When things go wrong and you are involved in a traffic accident, the shock can make it very difficult to think clearly.
Going through the experience of being in a car accident can be life altering. Some people never fully recover from their ordeal – either physically, emotionally or financially – so preparing oneself to handle the aftermath of a car accident before the fact can give you an advantage. Having a plan for how to handle such a tough situation beforehand could mean all the difference.
According to the Association for Safe International Road Travel, nearly 1.3 million people die in road crashes each year, which is an average of 3,287 deaths each day. In addition, 20-50 million people are injured or disabled each year in car accidents.
Let’s first take a look at why car crashes are so common and the reasons behind them.
What Causes Car Accidents
Motor vehicle accidents involving cars, SUVs, commercial trucks and motorcycles are unfortunately very common in the Unites States. While some accidents are minor, some can cause serious injuries or even be deadly. Since lives can be at risk when driving, it is important to drive safely and take precautions to stay safe on the road. Here is a list of common causes of accidents:
Distractions While Driving
Being distracted while driving becomes a growing threat each year as more people use cell phones and mobile devices. You should always pay attention to the road while driving. Unfortunately, many people use their cell phones not only to talk but to text and post on social media and even take “selfies” while driving.
Other distractions like even changing the radio station, CD player, turning to the backseat to speak to passengers and many other distractions can contribute to collisions.
Driving while sleepy or tired is also a major cause of accidents. When people are overworked, not feeling well or even stressed out during a long commute it is easy to get tired on the road.
Not following correct traffic rules, speeding, change lanes too quickly and aggressive driving on the roads can lead to very bad and even deadly accidents. Always take your time while driving and remain in a calm state if you can.
Many accidents are caused by people who run red lights and stop signs as well. This can have very serious consequences if another vehicle is hit by someone who runs a red light or stop sign.
Although people can’t avoid having to drive in the rain, it is best to avoid it if you are able to. The slick, wet roads can cause accidents, especially during very heavy rain and storms. If the driving visibility is low due to fogs and heavy downpours, drivers should pull over to the side of the road until the storm passes.
Snow and ice also affects a vehicle’s traction on the road. When there is ice on the road, cars and trucks can easily slip, skid and slide off the road. Even worse, cars can flip over if the driver loses control of the vehicle.
Driving While Intoxicated
Drunk driving is one of the most dangerous causes of car accidents. There are thousands of drunk driving incidents occurring throughout the United States each day.
Teens driving on the road for the first time can be a cause of accidents even if minor. Teens don’t have a lot of experience so therefore they may not know what to do in dangerous situations. It is a good idea to enroll teenagers in defensive driving courses and not permit them to use their cell phones while driving.
When driving on the road at night, a driver has lower visibility compared to driving in the day. Drivers can also be sleepier. It is important for drivers to stay extra alert when driving at night and to use their vehicle bright lights when driving in dark or abandoned roads that don’t have a lot of street light.
When a car rides very close behind another car, this puts both vehicles at risk if the first car has to make a sudden stop. No matter how frustratingly slow the first car is, it is not a good idea to ride too close to the car in front of you. It is best to keep a safe distance between you and the car ahead of you especially at higher speeds.
Other Causes of Accidents
Driving fast while in curvy road can cause the vehicle to skid. Also, when drivers are driving in more rural areas there are more chances that animals can cross the road such as deer.
Potholes can also contribute accidents when drivers try to move out the way suddenly to avoid them. Tire blowouts that occur suddenly can cause a vehicle to slow down suddenly which can cause an accident if there are other vehicles too close behind.
Different Types of Accidents
Commercial Truck Accidents
Commercial truck accidents are among the most devastating of all road accidents. Because commercial trucks are so large, they present far more danger to the vehicles and pedestrians around them. “Jackknifes” are one of the most common type of commercial truck accident, where the tractor-trailer becomes a pincer and careers at an angle that makes it very dangerous to vehicles around it. Tiredness, speeding and poor weather conditions can also play key parts.
Commercial trucks are required to be covered by a larger minimum insurance policy, and the average settlement is far higher in these cases than with cases involving private vehicles. If it can be shown that a commercial company had been pushing their truck drivers to work too hard or to drive without adequate training then they can be liable for paying compensation. If a commercial truck was not adequately maintained, resulting in the accident, then a claim may be made against the company.
Motorcycle accidents made up 13% of all motor vehicle deaths in 2010. 4,300 fatalities due to motorcycle accidents were reported. Fatal crashes were on the decline between 1980 and 1998, but they began to rise again all the way through 2008. Why?
One of the factors that seemed to correlate with motorcycle accidents is how much traffic there is. The busier the street, the higher the likelihood of a motorcycle accident occurring. Motorcyclists are subject to more dangers than cardrivers are, because motorcycles are more difficult to see and they offer less protection to the rider in the event of a crash. A motorcycle can fit entirely in a vehicle’s blind spot without the driver every knowing they are there despite being within just a few feet of them.
Pedestrian accidents are unfortunately just as common as vehicle-to-vehicle accidents. In 2013, there were 4,735 deaths of pedestrians who were struck by motor vehicles. The likelihood of being hit by a vehicle whenwalking and the likelihood of getting in a vehicle collision when riding in a car are quite similar. Unfortunately, this disproves the idea that walking is safer than driving. As long as you are walking near vehicles, you are essentially exposed to the same level of risk as passengers are.
Hit and Run Accidents
Hit and run accidents are a particularly egregious type of road accident. If you are struck by another vehicle on a dark night in a remote area and they flee, there is less chance of help arriving in a timely manner and it could be up to you to make the call to emergency services. If, for example, you don’t have the ability to make a call as you are pinned in your vehicle and your phone is not in reach there is a real danger of not being discovered quickly. You may not receive the medical attention you need in a timely manner. These situations often lead to criminal investigations and the services of an attorney.
What to Do if You Are in a Car Accident
Getting into a car accident can be a very difficult and nerve wracking experience, especially if you have experienced an injury or the other vehicle has significant damages. Right after the accident, here are a few things you can do to make sure that the situation is handled correctly:
Call the police
If you believe that the damage that has been done in a car accident is over $500, then you should call the police immediately so that they can file a report. You will need this report to present to the insurance company when filing a claim.
Exchange Information with the Other Driver
You need to exchange your insurance information, driver’s license and contact information with the other driver in an accident so that the insurance company can pay for the damages. You should also note down the make and model of the other cars involved in the accident. Talk to any witnesses, other passengers and collect their information to help document the incident.
Note the Details of the Incident
Make sure that you write down the date and time that the accident occurred, what the weather conditions were like, the location of the accident and nearby landmarks.
Filing a Claim
Filing a claim with your insurance company can be a long process. It is not everyday a person is required to handle this type of situation, and if you go into it not knowing the optimum procedure, you can get an unfair outcome. The interest of the insurance company is to save money. Their primary concern will be settling with you for the lowest sum possible, or denying your claim through any loophole they can find.
Your claim will have far more grounds for success if a formal record is compiled through a police report. Police reports will document the accident and provide a record of events for the insurance claim.
How the Compensation Works
There is a variety of different types of insurance but no matter what type you have, or the person you were struck by has, you will always want to provide a thorough explanation of what occurred. The best way to handle this is to write down your side of the events immediately after they happen while they are fresh. Sometimes it is easier to record them with a camera or phone. This will ensure you remember the details of the ordeal as accurately as possible and no vital evidence is left out from your claim.
The insurance company will then take into consideration your story, the story of the other party, and any other objective evidence available like tire tracks at the scene to get an overall picture of what happened. They will look to prove that you had any degree of comparative negligence – that is to say that you were partly at fault. If they can prove this, your compensation will be reduced.
Laws vary on a state-by-state basis, so it pays to talk to a knowledgeable attorney. Precedents have been set for reasonable settlements for car accident claims, so your settlement amount will generally fall within a possible set range. However, variables such as cost of medical bills, property damage, lost earnings, future lost income and ‘pain and suffering’ mean that every case is different.
The amount of liability you and the other people involved in the crash will need to be determined. In some states, joint liability is a possibility. If you are determined to be at fault, or partially liable for the accident, it will affect your claim and final compensation amount.
Working with an Attorney
Working with an attorney is recommended for anyone who is in a car accident. The average person is not in an accident very often, and may never have been before, so this experience will be all new to you. However, you are going up against seasoned professionals who spend their entire careers working in insurance. They know every loophole in the law. This is not a level playing field for the victim.
Often it is very traumatic to experience a car accident, and handling the paperwork and details involved can be very tedious and difficult while injured. An attorney will handle the paperwork and even work with law enforcement in some cases such as hit and runs to take the load off the victim as much as they can.
An attorney will provide you the legal protection that ensures you are not taken advantage of.They will ensure that a fair outcome is reached in your case.
- Association for Safe International Road Travel: http://asirt.org/initiatives/informing-road-users/road-safety-facts/road-crash-statistics
- Insurance Institute for Highway Safety: http://www.iihs.org/
- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: http://www.nhtsa.gov/Pedestrians