Single Car Accident Not all collisions involve two or more vehicles. Accidents involving road debris, animals, collisions with poles, trees or walls, or, as we’ll see below, rollovers are often single car accidents. However, even with one car involved, injury may occur to the driver and passengers, as well as property damage. If the single vehicle wreck was the fault of the driver, then the passengers in the driver’s vehicle may have a legitimate claim with the driver’s insurance company. If the single vehicle wreck was caused by hazardous highway or road conditions, then everyone in the vehicle may have a claim against the government entity obligated to care for the particular condition to make the roads and highways safe. Some of these causes include roadside hazards, line of sight obstructions, pavement edge drops, construction zones that were not properly marked, and unreasonably dangerous rail-highway grade crossings. Vehicle Rollover Often sudden, terrifying, and dangerous, vehicle rollovers are self-explanatory: your vehicle literally rolls over itself, flipping upside down or onto its side. These can occur for any number of reasons—road conditions, weather, speed, driver behavior, or, too often, drunk driving—but frequently affect vehicles with high centers of gravity like SUVs, vans, and pickup trucks attempting to take sharp turns. Many rollover accidents lead to serious injury or death, and they can happen quickly if a driver doesn’t slow down enough for a curve in the road. Rear-End Collision A rear end collision occurs when one vehicle, oftentimes a semi-truck that can’t stop in time, hits another vehicle from behind. Most commonly a result of distracted driving, it can also occur due to poor road conditions, weather, or the need to suddenly hit the brakes. The vehicle rear-ending the other from behind is almost always held responsible as the at-fault driver in these types of accidents. Whiplash, concussions, and neck and back injuries are common in this situation due to the unexpected collision. However, just because they are common, does not mean these injuries aren’t serious. Nearly half of whiplash injuries will have some kind of permanent injury or symptom that an individual will experience the rest of their life. The insurance company will even tell hurt people that because the accident occurred at low speeds there is no way they are hurt very badly (without knowing anything but what is in the police report).
The truth is that even low speed accidents can subject car passengers to experience sudden g-force acceleration of their head at a force that is 250% faster than the peak acceleration of the vehicle they are riding in, even if the impact occurred at under 10 mph. This means that the occupants of a vehicle will experience more bodily damage than the vehicle damage in almost every collision, and certainly every rear end collision.
Although the insurance company will act as if they have no idea about this basic fact of physics, many reports in medical journals have concluded that impacts at speeds even as low as five miles per hour can cause significant neck and cervical injury, including whiplash and herniated discs. These injuries can lead to chronic pain, numbness, weakness, or functional limitations lasting months or longer. Whiplash injuries may take months or years to heal on their own, if they do at all, and some even requiring surgery if more conservative treatment does not resolve the pain and symptoms. Side-Impact Collision The classic T-Bone wreck, when the side of your vehicle is hit by the front end of another vehicle it can cause very serious injuries and pain. Common at intersections, passing lanes, stop signs, and parking lots, the side of the vehicle that is hit can cause damage that is more severe than in some of the other collision types discussed. If a driver is t-boned, then it’s very likely they will have whiplash and concussion injuries. Sideswipes also fall under this category, where parallel sides of vehicles brush against each other, but they can be less serious unless one vehicle pushes the other into oncoming traffic, or a fixed object such as a telephone pole. Even if you are avoiding a sideswipe collision and wreck into a tree, sign, building, or guard rail, if the other driver was in your lane then they should still be found at-fault, although the insurance company will likely fight over this. Head-On Collision When the front of two vehicles collide it is called a head-on collision. Sometimes, one vehicle is clearly in the wrong, traveling on the opposite side of the street, on a one-way, or crossing lanes into incoming traffic. Other times, fault is not so clear and it’s difficult to tell which driver veered, over-corrected, or was at fault for a number of other reasons such as one of the drivers involved doesn’t remember the wreck (common with sever collisions which often involve a concussion) and the other driver’s account isn’t supported by any evidence. If you, or someone you know, is involved in a head on collision then it’s very important you seek private professional help; do not simply rely on your insurance company for help because they will usually only help you if it also helps their bottom line—don’t leave it to chance. According to the Fatal Analysis Reporting System (FARS), 75% of head-on collisions occur on country roads, and two-way roads without a divider. If you’re involved in a head on collision, then you should contact an injury professional who handles these matters every day even if you think you may have been at fault. Fault is not always what it may seem, and it’s not something that should be trusted to the insurance companies. Certainly get an opinion from a professional if there is a serious injury or death caused by the head on collision. Multiple Vehicle Collision These collisions occur when more than two vehicles are involved in the accident, in extreme cases even resulting in a pile-up or a chain reaction as each collision causes another. Each vehicle can be hit multiple times in various positions, and it can be difficult with so many parties to determine fault, especially with all of the insurance companies pointing fingers at one another. In a multiple vehicle collision, it can be important to write down the license plate numbers of each vehicle involved. Sometimes, irresponsible people think they can simply leave the scene to avoid liability. Don’t risk this if there are multiple vehicles involved. Take pictures of the damage and license plates with your phone, especially if a vehicle is drivable. Hit-and-Run Drivers When one driver, typically the driver who caused the wreck, leaves the scene of an accident before authorities arrive to take a report, this is called a hit and run. Without vigilant witnesses or taking pictures of the vehicles, tracking the one responsible can be very difficult. If such an irresponsible driver is found after leaving the scene of an accident then they will likely face criminal charges and may also face punitive damages if the right car accident lawyer is hired. If you are in a car accident but the other driver leaves the scene before information can be exchanged or before the police arrive, then your damage and injuries may be covered by your Uninsured Motorist (UM) policy that you hopefully purchased after reading good advice from your friendly neighborhood personal injury lawyer. If that is the case, then file the claim with your insurance provider. If they deny your claim, then ask them to send the denial and explanation to you in writing so you may have a professional review it on your behalf. Car insurance companies like to deny claims they should pay with the hope that folks won’t get professional help. Drunk Drivers Extremely dangerous and unpredictable, operating a vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol is an often deadly crime. The legal limit nationwide is .08% BAC, or Blood Alcohol Content, meaning you cannot exceed this amount. A number of factors to consider include: 1) the number of drinks consumed, 2) the time between drinks and since last drink, 3) accompanying meals, if any, and 4) your body weight. There is, of course, zero tolerance for underage drinkers. If there is any chance of drug or alcohol use in your day, ALWAYS PLAN AHEAD by designating a responsible driver. And even if you’re completely sober, be extra vigilant around major holidays, weekends, and night trips, keeping your eye out for suspicious driving behavior. If you are hit by a drunk driver, then you should almost certainly seek the help of a car accident professional who handles such matters every day. If you are hit by a driver you think may be drunk or otherwise impaired, then make sure to inform the officer responding to your car accident of this suspicion so the officer can conduct some tests to make that determination. The insurance company won’t care if you smelled alcohol on the other driver’s breath if the responding officer didn’t take any action. Distracted/Fatigued/Reckless Driving Drunk driving isn’t the only dangerous way to operate a vehicle. Distracted drivers are perhaps the most common cause of serious car accidents because of the prevalence of cell phone use, though anything that distracts a driver’s attention from the road—from other passengers to food—can lead to accidents. Likewise, lack of quality sleep can lead to fatigued driving, where a driver’s alertness is dulled and response time is slowed even more than if they were drunk. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2017 alone, drowsy driving caused 795 deaths from car accidents caused by fatigue. The majority of these accidents occur at night, as you might suspect. Finally, reckless driving can be as simple as speeding 15 miles over the limit, driving in a purposefully careless fashion, swerving in and out of lanes unnecessarily, following the car in front of you too closely, passing at inappropriate times, racing, driving on the sides of the road, and any other manner of driving which demonstrates a disregard for public safety. Rideshare Accidents Of course, you don’t even have to be operating a vehicle to be involved in a car accident. With the rise of services such as Uber and Lyft comes the possibility of accidents and injury while riding as a passenger. If you are injured in a car accident that occurred while you were riding as a paying customer, then the Uber or Lyft insurance policies will be the appropriate policies against which you may be able to file your claim. As in other accidents, take pictures and make sure nobody is impaired.