Car accidents constitute a leading cause of unintentional injury, death, and financial loss in the United States. Every year, millions of Americans sustain physical harm and property damage in crashes. Most (but not all) car accidents result from dangerous driving behaviors on the part of motorists involved.
Victims of car accidents generally have rights to claim compensation from the motorists or other parties whose actions contributed to the cause of a crash. Here’s a review of the types of car accidents that can trigger a damages claim, and how an experienced car accident lawyer can secure money for victims.
Rear-end collisions are the most common of all traffic accidents.
They most often occur because of a mistake by the driver of the trailing vehicle, such as:
- Speeding or driving too fast for conditions
- Following too close (sometimes called tailgating)
- Distracted driving
Perhaps due to their frequency, rear-end collisions have a reputation as being minor fender benders, and frequently they are. But not always. Sometimes a rear-end collision happens at high speed and causes catastrophic damage. And even a low speed rear-end collision can injure vehicle occupants, especially those in the vehicle struck from behind.
Rear-end collisions can also trigger chain reaction accidents, in which multiple vehicles in a lane collide with each other. These types of accidents can pose particular dangers for motorists sharing the road with large trucks. A passenger vehicle can easily get wedged beneath a truck trailer after being pushed into it by a rear-end collision, for instance.
Common injuries in rear-end collisions run the gamut of trauma. Neck, back, and shoulder soft tissue injuries (also called whiplash) are common among occupants of the leading vehicle. Traumatic brian injury (TBI) and broken bones can also easily occur.
Sideswipes—or collisions between the sides of two or more vehicles—often occur when a car merges into a lane already occupied by another vehicle. Drivers commonly make this mistake because of factors like fatigue, alcohol or drug impairment, distraction, or failing to check their blind spots. A sideswipe may also occur if a driver needs to swerve to avoid a hazard. Sideswipes are especially common in heavy traffic and on narrow roads or /lanes.
Sideswipe collisions can cause severe damage to the vehicles involved, as well as injuries to their occupants. But even when they don’t, they hold the potential to result in catastrophic secondary accidents when they knock vehicles off course or cause drivers to lose control.
Also known as a T-bone, broadside, or angular crash, side impacts involve a collision between the front of one vehicle and the side of another. They tend to happen at intersections and anywhere drivers turn across an oncoming lane of traffic.
Driver mistakes that commonly lead to side impact accidents include:
- Failing to yield the right of way to another vehicle
- Ignoring signs, signals, or lane markings
- Drunk or drug impaired driving
Side impact accidents frequently cause massive damage to vehicles and catastrophic or fatal injuries to their occupants, particularly occupants of the vehicle struck broadside. Most cars offer little protection in side impacts in which mere inches separate passengers from the point of impact. Common injuries include brain trauma, spinal cord damage, and harm to internal organs, all of which can result in death.
A head-on car accident tends only to happen when one or both drivers make catastrophic errors behind the wheel, or a driver loses control.
Common contributors to head-on collisions include:
- Drowsy driving or falling asleep at the wheel
- Drunk or drug impaired driving
- Distracted driving
- Driving too fast for road conditions
- Ignoring signs, signals, or lane markings
- An initial collision, like a sideswipe, that pushes a car into an opposing lane
Head-on collisions commonly inflict extreme damage and injuries. Many happen at high speeds, amplifying the force of impact and putting drivers and passengers at risk of catastrophic trauma. Crush injuries, traumatic amputations, internal organ damage, and brain trauma are common.
Rollovers and Other Single-Car Accidents
Car accidents don’t always involve a collision with another vehicle. Crashes of a single car can also have tragic consequences.
Car rollovers, in particular, hold the potential to result in severe injury or death. Cars generally roll when a driver loses control or attempts a high speed emergency maneuver. But some cars have a greater tendency to roll than others. SUVs, in particular, exhibit a tendency to roll because of their relatively high center of gravity. A rollover can eject occupants from a vehicle or cause massive trauma when a vehicle cabin collapses around them.
Any type of single-car accident may happen because of the dangerous actions of someone other than a driver. For example, a car may crash or roll because of mechanical or electronic defects in the car that lead to a loss of control, man-made road hazards, or dangerous driving by other motorists.
Seeking Compensation for Any Type of Car Accident
No matter what the type of car accident involved, crash victims often possess the legal right to receive compensation for their injuries from insurance companies and parties at fault. Skilled car accident attorneys represent victims in legal actions seeking that compensation. Two principal jobs of a car accident attorney are identifying who is to blame for a car accident and evaluating the damages a victim can claim.
Car Accident Liability Explained
Generally speaking, anyone who causes a car accident through unreasonably dangerous decisions or actions will have liability for crash victims’ damages. Often, those at-fault parties will also carry insurance covering the victims’ losses.
The specific facts and circumstances of a car accident dictate who might bear the blame for what happened. In any given case, fault could lie with:
- A careless or reckless motorist who makes a mistake behind the wheel of a car, truck, bus, or other motor vehicle
- The employer of an at-fault driver who crashes a commercial vehicle
- The manufacturer of defective vehicles or vehicle parts that played a role in causing a crash
- A government agency or contractor at-fault for allowing unreasonably hazardous road conditions to exist
- A social host who served alcohol to an underage drunk driver
These are just some examples. Every car accident is a unique event that requires careful analysis to determine what happened and who’s to blame. By hiring an experienced car accident attorney to represent them in a damages claim, crash victims can increase their chances of securing maximum compensation for their losses.
Car Accident Damages Explained
In general, car accident victims have the right to demand compensation for the full range of harm they suffered in a crash.
Though the specifics of a car accident and their injuries will dictate the precise amounts and types of damages victims can demand, an insurance claim or lawsuit can usually seek payment for:
- Medical expenses related to treating car accident injuries
- Vehicle repair and replacement costs
- Replacement services, home modifications, and other expenditures related to living with or adapting to a car accident injury or disability
- Lost earnings from missing work with an injury
- Vacation days and sick leave used while out of work
- The loss of future income because of a disability
- Physical pain and discomfort caused by an injury
- Emotional suffering and mental health challenges of living with an injury
- Diminished quality of life and relationships
- Scarring and disfigurement
In the case of a fatal car accident, the surviving spouse or family members of a deceased victim can often seek wrongful death damages that may include:
- Loss of the victim’s income and financial support
- Loss of the victim’s companionship, guidance, or consortium
- Pain and suffering of the victim
- Pain and suffering of the surviving spouse or family members
- Expenses related to medical care of the victim prior to death
- Funeral and burial expenses
In some cases, injured car accident victims or surviving spouses and families can also ask a court to award them punitive or exemplary damages, which serve to punish an at-fault party for extreme or malicious conduct.
The most reliable way to find out about the types and amounts of damages you might claim for your car accident losses is to speak with an experienced attorney. In a free consultation, a car accident lawyer can explain your rights and options.
Key Considerations for After a Car Accident
The actions car accident victims take after getting hurt in a crash can have a substantial impact on their ability to claim compensation. Here are some considerations to keep in mind if you or someone you love suffers injuries in a car accident.
Medical Care Is Critical
Always seek medical attention after getting into any type of car accident, even if you think you survived it without serious harm. Some potentially life-threatening injuries—like brain trauma and spinal cord damage—may not always show immediate symptoms. But if you ignore them, they could worsen and permanently alter, or even end, your life.
Going to the doctor as soon as possible after a car wreck gives you the best chance of identifying crash-related injuries and treating them effectively. It can also protect your legal rights. The medical records your doctor creates of your condition and the care you receive can serve as valuable evidence of the harm you suffered and the damages you deserve.
Conversely, if you do not seek care, insurance companies and the at-fault parties they represent may blame you for your injuries and undermine the value of your claim.
You Cannot Trust Insurance Companies to Treat You Fairly
Insurance coverage plays a role in the aftermath of most car accidents. You may carry insurance that covers your medical expenses or vehicle repair costs, for example. And the at-fault party may carry liability insurance that covers those and other damages also.
Unfortunately, you cannot necessarily trust any insurance company—even your own—to treat you fairly in the wake of a car accident. Insurers work hard to limit the amount of money they pay-out on car accident claims. It’s not uncommon for your own insurance company to give you a hard time about the value of your damaged vehicle, for example. And we all know that health insurers can sometimes resist paying for care you need.
But perhaps the greatest risk for car accident victims like you comes from an at-fault party’s liability insurance company. Adjusters from liability insurers frequently try to bully crash victims into giving recorded statements without the assistance of an attorney. They also often offer victims like you low-value settlements that seek to take advantage of the financial strain you feel after a car accident, putting you at risk of giving up your valuable rights for a fraction of what you need to pay your expenses.
The most safest and most reliable way to manage insurance issues in the wake of a car accident is to leave all interactions with insurance representatives to an experienced attorney who represents your interests.
A car accident lawyer knows how to protect you from insurance company tactics and to negotiate the most favorable settlement available for your claim. In nearly all cases, a skilled attorney can get you far more from an insurance company than what they initially offer you or what you could ever achieve on your own.
Your Rights Have an Expiration Date
A law called the statute of limitations sets an expiration date on your right to seek compensation for your car accident injuries. Depending on where your accident happened and the laws applicable to it, you could have as much as a few years, or as little as just a few months, to take legal action before your rights begin to expire. If you miss a deadline for exercising your rights, you could lose them altogether.
Hiring an experienced car accident attorney as soon as possible protects you against running out of time to pursue your claim. An attorney knows the rules applicable to your case, and can take quick action when necessary to preserve your ability to hold at-fault parties and insurance companies accountable.
Contact an Experienced Car Accident Lawyer Today
No matter what type of car accident left you or someone you love injured, you may have valuable rights to claim compensation from those at-fault and their insurers. But you may not have much time before critical deadlines expire. So contact an experienced personal injury lawyer in your area today for a free, no-obligation consultation about your rights and options.