Car accidents continue to be a leading cause of accidental deaths and injuries in the United States. Every driver has a duty of care to operate their vehicle responsibly, address vehicle maintenance issues as they arise, and always follow the rules of the road. Unfortunately, it is not possible for any driver to be able to predict what other nearby drivers could do at any given time. As a result, it is vital for all drivers to know the most common causes of car accidents, so they have a better chance of avoiding dangerous situations on the road.
Review the following information to learn what is the number one cause of car accidents and remember that Kenneth M. Sigelman & Associates can assist you if you need to take legal action after a car accident. A San Diego car accidents attorney is your best asset when another driver causes a collision that results in injuries and economic losses, and we are proud to put our experience and resources to work in your case.
What Are the Top Five Causes of Car Accidents?
Various government agencies at the state and federal levels collate accident data and produce periodic reports about the latest trends in vehicle accidents. According to data from sources such as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), and other state-level agencies, the top five causes of car accidents include:
- Distracted driving. All drivers have a responsibility to pay attention to the road when operating their vehicles. Distracted driving can include using a cell phone behind the wheel, a driver taking their eyes off the road for even a few seconds, eating while driving, and having a conversation with a passenger. All drivers should do their best to always eliminate and avoid distractions while driving.
- Speeding. Posted speed limits are not suggestions. While it is common to notice the flow of traffic around you moving five to ten miles per hour over the posted speed limit, it is vital to understand that the speed limit exists to ensure drivers can maintain safe control over their vehicles. When drivers speed, they have less time and distance to react when traffic patterns change. In some cases, this means they are unable to slow down or stop in time to avoid crashing.
- Driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or drugs. It is illegal for any driver to operate their vehicle while intoxicated by alcohol, illegal drugs, or prescription drugs that interfere with motor control, attention, and spatial awareness. If a driver causes an accident due to DUI, they will not only face civil liability for the resulting damages but also criminal prosecution. Penalties for DUI can include fines, jail time, suspension of driver’s license, and mandatory drug and alcohol counseling. These penalties increase with subsequent DUI violations or if a DUI driver injures or kills another driver.
- Reckless driving. Unfortunately, some drivers do not uphold their duty of care to operate their vehicles safely and instead engage in reckless and dangerous maneuvers with their vehicles. Swerving between slower-moving vehicles, changing lanes without signaling, tailgating, and aggressive driving are just a few examples of reckless actions behind the wheel that can cause devastating accidents.
- Moving violations. Some drivers make mistakes or intentionally commit moving violations that cause accidents. A few examples of moving violations that can cause crashes include changing lanes without using a turn signal, braking suddenly in tight traffic, swerving between lanes, or making illegal turns and U-turns.
One common thread among these top five causes of car accidents is that one or more drivers will bear liability for the resulting damages and will be required to compensate other drivers for their costs. If you have been injured in a car accident that you believe resulted from one of these five most common causes, it is vital to speak with a San Diego car accidents attorney as soon as possible.
Why Is Distracted Driving So Dangerous?
Many drivers engage in distracting behaviors without truly realizing how dangerous those actions are to other drivers around them. For example, a driver may think it is perfectly fine to take a few seconds to glance at a text message they just received. However, depending on their speed of travel, they may drive hundreds of feet in that brief time. When you are not looking at the road, or when you are using your hands for something other than driving, you face a severe risk of being unable to adjust for sudden changes in traffic conditions.
Where Do Most Car Accidents Happen?
Accidents happen most often where there is the greatest concentration of drivers, which often includes smaller roads that become congested more easily. Intersections with stop signs, rural highways, and two-lane roads are some of the most common places for car accidents to occur. For this reason, it is vital for drivers to always pay close attention to their surroundings no matter where they drive. Ultimately, any driver is about as likely to experience an accident on a residential street as they are on a highway.
Is It True Most Car Accidents Happen Close to Home?
Car accident statistics indicate that the majority of car accident victims experience accidents close to home. The reason for this is simple: most drivers do the majority of their driving close to home. While accidents are also likely when driving away from home on unfamiliar roads, you face the greatest chance of experiencing a car accident wherever you drive the most.
What Age Group are the Safest Drivers?
According to research from AAA, the age group with the lowest accident rate is ages 60 to 69. By comparison, the two age groups with the highest risk of injury or death from car accidents are the 16-17 age group consisting of newer drivers and drivers over the age of 80.
Important Steps to Take Immediately After a Car Accident
If you experience a car accident, it is vital to know what to do to protect yourself and increase your chances of securing a recovery from a personal injury claim if you believe another driver is to blame for the incident. Primarily, you should concern yourself with your personal health and safety. If you are injured and unable to move, you or a bystander should call 911 and wait for paramedics to arrive. If you believe you only sustained minor injuries, check yourself and your passengers before checking on the other driver involved in the accident. It is best not to move your vehicle after the accident, at least until you have photos of the crash scene for use in a later insurance claim or lawsuit.
If you feel well enough to move around, try and take photos of your injuries, the damage to your vehicle, the positions of the vehicles involved in the crash, and the surrounding area. You should also look for any witnesses who may have seen the accident occur and obtain their contact information. California state law requires drivers to contact the police and report any accident resulting in death, injury, or significant property damage. It is always best to err on the side of caution and report an accident if you are unsure whether it is serious enough to warrant a call to 911. Notifying the authorities will generate a police report that could be valuable later if you decide to file an insurance claim or a personal injury suit against the driver responsible for the accident.
When the police arrive, answer their questions honestly but do not say anything they might construe as an admission of fault. Be as concise as possible with your answers until you are free to go. If you were severely injured, you will likely receive ambulance transportation to the nearest hospital. If you feel well enough to leave on your own, you should still seek medical attention immediately, even if you think you only suffered minor cuts and bruises. You may have internal injuries that do not yet have noticeable symptoms, or the injuries you have noticed may be more severe than you initially realize. Your doctor can provide a medical report that will outline your injuries and prognosis, and this will be another vital document for a future insurance claim or further legal action against another driver.
Can I Sue for a Car Accident Someone Else Caused?
California follows a fault rule for car accidents, meaning that whenever a driver causes a collision with another driver, the at-fault driver is responsible for the resulting damages. California state law also requires all drivers to purchase auto insurance. Thus, when another driver causes an accident with your vehicle, you have the right to file a claim against their insurance policy.
Unfortunately, many drivers in this situation discover that the at-fault driver’s car insurance does not provide adequate coverage for the full scope of their damages. California’s minimum auto insurance requirements are $15,000 in bodily injury liability coverage for a single person, $30,000 in total accident liability coverage, and $5,000 or more in property damage liability coverage. It is also strongly recommended, though not necessarily mandatory, for drivers to purchase $15,000 per person and $30,000 per accident in uninsured/underinsured driver liability coverage. This coverage applies when a driver who does not have auto insurance causes an accident with your vehicle.
In the event an at-fault driver’s insurance coverage is insufficient to cover the full scope of your losses, you have the right to pursue additional legal action in the form of a personal injury claim against the at-fault driver. A San Diego car accidents attorney is your best asset if you believe you have grounds to pursue a personal injury claim against the driver responsible for your accident.
What to Expect in a Car Accident Lawsuit
Success in any personal injury claim hinges on the plaintiff’s ability to prove the defendant was negligent in a manner that directly resulted in their claimed damages. The plaintiff must identify the defendant they believe to be responsible for their damages, prove the defendant breached their duty of care in the situation in question, and provide a full accounting of their claimable damages. The plaintiff must also prove the defendant’s breach of duty of care directly caused their claimed damages, meaning they must prove that their damages resulted from the accident instead of another cause.
It is important to note that California is a pure comparative negligence state, meaning a plaintiff has the right to seek compensation for damages despite assuming partial blame for the accident that resulted in their damages. Unfortunately, it is common for defendants in car accident claims to cast blame against plaintiffs to mitigate their liability for the damages in the claim. Unlike other states, which may prevent drivers from recovering damages if they were more than 50% responsible for the crash, California does not bar plaintiff recovery. The plaintiff simply loses a percentage of their case award equal to the percentage of responsibility assumed for the accident.
Your San Diego car accidents attorney can help you gather the evidence and witness testimony you will need to establish liability for your damages. For example, a car accident claim may not only yield compensation for the expense of replacing your damaged vehicle and coverage for your medical expenses, but also compensation for lost income if your accident leaves you unable to work. California state law also allows personal injury plaintiffs to recover compensation for the pain and suffering a defendant’s negligence causes.
Secure Legal Counsel Immediately After a Car Accident
If you experience a car accident with another driver and believe their negligence caused the incident, it is vital to speak with a San Diego car accidents attorney as soon as possible for the best chance of securing recovery for your damages. The team at Kenneth M. Sigelman & Associates can provide the comprehensive and compassionate legal counsel you need to approach your car accident claim with confidence. If you need legal assistance after an accident in the San Diego, CA area, contact us to schedule a consultation. Our firm can handle your case so you can continue recovering from your injuries.