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Types of Car Accidents

Car accidents are, unfortunately, all too common. The National Highway Transportation Safety Association (NHTSA) recently reported the following statistics for 2020:

  • There were over 5.2 million automobile accidents in the US.
  • Nearly one in three of these accidents resulted in injuries to one or more persons.
  • Although less than 1% of all accidents resulted in fatalities, the 2020 tally of car accident fatalities (38,824 people killed) was the highest total since 2007.

If you or a family member have been injured in a car accident, you may find that dealing with the aftermath of a crash is bewildering. As you’re coping with doctor’s visits and medical bills, you also have to deal with car repairs, police reports, and insurance claims. 

As costs mount, so do the questions: What kind of settlement will the insurance company offer? Do you deserve a higher settlement? Would it be worthwhile to file a lawsuit?

If you’re in this kind of situation, the Bakersfield car accident lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Clark are available to help you through the post-crash intricacies, including accident investigation, determining fault, negotiating with insurance companies, or even taking a lawsuit to trial.

In this article, we’ll briefly cover a few relevant car accident topics and then get into different types of car accidents in detail.

What Are the Most Common Causes of Car Accidents?

In most car accidents, one or more drivers are at fault, but there are often non-human contributing factors as well. Below are some of the most common causes of California car accidents.

  • Distracted driving: According to a 2008 NHTSA study, the primary cause of 41% of all car crashes is “recognition errors,” which include inattention and internal and external distractions. Distractions include things like smartphones, conversations, and eating inside the car, and things like billboards outside the car.
  • Decision errors: In the same NHTSA study, driver “decision errors” were the primary cause of 34% of all car accidents. Decision errors include speeding, tailgating, reckless or aggressive driving, ignoring signals, and more.
  • Impaired driving (drinking and driving or driving on drugs): A staggering 30% of all car accident fatalities in 2020 involved drunk drivers.
  • Drowsy driving: When drivers make performance errors like losing control of the vehicle, driving off the road, or striking a stationary object, a common underlying factor is often drowsy driving or falling asleep at the wheel.

Some non-human factors that contribute to car accidents include:

  • Mechanical issues with the car (e.g., brake or steering malfunctions)
  • Tire problems (blowouts, worn tires, etc.)
  • Weather conditions
  • Construction hazards
  • Animals crossing roadways

If you enlist the support of a lawyer to settle your insurance claim or file a lawsuit after a car accident, they’ll investigate your case to determine all the factors that caused the crash.

Safe Driving Practices

Some car crashes are unavoidable, but many can be prevented with safe-driving practices.

Wearing a seat belt won’t prevent you from getting into a traffic accident, but it may save your life. In 2020, one out of every four people killed in traffic accidents was not wearing a seat belt.

Here are some safe-driving practices that can prevent accidents:

  • Never use your cell phone while you’re driving. If you need to send a text or look something up, find a safe place to pull over and take care of it.
  • Don’t drive impaired. If you’re going to be drinking, make sure you have a designated driver or take a rideshare home.
  • Slow down! This includes not only observing the speed limit, but also driving appropriately for the road conditions. For example, if it’s pouring rain, it may not be safe to drive 70 mph on the freeway (even if that’s the speed limit).
  • Leave a safe following distance between you and the car in front of you. It’s very easy to underestimate how much time you need in order to stop if the car in front of you brakes suddenly.
  • Check your blind spots when merging or changing lanes. Your car’s side view mirrors don’t cover everything to your left or right. Make it a habit to quickly check over your shoulder before you move into the next lane.

Of course, nothing can guarantee you’ll never be involved in a car accident, but these safe-driving practices will go a long way toward ensuring you don’t cause any accidents. 

In addition, be sure to keep up with car recalls, repairs, and maintenance so that you’re not endangered by any mechanical issues.

Different Types of Car Accidents

The simplest way to categorize different types of car crashes is based on the type of collision that took place. The following list presents, in order of frequency, the top seven most common types of car accidents according to the NHTSA. These seven categories account for more than 98% of all traffic accidents.

1. Rear-End Collisions

The most common type of road accident is a rear-end collision (27.8% of all accidents). In a rear-end collision, one vehicle strikes another vehicle from behind.

With rear-end collisions, it’s often assumed that the driver that struck the lead car is at fault. While this is usually true, it’s not always the case. Typically, a driver rear-ends someone because they were following too closely or not paying attention. But the lead driver may bear some or all of the fault in a rear-end collision if they (1) brake suddenly for no reason, or (2) turn in front of a quickly moving car, not giving the other driver enough time to adjust.

While rear-end collisions are not the most dangerous kind of accident, they do often result in injuries, especially whiplash. Whiplash involves sprains or tears in the soft tissue of the neck when a rear-end crash causes the head to snap back and forth like a whip.

2. Side-Impact Collisions

Side-impact collisions (also known as angle or T-bone collisions) account for 23.6% of all accidents. In a side-impact crash, one car hits the side of another car.

Frequently, angle collisions are caused by a driver running a stop sign or red light. Depending on the scenario, the driver that hits the second vehicle may or may not be at fault:

  • If a driver hits someone who ran a red light in front of them, the driver who ran the light is at fault.
  • If a driver runs a red light and hits someone crossing the intersection on a full green, the first driver is at fault.

Another common cause of side-impact collisions is when a driver makes an ill-advised turn in front of an oncoming car.

Because the sides of a car don’t provide as much protection to its occupants as the front and rear ends, side-impact crashes are very dangerous. They harm more people than any other type of accident, causing 29.3% of all crash-related injuries and 18% of all fatalities.

3. Collisions with Fixed Objects

Collisions with fixed objects make up 17.5% of all car accidents. Fixed objects include things like telephone poles, trees, guardrails, curbs, bridges, and ditches. This type of collision is often very serious; collisions with fixed objects cause 30.6% of all car-crash fatalities.

In many instances, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, driving distracted, or driving while drowsy factor into collisions with fixed objects.

4. Collisions with Objects That Are Not Fixed

Collisions with objects that are not fixed total 14% of all car accidents. Objects that are not fixed include parked cars, trains, animals, pedestrians, and bicyclists. Like collisions with fixed objects, this type of crash is very dangerous, resulting in 22.6% of all car-accident deaths.

Collisions with objects that are not fixed are frequently the result of driving under the influence, distracted driving, and drowsy driving. However, there are also many instances when the driver is not at fault or bears only partial fault—for example, because a deer runs across the freeway or a pedestrian jaywalks on a busy road.

5. Sideswipe Collisions

Sideswipe collisions are responsible for 11.8% of all car accidents. A sideswipe collision is when two cars are traveling more or less parallel to one another and make glancing contact. The danger in sideswipe collisions frequently comes not from the initial contact itself, but because of drivers swerving or losing control of their vehicles afterward.

Most sideswipe collisions take place when cars are merging or changing lanes.

6. Head-On Collisions

Head-on collisions are relatively rare; they make up only 2.1% of all crashes. However, they’re particularly deadly, resulting in 10.2% of car-accident fatalities. A head-on collision is when the front ends of two cars collide as they’re moving toward one another.

Head-on collisions are severe because of the physics involved—each car exerts a force on the other car proportional to the speed at which it’s traveling, compounding the impact. They may be caused by a driver who’s going the wrong way on a one-way street or by a driver losing control and crossing over into oncoming traffic.

7. Rollovers

Like head-on collisions, rollovers are rare but deadly. They account for only 1.6% of all car accidents but are responsible for 7.5% of all crash-related deaths. A rollover is when a vehicle overturns one or more times, landing on its side or roof.

Compared to other types of accidents, rollovers carry a much greater risk of the driver or passengers being thrown from the vehicle, often with catastrophic results. Even if the driver and passengers aren’t ejected from the car, the overturning of the vehicle moves them around violently.

Rollovers often occur when a car goes off the shoulder of the road—perhaps because the driver is dozing at the wheel, forced off the road by another vehicle, or loses control because of drug or alcohol impairment.

Vehicle type also factors into rollovers: Taller, narrower vehicles (e.g., SUVs or trucks) are more likely than others to roll over because their center of gravity is higher (more of their weight is higher up in the vehicle).

Other Aspects That Impact  Car Accidents

If you’ve been in a car accident, the type of collision doesn’t necessarily tell the whole story. There are other aspects of a car crash that may factor into your efforts to seek compensation for your injuries and/or damage to your vehicle.

  • Number of vehicles involved: As outlined above, single-vehicle crashes (items 3 and 4 above) can be very serious. Multiple-vehicle crashes (involving three or more vehicles) are also dangerous, carrying the risk of a car being sandwiched between other cars. In addition, the more vehicles involved, the more complicated it can be to sort out who’s at fault.
  • Types of vehicles involved: If you’re in an accident with a truck, make sure to get the name and contact info for the company that the driver works for, because you may be able to seek damages not only from the driver but also from their employer. The same applies to Uber, Lyft, and taxi drivers.

Injuries Caused by Car Accidents

No matter what type of car accident you’ve been in, it’s likely that your car has been damaged. Worse yet, you or a family member may be injured, or worst of all, someone you love may have been killed.

Obvious accident-related injuries run the gamut from bumps, bruises, and lacerations to broken bones and serious back and spinal injuries.

Other types of injuries are just as common but are not necessarily recognized right away—internal bleeding, concussions, traumatic brain injuries, and psychological effects like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Some injuries may not manifest symptoms for days, weeks, or even months.

It’s important to get a full medical evaluation as soon as possible after an accident and keep all of your ongoing medical bills and records. It’s also helpful to document how you’re feeling in the days and weeks following the accident. 

Are you affected emotionally? Are you in pain? Are you physically unable to work? Recording these kinds of details can be a great help in negotiating an appropriate settlement or building a case for trial.

Pure Comparative Fault in California

California is an at-fault state for car accidents. In other words, in insurance claims and civil lawsuits for car accidents, it matters who caused the accident.

However, it’s important to know that in California, fault is not an all-or-nothing matter. California law uses a legal doctrine known as pure comparative fault.

In some states that use comparative fault, if it’s determined that you are 50% or 51% responsible (depending on the state) for a crash, you cannot collect any damages in the case. However, pure comparative fault allows drivers to collect damages no matter what percentage of the fault they bear in an accident.

In addition, drivers are liable only for the percentage of damage for which they are at fault. For example, if you’re involved in an accident and the court determines that you were 25% at fault, you are only responsible for 25% of the damages awarded in the case. If you are 75% at fault, you’re liable for 75% of the damages.

Reach Out to a Bakersfield Car Accident Lawyer

Whatever type of car accident you’ve been in, you may need help in getting a fair settlement from the insurance company or, if need be, through a lawsuit. The Bakersfield car accident lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Clark have the expertise needed to help you through the traumatic aftermath of your accident as you begin your journey toward recovery. 

Reach out to us today to request a free consultation.

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