Car Accident Lawyer
Seven people were injured in a chain reaction collision, including one who suffered a serious head injury. The accident occurred when the driver of a Subaru—who may have been suffering a medical episode at the time—ran a red light and struck three pedestrians in the crosswalk as well as another car. The other car—a Ford Fusion which was waiting to turn left—was pushed into a third vehicle. Four occupants from the vehicles involved, as well as the three pedestrians, were transported to the hospital with injuries. Witnesses stated that one of the pedestrians was lying motionless with an open skull fracture.
In one recent year, more than 6.7 million police-reported traffic crashes took place in the United States, resulting in more than 2.7 million injured people and 36,560 fatalities. Injuries were present in 28 percent of the accidents that occurred.
Types of Car Accidents
There are several different types of car accidents that one can experience. Each type of accident is capable of causing serious injuries or even death. The common types of car accidents include:
- Rear-end collisions: Rear end collisions involve the front of one vehicle colliding with the back of another. With 1.7 million rear-end accidents occurring each year, they’re the most common type of multi-vehicle accident to experience and are often regarded as “minor” accidents. However, with around 1,700 fatalities resulting from rear-end collisions every year and another half a million people injured, this type of accident is far from minor.
- Sideswipe accidents: Sideswipe accidents occur when the side of one vehicle scrapes or collides with the side of another. These accidents often occur due to an improper lane change where the driver fails to ensure that the lane is clear before entering it, or when a passing vehicle attempts to overtake another vehicle but does not get over far enough in the passing lane to do so. This type of accident may also be caused by two vehicles attempting to enter a single travel lane at the same time while traveling in the lanes adjacent to it or when a driver overreacts to a hazard in the road and swerves into another lane of travel.
- Head-on collisions: While only about 2 percent of the crashes that occur in the United States each year are head-on collisions, this type of accident accounts for about 10 percent of all traffic-related crashes. Head-on collisions involve the front of one vehicle striking the front of another vehicle. Often a result of wrong-way driving, these accidents pose a significant risk of severe injury due to a dramatic increase in the energy of the collision caused by the forward motion of each vehicle.
- T-bone collisions: Also known as broadside accidents, side-impact crashes, or side-angle collisions, T-bone accidents involve the front of one vehicle impacting the side of another vehicle. The risk of significant injuries is particularly high for the occupants on the side of the vehicle that was struck. Injuries may also be more severe when there is a size discrepancy between the two vehicles involved in the accident. This type of crash most often occurs in the intersection, where one vehicle fails to yield the right-of-way to another. Side impact collisions accounted for 24 percent of all passenger vehicle occupant deaths from car accidents in one recent year.
- Single vehicle crashes: Single vehicle car accidents are the most common type of car accident to experience. There are two types of single vehicle crashes: on-the-road (OTR) crashes, which often are the result of an accident between a motor vehicle and a pedestrian, bicyclist, or other object, or rolls over on the road due to striking a median; and run-off-road (ROR) crashes, which involve the driver losing control of the vehicle for any reason, resulting in it running off the road where it might rollover or strike an object such as a utility pole or a fence.
- Rollover collisions: Rollover collisions may involve one vehicle, or they may occur in a two-vehicle accident. Some common reasons a car might rollover include: a high center of gravity, such as that present in commercial trucks, SUVs, light pickup trucks and vans, which may cause a top-heavy vehicle to roll when attempting to negotiate a sharp curve or when swerving to avoid an accident; single-vehicle ROR crashes, where the vehicle may roll down an embankment; or an accident in which a car hits a median or other barrier.
- Chain reaction crashes: Chain reaction crashes are accidents that involve three or more vehicles. This type of accident generally occurs when one vehicle strikes another, and one of those two vehicles is pushed into a third vehicle or into oncoming traffic. Multi-car pile ups are chain reaction crashes that involve vehicles and usually occur on interstates, where traffic is traveling at a higher speed and drivers may not be able to stop safely before colliding with other vehicles that are disabled in the roadway.
Causes of Car Accidents
- Speeding: Speeding involves not only driving faster than the posted speed limit, but also driving too fast for the conditions of the road. Speeding not only diminishes the amount of time that a driver has to perceive a hazard, depress his or her brakes, and come to a safe stop, but also increases the amount of time your vehicle needs to come to a safe stop. Speeding also reduces your ability to control your vehicle and reduces the effectiveness of the vehicle’s protective features such as seat belts and airbags. More than 9,000 deaths a year are due to car accidents that were caused by speeding, and it is a contributing factor in about one-quarter of all fatal traffic accidents.
- Distracted driving: In one recent year, 3,166 people died due to an accident caused by a distracted driver. Distractions involve any activity that draws the driver’s eyes from the road, hands from the wheel, and/or mind from the task of driving. Some distractions, such as texting, do all three of these things. NHTSA reports that, in the five seconds it takes for a person driving 55 miles per hour to read or reply to a text while driving, he or she will have driven the length of a football field without looking at the road, steering, or attending to the road.
- Alcohol impairment: One person dies in the nation every 48 minutes due to an alcohol-related crash, resulting in more than 10,000 deaths each year. Alcohol impairment affects functions needed for safe driving, including the ability to track moving objects, the ability to perform two tasks at once, a reduction in coordination, loss of concentration, short-term memory loss, reduced response to emergency driving situations, and reduced ability to maintain a lane or to brake appropriately. Many of these functions begin to lack long before a person reaches the .08 blood alcohol content that is the legal limit to drive.
- Failure to yield: Failure to yield involves running red lights, stop signs, or pulling onto a roadway from a parking lot or driveway. Failure to yield is a common cause of T-bone accidents that occur in intersections. Failure to yield the right-of-way is also the cause of accidents involving bicyclists and pedestrians.
- Fatigue: Drowsy driving presents many of the same impairments to function and driving skills as those experienced by alcohol impairment. Most prone to fatigued driving are truck drivers, people who work night shifts, and those with sleep apnea, which is a breathing condition that causes short periods of breathing cessation many times while a person sleeps and results in the person waking up not feeling well rested.
- Inclement weather: Inclement weather presents obvious driving dangers, including low visibility, wet or icy roads, and high winds, all of which may lead to an accident.
- Lack of maintenance or defective auto parts: Failing to maintain your vehicle may result in a breakdown on the roadway, which could cause an accident. Failure to replace defective tail lights may cause another driver to rear-end you, and failure to maintain your tires may cause a tire blowout which can result in loss of vehicle control as well as tire pieces creating debris on the road which may be a hazard to other vehicles. Manufacturers and distributors of auto parts are obligated by law to ensure that these parts are safe and functioning as they should if used properly. Defective auto parts often don’t reveal themselves as such until the vehicle is being driven on the roadway.
Filing a Legal Claim
After an accident, you may be eligible to file a claim for compensation from the insurance company of the at-fault driver or others who may have been liable for your accident. To prove liability, you must be able to establish that the driver’s careless or reckless actions resulted in the accident. In addition to the driver of the other car, you may be able to show liability from other parties, including:
- The company that the at-fault driver works for if your accident occurred while he or she was on the job.
- The manufacturer or distributor of defective parts.
- Other drivers whose actions may have been factors in the accident.
- Business establishments who may have over-served the driver alcohol, leading to an alcohol-related crash.
After your accident, your car accident lawyer will look carefully at the details of your case to identify all potential sources of liability.
Important First Steps After a Car Accident
- Stay at the scene. In most states, it is illegal to leave the scene of an accident without at least exchanging insurance and contact information with the other driver. If you leave the scene of an accident in which there was a death or injury, you can be charged with a felony in many states. If your vehicle is blocking the roadway and you’re able to move it, pull it onto the shoulder of the road very close to where the accident occurred.
- Call for help. Check to see if anyone is injured. Call 911, report the accident and request medical assistance for anyone who is injured.
- Exchange information. You will need to exchange information with any other drivers involved in the accident, including your name, contact information, insurance company, insurance policy number, driver’s license number, and make and model of the vehicles involved. Safety tip: Do not allow the other driver to photograph your driver’s license. Providing your street address is also not necessary and can put you at risk of identity theft.
- Get medical treatment. Not all accident injuries present with immediate symptoms. In addition to the inability to feel injuries due to the rush of adrenaline your body experienced during the accident, some injuries feature symptoms that may take a few hours or even a few days to appear. For your own safety, seek a medical exam after a car accident even if you don’t feel hurt.
- Notify your insurance company. Most insurance policies require that you report an accident, even if you aren’t making a claim. Failure to do so could result in the company choosing not to renew your policy.
- Contact a personal injury lawyer. A personal injury lawyer is your best option for obtaining a settlement to compensate you for the expenses that you’ve incurred due to your injuries. A personal injury lawyer can advise you on your legal options, help you to establish a value to your case based on the expenses you’ve experienced as well as the impact your injury has had on your life, determine all sources of liability and insurance resources, serve as a contact person for third-party insurance companies and bill collectors during the process, negotiate a settlement on your behalf, and represent you in all court proceedings.
What to Do After a Car Accident: FAQ
According to car insurance industry estimates, U.S. drivers file a claim after a collision approximately once every 17.9 years. By this estimation, most drivers can expect to file their first claim by the time they are 34 years old and can expect to experience 3-4 accidents in their lifetime. Given that it is highly likely that you will be in an accident as a driver at some point or another, do you know what you should do in the aftermath? Below are answers to some of the questions people commonly ask after a car accident.
What happens if I leave the scene of an accident before the police arrive?
Unless you need emergency medical care, always remain at the scene of any accident in which you are involved, particularly if there are injuries. While you do not always have to wait for the police to arrive—such as in property damage-only accidents—you do always have to exchange information with the other driver. Leaving the scene of an accident without doing so is considered a criminal offense in most states, and could subject you to penalties, including fines, points on your license, and even incarceration in some circumstances.
In New York, for example, if you leave the scene of an accident, it is considered a Class A misdemeanor, which carries a maximum sentence of up to one year in jail or three years probation and a fine of up to $1,000. If, after having been convicted of leaving the scene, you commit the same offense again, you may face a conviction for a Class E felony.
I have heard that I should try to get my car to a safe place after an accident. If I do that, will I be accused of leaving the scene?
Getting your car to a safe place means pulling it off of the roadway, if it is still operable, so that it doesn’t create a hazard for other travelers. It is permissible to drive it to a safe place within eyesight of the accident scene, on the shoulder of the road where it can still be viewed by the police officer who is investigating the accident, as well as the driver of the other car or witnesses to the accident.
What does “render aid” mean following an accident?
Most states have provisions in their traffic laws that require a driver who is in an accident to stop and render aid, or render assistance, to others who have been injured in the accident. This provision is usually found in the same part of the law that requires an individual to remain at the scene of the accident and provide certain information to the other driver. Rendering aid, or assistance, does not mean that an untrained person is expected to perform a lifesaving procedure on a critically injured person. What it does mean is that you have a moral and legal obligation to stop, determine if the person needs assistance, and call for emergency medical care for that person.
In Connecticut, if a person fails to stop, render assistance, and exchange information with the other driver or provide information to an officer, a witness to the accident, or an owner of damaged property, the offense is known as evading responsibility, and is punishable by a fine of $75 or more, a license suspension, and incarceration, depending on the severity of the accident, whether there were any injuries, and whether the offense is the driver’s first violation or a subsequent violation.
What information do I need to exchange with the other driver(s)?
The information you are required to exchange with the other driver, or provide to a witness to the accident or a police officer if the other driver is unable to accept the information due to injury, includes:
- Your name and contact information;
- The make and model of your vehicle;
- The name of your insurance provider and your policy number; and
- Your driver’s license number.
Some states require you to display your insurance card and registration to the other driver, and the police officer investigating the accident will certainly want to see that information as part of the accident report.
I feel like the accident was my fault. Should I apologize to the other driver?
No. Immediately after the accident, you are not in the appropriate state of mind to discuss your potential liability when compared to others. What you say on the scene could be used against you by your insurance company, their insurance company, and can even be repeated by witnesses in court. While you should be as calm and pleasant with the other driver as possible, discussions about your contribution to the accident should be had with your lawyer, not the other party involved in the accident.
I don’t feel like I am hurt. Should I refuse medical treatment at the scene?
You should undergo a medical evaluation, either at the scene or by your own physician as soon as possible after you are permitted to leave the scene. There are a couple of different reasons for this, including a rush of adrenaline which may cause you to be unaware of how severe your injuries are, as well as certain injuries that sometimes present with delayed symptoms, such as traumatic brain injuries, soft tissue injuries, and internal bleeding.
What are the most common mistakes drivers make at the scene of an accident?
According to a study conducted by Esurance, 85 percent of drivers think that they are doing all of the right things after an accident, but are actually making mistakes that could cost a lot of time, cause a reduction in the amount of compensation they receive for their injuries, and could even expose them to the risk of criminal penalties and fines.
These mistakes include:
- Failing to file a police report – Only 42 percent of the respondents in the study talked to the police after their accident.
- Failing to document the damage to their vehicle, the other party’s vehicle, or other property – 56 percent of the respondents failed to collect evidence from the accident scene, including photos of the damage to all vehicles and property. These photos can provide valuable evidence for a police report, insurance claim, or personal injury lawsuit.
- Forgetting to exchange contact info with the other driver – 38 percent of the study’s respondents forgot to exchange contact information, meaning that there was no way to reach the other party involved.
- Refusing medical treatment at the scene – Less than half of the individuals in the study who were injured sought medical attention.
- Failing to report the accident with their insurance provider.
- Saying “I’m sorry,” which can be interpreted as an admission of fault – 21 percent of the respondents in the study apologized to the other driver at the scene of the accident, opening themselves up to potential liability for the accident.
If I report my accident to my insurance company, will my rates increase?
Filing a claim may cause an increase to your premiums, but reporting the accident will not. Most insurance policies contain language that states that you must report all accidents to your insurance provider. Failing to do so won’t make your premiums increase, but it could cause your insurance provider to refuse coverage for the accident and could even result in them dropping your policy in some circumstances.
I can’t afford a lawyer. Should I file a lawsuit against the driver on my own?
Never take legal action without help from a lawyer. Furthermore, many personal injury lawyers work on a contingency fee basis. This means that they will not charge their clients for their services unless they achieve a successful outcome to the case in the form of a settlement or award. You will pay nothing out of pocket in these situations—so you can afford a lawyer.
I was offered a settlement by the other driver’s insurance company while I was still in the hospital. Should I accept it?
You should not agree to a settlement without first speaking to an attorney. One reason for this is that insurance companies often offer quick settlements to avoid higher payouts if the case goes to court. Insurance companies also often purposefully offer settlements before you have reached maximum medical improvement.
Maximum medical improvement is the point where your recovery plateaus and your doctor feels that you will not likely achieve any more medical improvement, even with continued treatment. If you are offered a settlement before this point, it likely does not include the expenses you will incur for future treatments.
Additionally, quick settlements rarely take the impacts that your injury will have on your life into consideration. Will you be able to continue working at the job you held before the accident? Will you be able to continue partaking in hobbies and activities that you previously enjoyed? Will you have chronic pain and other physical and emotional repercussions from your injury? These and other impacts are deserving of compensation as well.
Your attorney will establish a value for your case based on all of the above factors, as well as the expenses you have already incurred. If you settle before knowing what the value of your case truly is, you will not be able to go back to the at-fault party’s insurance company and ask them for more money to cover these additional expenses.
What information do I need to provide when I hire an attorney?
You should have all of the information you collected from the other driver, as well as evidence you gathered at the scene. You should also have the name and badge number of the officer who investigated the accident and a copy of the police report (ask the officer at the scene how you can obtain a copy of it). Other information you should supply to your attorney includes copies of your medical bills, auto repair or replacement costs, proof of your wage before the accident and how much you lost in wages following the accident, medical prognosis and diagnostic testing results, and other information that your attorney will ask for when needed.
When your attorney provides a case evaluation for you, they will want to know the facts of your case. Provide this information honestly and without exaggeration. It may help you to refresh your memory before the evaluation by looking at the police report and other documents. The attorney will tell you a little about their work, about the firm, and their approach to cases.
You will have the opportunity to ask questions of the attorney, including:
- Questions about their education and whether they are licensed to practice law in your state.
- Questions about their experience with cases like yours.
- Questions about how many settlements they have obtained and whether they have ever litigated a car accident case.
- What they believe the strengths and weaknesses of your case are. If there are weaknesses, ask if there is something you can do to strengthen the case.
It helps to write these questions down before the evaluation. An attorney’s time for evaluations is limited, so you will want to keep the conversation on track. It is acceptable to ask for references from clients whom the attorney has represented in the past. It is also acceptable to speak with attorneys from more than one law firm before deciding who you want to hire.
If I file a lawsuit, does that mean I have to go to court?
Legal fees are expensive, and insurance companies know this all too well. They also know that a trial means unknown results. In the courtroom, they are unable to control how much a judge or jury decides to award you in damages. Because of this, the vast majority of lawsuits settle before they ever reach the courtroom, and some during a trial but before a verdict has been rendered.
Chances are, your case will not go to court. However, the outcomes of many cases are, in fact, determined by a verdict rather than a settlement and yours may be one. The attorney you hire to represent you should not only feel comfortable with negotiating a settlement, but also with litigating your case in court if needed.
Do you have additional questions after a car accident? An experienced car accident lawyer can answer them, evaluate your case, and help you decide what to do next.
The Car Accident Attorneys at Jacoby & Meyers, LLP, Are Ready to Help
If a negligent driver injured you in an accident, our experienced car accident lawyers want to help you understand the process of obtaining compensation.
“If it were not for the integral legal team of experts at Jacoby & Meyers I would not be where I am today with my recovery. I highly recommend hiring Jacoby & Meyers should you ever find yourself injured in an accident, and an individual or company needs to be held accountable for their negligence.” -C.J.
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