Motor vehicle accidents are a leading cause of accidental injuries and deaths throughout the United States. Any car accident can cause injuries or deaths, and all drivers should know their rights and responsibilities when it comes to navigating car accident claims. If you or a loved one sustains an injury in a car accident caused by another driver, you should know what to expect in terms of the compensation you can receive and the value of legal representation as you navigate your claim.
What Are Common Injuries in a Car Accident?
Car accidents can easily cause many types of injury. The severity of injury typically depends on the speed at which the crash occurs, the number and types of vehicles involved, and the victim’s overall health and medical status. Some of the most commonly cited motor vehicle injuries include:
- Bone fractures, some of which may require surgical correction and long-term physical therapy to completely rehabilitate.
- Spinal cord injuries. These injuries are devastating and may result in permanent disability, including partial or full paralysis.
- Brain injuries. These range in severity from mild concussions to severe traumatic injuries that require immediate medical attention. Many brain injuries cause permanent damage.
- Lacerations. Broken glass, twisted metal, and plastic can easily cause severe cuts in a car accident.
- Burns. If a vehicle catches fire from an accident, victims inside the car may suffer severe burns that cause permanent scarring.
- Soft tissue injuries, such as damage to muscles, tendons, and ligaments.
This is not an exhaustive list. Car accidents can also cause catastrophic injuries that result in permanent disability, long-term medical complications, or even death in some cases. For example, a mild spinal injury may result in some loss of sensation, but the victim will retain full mobility and range of motion. A complete spinal injury that severs the spinal cord will result in paralysis in the parts of the body below the injury site.
What Are Minor Injuries in a Car Accident?
It’s common for car accidents to cause minor injuries such as cuts and scrapes, minor bone fractures, and mild concussions. While these injuries may not seem severe at first, and many of them will completely heal in a relatively short time, they can still be very painful and cause the victim to incur medical expenses for treating them.
Many car accident victims make the mistake of believing they are entirely unhurt from an accident or that they only suffered minor injuries. It’s imperative to seek medical care as soon as possible after any car accident, even if you think you only sustained minor injuries. It’s possible that you suffered an injury that has not manifested noticeable symptoms yet, and allowing it to remain untreated could put you at risk of suffering severe medical complications. No matter how minor you believe your injuries are, it is always best to err on the side of caution and seek prompt medical treatment as soon as possible after a car accident.
What Is the Most Common Cause of Motor Vehicle Accidents?
Throughout the US, statistics from various sources such as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report that distracted driving continues to be the leading cause of motor vehicle accidents, followed by driving under the influence (DUI) and speeding. Distracted driving includes any activity that takes a driver’s attention, vision, or hands away from operating the vehicle and paying attention to the road. Cell phone use is the most commonly cited form of distracted driving in the US, and many states have enacted laws prohibiting the use of cell phones while driving unless the driver uses a hands-free attachment.
What Is the Leading Cause of Motor Vehicle-Related Deaths and Injuries?
Distracted driving is the leading cause of accidents and the leading cause of vehicle-related deaths and injuries. When a driver does not pay attention to the road ahead for any reason, they are essentially driving blind and can easily cause a devastating accident with one or more other drivers. Even a few seconds of inattention can equate to hundreds of feet of road, and a distracted driver may not react in time to avoid a serious accident.
How Do You Prove Liability for Car Accident Injuries?
Whenever a person suffers injury in a car accident caused by another driver’s inattention or negligence, the injured person has the right to pursue compensation for their losses. Typically, the first step in recovery after any car accident is filing an insurance claim against the at-fault driver’s auto insurance policy. California upholds a fault rule for car accidents, so all drivers must have auto insurance policies that provide $15,000 or more in bodily injury liability coverage, $30,000 or more in total accident liability coverage, and $5,000 or more in property damage liability coverage. California drivers are also strongly advised to purchase underinsured/uninsured driver coverage as well, but they have the right to waive this coverage option.
It’s common for drivers to sustain losses that eclipse the total amount of available insurance coverage, prompting them to take further legal action against those responsible for causing their accidents. When it comes to securing an insurance claim payout or pursuing a personal injury claim, it is vital for the injured driver to prove the at-fault driver’s liability for their damages. This requires establishing four essential components of negligence:
- The at-fault driver owed the injured victim a duty of care to operate their vehicle safely.
- The at-fault driver failed to uphold this duty of care in some way, such as driving while distracted or under the influence of alcohol.
- The accident resulted in actual harm to the victim.
- The victim’s claimed damages resulted solely from the at-fault driver’s negligence and not some other cause.
If an injured driver can successfully prove these elements of negligence, they should have little trouble securing insurance coverage from the at-fault driver’s insurance carrier and/or holding the at-fault driver accountable through a personal injury claim.
Tips for Motor Vehicle Injury Prevention
The traffic laws and traffic signals posted on every road exist to help drivers anticipate other drivers’ actions. While it is not realistic for any driver to expect to accurately predict other drivers’ actions at all times, there are a few things drivers can do to minimize their risk of experiencing a motor vehicle injury:
- Keep your vehicle in top condition. Address maintenance issues promptly and ensure your car is in full working order before you drive. For example, if your brake lights malfunction, a driver behind you may not be able to tell that you are slowing or stopping in time to avoid a collision with your car.
- Avoid driving in dangerous conditions. It’s typically best to avoid driving at night if you can, and it’s also a good idea to avoid driving in severe weather or during periods of low visibility.
- Do not rush. Give yourself ample time to get where you are going. This will minimize the desire to break the speed limit or engage in other risky maneuvers on the road.
- Drive defensively. Stay alert at all times, obey posted traffic signals, and make way for faster-moving vehicles.
- Avoid distractions. Do not use your cell phone while driving unless you need to for work or an emergency, and only do so using a hands-free attachment that ensures you can keep your hands on your vehicle controls at all times.
- Wear your seatbelt. It’s not only against the law to drive without wearing your seatbelt but also incredibly dangerous. A properly worn seatbelt can significantly reduce the risk of injury in an accident.
Hopefully, these tips can help you prevent motor vehicle accident injuries or at least prevent them from being too severe. When injuries occur, it’s vital to know your rights regarding the compensation you should expect for your losses.
Calculating Damages for Motor Vehicle Accident Injuries
Damages available in a car accident claim can allow a motor vehicle accident victim to become “whole” again after suffering injuries and economic losses. An experienced attorney can help you ensure that you secure as much compensation as the law allows after an accident. Depending on the severity of your injuries, you could potentially obtain compensation for:
- Medical expenses. This includes both immediate medical expenses after your accident as well as long-term medical costs. For example, if your injury leads to a permanent disability or medical condition that will require constant in-home medical treatment, you could claim these expenses in a car accident lawsuit against the at-fault driver.
- Lost income. Your injuries may leave you unable to work for an extended period. Additionally, your injuries could prevent you from resuming your previous job or earning as much as you did before your accident. Some injuries leave victims permanently disabled and unable to work at all in the future. In any of these situations, you can potentially secure compensation for lost wages as well as anticipated lost future income resulting from your accident.
- Property damage. You can recover the cost of repairing your vehicle after your accident, or you may claim the total cash value of your car if it is damaged beyond repair.
- Pain and suffering. Noneconomic damages like pain and suffering can potentially form the bulk of your monetary recovery from a car accident claim. Your attorney will claim pain and suffering compensation based on the amount of your medical expenses, the severity of your injuries, and any long-term medical complications you develop from the incident.
Motor vehicle injuries are often more costly than victims initially realize. It’s common for a victim’s injuries to lead to expensive medical bills and a long recovery time, during which they cannot work and earn income. These financial pressures compound once they cannot pay their bills. Unfortunately, these economic issues compel some car accident victims into accepting lowball insurance settlements and insufficient compensation from at-fault drivers. It is essential to work with an experienced attorney if you intend to maximize your recovery after a car accident resulting in injuries.
How Can an Attorney Help?
An experienced car accident attorney will review your recent accident in close detail and help you determine the best approach to securing recovery for your damages. The first step in a car accident claim is to fully explore every available channel of compensation available to the victim. Your attorney can help you gather proof of your medical expenses, lost income, and property damage to present in your lawsuit. They will use this documentation and your case’s unique details to help you determine an appropriate amount of pain and suffering compensation to claim.
The next step will be proving liability for your losses. If another driver was negligent in any way that contributed to your damages, your attorney could help you gather the evidence needed to prove their fault. This evidence might include eyewitness testimony, traffic camera data, cell phone records, or dashboard camera data, if available. An experienced attorney will help their client determine how to secure the evidence they need to ensure a successful result in a personal injury claim.
Most people in this situation will start the recovery process by filing an insurance claim against the at-fault driver’s auto insurance policy. Dealing with an insurance company is rarely easy, and some insurance companies will use unethical tactics to coerce claimants into accepting settlement offers for much less than they rightfully deserve. Your attorney can draft your claim letter on your behalf, provide the supporting evidence and documentation to solidify your claim’s legitimacy, and ultimately help minimize the chance of encountering unjust resistance or bad faith tactics from the insurer.
At McLachlan Law, APC, we understand how devastating a motor vehicle injury can be for you and your family. Our goal in every case we represent is to maximize our client’s recovery and hold negligent drivers accountable for the damages they cause. If you or a loved one were injured in a car accident recently, contact McLachlan Law, APC, and schedule a case evaluation with an experienced and reliable car accident attorney.