Over 3 million people are injured each year in motor vehicle accidents. There are many different injuries that can result from a car accident. Some car accident injuries may resolve within days without medical treatment, but more serious injuries might become permanent and result in physical disability. If you are a victim in a motor vehicle accident, you may suffer property damage, lost wages, pain and suffering, cost for medical treatment, and losses as a result of disability.
The type and severity of injuries suffered by drivers and passengers involved in a car accident depend on these factors:
There are two broad categories of injuries caused by motor vehicle accidents:
- impact injuries, and
- penetrating injuries
Impact injuries are usually caused when part of the accident victim’s body hits part of the interior of the car. For instance, a knee hitting a dashboard or head hitting the seat rest or the side window.
Penetrating injuries are typically cuts and scrapes. Shattering glass or loose objects flying inside the car on impact often cause these types of injuries.
Head injuries can take a number of forms, some relatively minor and others quite severe. A car’s unexpected stop or change in direction often causes the heads of the car occupants to experience sudden and unnatural movements. This can cause muscle strains in the neck and back. But the head itself can also be injured. Impact with a side window or steering wheel can cause scrapes and bruising to the head, or even deeper lacerations. More severe collision impacts can cause a closed head injury. In that situation, the fluid and tissue inside the skull are damaged because of the sudden movement or impact of the head. Less severe closed head injuries often result in concussions. But more severe impacts can cause brain hemorrhage which can lead to death. If you are suffering any pain or suspect a brain injury, you should immediately visit the emergency room or be examined by a healthcare professional.
Concussions can be very serious, and the symptoms do not often show up immediately. Sometimes the symptoms are obvious (such as disorientation or even loss of consciousness), but they can also be more subtle. Symptoms include:
- clouded thinking
- inability to concentrate
- difficulty remembering new information
- blurry vision
- lack of energy
- abnormal sleep patterns
If you exhibit any of these signs following a car accident, you may have a concussion; and you should seek medical attention immediately.
Chest injuries are common in vehicle accidents. These injuries typically take the form of contusions or bruises, but can be more severe, such as broken ribs or internal injuries. Drivers often experience chest injuries because of their position behind the steering wheel, which allows very little freedom of movement before the chest collides with the steering wheel. If a person’s body is thrown forward in a collision, even though it might not impact the steering wheel or dashboard, the chest area will still experience a high level of force against the shoulder harness or seat belt, which can cause severe bruising.
Arm and Leg Injuries
The same forces that unexpectedly throw a person’s head about in car collisions act similarly on arms and legs. If your car suffers a side impact, your arms and legs might be thrown hard against the door. While positioned as a passenger in a car, your legs typically have very little room for movement. Car accidents often cause an occupant’s knees to hit the dashboard or seats in front of them. Depending on the nature of the collision, injuries to your arms and legs might be mere bruises or scrapes, but sprains and even breaks can occur.
Always Seek Medical Treatment
Almost any car accident is a traumatic event. From catastrophic collisions to fender-benders, there is a lot of force involved when a vehicle hits (or is hit by) something. When people are in a car accident that seems minor, they do not notice any injury symptoms right away. Sometimes the rush of adrenaline masks the true nature of the injury. But depending on your age, health, and the nature of the injury, it may take days, weeks, or even months for symptoms to appear. Therefore seek medical treatment for even the slightest discomfort or early indication of injury.It is important to monitor your injuries following a car accident for your physical well-being and to protect your legal rights.
Your doctor will be in the best position to determine whether you sustained any serious injuries in the accident. Your doctor can also give you advice on monitoring symptoms of potential injuries, including the sorts of red flags to watch out for. If you end up making any sort of injury claim after the accident, it’s crucial to be able to document the fact that you sought medical treatment within a reasonable amount of time.
Fault & Liability
Figuring out who is at fault requires deciding who was careless. Fortunately, there is a set of official written rules telling people how they are supposed to drive and providing guidelines by which liability may be measured. These “rules of the road” are the traffic laws everyone must learn to pass the driver’s license test. Complete rules are contained in each state’s vehicle code, and they apply not only to automobiles but also to motorcycles, bicycles, and pedestrians.
Sometimes a violation of one of these traffic rules is obvious and was clearly the cause of an accident. A good example of this is when one driver runs a stop sign and crashes into another car.
Other situations are less obvious. For instance, a crash may occur when drivers both merge into a single lane of traffic. These cases may be governed by the law of negligence. A driver, pedestrian, or cyclist who is “negligent” (that is, behaved in a thoughtless or careless manner) will be found at least partially at fault for causing the accident.
To prove negligence, these elements must be met:
- the driver is legally required to be reasonably careful in the particular situation (this one is a given since drivers must use caution at all times);
- the driver (or pedestrian or cyclist) was not reasonably careful; and
- the driver’s conduct caused actual injury or damage to someone.
A car making a left turn is almost always automatically liable to a car coming straight in the other direction. But there are some exceptions to this:
- the car going straight was going too fast (but this is usually difficult to prove)
- the car going straight went through a red light, or
- the left-turn car began its turn when it was safe but something unexpected happened which made it have to slow down or stop its turn.
Whatever the contributing factors, the law says the car making the left turn must wait until it can safely complete the turn before moving in front of oncoming traffic. Also, the location of the damage on the cars sometimes makes it difficult for the other driver to argue that the accident happened in some way other than during a left turn. So, if you have had an accident in which you ran into someone who was making a left turn in front of you, almost all other considerations of fault go out the window, and the other driver is nearly always liable.
If someone hits you from behind, the accident is virtually always that driver’s fault, regardless of the reason you stopped. A basic rule of the road requires that a driver be able to stop safely if a vehicle stops ahead of the driver. If the driver cannot stop, he is not driving as safely as the person in front.
The other surefire part of rear-end accident claims is that the vehicle damage proves how the accident happened. If the other car’s front end and your car’s rear end are both damaged, there can be no doubt that you were struck from the rear.
In some situations, both you and the car behind you will be hit when a third car runs into the car behind you and pushes it into the rear of your car. In that case, it is the driver of the third car who is at fault and against whose liability insurance you would file a claim.
If you are the victim of a trucking accident, understanding who is responsible for your injuries can actually be quite complicated. There are different parties that can be involved, and figuring out who they are isn’t always easy. For example:
- the driver of the truck
- the owner of the truck or trailer
- the person or company that leased the truck or trailer from the owner
- the manufacturer of the truck, tires, or other equipment that may have caused the accident (or contributed to its severity), and
- the shipper or freight loader (in cases involving injuries caused by a truck’s cargo).
To make matters worse, each party may be located in a different state. And the trucking, hauling, and leasing companies often argue among themselves over whose insurance will compensate the victim. Your best bet in most trucking accidents is to immediate consult with us because we have experience with these types of cases and knows what to expect from the parties involved.
Trucking accidents has increased 20% over the last 20 years. Even though large trucks are only responsible for 3% of injury-causing motor vehicle accidents, trucking accidents typically cause much greater harm than ordinary traffic accidents due to the large size and heavy weight of most trucks.
Laws Governing Truck Accidents
Federal laws and regulations govern the trucking industry. These laws establish certain standards that trucking companies, owners, and drivers must meet, and often determine who is responsible for a trucking accident. Because of the complexities involved, please contact us to discuss your options if you have been involved in a truck accident.
Bicycles are considered vehicles in most states. Cyclists must follow the same rules of the road that apply to cars, trucks, and motorcycles. In an accident between a car and a bicycle, fault is determined by the general principals of negligence. Bicyclists will not normally get a break just because their vehicle is smaller and powered by human legs. For example, if a cyclist runs a red light and is hit by a car that entered the intersection legally, the cyclist will most likely be deemed negligent and be unable to recover for their injuries.
For a pedestrian hit by a car, your primary legal claim will likely be against the driver of the car that hit you. But depending on the circumstances, you might also be able to bring a claim against the municipality in which you were hit, if unsafe streets or traffic control devices such as traffic lights or signs, played a role in your accident.
Who Pays Your Medical Bills?
Who pays an injured pedestrian’s medical bills after a car accident depends primarily on the state where they live. If the accident occurred in a no-fault state, then the driver’s insurance company will pay some or possibly even all of the injured person’s medical bills.
If the accident did not occur in a no-fault state, then the pedestrian’s health insurer will pay the bills.
Some vehicle-pedestrian accidents might be the fault of the city or town because of how the street is laid out or because of a failure of traffic control devices like traffic lights or stop signs. An obvious example is if the traffic light is broken. If somehow both the pedestrian and the oncoming traffic get green lights, and the pedestrian crosses the street without noticing that the oncoming traffic also has a green light, then a claim for negligence against the municipality might be possible. If, however, the pedestrian noticed that the oncoming traffic also had a green light and crossed anyway, then she would not really have a good chance of winning against the town.
Another example of municipal negligence might be a poorly placed crosswalk. If they is a crosswalk right after a curve on a busy street and that there is no street sign in place to alert oncoming drivers that there is a crosswalk coming up right after that curve. That is a poor municipal planning, and it has created a safety hazard. Drivers will come whipping around that curve never knowing there is a marked pedestrian crossing coming up very quickly.
What Should I Do If I’m Involved in an Accident?
Call the Police
If you are injured in any type of car accident, you should definitely call the police, take photographs of the accident scene and of the car that hit you, get witnesses’ names, and call your insurance company.
Seek Medical Attention
You should seek medical attention immediately. If the pain is severe, you should go to the emergency room. Otherwise, you should see your primary care provider as soon as possible. Don’t wait. Insurance adjusters (and juries) generally assume that if you did not seek medical attention immediately after the accident, you weren’t that hurt. So it’s crucial for your health and for your legal rights that you get proper medical attention, and get your injuries and your medical treatment documented.
The most important thing you can do is document everything you can. Take careful notes soon after your accident. This step can help make the entire claim process easier on you — and increase your chances of receiving all the compensation to which you are entitled. Having notes to remind you of all the details of what happened, and what you went through, is far easier and far more accurate than relying on your memory.
Write things down as soon as you can: Important things to document:
- What you were doing?
- Where you were going?
- Were you with anyone else? Write down names and contact information.
- What was the exact date and time?
- What were the weather conditions?
- What were the road conditions?
Include every detail of what you saw, heard, and felt. Be sure to add anything you remember hearing anyone — a person involved in the accident or a witness — say about the accident.
Finally, make daily notes of the effects of your injuries. You may suffer pain, discomfort, anxiety, loss of sleep, or other problems which are not as visible or serious as another injury, but for which you should demand additional compensation.
Do Not Settle Right Away
Following a car accident, the other driver’s insurance company may contact you and try to get you to sign a release of any claims you might have. The insurance company may even offer you a sum of money to entice you to sign the release.
You should wait until you have been fully evaluated by a medical professional and then call us to discuss your legal options. Do this before signing anything the adjuster puts in front of you. You should also wait long enough to make sure all injuries from the car accident have fully manifested themselves. Your doctor can help you determine how long this needs to be. If you sign a release, and an injury shows up later, you cannot then go back to the insurance company and ask them to pay for your medical treatment. You waive your legal right to pursue that compensation when you sign the release.