Car accidents are one of the leading causes of injuries and accidental deaths throughout the country. Car accidents are likely to result in severe injuries, medical expenses, property damage to your vehicle, and other losses. As a result, when most people think of the aftermath of a car accident, they typically consider things like hospital bills and vehicle repair costs as their primary concerns. However, the effects of a car accident can involve much more than the above damages, and each can impact the victim’s life in many ways.

At Kenneth M. Sigelman & Associates, we strive to provide our clients and prospective clients with useful information that can help them when they experience unexpected accidents and injuries. If you are ever in any type of car accident, you should have some understanding of the potential effects the incident can have on your life beyond medical expenses and vehicle damage. Review the following information to learn more about the effects of car accidents and the value of legal representation in a personal injury claim resulting from a car accident.

What Are the Three Impacts of a Crash?

When most people think of car accidents, they only think of the initial impact of one vehicle hitting another, or a vehicle hitting a solid surface or other object. The reality is that any car accident will entail three distinct impacts:

  1. The initial crash impact of multiple vehicles colliding or a single vehicle colliding with an object or surface.
  2. The secondary impact of a vehicle’s occupant’s body striking the interior surfaces of the vehicle and collision with the airbag if they are in the front seat and the airbag deploys.
  3. The third impact of the victim’s organs within their own body. For example, the brain may strike the inside of the skull due to crash impact forces and cause a concussion.

All three of these impacts can have devastating effects on a car accident victim. However, if you are involved in a crash, you may not realize how badly you are hurt at first. Some internal injuries will not cause noticeable symptoms right away, so it is vital to seek medical attention and have a doctor examine you after any car accident, even a seemingly mild one.

How Can We Prevent Car Accidents?

Every driver has a duty of care to prevent accidents whenever possible. This typically entails driving safely, paying attention to the road, and heeding traffic laws, posted traffic signs, and signals. When drivers fail to operate their vehicles responsibly, they can easily injure themselves and others. Some of the best ways to prevent car accidents include:

  • Heeding posted speed limits.
  • Avoiding distractions behind the wheel, including cell phones.
  • Giving yourself plenty of time to get where you need to go so you do not feel rushed.
  • Addressing vehicle maintenance issues promptly.
  • Using turn signals when appropriate, such as before making turns and changing lanes.
  • Avoiding aggressive drivers and driving defensively.
  • Refraining from using drugs or alcohol prior to driving.

Drivers can not only limit their risk of experiencing accidents by following these tips but can also mitigate any potential liability for an accident.

What Is the Number One Unsafe Driving Behavior?

Statistics from various sources indicate that distracted driving is the leading cause of car accidents in the US. Drivers that fail to pay attention to the road place themselves and the other drivers around them at extreme risk. The term “distracted driving” applies to any behavior that diverts a driver’s eyes, hands, and/or attention away from operating their vehicle.

Visual, manual, and cognitive distractions are all potentially dangerous while on the road. Cell phone use is consistently cited as the most dangerous form of distracted driving because it requires a driver’s eyes, hands, and attention all at the same time. In addition, drivers should never operate their vehicle while fatigued or intoxicated, and it is best to avoid driving when angry or stressed.

What Is the Leading Cause of Traffic Fatalities?

Distracted driving is not only the leading cause of accidents overall but is also the leading cause of fatal accidents. Thus, it is vital for drivers to avoid distractions when operating their vehicles. Even a few seconds of distraction can affect driving for hundreds of feet, depending on the speed of the car. A driver who looks away from the road, however briefly, may not have time to react to changing conditions around them once they return their attention to the road.

Can a Car Accident Ruin Your Life?

So, how does a car accident affect your life? Depending on how serious the accident is, it could be a life-changing event for you, the other occupants of your vehicle, and other drivers involved in the crash. Even single-vehicle collisions can have life-altering consequences, such as catastrophic injuries that leave victims permanently disabled and unable to work. Car accidents can potentially impact your life in many ways:

  • Car accidents can easily cause severe physical injuries, including broken bones, traumatic brain injuries, spinal injuries, internal organ injuries, and more.
  • The physical injuries you suffer will lead to expensive medical bills. Even if you have good health insurance, the overall cost of the medical treatment you will require can cause severe economic strain for years to come.
  • Your injuries may leave you unable to work for an extended time while you recover, and during this time you will not earn any income. This situation can further exacerbate your financial problems after an accident.
  • Some injuries may cause permanent disabilities that prevent you from ever returning to your job or working again in the future. These disabilities may require you to arrange in-home medical care and assisted living services for the rest of your life.
  • There are also psychological consequences of road accidents. A car accident is a traumatic experience, and it is common for car accident victims to suffer from nightmares about their experience. Some even develop anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after a severe accident.
  • You may also experience social effects of car accidents. For example, if you develop a psychological condition due to the trauma of your accident, it can become difficult for you to engage with others in social settings in the future.

These are only a few examples of the ways a car accident can impact your life. If you or a loved one recently suffered injuries and other damages in a car accident caused by another driver, you should know your rights when it comes to securing compensation for your losses in the California civil court system.

Should I Hire an Attorney After a Car Accident?

If you recently suffered injuries and other losses from a car accident that you believe occurred due to the negligence of another driver, it is wise to consult a San Diego car accidents attorney as soon as possible. You may be able to recover some of your losses with an insurance claim, but there is no guarantee that the at-fault driver’s policy will have enough coverage to fully compensate your losses. An experienced auto accident attorney is your best resource if you are unsure of your options for securing compensation after a car accident.

Your attorney can review the police report from your accident to help you determine fault for the incident. California upholds a pure comparative negligence statute, so if you think you may be partially at fault for the incident, you can still recover damages. The pure comparative negligence law in California requires that a partially at-fault plaintiff loses a percentage of their case award equivalent to their percentage of fault. For example, if a judge determines you to be 10% at fault for a car accident and you are claiming $100,000 in damages, you will lose 10% of your case award to reflect your comparative negligence. As a result, you would still receive $90,000 in compensation for your losses.

The central legal concept of any personal injury case resulting from a car accident is negligence, or a failure to exercise reasonable care in a given situation. If another driver hit your vehicle due to a failure to follow the rules of the road, driving under the influence, distracted driving, or aggressive driving, these actions would qualify as negligence under California law. As such, the other driver would be liable for your damages.

Your car accidents attorney can help you identify the driver responsible for your accident and prove their negligence. An attorney can also assist you in establishing the full scope of your claimable damages and prove they are the result of the at-fault driver’s negligence and not some other cause.

Compensation for Car Accident Damages

The purpose of a personal injury claim is to provide the plaintiff with compensation to make them “whole” again after an injury. This means the defendant is liable for compensating the plaintiff for their damages. Depending on how severe your recent car accident was, you could potentially secure multiple types of compensation, including:

  • Medical expenses, both immediate and future. An injured plaintiff has the right to recover compensation for the medical expenses they incur from a car accident, including anticipated future medical costs for ongoing treatments. For example, if you suffer a traumatic brain injury that involves long-term complications, you could claim the cost of your initial hospital visit as well as the cost of ongoing occupational therapy, speech therapy, and other restorative treatments your condition requires.
  • Lost income. Your accident may leave you injured and unable to work while you recover. You can claim the wages you were unable to earn during this time in your personal injury suit. Additionally, if your accident leaves you unable to resume your job or return to work in the future due to disability, your car accidents attorney can potentially help you secure compensation for your lost future earning capacity.
  • Property damage. You can claim vehicle repair or replacement costs for the vehicle damaged in the accident as well as any personal property that may have been in your vehicle at the time.
  • Pain and suffering. California law allows personal injury plaintiffs to recover monetary compensation for emotional distress, psychological trauma and the lasting effects of bodily pain resulting from a defendant’s negligence. Your attorney can help you determine the best way to prove these damages. The amount you receive will typically reflect the severity of your physical injuries and the total amount of your other claimed damages.

In addition to these damages, you may also collect additional compensation depending on the nature of the negligence involved. In some cases, judges will award punitive damages to a plaintiff if a defendant displayed egregiously negligent or intentionally reckless behavior that resulted in an accident. If the defendant was participating in any illegal activity when they caused your accident, such as driving under the influence or fleeing the police after committing another crime, you could receive restitution from the judge handling their criminal case.

Should I File a Lawsuit?

Now that you understand the potential effects a car accident could have on your life, you should keep this information in mind should you ever experience a car accident caused by another driver’s negligence. If the accident is mild, does not result in any injuries, and your vehicle only sustains minor cosmetic damage, the other driver’s insurance may be enough to cover your damages. However, if you are injured in any way, it is vital to consult an experienced car accidents attorney as soon as possible to determine the best possible legal recourse.

Your attorney can begin by assisting you with filing an insurance claim. If your insurance settlement is not enough to fully compensate you for your losses, an attorney can help you explore additional opportunities for recovery, such as a personal injury claim against the driver responsible for your accident. The team at Kenneth M. Sigelman & Associates has years of experience helping our clients navigate complex personal injury claims in San Diego, CA, and we can help you through your car accident claim. We take a compassionate and client-focused approach to every car accident case we pursue. If you are ready to discuss your legal options with a reliable San Diego car accidents attorney, contact Kenneth M. Sigelman & Associates today to schedule a consultation.