The Common Causes | Liability and Damages | Protecting Your Rights
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, an average of one motor vehicle accident occurs somewhere across the United States every minute of every day—that’s more than five million car wrecks each year. Whether you’re the driver, a passenger, or a pedestrian, the consequences of an automobile accident can be serious and affect your daily life for months or years, even when impact occurs at low speed.
What Are Common Causes of Motor Vehicle Accidents?
Car accidents can be caused by wrongdoing or negligence or by external factors.
The most frequent causes of collisions resulting from the carelessness of drivers include:
- Distracted driving—The most common cause of motor vehicle accidents, distracted driving includes operating a vehicle while:
- Using a handheld device, such as a cellphone, tablet, radar detector, or music player;
- Engaging in other activities while driving, such as grooming, eating, drinking, or smoking; or
- Turning your attention from the road to other occupants in the car or attractions on the roadside.
- Violation of traffic laws—The primary purpose of most traffic laws is to promote safety on the road. Accidents are frequently caused by
- Failure to stop at traffic lights or stop signs,
- Illegal or improper lane changes, or
- Failure to use due caution.
- Driving while intoxicated or impaired by alcohol or drugs
- Driver fatigue—Lack of proper rest can slow down your reaction time or even cause you to doze off at the wheel.
- Aggressive driving—Tailgating, passing without adequate clearance, and similar acts of aggression behind the wheel can cause serious accidents.
Motor vehicle accidents can also be caused by external factors, such as:
- Poor or inclement weather conditions—Dangerous conditions include rain, ice, or snow on the roadway or on a vehicle, as well as conditions that limit visibility, such as heavy rain or snowstorms and dense fog.
- Dangerous or defective auto parts— Poorly designed automobiles, as well as carelessly manufactured vehicles or auto parts, can cause a loss of control.
How Is Liability or Fault Determined in a Motor Vehicle Accident?
In most cases, liability for the losses caused by a car accident is based on a legal theory of negligence. Under the concept of negligence, every driver has a duty to act as a reasonable person would under the circumstances. When determining liability for the damages caused by a car accident, a jury considers the evidence and determines whether the actions of the parties were reasonable. The jury may, in fact, find that both parties engaged in some level of carelessness and that both have some fault.
What Penalties Can Be Incurred Because of a Car Accident?
As a general rule, responsibility for damage caused by a motor vehicle accident is governed by civil, not criminal, law. (In rare situations, such as where a driver acts with reckless disregard for the safety of others, a person may face charges of vehicular or negligent homicide.) In most instances, however, the legal sanction imposed on a person who causes a car accident is to make them compensate the other party monetarily for any losses sustained.
What Are the Most Important Things to Do Immediately After a Motor Vehicle Accident?
When you’re hurt in a car wreck, getting the medical attention you need should be your first priority, in order to protect both your health and your legal claim. The sooner you seek medical attention, the more options you’ll generally have and the less risk of complications. In addition, seeking prompt medical treatment makes it less likely defense attorneys will try to allege that something other than the car accident caused your injuries or that your injuries were not initially as serious as they turned out to be.
It’s also helpful to gather information at the scene of the crash. If you can, get contact information from anyone involved in the accident, as well as any witnesses. Take pictures of everything that may be relevant, including damage to the vehicles, your injuries, road conditions, and even the weather, if relevant.
The sooner you hire legal counsel, the sooner you’ll have someone protecting your legal rights. Your initial inclination may be to make your first call to your insurance agent, but they have an incentive to minimize their payout to you. Hire an experienced lawyer and let legal counsel be your liaison with the insurance company.
It’s important, in the aftermath of a motor vehicle accident, to take the right steps to protect your health and your legal rights. Immediately get the treatment you need, and make your first call to an experienced attorney.