Four Common Car Accident Scenarios: Understanding Who Is At-Fault

Car accidents happen every day. In fact, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there were 6,734,000 police-reported accidents in one recent year.

That’s an average of over 18,000 accidents per day.

Thankfully, a great deal of these are minor accidents. Regardless of the severity of the accident, there’s one critical fact all car accident victims and insurance companies will want to know: Who’s at fault?

Let’s be honest. The goal of all insurance companies is to get away with paying as little as possible. They are in the business of making money, no matter how much they claim they want to take care of people.

If they can assign blame to you, they will.

So while an accident may seem straightforward, insurance companies will always try to find some way to spin it in their favor.

In several scenarios, however, it’s actually a no-brainer to determine who the at-fault party is. The experienced car accident attorneys at Stewart J. Guss, Injury Accident Lawyers, outlined a few of these situations below. Of course, some accidents seem easy to figure out, but when you and your legal team dig a little deeper, nothing is as it seems. That’s why you must never discuss fault at the scene of an accident. Instead, contact our car accident lawyers so we can assess fault.

To make things even easier for you after a car crash, we offer FREE consultations and reviews!

Four Types of Car Accidents

Here’s a look at some of the most common types of car accidents, plus a few factors that may change the course of a legal case.

Scenario 1: Rear-End Accidents

Accident Attorney

Rear-end accidents are among the most straightforward accidents. A rear-end accident happens when one vehicle runs into another vehicle from behind. The collision involves the front end of the “trailing” vehicle and the rear end of the “leading” vehicle.

Minor rear-end collisions are commonly known as “fender benders,” but terrible damage may lurk behind that cutesy name. The term “fender bender” often leads people to discount the severity of injuries that might result – including both injured victims and insurance companies. The right car accident lawyer will never discount your injuries in a fender bender, as we know the damage these crashes can cause.

Rear-end accidents are some of the most common types of accidents on the road. In fact, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, nearly half of all two-vehicle crashes during one three-year period were rear-end accidents! The primary cause? Driver inattention.

In almost all cases, the trailing driver is the at-fault party. This scenario happens so often that this is usually the default assumption of investigators and insurance carriers. However, if you are the rear driver, do not assume that you will be to blame. The front driver might have caused the car crash, and you need an experienced car accident lawyer to help you prove this.

As a driver, you have a responsibility to maintain a safe driving distance and watch your surroundings. Even if the lead driver unexpectedly slammed on the brakes, the law expects that you should have enough time to stop. This is why tailgating is universally frowned upon.

Rear-end accidents happen everywhere, but some of the most common locations for rear-end car crashes include:

  • Stoplights: There are two ways a rear-end accident happens at stoplights. Scenario one: the driver stops at a red light, and the vehicle behind them does not stop in time. Scenario two: both vehicles stop at a red light, the light turns green, and the trailing vehicle starts to go before the lead vehicle.
  • Parking lots: Rear-end accidents in parking lots are common. One of the main reasons for this is vehicles are always stopping and going. Drivers have to stop for pedestrians and other motorists as they move throughout the lot. An accident can easily occur when the rear driver does not see the driver in front of them stop.
  • In the middle of the road: A rear-end accident can happen when one driver stops to make a turn or yield to a pedestrian. Most drivers don’t anticipate stops in the middle of the road, and this can take them by surprise.
  • The freeway: Rush hour can be a nightmare for city drivers. Heavy congestion and merging lanes mean plenty of stop-and-go traffic. Accidents often happen when a vehicle stops suddenly, another driver moves in unexpectedly, or a driver accelerates too quickly. Rear-end collisions are even worse when they happen at high freeway speeds.

Rear-end accidents most commonly cause significant injuries, such as whiplash, internal injuries, head injuries, and more! If you suffered harm in a rear-end crash, you should never assume your car accident injuries are too minor or that you cannot prove fault for the collision. Instead, reach out to our car accident attorneys, who can provide advice about your legal options.

Scenario 2: A Driver Ran a Red Light

Drivers running red lights are a serious problem. According to AAA, in a recent year, 939 fatalities happened due to a driver running a red light. These numbers keep rising over time.

When a driver runs a red light, the most common type of auto accident is a T-bone collision, also known as a side-impact or broadside collision. This type of accident occurs when the front end of a vehicle collides with the side of a vehicle.

Compared to other parts of the vehicle, the side of a vehicle provides much less protection in the event of an accident. That’s what makes this type of vehicle accident so dangerous.

Whether the car that ran the red light struck another vehicle or oncoming traffic struck it, the person who ran the red light is typically at fault. You need legal help to prove fault so that you can recover from the negligent driver.

Common reasons for running a red light include:

  • The driver was in a hurry: In the 1984 movie Starman, there’s a classic line from an alien driver who causes an accident: “Red light means stop, green light means go, yellow light means go very fast!” While the quote is humorous, it also explains the dangerous mentality many drivers have. Of course, the appropriate action at a yellow light is to slow down and stop when safe, and the appropriate action at a red light is obvious—STOP! When drivers try to speed through yellow lights, they risk the light turning red when they enter the intersection. Other drivers may proceed on their green light and drive into the driver.
  • Driving under the influence: One of the most common causes of drivers running red lights is driving under the influence. Alcohol affects a driver’s ability to concentrate, make decisions, and even see clearly.
  • Distracted driving: Several states have enacted laws to prohibit mobile phone use while driving, yet distracted driving continues to be a serious problem. When drivers take their eyes off the road to snack, chat, or play on their smartphones, they may not realize that the light has turned red, and other people suffer the consequences.

Running a red light—for any reason—is unacceptable and against the law. This conduct causes severe injuries to others, including internal injuries, brain injuries, spinal cord and neck injuries and other catastrophic injuries. Anyone harmed should discuss their best course of action with an experienced car accident lawyer.

Scenario 3: Collisions Involving a Left Turn With No Turn Signal

Turn Left Accident

Left turns require drivers to turn in front of oncoming traffic. This can be very dangerous at an intersection where the driver does not have a turn light. If a driver turns left at a green light, they must yield to oncoming traffic. This means that the driver must wait until they have enough room to turn, even if it means waiting through more than one light cycle.

Left turns on solid green lights can take a long time, and this can cause the turning driver to become impatient and take risks when making a turn. While a more experienced and patient driver may wait for a large window, someone in a hurry may rush through the intersection and cause a pile-up. The oncoming driver may hit the turning driver’s vehicle on the side or at an angle. In many cases, the force of this accident can push both vehicles into other lanes, causing an even more serious accident!

It takes an experienced car accident lawyer to prove that a turning driver did not have enough room, made a careless decision, and failed to yield. Often, our car accident lawyers can gain witness testimony or intersection camera footage that demonstrates the failure to yield. This proves liability for the crash. Contact us for help as soon as possible so this evidence does not disappear.

Scenario 4: Parking Lot Accidents

Parking lot accidents happen all the time. Thankfully, most of these accidents involve low speeds and minor injuries. But, sometimes, even a low-speed crash can cause serious injuries, such as neck and back injuries or other soft tissue injuries. Our car accident attorneys have experience helping clients who suffered surprisingly serious injuries in low-speed parking lot crashes.

Here are a few common types of parking lot accident scenarios:

  • A driver is hit while backing out of a parking space. In this case, the driver that is backing up would normally be at fault. This may seem counterintuitive, since we already know that we need to allow enough space to react to other drivers. In this scenario, however, the driver moving forward has the right of way. Drivers backing out of a space should always check their mirrors and ensure their area is clear before moving.
  • A driver moves out of a parking space and exits forward through an empty space. Sometimes, it just seems simpler to drive through the empty space in front of you to exit your space instead of backing up. But what happens if another driver doesn’t see you and enters the space at the same time? Again, the exiting driver is at fault because they are technically going the wrong way, but this can get very complicated in terms of liability.
  • Two vehicles collide after trying to enter the same space. One may argue that the driver who was there first had the right of way, but this isn’t a solid legal argument. You cannot legally hold a parking space. In this scenario, it comes down to who has the right of way. This is another situation that can be very complicated to figure out.
  • Two vehicles collide at the end of an aisle. When one driver comes to the end of an aisle, and the other driver is driving perpendicular to the aisles, they should treat the intersection as unsignaled. While the person driving perpendicular to the aisles may think that they have the right of way because they are in a lane, the person in the aisle may continue into a lane to exit the parking lot. Many factors come into play in such an accident, and liability may be hard to determine. A qualified attorney can help untangle the mess.

No matter how your parking lot accident occurred, you must protect your rights. The other driver might discount the accident as too minor to worry about since it took place in a parking lot. However, do not fall for this tactic, as you could miss out on the compensation you deserve.

Instead, get the other driver’s information and call 911. It might seem silly to call the police for a parking lot crash, but they can determine whether the other driver violated any laws and create a report. After doctors diagnose your injuries, contact our experienced car accident law firm for the legal help you need. We take parking lot accidents seriously – and so should you.

Variables That May Affect Fault After a Car Accident

Every car crash is unique. While there are some situations where the fault is crystal clear from an outsider’s perspective, other factors may shake things up.

For example, the first car accident scenario of a rear-end collision outlines that the trailing driver is almost always at fault. But let’s throw in a curveball: the front driver was drunk and randomly stopped in the middle of the road for no reason. In this case, the lead driver would likely bear fault.

Even if you think you caused an accident, never admit blame. Make sure to have a car accident attorney look at the facts of the case.

Take a look at some other factors that may make things a little more complicated than they appear:

  • Driver fatigue: Tired drivers are just as dangerous as drunk drivers. When you are overly exhausted, your body can shut down with no notice. A driver may stop suddenly, swerve, or begin to decelerate.
  • Drunk driving: Drunk drivers aren’t just irresponsible – they’re also unpredictable. Because of this, it’s hard to anticipate their actions. A drunk driver may drive too slow, too fast, or make unexpected stops.
  • Mechanical failure: Sometimes cars just fail! Vehicle owners are responsible for properly maintaining their vehicles. When an accident happens because of poor maintenance records, the driver will be at fault. However, if a defective part contributed to the accident, the collision may have been out of the driver’s control. In this case, the vehicle or part manufacturer may share responsibility.
  • Other drivers: Sometimes, it is the actions of a third driver that causes a collision. For example, if driver A cuts in front of driver B, driver B may swerve into the adjacent lane to avoid a collision. This may cause driver B to drive head-on into driver C. In this case, driver A may be responsible for the injuries and damages to driver B and driver C.

How a Car Accident Attorney Can Help

Stewart J. Guss Personal Injury Attorney
Stewart J. Guss, Personal Injury Lawyer

After an accident involving injuries, it’s crucial to talk to a personal injury attorney. Even if you think that you might hold some of the blame, an experienced attorney can help you determine whether that is actually the case (and in many cases, it’s not!)

Insurance companies try to determine fault early on, and they will try to place the blame on anyone but the driver that they insure. That’s why you should never make a statement to an insurance company without first consulting with a car accident attorney.

An attorney has many ways to prove fault in an accident. This may include:

  • Talking to other drivers and witnesses
  • Collecting evidence
  • Hiring specialists to reconstruct the accident

Once a car accident attorney determines fault, they can help you file an auto insurance claim or even a personal injury lawsuit if necessary.

We understand accidents may cause serious injuries that can leave a tremendous effect on your physical, emotional, and financial well-being. If a car accident injured you, you deserve fair compensation. You deserve justice. For more information, contact an experienced car accident lawyer at Stewart J. Guss Injury Accident Lawyers for a free case evaluation.

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