Types of Car Accidents

January 11, 2023 | Article by Matt Clark | Tips & Information

Types of Car Accidents

In 2021, Kern County ranked tenth among California counties for car accident injuries with 3,767 and sixth for car crash fatalities with 209—despite being the 11th-largest county in the state.

Facing the danger of serious injuries or worse on local roadways, many people wonder what types of car accidents are most common.

In this blog, we’ll tell you the seven types of auto accidents that make up 99.5% of all collisions in the U.S.—plus typical causes, injuries, and the legal implications of each type.

The national statistics in this blog come from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) data for 2021, the most recent year with complete data. Kern County statistics are from the California Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System (SWITRS).

The Top Car Accident Types

The chart below shows the seven types of accidents that make up more than 99.5% of all accidents in the U.S.

Collision TypeCollisions in 2021Percentage
Read End1,770,32829.5%
Angle (Side Impact)1,403,12723.3%
Fixed Object954,35515.9%
Not-Fixed Object799,05513.3%
Head On161,8402.7%

Nearly one in every three collisions is a rear-end crash—when one vehicle strikes another vehicle from behind. Usually, this is because the driver in the rear is following too closely or driving while distracted.

Although rear-end collisions are not the most dangerous kind of accident, they do cause injuries in about one in four cases. The classic rear-end-crash injury is whiplash, which results from the head snapping back and forth like a whip.

In car accident cases, the at-fault driver is liable (or responsible) for property damage and injuries resulting from the accident. In the vast majority of rear-end crashes, the driver that struck the lead car is at fault. But in rare cases, the lead driver may be partially to blame—for example,  if they brake suddenly for no reason or pull out in front of another car, not giving the other driver time to adjust.

Angle or side-impact collisions involve one car hitting the side of another car. This type of crash is frequently caused by a driver running a stop sign or red light. Another common cause is a driver turning in front of an oncoming car.

The sides of a car don’t protect vehicle occupants as much as the front and rear ends, so side-impact crashes are dangerous. They cause injuries in more than one out of every three cases.

Regardless of who hit who, a driver who violated a traffic regulation (e.g., by running a red light) is most likely at fault in angle collisions. When an angle crash is due to a left turn that doesn’t give an oncoming driver enough time to react, it can be trickier to establish who’s at fault.

Collisions with fixed objects involve a single vehicle striking an immovable object. NHTSA tracks fixed-object collisions in the following categories:

  • Culvert, curb, or ditch
  • Pole or post
  • Tree
  • Guard rail
  • Embankment
  • Bridge

Common causes include distracted driving, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (DUI), driving while drowsy, or speeding. About 30% of all collisions with fixed objects result in injuries. Because fixed-object crashes only involve one driver, there isn’t typically another party to take the blame.

In 2021, about 14% of car accidents involved sideswipe collisions—when two cars are traveling more or less parallel to one another and crash into each other. This type of collision is usually caused by a driver merging or changing lanes without looking behind them or checking their blind spot.

Of the seven most common crash types, sideswipes are the least likely to cause injuries. However, more injuries may result if drivers overreact to the initial collision by swerving and lose control of their vehicles.

A driver who merges or changes lanes without looking is likely to be liable for this type of motor vehicle crash.

Like collisions with fixed objects, collisions with objects that are not fixed involve just one vehicle—unless a driver plows into a parked car. These crashes involve a car running into something that is not immovable. The NHTSA tracks collisions with objects that are not fixed in the following categories:

  • Parked vehicles
  • Animals
  • Pedestrians
  • Bicyclists
  • Trains

Hitting a parked car or an animal (e.g., a deer) are by far the most common types of collisions with objects that are not fixed.

This type of vehicle accident often results from distracted driving, DUI, drowsy driving, or speeding. Any of these driving behaviors makes a driver at least partially liable for a crash. However, if a person, bicyclist, or animal runs or steps out in front of a moving vehicle, the crash may not be the driver’s fault at all.

A head-on collision is when the front ends of two cars collide as they’re moving toward one another. Although this type of vehicle accident is relatively uncommon, it frequently causes serious injuries because the two cars moving toward each other amplifies the effect of the collision.

Head-on crashes may involve a driver who travels the wrong way on a one-way street or loses control and crosses into oncoming traffic. A driver who makes such errors is usually liable for the resulting property damage and injuries.

A rollover is when a car turns over one or more times and ends up on its side or roof. Technically, a rollover is not a collision, because it doesn’t involve a car hitting another object. However, this type of vehicle crash is extremely dangerous—more likely to result in injuries or fatalities than any other type of accident.

Rollovers are often caused by a car going over the shoulder of the road. Taller vehicles like minivans, SUVs, and trucks roll over more often than sedans, because they carry more weight higher up (a higher center of gravity).

In this type of accident, the driver is most likely at fault if they are dozing at the wheel, speeding, distracted, or driving under the influence. But if a driver is forced off the road by another driver, they’re likely not to blame.

Types of Accidents Most Likely to Cause Injuries

The chart below shows which types of accidents were most likely to cause injuries in 2021.

Collision Type% Resulting in Injuries in 2021
Head On47.8%
Fixed Object30.2%
Rear End26.9%
Not-Fixed Object23.0%

Types of Accidents Most Likely to Cause Fatalities

The chart below shows which types of accidents were most likely to cause fatalities in 2021.

Collision Type% Resulting in Fatalities in 2021
Head On2.7%
Not-Fixed Object1.1%
Read End0.2%
Fixed Object0.1%

Motorcycle Accidents

NHTSA reports that there were 104,870 motorcycle accidents in the U.S. in 2021. These crashes resulted in more than 79,000 injuries and 6,082 deaths.

Truck Accidents

NHTSA reports that there were 523,796 truck accidents in the U.S. in 2021. These accidents caused 117,312 injuries and 5,700 deaths.

Bakersfield Car Accident Lawyers

If another person’s negligent driving caused an accident—no matter what type—you are entitled to receive compensation for the resulting property damage, injuries, or the death of a loved one. Even when it’s reasonably clear that their client was to blame, insurance companies often dispute who was at fault in car accident cases. The experienced car accident lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Clark can help you investigate and gather evidence to prove your case—maximizing your car accident settlement or jury award.

Contact us today to request a free consultation with no obligation to you.