Driving is perhaps the most dangerous activity most of us engage in every day. Consider these sobering car accident statistics:
There are more than 38,000 fatal accidents annually in the United States.
There are another 4.4 million non-fatal accidents that result in injuries serious enough to warrant medical attention.
Road accidents are the number one cause of death in the U.S. for those between the ages of one and 54.
Given the high number of accidents in the U.S., the question of who is at fault is often an important issue in many legal cases. Let’s take a brief look at some of the most common car accident scenarios and who is likely at fault in these situations.
Accident Scenario #1: Rear-End Collisions
When the front of one motor vehicle strikes the rear of another vehicle, it’s known as a rear-end collision. Who’s at fault for this kind of accident? In most cases, the driver of the trailing vehicle is liable for rear-end collisions, but there are some exceptions.
Let’s look at when certain parties are liable:
- Rear Driver: Typically, the rear driver is at fault for rear-end collisions, as drivers are required to maintain a safe distance between themselves and ahead of them. In many cases, trailing drivers cause rear-end collisions by speeding, driving while distracted, or driving while impaired by drugs or alcohol.
- Front Driver: In some instances, the front driver may be at-fault for a rear-end accident. For example, a lead driver may be at fault if he or she suddenly changed lanes while braking or started in reverse from a stop.
- Third Party: Many times, mechanical defects, road defects, or other variables can cause a collision.
Accident Scenario #2: Left-Turn Collisions
Left-turn accidents happen when one vehicle makes a left turn and collides with another vehicle that is traveling through the intersection in the opposite direction. In this situation, the left-turning vehicle does not have the right away and must yield to other vehicles driving through the intersection. The only time they do not have to yield is if there is a green left arrow.
So is the driver making the left turn always at-fault in this scenario? Not necessarily.
The driver traveling through the intersection will likely be at-fault if he or she was negligent. For example, if they are driving at a speed well above the speed limit, the turning driver may not see them, or they may not calculate the time they need to complete the turn. Similarly, the oncoming driver would be at-fault if he or she ran a red light and collided with the vehicle turning left.
Accident Scenario #3: Head-On Collisions
A head-on collision, also known as a frontal crash, is perhaps the most dangerous type of accident. In this scenario, two vehicles are moving in opposite directions and collide. Often, head-on collisions occur at high speeds.
In many cases, these accidents occur because one car or truck drifts over the line and into the oncoming lane. Other times, a negligent driver may drive on the wrong side of the road. Driving under the influence or driving fatigued or distracted may be a determining factor of fault as well.
A car accident attorney can help you evaluate the evidence and determine who was at-fault for a head-on collision.
Accident Scenario #4: Side-Impact Accidents
Side-impact collisions usually take place when one driver doesn’t yield the right-of-way or runs a red light and strikes the side of another vehicle.
Many times, the accident is a serious “T-bone” collision, meaning one car hits the middle of another vehicle. The passenger in the car that is hit takes on the force of the direct impact and often suffers the most severe injuries.
“Angled” accidents happen when another car hits you at an angle. Studies show that occupants in the rear seats of the stricken vehicle sustain more serious injuries because the rear seats do not have the level of safety protection usually found in the front seat.
So who is liable in side-collisions? Here are a few possibilities:
- Distracted and fatigued drivers who strike another vehicle are at fault for accidents they are involved in.
- If a drunk driver fails to yield or runs a red light before striking the side of your car, they will nearly always be the liable party.
- In very specific circumstances if the drunk driver was previously drinking at a bar or restaurant, that establishment may be a liable party if its staff served the driver when he or she was visibly drunk.
If a drunk driver was the cause of your accident and injuries, it’s a good idea to speak with a car accident lawyer experienced with drunk driving cases to get answers to your questions.
Accident Scenario #5: Chain-Reaction Accidents
A chain-reaction collision happens when the actions of one driver lead to a crash involving three or more cars.
An example of chain-reaction accidents is when driver A suddenly cuts in front of driver B, forcing driver B to swerve into another lane to prevent an accident. Consequently, driver B may drive into on-coming traffic and strike driver C head-on. In this scenario, driver A would likely be the negligent party and liable for all injuries and damages to driver B and driver C.
There are countless scenarios in which a car accident can occur. Many times, determining who’s at fault is fairly simple. Other times, determining fault requires extensive litigation and experts.
Always remember to seek immediate professional medical care if you suffer injuries in a car accident. Follow your physician’s instructions and attend all recommended follow-ups. Many symptoms of serious injuries do not surface immediately, so even if you don’t feel pain or discomfort right away, it’s wise to visit your doctor for a checkup.
Similarly, it’s also a best practice to seek counsel from a qualified attorney who can answer all of your questions and assist you through the legal complexities of determining fault.
An attorney can be a valuable resource if you have mounting medical bills. A lawyer with car accident experience can discuss the viability of your case and help you get adequate financial compensation to recover from damages.
These damages may include medical and rehabilitation costs, lost wages, lost earning potential, pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of companionship, and other considerations.