The last thing any of us expects when returning home from shopping, school, or dinner out with friends is to be involved in a car accident. However, statistics show us an accident resulting in a serious injury occurs as frequently as once every two minutes and 13 seconds. Numbers like that are sobering, but what is even more sobering is realizing these are more than just numbers, these are people just like you and me. Every single injury represents a person and family whose lives are upended.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) updates statistics regularly, and we know from these stats that more than two million accident victims require care by a medical professional every year. We also know that the recovery time, lost time from work, and pain and suffering alter a person’s life and that of their family. But what we don’t always know for sure is what causes a car accident to occur. Here are some of the biggest contributors.
Common Causes of Roadway Accidents
A deeper look at some of the common causes of accidents tells us driver errors cause most accidents.
Upwards of 94% of accidents are a result of human error. Some of the mishaps include:
- Driving distracted – Most of us lead busy lives and find ourselves juggling more than one task at a time. However, the roadway is not a good place to be practicing our multi-tasking skills. Texting, eating, and talking on the phone while driving is always a bad idea. Distracted driving of any kind can lead to serious accidents. Not only are you putting yourself at risk, but you are also jeopardizing the safety of everyone else on the road. Every driver should have complete control over a vehicle when they operate it.
- Impaired driving – One person every 50 minutes. That’s how many lives impaired driving costs every day. This number does not consider the number of people injured on roadways due to this type of negligent behavior. Getting behind the wheel when under the influence of alcohol or drugs is never okay. It is an irresponsible choice that can cause irreparable harm to others.
- Speeding – There are few among us who have not traveled faster than the posted speed limit. Whether it is because we failed to leave on time for an appointment or find ourselves “following the traffic,” speeding is unfortunately common. However, one of the top causes of car accidents is traveling too fast. The faster a car is going during an accident, the higher the likelihood of serious injury.
- Ignoring traffic signals – When was the last time you “ran” through a yellow light to avoid stopping? Many people do not know that more than one-third of all traffic accidents occur at intersections when someone disregards a stop sign or a red light. Injury and death can result from someone unwilling to stop for a minute or less to ensure it is safe to pass through an intersection.
- Aggressive or reckless driving – We all get frustrated when dealing with heavy traffic. However, when a driver switches lanes without paying attention, tailgates someone in front of them, or takes any other aggressive maneuvers to get where they are going faster, it puts everyone on the road in harm’s way.
- Drowsy driving – We all lead busy lives but those who insist on driving when they have had insufficient amounts of sleep put everyone on the road at greater risk. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, going too long without rest impairs your ability to drive the same way as drinking too much alcohol. Being awake for at least 18 hours leaves you with the same coordination and decision-making skill as someone with a blood alcohol content of .05%. Being awake for at least 24 hours bumps that number up to .10%! (The legal limit to drive is below .08%!)
Negligent behaviors like these cause serious car accidents, but in some cases, the root cause of an accident may not be the driver. In some instances, other conditions contribute to car accidents in ways no one can foresee.
Accidents Can Also Occur Without Human Error
Sometimes no matter how carefully a driver adheres to the rules of the road, uses sensible caution when approaching intersections, and does everything else right, they can still be involved in an accident.
Some factors which can play a role in accidents include:
- Defects in vehicles – Unfortunately despite modern technology, defects occur in car parts. Whether it is bad tires, poor braking, defective airbags, or other problems, a driver can suddenly find they have no control of their vehicle resulting in an accident. Manufacturing defects can result in serious injuries to anyone involved in an accident.
- Weather conditions – Water, fog, wind all can play a role in an accident. We have all been on the roadway when a sudden storm popped up and impeded our ability to see clearly. Drivers who have not properly maintained their vehicles could have problems with tire traction, drive with non-operational windshield wipers, or have other issues that prevent them from traveling safely in bad weather. Other drivers crash because they fail to slow down and maintain proper distances between themselves and other vehicles.
- Road conditions – Many people are shocked to learn that nearly 30% of all fatal accidents across the United States can be tied back to road defects such as potholes. In these cases, the potential for serious injury is high, especially when a driver can’t avoid the pothole or other road defect.
When human error is only partially the reason for an accident, filing a claim for a car accident can be complicated. Victims of all car accidents need to seek guidance from an attorney who has experience dealing with car accident claims, but this is particularly true when there may be a party other than the involved driver responsible for the injuries suffered.
Preservation of Your Rights After a Car Accident
Regardless of the cause of a car accident, victims rarely know their rights or how to protect them. The first thing any accident victim should be aware of is to always use discretion when speaking with others involved in the accident, and even law enforcement at the accident scene. Never indicate you are in any way responsible for the accident, even accidentally. Even a simple apology can indicate you were at fault.
Another common problem occurs when someone reports an accident to the insurance company of the other driver. Insurers will often ask questions designed to minimize the severity of your injuries, extract information to help them reduce the amount of the claim, or even shift blame to the injured person! This is often the reason you hear attorneys who have experience handling car accident claims tell you to never speak with an insurer without seeking guidance from a car accident attorney first.
The immediate aftermath of an accident can be fraught with problems. Your emotions run the gamut from fear to relief to disbelief. Unfortunately, our bodies often take over after an accident and flood our system with adrenaline, and we may not always know the extent of our injuries. This flood of adrenaline can mask pain and injuries and could be extremely dangerous if a medical professional doesn’t thoroughly check you out! This is a reason to seek medical care—regardless of whether you think you have suffered a serious injury or not.
Documenting Losses and Recovery After a Car Accident
Many accident victims don’t dwell on what happens on the legal end of things after a car accident. Instead, victims are focusing on recovering from their injuries and getting back to work. This is normal and expected. However, one step you can take to provide your attorney with additional information is to document your financial losses as well as any changes in your recovery.
Victims of serious injury often go through periods where they may feel like they are crossing a line where they feel better only to lose ground a couple of days later. This can be very frustrating, but it is a normal part of the healing process. Broken bones, internal injuries, head injuries, and other serious injuries take time to heal. The pain and suffering you are dealing with is normal, as is the mental distress you may be dealing with. Make sure you keep track of these ups and downs and discuss them with your car accident injury attorney.
Filing a Car Accident Injury Claim
Many car accident victims are uncertain what compensation the law owes them following a car accident. They don’t know plaintiffs may collect economic losses, non-economic losses, and punitive damages, depending on numerous factors. While there is no guarantee of a specific dollar amount in any car accident case, as a general rule the more serious the injuries sustained, the higher the settlement or award.
Victims often think they can negotiate a settlement on their own, but this is never a good idea. In some instances, more than one party may cause your car accident injuries. For example, while the driver who operated the vehicle that struck you bears liability for your injuries, others may include a government entity if a poorly maintained road contributed to the accident, or a parts’ manufacturer if a defective part partially caused an accident. An attorney can investigate the accident and determine who may be responsible and make sure they are held accountable.
Victims often think insurance companies are going to treat them fairly. This is always a mistake—insurers have one goal in mind, which is to minimize claims. Most insurance companies have shareholders with a serious profit motive. This means the insurer has a responsibility to increase business and increase profits. Profits increase when an insurer collects premiums and does not pay out claims.
Insurers benefit when you have not hired a lawyer. Period. They know you are out of work recovering and that time off from work is costing you money. Because of this, the insurance company will nearly always offer a fast settlement. Their hope is you will accept that settlement and ignore the fine print in the settlement documents. Victims who accept a settlement shortly after suffering an injury often learn they have forfeited any rights to submit additional claims for unforeseen medical bills, time lost from work, and other financial damages.
The reason is simple: Settlements contain language which protects the insurance company from future claims. Therefore, the sooner they settle, the less they pay!
Regardless of the reason a car accident occurred, the bottom line is you are forced to deal with the fallout. Your injuries need time to heal, you are losing money because you can’t work, and your life may NEVER be the same.
Money cannot restore the time you lost sitting in a hospital or rehab facility. It cannot reunite you with friends and family members, nor can money stop the future pain you may have to endure due to your injuries. Compensation can, however, give you the best odds of a full recovery and a return to normalcy for you and your loved ones.
If you or a loved one was in a car accident, set your sights on justice by contacting a car accident lawyer to hold the responsible party accountable.
Stewart J. Guss, Injury Accident Lawyers
12777 Jones Rd #297
Houston, TX 77070