Types of Car Accidents for Which You Need a Lawyer

In the moment following a car crash, the type of crash might not seem important to those involved, but understanding the type of car accident is often helpful in determining fault. Certain reckless or negligent driver actions are more likely to cause different types of accidents.

Read on to learn more about different types of car accidents, and building a case against the responsible party.

Common Types of Car Accidents

Road traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for individuals between the ages of 1 to 54 in the United States. These crashes killed more than 36,000 people in the United States in a recent year and cost an estimated $242 billion.

Alcohol-Related Crashes

Each state has its own laws governing driving under the influence of alcohol, but the most common definition is anyone driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at or greater than 0.08 percent or under the influence of alcohol. Evidence demonstrating a driver under the influence includes any increased BAC, failed field sobriety test, slurred speech, or smelling of alcohol.

It is estimated that more than one million drivers were arrested for driving under the influence of either alcohol or drugs in a recent year, which averages out to one of every 222 licensed drivers. More than 10,000 people died in alcohol-related crashes in the U.S. in a recent year, and these crashes accounted for 28 percent of all crash fatalities.

Alcohol-related crashes commonly result in a single-vehicle crash if the driver loses control of the vehicle or veers into a stationary object. Just because a crash only involves one vehicle, it doesn’t mean that no one else is injured. Pedestrians and bicyclists could be hurt or killed.

Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol has criminal implications, but it is also clear evidence of reckless activity by a driver that warrants civil recovery for any victims in the crash.

Distracted Driving

As the use of electronic devices becomes more and more common, the incidence of distracted driving-related crashes continues to increase. Many states have passed laws prohibiting certain activities while driving, like texting, in an acknowledgment that this action is negligent or reckless and likely to cause a crash. While electronic devices are a common culprit, distracted driving-related crashes include anything that takes a driver’s attention away from the road.

In one recent year, more than 3,000 individuals were killed in distracted driving accidents in the United States. To put this in perspective, the data shows that eight individuals are killed in distracted driving crashes every day in the U.S. Some of the individuals most vulnerable to these accidents are pedestrians and bicyclists, and these individuals are also highly likely to suffer serious injuries in an accident because they aren’t protected in a vehicle.

Distracted driving commonly results in T-bone collisions because distracted driving can result in running of red lights or failing to yield. A T-bone collision occurs when one vehicle strikes another from the side (also called side-impact crashes), creating a T shape.

Violating state law is clear evidence of negligence or recklessness. Even if there is not a state law governing distracted driving, evidence of distracted driving will position a victim strongly in any effort to recover damages for their injuries.

Speeding

Speeding is one of the most common negligent actions by drivers in the U.S., with two-thirds of vehicles exceeding posted speed limits. Speeding reduces a driver’s ability to react to unexpected circumstances, hazards, or weather changes, increasing the likelihood that the driver loses control of the vehicle or cannot stop to avoid a collision.

Head-on collisions often happen when vehicles are driving at a high speed and in opposite directions. These collisions represent a significant percentage of vehicle occupant deaths.

The faster a driver is going, the easier it will be to demonstrate that their actions were negligent or reckless.

Driver Fatigue or Drowsiness

Driver drowsiness causes 83,000 crashes in the U.S. each year, which is not surprising given that one in 25 adults over the age of 18 have reported falling asleep while driving in the preceding month. Drowsy driving causes drivers to lose focus, reducing driver reaction time, and limiting the driver’s ability to make reasonable driving decisions.

Certain categories of drivers are more likely to suffer from fatigue or drowsiness, including commercial truck drivers, delivery drivers, any driver forced to regularly drive at night, and any driver who spends long hours behind the wheel. Some professions have limitations on driving hours including commercial truck drivers through the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

Driver fatigue can result in any number of crashes, head-on collisions and rollover crashes are particularly likely. A head-on collision can occur if the driver falls asleep and veers into oncoming traffic. Rollover accidents occur when a vehicle rolls over onto its side or roof because of a shift in the vehicle’s center of mass. One scenario that causes rollovers is when a vehicle goes on uneven terrain, which can happen if a driver veers off the road. Commercial trucks are susceptible to rollover crashes because of their size and often uneven weight distribution.

Tailgating

Tailgating is when a vehicle follows another too closely and is one of the most common causes of a rear-end collision. State laws require drivers to keep a safe distance from the car in front of them because following too closely leaves insufficient time to brake or react to road conditions.

It is complicated to demonstrate fault in a tailgating accident because the distance between vehicles isn’t captured before the accident. Witness testimony is important in establishing the negligent behavior of a tailgating driver.

Disregarding Traffic Laws

Drivers are required to follow the rules of the road, including compliance with traffic lights, traffic signs, checking a blind spot, and yielding. All these laws exist to provide safe roadways for vehicles, cyclists, and pedestrians. Failure to comply with traffic laws and regulations commonly results in accidents.

Head-on and T-bone collisions are common occurrences when a driver fails to yield or to comply with traffic signals. Individuals like pedestrians and cyclists are particularly vulnerable if a driver fails to check a blind spot or to yield because these individuals are less visible than other vehicles and depend on the diligence of drivers for their safety.

Weather and Road Conditions

Bad weather, road construction, and an unexpected change in road conditions require increased diligence on the part of a driver. If a driver fails to adjust their driving to account for weather and road conditions, they are responsible for a resulting accident. Other driver choices can increase the risk of an accident in these conditions including speeding, impaired driving, and distracted driving.

Establishing Liability for Injuries

As discussed in each of the accident types above, driver negligence or recklessness is often responsible for the accident. To pursue recovery against a driver, you must establish that the driver acted negligently, recklessly, or intentionally and that the act caused the accident and your injuries. Violation of traffic laws or regulations is strong evidence of negligence but is not required. Any action that deviates from a reasonable standard of care rises to the level of negligence.

A driver isn’t the only party who could be responsible for the accident.

Also consider these potential parties for liability:

  • Employer: If a driver was acting in the normal course of their job duties at the time of the accident, their employer is responsible. The employer may have better insurance coverage. The employer might argue that the driver was actually an independent contractor or that the employee acted outside of the scope of their duties at the time of the accident. Accidents that commonly include an employee are those involving commercial truck drivers or delivery drivers.
  • Vehicle manufacturer: If a defect or malfunction in a vehicle caused the accident, the manufacturer is responsible. For example, a brake failure could result in a driver running a red light without any negligence on the part of the driver. Even if driver negligence caused an accident, the manufacturer might still be responsible for some injuries. If an airbag fails to deploy, a passenger is likely to suffer more severe injuries.
  • Local government: Local governments are responsible for maintaining roadways and traffic signs and signals. If roads fall into disrepair or traffic signals become hidden or fail to function, it greatly increases the risk of an accident. A driver, however, can’t be held responsible for failing to adhere to a traffic sign they couldn’t see. Many local governments are protected from lawsuits or place a cap on the available recovery. Your lawyer can help analyze whether recovery against the local government is possible.

Any party whose negligent or intentional actions contributed to the accident must pay for the resulting injuries.

The types of injuries in car accidents are wide-ranging and very dependent on the type of accident:

  • Head and brain injuries: Any accident that results in a blow to the head can cause a head injury such as a concussion or laceration or a traumatic brain injury (TBI). The symptoms of TBIs can range from temporary impairments to brain death and will depend on the severity and location of the blow.
  • Spinal cord injuries: The spinal cord allows the brain to communicate with the body, and any spinal cord injury puts the victim at risk for muscle weakness or paralysis.
  • Internal organ damage: Internal organs are injured when the body suffers a blow. Symptoms of these injuries are often delayed and difficult to detect but can be very serious when not treated.
  • Road rash: If the victim is a cyclist, pedestrian, or an individual ejected from a vehicle, they are at risk of road rash. Road rash is a painful skin injury that occurs when the skin is scraped across the cement.
  • Broken bones: The body takes a beating in an accident, making broken bones a likely outcome. Severe breaks can require surgery and breaks to facial bones might require reconstructive surgery.

Your lawyer will work with you to analyze the specific facts of your case to determine which party is responsible for your injuries and to compile supporting evidence of liability. A police report is an important piece of evidence in many car accidents because the report will include pictures of the accident scene which can help illuminate the cause, witness statements, and traffic citations issued to anyone involved.

Preparing a Damages Demand

Once you have established which party is responsible, you will need to perform a full assessment of the injuries you have suffered. Your lawyer will help you assign a monetary value to your injuries, which will constitute your demand for damages against the defendant.

Damages suffered by car accident victims commonly include:

  • Medical costs: The defendant is responsible for medical expenses resulting from your injuries including emergency transportation, prescription medication, assistive devices like wheelchairs, and doctor’s bills. Be sure to include an estimate of future damages like ongoing physical therapy.
  • Lost income: If a victim’s injuries force them to miss work, they deserve to recover compensation for lost income, including future lost wages and diminishment of future earning potential.
  • Property damage: The defendant must pay to repair or replace any property the accident damaged or destroyed.
  • Emotional distress: If you find yourself suffering from emotional distress like depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder after the accident, include appropriate compensation in your damages demand.
  • Punitive damages: If the defendant’s actions were willful or reckless, you might qualify for recovery of punitive damages under your state’s laws.

A comprehensive damages demand is an important tool as you pursue recovery. Not only will the jury consider it when awarding damages, but it will also help you strategically assess any settlement offer from the defendant or their insurance provider.

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