Despite modern advances in car safety technology, the number of car accidents is st ill very high, and their most common cause is human error. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) states that the percentage of car accidents caused by human error ranges from 94 percent to 96 percent.
Unfortunately, a lapse in judgment or a split-second decision can have devastating consequences for car accident victims, resulting in serious injuries, permanent disabilities, and even death. When a crash results in major injuries, the question of who was at fault can get very contentious.
This article will go over the main types of driver errors that lead to significant car accidents and how having a car accident attorney can help victims protect their legal rights.
Common Driver Errors That Cause Accidents
Every time you get behind the wheel of a car, you accept the responsibility of ensuring your own safety as well as that of everyone else on the road. Driver errors can lead to heartbreaking accidents, with some of the biggest offenders including:
Exceeding the speed limit and driving too fast for the weather conditions are not only major causes of car accidents but also likely to make them more severe. Driving at unsafe speeds will exponentially increase the chance of losing control of the vehicle, often due to overshooting intersections or encountering unexpected obstacles.
Even worse, driving too fast will increase the vehicle’s stopping time, increasing the severity of the impact. The force of a high-speed, high-impact collision is much more likely to cause fatalities or catastrophic injuries.
Distracted driving is considered the most common cause of collisions, and it’s also the most easily avoided. Distraction includes any activity that takes the driver’s attention away from being completely focused on operating their vehicle. Texting while driving is one of the leading examples of this dangerous behavior, but it’s far from the only one.
Distraction while driving can be classified as:
- Cognitive: Taking the driver’s mental attention away from the task of driving
- Visual: Focusing the driver’s vision away from the road
- Manual: Causing the driver to take a hand off the steering wheel
Eating or drinking, adjusting the GPS or radio, talking with passengers, and looking at a map are all potentially as dangerous as using a smartphone. Even daydreaming or trying to multitask can drastically reduce a driver’s reaction time and concentration, increasing the chances of getting into a crash.
Keeping track of everything happening on the road is essential for safe driving, especially at night when visibility is reduced. Improper lookout refers to a driver failing to properly observe their surroundings, including other vehicles, pedestrians, and traffic signals.
Driver awareness includes checking mirrors frequently and scanning the road for hazards. When drivers fail to assess their environment correctly, it can lead to serious accidents due to not taking the evasive actions necessary to avoid an accident.
Improper lookout issues that can contribute to a collision include:
- Not being cautious enough before pulling into traffic, turning, or merging
- Not paying attention to traffic signals
- Not properly monitoring blind spots, especially for larger vehicles
- Failing to look after hearing the sound of a motorcycle
Driving While Drunk, High, or Drowsy
Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is a negligent decision with a very high risk for tragic consequences and a great deal of legal trouble. Drugs and alcohol impair the mind and body, leading to poor judgment, reduced reaction time, and a much lower ability to concentrate.
Drunk driving is especially prevalent during holidays and weekends, which is why these periods tend to have a much higher rate of accidents.
Drowsy driving is getting behind the wheel despite being excessively tired, sleep-deprived, or taking certain medications. The risks of drowsy driving are not as prominent in the public consciousness, but this is still a dangerous and potentially deadly form of impaired driving.
Drowsy drivers suffer from as much delayed reaction times and decreased coordination as someone under the influence of substances.
Decision errors happen when drivers make poor judgments while operating their vehicles, often caused by distractions, fatigue, or lack of driving experience. These types of errors can lead to collisions with other vehicles, pedestrians, or objects.
Examples of decision errors include:
- Not giving other vehicles, pedestrians, or bicycles the right of way as required by traffic laws
- Underestimating the speed of another vehicle, leading them to make a risky maneuver such as turning in front of the other vehicle or merging into its lane
- Making illegal maneuvers, like turning from the wrong lane, making a U-turn where it’s not allowed, or driving the wrong way down a one-way street
Recognition errors involve a driver failing to correctly interpret the situation around them, which can easily result in a collision if they don’t have enough time to react appropriately.
Some examples include:
- Misinterpreting traffic signals or road signs, leading them to make mistakes like turning left at a red light where it’s not allowed
- Mistaking the brake lights of a vehicle in front of them for its turn signal, causing a driver to follow too closely or make a risky maneuver in anticipation of the other vehicle turning
- Failing to recognize a hazard in the road, such as a stopped vehicle, a pedestrian, or an obstacle
Reckless and aggressive driving are significant causes of car accidents because they involve disregarding traffic rules and often go hand in hand with speeding. Aggressive drivers often don’t consider other drivers’ safety, which can result in dangerous consequences for all involved.
Reckless driving can lead to a collision include:
- Not yielding to other drivers
- Tailgating or following the vehicle in front too closely
- Erratic or frequent lane switches
- Honking and road rage
- Passing on the shoulder
Investigating Fault After an Accident
Determining fault after a car accident can be complex, especially when liability is disputed and there are wildly different accounts of what caused the collision. In these cases, investigating who was at fault will require a thorough investigation, often using a combination of evidence and expert testimony to establish what really happened.
The Police Report
One essential resource is the police report, which will often include a preliminary assessment of the causes of the accident as well as any traffic violations that may have contributed, such as speeding or drunk driving. Police officers called to the scene may also document physical evidence from the accident, such as drawing a diagram of how the vehicles were positioned.
Videos of the accident, whether from security cameras, witnesses’ cell phones, or dash cams, can provide valuable visual evidence of what happened at the point of impact or right before, such as illegal traffic maneuvers.
Forensic experts may examine the vehicles involved and interpret other evidence, such as analyzing tire marks on the road or using 3D models to reconstruct the collision. Data from onboard recording devices can also be reviewed to provide valuable information about the events leading up to a collision.
Most cars made in the last decade employ this monitoring technology, and it serves to record important information about the vehicle’s behavior before and during an accident.
Speaking with witnesses to the accident, including bystanders and other motorists, can be crucial in determining which vehicle had the right of way or whether any drivers were speeding. It may be necessary to interview multiple witnesses to get a clear picture of factors that may have contributed to the accident.
Injuries Caused by Serious Accidents
Car accidents are devastating experiences for everyone involved, leaving victims with physical and psychological trauma that may take years to overcome. Along with the difficulties of the crash itself, the aftermath of getting seriously injured will also include expensive medical bills, lost income, and difficulty returning to normal life. Some of the common injuries victims suffer in car accidents include:
The violence of car accidents can lead to painful broken bone injuries, the most serious being complex compound fractures where bone fragments can break through the skin. These types of injuries can take many months or years to heal completely and will often continue to impact the victim’s mobility and quality of life due to nerve damage.
Some of the most difficult injuries resulting from car accidents happen when the victim’s head strikes the steering wheel, window, or another object. Head injuries range from relatively minor concussions to devastating brain injuries, resulting in long-term cognitive impairment, such as speech issues, difficulty concentrating, and mood swings.
Serious collisions are often associated with life-threatening internal injuries, sometimes due to broken ribs piercing nearby organs. The force of the impact itself can also be traumatic enough to rupture organs like the spleen, liver, or kidney. Internal injuries often require extensive medical treatment and will affect the victim’s health in the long term.
Spinal Cord injuries
A violent jolt to the neck and spine can cause severe spinal cord damage, a potentially catastrophic injury that will often result in permanent disability. In the worst cases, spinal cord injuries cause partial or total paralysis and other serious complications, such as a higher risk of heart problems and loss of bladder control.
How A Skilled Car Accident Lawyer Can Help
After a car accident, you may be dealing with significant physical, emotional, and financial challenges. Trying to recover fair compensation can be overwhelming, especially the mountain of paperwork involved and having to deal with insurance companies that focus on protecting their bottom line. That’s why a skilled personal injury lawyer can be an invaluable resource and advocate throughout every step of the process.
The most significant benefit of working with a personal injury lawyer is their knowledge of the legal system and ability to navigate it effectively. They can advise you on the strengths and weaknesses of your case, the damages you can expect to recover, and the range of legal options available. Some of the ways a car accident lawyer can help victims recover compensation include:
Investigate the Accident
One of the primary ways a personal injury lawyer can help is by conducting a thorough investigation of the accident to build a strong case on your behalf. The lawyer will collect evidence such as police reports, witness statements, and photographs of the accident scene. They may also consult experts to reconstruct the accident and provide additional insight.
Documenting all damages resulting from the car accident is crucial for recovering compensation, and it’s also one of the most complicated parts of the car accident claim process because of all the information required. A personal injury lawyer can help you gather and organize evidence of the victim’s medical bills, lost income, property damage, and other losses.
In the case of injuries with long-term consequences that affect the victim’s ability to earn a living, a lawyer can also work with medical experts to predict the cost of future medical care and substantiate a claim for reduced earning capacity.
Negotiating With Insurers
Whether dealing with their own insurer or a representative for the at-fault party, car accident victims often face a lowball settlement offer that minimizes the wide-ranging damages that result from getting hurt.
Having a personal injury lawyer handle all communications with the insurers and negotiate on your behalf places you in the strongest position to recover a fair settlement that covers your losses. Negotiations may involve several rounds of offers and counteroffers, but experienced lawyers have the skills to represent the best interests of their clients.
Car accident lawyers generally won’t collect payment for their services until after winning compensation for their client’s damages. This makes high-quality legal representation accessible for car accident victims in need.