American roads are among the world’s busiest, with millions of cars and drivers. Every day we drive our cars to work, school, or wherever we need to go. If we are lucky, we arrive safely. But that is not always the case.
About 38,000 people die every year in automobile crashes. Car accidents happen everywhere, across the country, and in our backyards. According to the IIHS’s Fatality Facts, 732 crash deaths took place in Louisiana, or 15.6 per 100,000 population, and Texas had 3,615 deaths or 12.5 per 100,000 population.
Motor vehicle accidents generally cause enormous economic damage, but the amount of personal loss, pain, and suffering are incalculable. While we do not want to think about car accidents, it may help us understand how and why these accidents happen and their impact.
As people travel more often on weekends, holidays, or after a workday, car accidents are more likely to occur outside standard business hours. A wreck on the weekend can leave you stranded without access to the legal services needed to begin building your case. Waiting days or weeks can eliminate the evidence necessary for a successful legal decision. Contacting a 24-hour lawyer can jump-start your case by immediately gathering data, testimonies, and evidence to support you in your claim for restitution.
Common causes of car accidents
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) study reported that “driver error” caused 94 percent of crashes. Some of the most common causes include:
Speeding accounts for nearly 30 percent of car accidents. Almost half of all speed-related deaths happen on roads with speed limits higher than 55 miles per hour.
#2. Drunk driving
Drinking alcohol can severely impair our judgment and cognitive abilities to drive. More than a quarter (25 percent) of all traffic-related deaths directly result from alcohol impairment. According to the Center for Diseases Control and Prevention, 30 people drive every day due to drunk driving in the United States. Often alcohol and drug-related accidents take place on weekend nights when most offices close for business. Don’t wait until Monday morning to call a lawyer. Look for a 24-hour car accident lawyer to immediately review your claim.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration considers any activity diverting a driver’s attention from driving a distraction, including talking on cell phones, texting, checking a GPS, texting, eating, or adjusting the radio or car temperature. According to the most recent statistics, distracted driving was a factor in 8.5 percent of fatal crashes. While teenagers and young adults are the primary age group that uses cell phones when driving, data shows that this behavior is typical across age groups.
#4. Driver fatigue
Drivers who are just a “little sleepy” may think it is no big deal, but it can be fatal. Drowsy driving contributes to an estimated 9.5 percent of all crashes and accounts for 1,550 fatalities per year. The effects of drowsy driving are similar to impaired driving. A driver who has gone 18 hours without sleep is similar to a driver with a blood alcohol content of .05 percent. However, one in 25 drivers admits to falling asleep behind the wheel.
#5. Mechanical defects
Mechanical defects or failures, such as tires, brakes, steering, or airbags, can cause a severe accident. In an accident, defective safety features can increase the risk of severe injury or death.
Someone who has been in a weather-related accident may assume that the circumstances were beyond anyone’s control. However, in many situations, negligent conduct may have caused or contributed to the accident. Rain, snow, sleet, slush, ice, and fog can cause hazardous road conditions. For example, wet pavement, rain, fog, and icy roads are the four most dangerous weather conditions. Most people know that certain weather conditions are hazardous yet fail to slow down or take other precautions.
Drunk driving, weather conditions, distractions, and driver fatigue grow more challenging to prove as time passes. An experienced 24-hour lawyer would quickly attain information about these aspects of the accident even if the accident occurred outside of standard business hours.
Frequent car accident injuries
Like the cause of the accident, car accident injuries vary widely. The nature and severity of the injuries depend on several factors, including whether the injured person was wearing a seat belt, whether the crash impact was front, back, or side, the speed at which the car was traveling, and protective systems such as airbags. Frequently occurring car accident injuries include:
#1. Head injuries
A traumatic brain injury (TBI) disrupts normal brain functions. It may affect cognitive, behavioral, emotional, and physical processes for the rest of the victim’s life.
Many car accident victims suffer a concussion as a result of the accident. A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury. The effects are usually temporary but can include headaches and problems with concentration, memory, balance, and coordination.
Brain injuries can be challenging to diagnose, so seeking medical attention after an accident is essential.
#2. Internal injuries
Your organs are fragile. The trauma of a car accident may cause internal bleeding, organ damage such as kidney and liver damage, or a ruptured spleen. These injuries are severe and need immediate treatment. They can occur in all kinds of accidents but are especially common in high-speed collisions.
#3. Broken bones
Broken bones are common accident injuries, but they may require surgery in some cases. Car accidents often cause pelvic bone fractures, broken legs, and arms, a broken clavicle (a very fragile bone), and if the face strikes the airbag, dashboard, or steering wheel, delicate facial bones may break.
#4. Soft tissue injuries
Even a minor car accident can leave bruises. However, if the force of the impact causes the body to move rapidly back and forth, the victim may suffer whiplash. Like whiplash, neck and back injuries may not be immediately apparent. These injuries may involve herniation or ruptures of spinal discs, which may be painful and take some time to heal.
#5. Mental and emotional injuries
Injuries such as anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are just as real and debilitating as physical injuries. Anytime our bodies undergo extreme stress—such as a car accident—there is the potential to develop emotional and mental conditions like PTSD.
Symptoms can include fear of driving after an accident, aversion to specific sounds or images that trigger memories of the crash, or even sleeping problems due to anxiety or nightmares. Treatment is your best option, as psychologists and therapists can help you combat PTSD and return to your everyday life.
When you have suffered an injury in a car accident, you may be entitled to damages. There are two basic types. Compensatory damages are compensation for the injuries or losses of the injured person. They attempt to place the injured party in the position they would have been in if the accident had not occurred. The goal of punitive damages is to punish the person responsible for the accident and deter their conduct.
Compensatory damages include:
- Medical costs. These typically include emergency care, surgeries, hospital stays, ongoing doctor visits, medications, rehabilitation, and more.
- Lost wages. This refers to wages you would have earned from the accident to the settlement. An injured individual may lose wages due to hospital stays, medical appointments, and time spent at home during the recovery period.
- Loss of future income. In some cases, the injured person may be unable to return to work or even continue their chosen career due to injuries. In that case, the individual may recover compensation for their diminished ability to earn money in the future. Factors affecting loss of future income include the type of job, the worker’s skill and experience, present age, and anticipated life expectancy.
- Pain and suffering. This term refers to the physical and emotional stress resulting from an injury, such as physical pain, temporary or permanent limitations on activity, scarring, or altered life expectancy. It also includes psychological or emotional distress and loss of companionship and affection. These losses are more subjective and, therefore, harder to quantify.
In some cases, the court may award punitive damages. If the person who caused the accident is guilty of particularly egregious conduct, such as reckless or impaired driving, the court may award punitive damages. These damages differ from compensatory damages because they penalize the defendant and deter future bad behavior. The law on punitive damages varies from state to state. For example, Texas places a cap on punitive damages.
Steps to take after a car accident
In the aftermath of an accident, people are often shocked, traumatized, or injured. It can be challenging to know what steps to take.
#1. Check everyone for injuries
Leaving the scene of an accident is a crime. If you have been in an accident, always check everyone for possible injuries and call for medical assistance if you or anyone else needs it.
#2. Move to a safe area
If possible, carefully move to the side of the road and out of traffic. Turn your hazard lights on and set up flares or reflective emergency triangles to warn other drivers.
#3. Contact the police
Dial 911 and wait for the police to arrive. The police accident report is essential. The insurance company may request a copy, and it typically serves as supporting documentation in a future legal action.
#4. Exchange information
Exchange contact and insurance information with all other parties involved in the accident.
Collect and share:
- Your full name.
- Contact information, including phone numbers, email addresses, and other necessary details. If the driver’s name does not match the car’s registration or insurance papers, determine the person’s relationship to the vehicle’s owner.
- Driver’s license numbers.
- License plate numbers.
- Insurance companies and policy numbers.
- Makes, models, and colors of vehicle.
- Location of the accident.
- Responding police officer’s name and badge number.
- Witness contact information.
#5. Document the accident scene
Record details of the accident while they are still fresh in your mind. You can do this with your phone’s camera, video, and voice memo features. Record the time of the accident and any details concerning the weather and visibility. Include as many details as possible, such as the direction each vehicle was heading before and after the accident. Take pictures of all vehicles involved in the accident, including the location of the damage. Also, photograph the accident scene, especially skid marks or property damage, and the position of the cars relative to the street.
#6. Avoid discussing fault
People are often highly emotional following an accident. The other driver may also be impaired or aggressive. It is important to avoid discussing responsibility, blaming, or admitting fault. You do not need to determine fault at the scene. Insurance companies and the court will evaluate fault once they have all the facts, including an inspection, documentation, police reports, and photographs.
In addition, many people feel tempted to share the details of their accidents on social media. However, following a car accident, limiting your social media activity as much as possible is a good idea, as insurers will use this information against you.
#7. Use roadside assistance if needed
If you cannot drive your vehicle after the accident, you may need to contact roadside assistance to have a reputable company tow it to a collision repair facility.
#8. Call your insurance company
While the other driver may attempt to arrange a cash payment to avoid making an insurance claim, it is essential to notify your insurance company after a crash. Failing to give notice may eliminate the insurer’s duty to cover your damages or injuries. Typically, you may be able to file your insurance claim using your insurance company’s website, mobile app, or by calling customer service.
It helps to report the accident right away while the details are fresh in your mind. Contacting your insurance company right away can speed up the claims process. Stay in contact with your insurance company after reporting an accident, and keep all your accident-related documents organized as you work with your adjuster to process your claim.
#9. Seek medical attention
You may think the accident didn’t injure you, but in some cases, symptoms show up hours or even days after the accident occurs. Delayed onset injuries, such as head or back injuries, can be severe and should be treated immediately.
It is also vital to document medical treatment for legal and insurance purposes. Medical documentation, such as tests, diagnosis, or doctor visits, may be crucial evidence in any claim stemming from the accident.
#10. Contact a 24-hour lawyer
Nobody ever plans to be in a car accident. Also, car accidents occur instantly and not always during convenient hours. It helps to have the advice of an experienced 24-hour car accident attorney as soon as possible.
A 24-hour lawyer can immediately begin work on your legal claim, regardless of the day of the week or time of the accident. Retaining a lawyer to work round the clock on your case ensures that you get the most thorough, effective, and prompt legal attention. A solid legal case will offer you the best chance at a successful ruling and the financial compensation you deserve. Call a 24-hour personal injury attorney with experience in car accident cases for more information or a free case evaluation.
Questions and Answers About Car Accidents?
Car accidents are emotionally and physically traumatic events. Following an auto accident, victims often have many questions and concerns. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about car accidents.
What is car accident negligence?
Most car accident lawsuits arise from the theory of negligence. Negligence is “a failure to behave with the level of care that someone of ordinary prudence would have exercised under the same circumstances.” To prevail in a lawsuit based on negligence, a plaintiff must establish “the existence of a legal duty that the defendant owed to the plaintiff, defendant’s breach of that duty, plaintiff’s sufferance of an injury, proof that defendant’s breach caused the injury.”
Common examples of negligent driving include:
- Failure to obey traffic laws. The rules of the road apply to everybody. Failing to adhere to traffic signs and signals, not yielding when necessary, or making illegal turns can cause a severe accident.
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Driving while impaired affects judgment and driving skills and puts everyone on the road at risk of an accident.
- Driving while drowsy. People often drive while tired, but it can be just as dangerous as driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- Distracted driving. Drivers frequently become careless and inattentive. They may drive while talking or texting on a cell phone. Sometimes they look for something in the back seat, check the GPS, or eat or drink. Failure to pay attention to driving, even for a second, is risky and may amount to negligence.
- Careless or reckless driving. Drivers may swerve, wander into another lane, or lose control of their vehicle. Losing control is also dangerous for other drivers on the road and can cause deadly accidents.
What is the difference between fault and no-fault insurance?
Each state has car accident laws, but state insurance laws are either fault or no-fault. In a fault-based state, the at-fault driver is responsible for the other driver’s damages. In a no-fault state, all drivers must carry personal injury protection insurance. Therefore, they file a claim with their own insurance company no matter who was at fault. Thus, living in a fault or no-fault state decides whether you file an accident claim with your insurance company or the other driver’s insurance company.
In a fault state, car insurance saves the driver who was not at fault from paying for their damages. It also protects the at-fault driver from paying for repairs out of pocket. For example, Louisiana is a fault state. The law requires all drivers to purchase car insurance that fulfills the state minimum liability coverage requirements. These include at least $15,000 for bodily injury liability coverage for a single person in an accident caused by the policyholder, $30,000 for total accident liability coverage for a single accident caused by the policyholder, and $25,000 for property damage liability coverage.
Texas is also a fault state. So again, the law requires Texas drivers to carry minimum amounts of insurance of at least $30,000 in bodily injury insurance per person, $60,000 per accident, and $25,000 in property damage repairs.
In a fault state, determining who caused the accident is essential. It may be a simple matter or complicated, depending on the circumstances of the accident.
Who may be liable for an accident?
Many factors may contribute to liability for a car accident, such as whether a driver was negligent. In addition, in some cases, multiple persons or entities may have contributed to the accident.
Therefore, it is crucial to identify all parties who may be responsible.
- Another driver. This is the most prominent person who might be at fault for an accident. The driver may have been driving recklessly, under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or fatigued.
- The manufacturer of a vehicle or its components. These may be manufacturing defects or defects in design. Either way, they can cause a severe accident.
- A city or municipality. Negligence on the part of someone in charge of road maintenance or a government employee operating a government vehicle may lead to an accident. For example, the governmental entity may be responsible if a municipality fails to maintain a traffic signal and the signal’s failure leads to a severe accident.
- Passengers. Everyone has become increasingly aware of the dangers of distraction. For example, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports that an estimated four percent of motor vehicle accidents occur when a passenger causes a distraction.
How do I prove fault?
Car accidents are complex events, and it is often challenging to prove fault. A thorough investigation of your crash by attorneys, accident reconstructionists, and other investigators can help you collect evidence that may help prove fault, liability, and damages. Evidence is more likely to be displaced, eroded, or neglected as more time passes. Obtain legal counsel whom you can contact at any hour to begin data collection immediately.
Commonly used evidence includes:
- Photographs and video footage
- Police reports
- Witness testimony
- Medical documentation
- Accident reconstruction
- Expert witnesses
- Cell phone records
What is the legal process?
Car accident lawsuits typically proceed as follows:
- First, hire a 24-hour car accident attorney available to you on nights and weekends. Try to obtain legal counsel as soon as possible. Most car accident attorneys offer a free, confidential case evaluation.
- Investigation. The primary purpose of the investigation is to determine who is liable for your injuries.
- Negotiations. Most car accident cases are settled, either before or during the trial. Your attorney can negotiate and evaluate any settlement offers.
- Filing a lawsuit in court. Your attorney will prepare and file a complaint in court and have a copy served on the defendant. The defendant has a specified period (typically 21 days) to respond. The case then enters the discovery phase, where both parties gather evidence. Discovery usually includes depositions and written questions. Parties may also file and respond to pre-trial motions. Some cases use an alternative dispute resolution such as mediation to settle the case before trial.
- Trial. If the case goes to trial, both sides have an opportunity to present their case to the jury or judge to decide the case. If the defendant is legally responsible for the harm, they must pay the damages set by the judge or jury. Unless the parties settle during the trial, the steps are:
- Selecting a jury
- Making opening statements
- Examining or cross-examining witnesses
- Making closing arguments
- Deliberation and the verdict
- You may file a lawsuit against the person or entity that caused the action rather than their liability insurance provider in most states. However, in Louisiana, a plaintiff can bring a direct action against a defendant’s insurance carrier under certain specific conditions.
Should I accept a settlement offer?
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, only 4 percent of personal injury cases go to trial. The majority settles out of court, by mutual agreement between the parties, called a settlement, which ends the dispute and any related litigation. If the parties reach a settlement agreement, the plaintiff signs a release and gives up claims arising from the incident.
Generally, the defendant pays the plaintiff compensation for their losses. Insurance companies often offer a low settlement amount early in hopes of a quick settlement. Consult a knowledgeable attorney before agreeing to any settlement offer. There are potential advantages and disadvantages to both parties to settling the case.
How long will it take to resolve my case?
Each case has unique facts and issues. Factors such as the number of persons or entities involved in the case, the severity of the injuries, and the available insurance may influence the time needed to conclude the matter.
An injury lawsuit process can take months to years to finalize depending on:
- The complexity of your accident claim
- The nature and extent of your injuries
- The damages you seek
- The number of parties and insurance companies involved
- Whether insurers cooperate and act reasonably quickly
- Whether other parties are willing to negotiate fairly
There is a strict time limit to file a claim, but there is no specific time limit for the parties to reach a settlement agreement.
What is the statute of limitations?
The statute of limitations is a law that sets a deadline for filing a lawsuit in court. The specific deadlines vary from state to state and depend on what kind of case you have. For example, under Louisiana law, the statute of limitations for filing a suit to recover damages from an accident is one year from the date of the accident. However, in Texas, any civil action for personal injury must be filed “not later than two years after the day the cause of action accrues.”
Your lawyer will need to know the statute of limitations for the state where someone crashed into you.
In most cases, insurers will keep records of all medical expenses they have paid related to the injuries you suffered in your motor vehicle accident. After a car crash, it is common for insurance carriers and healthcare providers to seek reimbursement for medical expenses. In some cases, they place a lien on the compensation you receive to guarantee payment.
How much compensation can I get for my auto accident case?
Many factors may affect the amount of compensation you receive, including:
- The cause of the accident and what parties may be liable.
- The severity of your injuries and costs of medical care. Typically, the more severe and permanent your injuries are, the higher the compensation.
- Lost wages and your injury’s effect on future employment.
- Whether your case settles or goes to trial.
What if a car crash results in a wrongful death?
If someone died due to the accident, a family member or representative might file a wrongful death lawsuit. Wrongful death lawsuits entitle the victim’s family members or beneficiaries to recover financial compensation damages due to the defendant’s negligence.
When do I need legal representation?
If the case appears straightforward, car accident victims may wonder when to hire a car accident lawyer. However, insurance companies have teams of claims adjusters and attorneys who will evaluate the claim immediately. Delaying hiring a lawyer or handling the case on your own is risky because you may make mistakes detrimental to your lawsuit. Car accident cases and the resulting injuries often involve complex legal or medical issues.
You need advice and representation from a car accident lawyer if:
- It is unclear who is liable or if multiple potentially responsible parties are involved.
- There are technical or medical aspects that may require expert witnesses.
- You do not have the skills or experience to assess your damages, especially your medical condition.
- You do not know how to ascertain the costs of your injuries in the future.
- There are exceptional circumstances that may affect your compensation.
- It is difficult to prove lost wages due to the nature of your employment.
- The insurance company is challenging your injury claims or wants to see your medical records from before the accident.
- The insurance company has denied your claim.
- The insurance company has made an unfair or too low offer.
- The insurance company offers a structured settlement rather than a lump-sum payment.
- The other party has filed a lawsuit against you.
- You need assistance from a skilled negotiator.
What does a 24-hour car accident lawyer do?
It is best to have a 24-hour lawyer advocating for you right from the beginning to protect your rights and determine fault for the accident. You may be seriously injured or incapacitated, and unexpected issues may arise.
A car accident lawyer’s work may include:
- Investigating claims. Your legal and investigative team needs to examine every detail of the accident. This helps them identify all possible at-fault parties and prepare for any issues the other side may raise.
- Gathering evidence. This is an enormous job that requires experience and hard work. Evidence can support the injured person’s claim and help determine damages. Gathering evidence may include obtaining police reports, locating witnesses, taking pictures, and obtaining copies of any video footage of the accident. Security cameras near the accident scene may have captured the accident, but this footage is sometimes erased within a short time.
- Negotiating with insurance companies. Insurance policies are tough to read and understand. It is a legal document that contains specialized terms and complex legal language.
- Preparing and filing legal documents. Many procedural rules apply to filing a lawsuit. One of the most critical tasks is to file your complaint before the deadline lapses, after which the injured person cannot file suit.
- Conducting discovery. Discovery is an integral part of trial preparation. It enables your attorney to learn what evidence the other side intends to produce.
- Representing clients at trial. If the case proceeds to trial, the car accident attorney uses the evidence to advocate for their client and provide advice and support throughout the process.
As you can imagine, the work required to build a claim can be vast. A 24-hour legal service will provide the most comprehensive attention your legal case needs. Call a 24-hour personal injury attorney near you today to learn more and get your free case evaluation.
Since starting his firm in 1999, Stewart J. Guss has had the honor of representing clients from all over the world, helping them recover from even the most catastrophic injuries.
Today, thanks to a strong belief in those values of compassion, respect, and approachability, the firm has grown to employ over 120 legal professionals in numerous offices across 4 states, with nationwide reach.