driver, was responsible. I've been on two wheels enough (both on & off road), and know that a skull is no match for a roll bar, or even worse, ejection from the vehicle. I do believe the driver IS responsible for a passenger being a dumba$$ when the driver is ultimately going to be responsible. You don't want to wear a seatbelt in my jeep...fine, get out and walk...I'm not kidding! I don't mean to come down too hard on you, but if you are indeed an "experienced off-roader", then you should have known better. Some of the closest calls, "roll overs", etc. I ever had were also less than 20 mph, some less than 5. I wouldn't let someone get on the back of my m/c without a helmet, and imo, this isn't much different.
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Old 08-13-2007, 07:07 AM
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Tell the, they needs to STFU, take thier lumps, and walk away from it with no claims.

Sorry, but if I stick your gun in my mouth and pull the trigger, I have no right to sue you because I hurt myself.
Likewise, if I go off-roading and refuse to wear a seatbelt, I expect to bump my head on something!
My thoughts exactly. They were fine taking responsibility for their actions--until they got hurt.
Old 08-13-2007, 07:40 AM
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Chris, if/when you get a m/c, would you let a passenger ride w/o a helmet (if allowed in IL)? I'm sorry, but a couple of drunks are not going to be "allowed" to do something unsafe, like riding OFFROAD with no seatbelts, if I am the driver. I don't think some of you realize just how inherently unsafe Jeeps are for rollovers, etc. I'm not typically such a harda$$, but if you're on my m/c, in my boat, etc. (and are MY responsibility), you will attempt to be safe, or you won't go...it's that simple.
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Old 08-13-2007, 07:57 AM
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Tough call. I think they assumed liability choosing to remain unbelted.

Something to think about in the future.... in an accident an unbelted passenger in the rear seat is going to be flying forward into the back of your seat. Whether or not they "usually" wear seat belts shouldn't matter in your car. Tell them it's not for their safety, but for yours.
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Old 08-13-2007, 08:01 AM
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I don't drive without everyone in the car in a seatbelt, period. I'm not 16 anymore, there's no peer pressure to be cool (i.e. stupid), just the driver's say which is the last word.

That being said, you told them to wear seatbelts, they didn't, tough ***** for them.
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Old 08-13-2007, 08:02 AM
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Chris, if/when you get a m/c, would you let a passenger ride w/o a helmet (if allowed in IL)? I'm sorry, but a couple of drunks are not going to be "allowed" to do something unsafe, like riding OFFROAD with no seatbelts, if I am the driver. I don't think some of you realize just how inherently unsafe Jeeps are for rollovers, etc. I'm not typically such a harda$$, but if you're on my m/c, in my boat, etc. (and are MY responsibility), you will attempt to be safe, or you won't go...it's that simple.
I don't ride and won't get on a motorcycle. I have no problem with them, they are just not my thing. And yes, it is legal to ride in IL without a helmet. I'm fine with this.

NONE of my friends ride with me without a seatbelt. It's not something I have to enforce, it just comes naturally after the first few turns.
Old 08-13-2007, 08:09 AM
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I don't ride and won't get on a motorcycle. I have no problem with them, they are just not my thing.

Oops...my bad, I can't keep my threads straight
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Old 08-13-2007, 08:44 AM
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I believe in CA the law is that if you are over 18 and a passenger then you the passenger gets the seatbelt ticket.

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Old 08-13-2007, 08:50 AM
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