Protecting Your Legal Rights After a Car Accident

Filing a Claim for Injuries Suffered in a Motor Vehicle Accident

Car AccidentsIf you’re hurt in a motor vehicle accident, don’t be surprised. Car, truck, and motorcycle accidents are collectively the single biggest cause of personal injury claims in the United States, involving nearly 7 million people every year. But when you’re injured in a collision caused by someone else’s carelessness, there’s a silver lining; you may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit and seek compensation for your losses.

American Motor Vehicle Accident Statistics

Here are some of the most important statistics related to car, truck, and motorcycle accidents:

  • Of the more than 6.76 million reported automobile accidents in 2019, just under two million (about 28%) involved some type of injury, and 33,244 resulted in a fatality.
  • The total estimated costs of those accidents was $836 billion, accounting for more than 5% of the gross domestic product of the United States.
  • About two million motorists suffer some type of permanent injury in a car crash every year.
  • More than one in five auto accidents are weather-related (22%).
  • The most common causes of motor vehicle accidents are the influence of alcohol and distracted driving (both 40%), followed by reckless driving (33%) and speeding (30%).
  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that up to 10 million crashes go unreported every year.

Different Types of Motor Vehicle Accidents

Motor vehicle accidents take many forms, including:

  • Rear-end collisions (29% of all motor vehicle accidents) are typically caused by distracted driving but can also result from speeding or tailgating.
  • T-bone or intersection collisions often result when a driver fails to stop at a red light or stop sign.
  • Single-car accidents are frequently caused by driver fatigue or distraction.
  • Sideswiping customarily involves risky lane changes or failure to pay attention to others on the road.

Common Causes of Motor Vehicle Accidents

A number of factors contribute to the high rate of motor vehicle wrecks in the United States:

  • Distracted driving—Statistics show that many drivers lose their focus on the road, turning their attention instead to handheld devices, magazines or papers, the stereo, other passengers, personal grooming, eating or drinking, or roadside attractions.
  • Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol—Almost half of all motor vehicle accidents involve at least one driver who is driving while drunk or high.
  • Excessive speed—The third leading cause of traffic incidents, speeding has become epidemic.
  • Reckless or aggressive driving—Driving far in excess of the posted speed limit, weaving in and out of traffic, constantly changing lanes, coming to a rolling stop—all these factors contribute to higher accident rates.
  • Weather—Too many motorists don’t change their driving habits in inclement weather, making it more difficult for them to negotiate the roads and stop within a reasonable distance.
  • Night driving—Conditions are more difficult when you’re driving in the dark or under lights. Many drivers, however, don’t significantly alter their driving at night.
  • Tailgating—Another symptom of aggressive driving, tailgating is becoming more common, as people show less patience on the road.
  • Dangerous or defective vehicles or vehicle parts—Vehicle breakdowns or malfunctions, whether caused by poor maintenance or the negligent design or manufacture of an automobile or automobile part, contribute substantially to the number of motor vehicle accidents.

Who Can File a Claim for Injuries in a Motor Vehicle Accident?

Anyone injured in an accident because of the negligent acts of a motorist may seek damages in a personal injury lawsuit, including drivers, passengers, and pedestrians. An attorney can help you determine whether you have a good claim that your injuries were caused by another party’s negligence.

If your injuries were caused by the defective design or faulty manufacturing of an automobile or automobile part, you may have a product liability claim against the automobile company.

What Types of Compensation Are Available for Injuries Suffered in a Motor Vehicle Accident?

You have a right to seek full and fair compensation for damages caused by a car, truck, or motorcycle wreck, including:

  • Lost wages or income, both past and future
  • Costs of required medical care not covered by insurance
  • Pain and suffering experienced as a result of your injuries
  • Loss of enjoyment of life, including the ability to engage in the routine acts of daily life, as well as the ability to do things that gave your life joy or meaning before the accident
  • Loss of companionship or consortium, such that you can no longer enjoy intimate or close personal relationships with family members
  • Damage or loss of property, including but not limited to your vehicle

Strategies for Avoiding Motor Vehicle Accidents

The single most effective strategy for minimizing the risk of being in a motor vehicle accident is to pay attention while you are on the road. Your primary focus should always be on the road in front of you, as well as any traffic coming from your left or right. That necessarily involves engaging in defensive driving, as you watch other motorists and anticipate their behavior.

You’ll minimize the risk of a crash if you obey traffic laws:

  • Stop at all red lights and stop signs.
  • Watch your speed.
  • Use a reasonable amount of caution.
  • Avoid illegal turns or lane changes.

You’ll also want to keep your vehicle well-maintained, so that you don’t risk an accident because of a breakdown.

Don’t ever get on the road if you’ve been drinking. You might also want to find another driver if you are taking prescription medication that can impair your ability to drive.

What to Do When You’re Injured in a Motor Vehicle Accident

Your first concern if you’re hurt in a car crash should be your physical well-being. If, for any reason, you don’t believe that you can move under your own power, don’t attempt to. Wait for emergency medical professionals to arrive, and let them determine exactly how to treat you. Be certain to advise them of anything that seems out of the ordinary, regardless of how minor it may seem. Often, the most debilitating injuries—back, neck, or spinal cord injuries—are not readily apparent in the initial moments after a car crash.

At all times, and with all medical caregivers, you want to request that everything be documented in writing. This can be critical when it comes time to pursue compensation for your injuries. Even if your injuries seem minor, and you are able to leave the scene under your own power, you should either go to an emergency facility or schedule an appointment with your personal physician as soon as possible. Symptoms may start to appear after a week or so—the more time that passes before you seek medical care, the more suspicious insurance providers will be that your injuries might not be related to the car accident.

There are two other critical steps to take after a motor vehicle accident—gather as much information as you can about other drivers, as well as any potential witnesses; and, if possible, take pictures of everything related to the accident, including your injuries, the damage to vehicles, and the road conditions at the time of the crash. Both of these steps will greatly assist your attorney when building your case for full and fair compensation for your losses.

If you decide to pursue legal action to recover compensation for your losses, you want to retain an attorney as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the greater the risk that evidence will be lost or that witnesses will forget what they saw or be unavailable. In addition, under what is known as the statute of limitations, there is a limited time within which you can file a claim for your losses.


Motor vehicle accidents are the single greatest cause of personal injuries in the United States. Anyone hurt in a car, truck, or motorcycle crash caused by someone else’s negligence can seek compensation from the at-fault party in a personal injury lawsuit, including drivers, passengers, and bystanders. You can minimize the risk of being in a motor vehicle accident by paying attention to the road at all times and driving defensively.

Related page: Trucking Accidents

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