A car accident is a serious event that can result in catastrophic injuries that often leave victims temporarily and permanently disabled. Many car accidents involve serious injuries that take the lives of children, parents, and loved ones. The high costs of medical bills, lost wages, and the emotional toll that result from a car accident can devastate the financial and mental health of a victim and their family.
According to the California Highway Patrol, more than half a million car accidents are reported each year across the state, killing more than 3,000 people and leaving another 200,000 injured. Victims of car accidents can suffer a host of injuries that range from minor cuts and bruises to severe injuries and death. Car accident victims can hold those responsible for the crash liable for the costs associated with their injuries, property damage, and pain and suffering.
The Most Common Types of Car Accidents
There are many kinds of car accidents. The most common types include the following:
- Head-on collisions. This type of car accident has the most catastrophic and fatal injuries. When a car collides head-on with another car or truck, the drivers and passengers in both vehicles typically suffer traumatic injuries to the head, neck, spine, and legs.
- Rear-end collisions. Passengers and drivers are thrust forward from the force of being struck from behind by another vehicle. The driver and passengers in the vehicle striking the front car also suffer injury from the force of impact. Traumatic brain injury often results from this type of accident when the brain is thrust against the inside of the skull.
- T-bone accidents. When a car is struck from the side, the force of the impact can cause windshields and windows to shatter and metal to crumble. Victims inside the vehicles often suffer from severe cuts and lacerations, broken bones, and internal injuries.
- Roll-over accidents. Collisions with other vehicles or objects and slippery road surfaces can involve a force so strong that a car can roll over. The driver and passengers of the vehicle typically suffer traumatic injuries from the force of the roll-over or from being thrown from the vehicle.
- Single-vehicle crashes. Speeding is the most common cause of this type of car accident. When a driver takes a turn or curve at a dangerous speed, they can lose control of the vehicle and hit a tree, road barrier, or other object in their path.
- Low-speed collisions. Accidents that occur at low speeds, such as in parking lots or when backing out of a driveway, can still have serious consequences. Injuries can result when the car is hit by another vehicle or runs into a stationary object.
- Pedestrian accidents. When a motor vehicle hits a pedestrian, there is a high risk of serious injury. Even at low speeds, the weight and force of a car striking an individual can cause catastrophic injury and death.
The Most Common Causes of Car Accidents
A car accident can happen at any time, even to the most safety-conscious and experienced driver. In most cases, a car accident is preventable. The most common causes of car accidents involve these driving behaviors:
- Distracted driving. Using a cell phone, texting, adjusting onboard infotainment and navigation systems, eating and drinking, and reaching for objects while driving are all forms of distracted driving that cause serious and fatal car accidents. Distracted driving is the leading cause of car accidents in the United States and the most preventable type of car accident.
- Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Incidents of drunk/impaired and drugged driving have decreased over the past decade, but still result in a high number of serious and fatal car accidents each year. As incidents of drunk driving have steadily declined, crashes caused by drivers under the influence of legalized marijuana, opioids, and over-the-counter medications have been on the rise.
- Speeding. A car accident always carries a risk of injury, but when an accident involves high speeds, the consequences are often tragic. Driving above the mandated speed limit and driving too fast for weather or road conditions can lead to serious and fatal crashes.
- Reckless driving. Failure to obey traffic signs and signals, speeding, passing on a curve or double yellow line, speeding through a construction work zone, and driving behaviors that endanger pedestrians or other cars on the road are forms of reckless driving. Criminal penalties can result when reckless drivers cause car accidents.
- Inclement weather and unsafe road conditions. Rain, snow, sleet, hail, and frigid temperatures can make roads slick, causing cars to collide or run off the road. Potholes, poor lighting, and roads in disrepair can cause drivers to lose control of their vehicle and slam into another car or object.
- Driving in the wrong direction. Missing road signs and driver confusion can lead to driving down the road in the wrong direction. Head-on collisions are the most serious consequence of this type of driver error.
- Unsafe lane changes and blind spots. When drivers change lanes, they have a legal responsibility to signal their intention and ensure they are clear to merge. Blind spots on trucks and carelessness during a lane change can lead to rear-end and side collisions.
- Tailgating. Driving too close to the car in front of a motorist can result in a rear-end or multi-vehicle crash. Drivers who tailgate do not have enough time to avoid hitting the leading car. Serious injury often occurs when tailgating is the cause of an accident.
What are the Most Common Types of Car Accident Injuries?
Car accidents can result in minor injuries or cause catastrophic injuries that result in permanent disability or even death. The most common types of injuries related to car accidents include the following:
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI). This type of injury occurs when the force of a car accident thrusts victims forward and backward, causing the brain to slam against the inside of the skull. TBI can cause permanent cognitive and mobility deficits that prevent a victim from working or living independently.
- Head and facial injury. Fractured skulls, contusions on the brain, concussions, and facial cuts and lacerations often occur when broken glass and metal shards fly in a crash. Victims may require long recovery periods and experience permanent disfigurement.
- Neck and spine injuries. Injuries to the neck and spine can result in permanent paralysis, as well as the loss of cognitive or physical functioning. Victims of neck and spine injuries often require lifelong care to accomplish the tasks of daily living, require the use of assisted mobility devices, and suffer severe nerve and back pain.
- Broken bones. Fractured bones in the face, head, arms, legs, hands, and feet are common injuries suffered in a car accident. Victims may require surgery to repair these bones and may even lose partial or full use of their limbs. Long recovery periods involving physical and occupational therapy are common with this type of injury.
- Internal organ damage. Injury to internal organs can result in death. Chest injuries can cause heart, lung, liver, and digestive organ damage that can require surgery to repair. Blood loss and internal bleeding from this type of injury can be difficult to control and may lead to death.
- Amputation. The force of a car accident can result in the amputation of limbs or, in some cases, decapitation. Amputation can also occur following a car accident when injuries are too severe to repair, or when complications arise in recovery.
- Burns. The gasoline and combustible fuel used in the operation of a motor vehicle can ignite in a crash and cause serious burns to trapped victims. Burn injuries are among the most painful, disfiguring, and complicated consequences of a car accident. Victims typically require multiple surgeries, ongoing medical treatment, and physical therapy. Infections, permanent disfigurement, and a lifetime of pain and suffering are often complications with this type of injury.
Types of Compensation Victims Can Expect to Collect
Suffering an accident can be a devastating event in a person’s life. Victims could be facing physical hardship as well as financial hardships. Serious injuries could lead to extended time off from work along with growing medical bills. An experienced catastrophic accident lawyer can help a victim obtain the lost wages that they are seeking. Some types of financial compensation victims can receive include these costs:
- Medical bills. The party responsible for an injury should also be the one responsible for compensating victims for the injuries they sustain. It should not be up to the victim’s health insurance, nor should the victim have to file a claim with their auto insurance company. All victims should keep records of any medical visits, tests, or procedures they experienced as a result of their injuries.
- Continuing medical care. A qualified legal team consults with a victim’s doctors and other medical personnel to determine what long-term medical costs the person could be facing after the accident. Those numbers will be a part of any liability claim that stems from the situation. In some cases, it takes victims months or years to recover. In other instances, they may never recover.
- Lost wages. When a person is hurt in an accident, the injuries they sustain may force them to have to stay home for an extended time to recuperate. During that time, victims are not getting paid, but they are still entitled to what they would have earned had it not been for the accident.
- Pain and suffering. This is one of the more difficult aspects of an accident to monetize because some injuries could cause more trauma than others. Long-term psychological effects can impact a person’s relationships and their quality of life. Some may even suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which can impact someone long after the accident.
- Punitive damages. These act more as a punishment against the guilty party than a form of compensation for injuries. In California, unlike other states, there is no cap as to how much punitive damages a person can collect, but the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution sets an outer limit on the collectable amount: namely, it must not be arbitrary or grossly excessive.
What Victims Should Do if Involved in a Car Accident
In any car accident, the main priority is to assess and tend to injuries. Police and ambulance should be dispatched to the scene of the accident immediately. Once the victims are stable, it is important to gather evidence, which involves the following steps:
- Exchange driver’s license information and insurance policy details of all drivers involved in the crash
- Take pictures and record video of the accident scene that include the vehicles involved, injuries sustained, and road conditions
- Record witness testimony with contact information
- Write down the badge numbers of law enforcement officers on the scene and ask for the police report file number
- Call the insurance provider as soon as possible to report the accident
- Keep receipts and all forms relating to any emergency or medical care required from injuries sustained in the accident
- Contact an experienced catastrophic accident lawyer
Liability in a Car Accident
Determining liability in a car accident can be difficult. Insurance companies will perform a thorough investigation into the accident and attempt to place the liability on the other driver involved in the crash. It is important to consult with an experienced catastrophic accident lawyer when victims are involved in a motor vehicle accident that results in injury or property damage.
Some victims of car accidents will assume they can handle a claim with their insurance company on their own. Many will unknowingly provide information to the other driver’s insurance agent during the investigation that will leave them liable for damages. An experienced and knowledgeable lawyer will assess the details of the accident, gather pertinent evidence to support their client’s claim, and help the injured victim claim the maximum amount of compensation available under the law while avoiding costly litigation.
Options if a Family Member Dies in a Car Accident
If a person dies in an accident, the victim’s surviving family members have the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the party responsible for the circumstances that led to the person’s death. In California, survivors have two years to file the lawsuit.
Those who are qualified to file a lawsuit include the spouse of the victim, any children of the victim, and descendants of any deceased children of the victim. For survivors to qualify for the suit, a person must have died, there must have been some type of negligence that led to the death, a personal representative for the deceased estate must be appointed, and the plaintiff must demonstrate some financial hardship as a result of the death.
Among the items an attorney can seek as a part of a wrongful death lawsuit include the following:
- Medical bills. These include medical expenses accumulated prior to the victim’s death.
- Funeral expenses. Lawyers can seek financial compensation stemming from the unexpected expense of having to pay for a funeral.
- Lost wages. These would be the wages the victim would reasonably be expected to collect had they stayed alive.
- Loss of financial support. Family members who find themselves having to pay for services for which they were not previously responsible, such as childcare or landscaping services, because the victim usually paid for these costs.
- Loss of companionship. This compensates family members for the loss they are suffering in having a loved one taken from them, and the emotional impact of not having them around anymore.
Accidents Involving Other Vehicles
Not all accidents take place with the victim driving their own car. In addition, not all accidents involve other cars. There are other vehicles on the road that can cause problems on the road just as much as cars. These accidents include the following:
- Ride-sharing accidents. These take place when the victim is riding in a taxi or other ride-sharing vehicle such as an Uber or Lyft car. Victims of these accidents should realize that drivers are usually required to carry insurance to qualify as a driver. However, that insurance typically does not cover the passengers in the car. Victims should be prepared to file a liability claim against the driver, along with any other party deemed responsible for the accident.
- Bicycle accidents. Many people who ride bicycles travel on roads on which bicycles are not allowed. Some bicyclists tend not to obey road signs or traffic lights, making it difficult for drivers to anticipate their actions or movements. Drivers should always be aware of their surroundings, especially so when there are bicyclists in the area.
- Motorcycle accidents. Although not as mobile as bicyclists, those on motorcycles offer their own unique dangers to drivers. Motorcyclists cannot maneuver around traffic like bicycles do; some will drive in between lanes or around cars with little warning, giving drivers no time to react.
- Pedestrian accidents. Pedestrians can be a special challenge on the road, since there is always a chance that they may dart into traffic, jaywalk, or attempt to cross a busy street or highway. Drivers should pay close attention to pedestrians when they see them on the side of the road and anticipate their actions. Most states require that drivers yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk.
- Truck and bus accidents. A common cause for these accidents is because the truck or bus driver is driving while they are drowsy. They could also lose control of their vehicle. Some car drivers know they can move faster than most buses or trucks and attempt to pass them, and the larger vehicles do not have the time to react, potentially causing an accident.
- Trailer and carrier accidents. If there is a fault with the trailer that the truck is hauling, the company that attached that trailer could be held responsible. The trailer company might be liable for any damages caused because of the accident.
Ways to Avoid a Traffic Accident
There are some simple steps that drivers can take to minimize their risk of having a car accident. Although there is no guarantee to avoiding an accident given the variables on the road, there are some actions drivers can take:
- Be alert and just drive. Drivers should always remain focused on the road and not get distracted by phone calls or text messages. While driving, motorists should consider allowing calls to go to voicemail. Drivers should be concentrating solely on the task of driving. Non-driving activities such as eating and getting ready for work can be done before the commute. Those who drive to work can consider getting up earlier to have more time.
- Do not drink and drive. When people go out with friends, they should plan how to get home safely if they intend to drink alcohol. They may ask a non-drinking friend to drive that night. If no one is able, the group should consider a ride-sharing service.
- Respect road conditions. If while driving the weather suddenly deteriorates and visibility becomes limited or the road conditions become slick, drivers should consider turning off the road for a little while until conditions improve. Before heading out, drivers should check the weather to determine if it makes sense to make the trip.
Los Angeles Car Accident Lawyers at ACTS Law Represent Injured Victims
Car accidents can result in property damage and cause debilitating or even fatal injuries. If you suffered an injury or lost a loved one as a result of a car accident, contact the Los Angeles car accident lawyers at ACTS Law today. Our attorneys can help you evaluate the liability of the parties involved, your rights to compensation, and advise what steps are necessary to obtain fair compensation for injuries and damages you have sustained. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, call us today at 833-ACTS-LAWopens phone dialer or contact us online.
With offices in San Diego and Los Angeles, we serve clients throughout Southern California.