A car accident doesn’t have to involve two vehicles. Single-car crashes occur for many reasons, such as swerving to avoid a collision and running off the road. The driver isn’t always responsible for a single-car crash. In many cases, they may still have an injury claim against an at-fault party.
If you’re injured in a single-car crash, it’s imperative to investigate the car accident. Just because you are the only one hurt doesn’t mean other parties aren’t involved. If you find a responsible party, you can file a claim against them or their insurance company for compensation.
Let’s take a closer look at recovering damages in single-car crashes.
Were You in One of These Single-Car Crashes?
Common examples of single-vehicle crashes are:
- The driver loses control of the car, runs off the road, and hits a pole, sign, or tree.
- Another driver pulls in front of the car, causing the first driver to swerve and run off the road.
- A driver can’t react to an obstacle placed in a concealed location and crashes into it.
A single-car accident can involve property and other traffic participants. However, it only involves one car. These crashes can be dangerous too. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), single-car accidents are responsible for over 50 percent of fatal accident outcomes.
Since only one driver participates in the crash, many people mistakenly believe that they automatically bear liability. In reality, you can hold many other parties responsible for these accidents. That’s why you need a car accident lawyer to investigate and identify who else may have caused it.
Who Is Responsible for a Single-Vehicle Accident?
The common causes of single-car accidents vary from driver fatigue and distractions to driving under the influence. However, the driver isn’t liable at all times. Other parties could be responsible for the crash and associated damages.
An irresponsible driver could cause a single-crash accident by breaking traffic rules. For example, a driver suddenly pulls out in front of another vehicle. The second driver swerves to avoid an accident. Swerving causes the driver to lose control and spin off the road, crashing into an obstacle.
This driver could file a claim with the negligent driver’s insurance company. The challenge is to find the responsible party, who is likely to drive away because they were unscathed. To figure out who this person is, you may need to hire an attorney to conduct a complex investigation.
Entity Responsible for Road Maintenance
A road defect can be the reason behind a single-car accident. Hitting a large pothole could cause the driver to lose control and crash into a tree, sign, pole, or nearby property. Construction debris left on the road could have similar consequences.
If a road defect is responsible, several parties can be at fault:
- Local state or federal government responsible for road maintenance.
- A private company that the government hires to maintain the road.
- A landowner if the crash occurred on a private road.
- Manufacturer of guardrails (e.g., if they didn’t keep the driver from going over an embankment).
Filing a claim with a government entity is more complicated than suing another traffic participant. Texas government has sovereign immunity, meaning you need to follow a special procedure to recover damages.
Meanwhile, the Texas Tort Claims Act limits the government’s liability to $250,000 per person and $100,000 for damaged property.
One of the common reasons for single-car accidents is malfunctioning vehicles. If the driver loses control of the car because the brakes don’t work or the steering wheel suddenly fails, they can hold the vehicle or part manufacturer responsible.
To build a strong case against the manufacturer, you must prove that the breakdown was unexpected. If the at-fault party can prove that you already knew about the malfunction, they could argue that you should have fixed it, thus alleviating their liability.
How to Find a Responsible Party After the Crash
Finding a responsible party in a single-car crash can be complicated. While at the crash scene, your priority is to tend to your injuries. Drivers usually don’t have the opportunity to collect evidence, take photos, and look for witnesses. They start doing this long after the crash scene is fresh.
The investigation should start as soon as possible to find a responsible party after the crash.
Once you recover from your injuries or hire an attorney, you or your lawyer can return to the accident scene to:
- Take photos of the entire scene, including all damages, obstacles, and road conditions.
- Obtain a copy of the police report that may have contact details of crash witnesses.
- Check out nearby properties (stores, houses, schools) that may have surveillance cameras installed.
- Find out if any traffic cameras may have footage of the accident.
By studying all this information, it’s possible to find responsible parties. You can also search for eyewitnesses in local social media groups.
Overall, finding a responsible party requires an in-depth investigation and legal knowledge. Searching for evidence while recovering from serious injuries isn’t always possible. Meanwhile, the quality of evidence degrades over time. For example, many stores keep their camera footage for less than a month.
That’s why many injured drivers prefer to delegate this type of investigation to legal professionals. The earlier they start working on the case, the more likely they will find the necessary evidence to determine liability.
What if I Can’t Find Responsible Parties or Prove Negligence?
You have limited options if the crash wasn’t your fault, but you can’t find responsible parties or prove their negligence. Your own insurance company may pay for the damages, however, this could increase your insurance rates.
PIP (Personal Injury Protection) insurance is mandatory in Texas, but drivers often opt out of it. This insurance can cover your injury-related damages in a single-car accident, no matter who was at fault.
PIP can cover medical bills (yours and the passenger’s), lost income, rehabilitation expenses, and funeral expenses. Utilizing PIP coverage doesn’t raise insurance rates, so it can be a useful resource in a single-car accident.
What if the At-Fault Party Doesn’t Have Insurance?
If the at-fault party doesn’t have insurance, you can sue them directly. Lack of insurance doesn’t take away their liability. However, it complicates the process. You would have to file a lawsuit against the at-fault party and hope they have sufficient assets to cover your damages.
If the at-fault party is underinsured on uninsured, you can also pursue a claim against your uninsured motorist coverage if it is part of your car insurance.
Only a small percentage of personal injury cases go to trial, as most settle outside of court. Even if you initiate a lawsuit, there is always an opportunity to settle. However, no matter if you settle or proceed to trial, you will still be left without compensation if the at-fault party doesn’t have the funds to cover your claim.
If you can identify at-fault parties and prove their negligence, you can file a claim against their insurance policies to recover all the damages related to your injuries.
Economic damages are expenses you incurred due to the accident, including:
- Medical expenses
- Rehab expenses
- Lost income
- Loss of earning capacity
- At-home care
- Medical equipment expenses
- Surgery costs
You have to back these damages with tangible evidence, such as medical bills, W-2 forms, doctors’ reports, and more. The more evidence you can present, the more likely you will recover your economic damages.
These damages are also called “pain and suffering.” They cover non-tangible damages that you incurred due to your injuries.
They can include:
- Emotional anguish
- Loss of support
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of enjoyment of life
To prove these damages, you must demonstrate such evidence as photos and videos of your life before and after the accident, personal journals, and family member testimony. An attorney may also recommend hiring an expert witness.
Expert witnesses can testify about the extent of your emotional distress, as demonstrated by tangible evidence. Their testimony can convince the insurance company or the jury to increase your payout.
Non-economic damages are usually higher than economic damages. That’s why proving them can increase your settlement substantially.
If your loved one died in a single-car accident, you can seek compensation for pre-death medical expenses, funeral costs, loss of support, loss of inheritance, and more. These damages are called wrongful death damages.
How Much Money Can I Recover?
Payouts to crash victims can vary dramatically depending on several factors, including:
- Severity of injuries
- Integrity of evidence
- Ability to prove non-economic damages
- At-fault party’s insurance limits
The amount can also depend on your ability to negotiate with the insurance company. Insurance adjusters will likely pressure or try to trick you into accepting a low settlement. Your lack of legal knowledge and experience with the claims process could cause you to settle for an unfair amount.
An experienced car accident lawyer with excellent negotiation skills can achieve a higher settlement with an insurance company.
Filing a Personal Injury Claim After a Single-Car Accident
If your car is the only one involved in the crash, it doesn’t always mean you are responsible. Other traffic participants, manufacturers, and even governments can be liable for your crash and associated injuries.
A thorough investigation can help identify responsible parties and collect necessary evidence.
Contact an experienced car accident attorney who can file your claim and collect the evidence to show negligence and liability. A single-car crash can seem challenging, but before you accept the financial burden of your losses, let a lawyer help you explore your legal options.
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.