Car accidents happen in the US every day, and many of these accidents end in fatalities. Those who survive have to face hospitalization, a long recovery period, and the fear of uncertainty regarding their future. Amidst the mounting expenses caused by the accident and the worry that they may lose their source of income because they are incapacitated, victims need to know their rights, especially if someone else’s recklessness or negligence caused the accident.
As a victim of a car accident, you can seek fair compensation benefits to pay for your medical expenses and vehicle damage costs. The US requires all motorists to have car insurance so that in situations like these, you don’t have to worry about your financial status and the needs of your loved ones. Today, we’ll look into the different types of financial compensation benefits available to victims of auto accidents.
US Car Accident Statistics
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, around 38,680 car crash fatalities were reported in 2020, compared to 36,096 in 2019. This is despite the fact that fewer Americans are on the road because of the COVID pandemic. The number of vehicle miles traveled for the entire country decreased to 430.2 billion miles in 2020, but fatalities rose to 1.37 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled.
The NHTSA report also noted an increase in fatalities during the latter half of the year. The agency has identified three main causes for these numbers:
- More Americans didn’t wear seatbelts in 2020
- There was an increase in speeding incidents
- Many drivers who were involved in car crashes in 2020 were either intoxicated or distracted
This points to a stark disregard for personal safety and obedience to traffic laws. Currently, US government agencies are working to re-educate people about the importance of following traffic safety laws and driving responsibly. They are also investing more money into the construction of bike lanes and improving sidewalks to encourage other modes of transportation.
Common Causes of Car Accidents
Now that we’re aware of the prevalence of car accidents in the US, let’s look at the different reasons why they happen in the first place:
Distracted drivers get into accidents because they are either physically or mentally not focused on the road. Physically means they either take their hands off the wheel because they’re busy texting or eating food while driving, while mentally means they have many things on their mind, so they’re not focused on what’s in front of them.
Distracted driving accounts for over 1.5 million car crashes a year in America, and a quarter of these accidents are caused by mobile use while driving.
Driving While Intoxicated
Many car accidents are caused by drunk drivers or drivers who are under the influence of alcohol. Most states in the US ban driving if you have a Blood Alcohol Consumption level of .08 grams per deciliter (g/dL) or higher. However, this does not mean that you are completely safe on the road if your BAC is below this level. in 2019, nearly 2,000 people were killed in accidents that involved drivers with a BAC level of .07 grams per deciliter and below.
Driving while under the influence of drugs is also categorized under this, although it is less common compared to drunk driving. Alcohol and drugs lower a person’s inhibitions, causing them to disregard safety and make rash decisions while on the road.
Cars can go up to 70mph on rural interstate highways and 65 mph on 4-lane highways. For other highways, the limit is 55 mph, except for designated locations such as school zones, where the speed limit is 15 mph. Speeding is the act of going over these limits, even if it’s for a few seconds.
Not all drivers put a huge premium on safety – some drivers are more aggressive than others when on the road, and these drivers often speed if they are in a hurry if there are fewer cars on the road, and when they put too much confidence into their driving skills.
Before securing a driver’s license, all citizens have to undergo a training program where they are taught to obey traffic laws and drive safely. These include the concepts of defensive driving and being considerate to other motorists on the road.
Despite securing a license, some motorists simply aren’t considerate of other people on the road. These drivers often change lanes or make turns without making the proper signals, expecting other motorists to adjust and drive defensively around them instead.
Aside from being distracted, one common reason drivers can’t focus on the road is that they are tired and sleepy. Driver fatigue is one of the most common causes of accidents among commercial motor vehicles. Drivers of commercial vehicles have a set number of work hours, after which they must stop driving and switch with another driver.
What Injuries Are Usually Sustained in Car Accidents?
Because cars are usually in motion when accidents happen, the force of the collision between two entities often results in severe injuries. Here are some of the most common types of injuries associated with car accidents:
- Whiplash – Whiplash and other neck injuries often happen because the impact of the crash causes the neck to snap back, front, or to the side suddenly. This type of bodily injury results in neck pain, stiffness, involuntary muscle spasms, and more.
- Traumatic brain injuries – The head may collide against another solid object, such as the car window or the steering wheel (in the absence of an airbag). This type of injury often happens to drivers who don’t use seatbelts or motorcycle riders who don’t use helmets. The head hits another object with such force that there’s an increased chance of internal bleeding in the brain.
- Spinal cord injuries – Similar to how traumatic brain injuries work, spinal cord injuries usually result from the collision of the spine against another solid object. This also happens when the driver gets thrown off the vehicle and falls at a peculiar angle. Damage to the spine can cause temporary or permanent disabilities, depending on the severity of the accident injury.
- Cuts and Bruises – While many car injuries are serious, a few lucky drivers can get away with having simple cuts and bruises following an accident.
- Fractures – Fractures and broken bones are also common in car accidents. This is more likely to happen to motorcycle riders and drivers who don’t wear a seatbelt. During a collision, the impact throws the driver off, and the fall can result in fractures and broken bones.
- Burns – Because vehicles contain flammable materials such as fuel and batteries, the car can go up in flames following an accident. Victims can sustain burns if they are trapped in a burning car.
- Limb loss – While amputation or limb loss is rare in motor vehicle accidents, it’s a common occurrence in multi-vehicle accidents or accidents between two vehicles with a huge size disparity. For example, if a motorcycle collides with a truck, the motorcycle rider can get crushed under the truck, resulting in limb loss.
Who Is Liable For Your Accident?
When a car crash occurs, the most common question people ask is, who is to blame? Finding the at fault driver is important following an accident because, in many states, any injuries or car damage sustained following an accident is the responsibility of the person at fault. Some states in the US follow a “no-fault” ruling regarding accidents, which means that regardless of who is at fault, everyone involved in the accident has to pay for any injuries or damage they sustained.
Fault states usually follow a comparative negligence or contributory negligence ruling when it comes to car accidents. Simply put, the amount of compensation benefits you have to pay is directly proportional to your contribution to the accident. If you are the sole at fault driver, you have to pay your victims for all the damage and injuries you have caused. However, if multiple parties are to blame, each will have to pay for damages by their contribution to the accident.
After a car accident, all parties must contact their insurance company to file a personal injury claim against their own insurance coverage, regardless of any civil actions you decide to take later. If you are the victim of a car accident and your own insurance policy cannot cover the cost of medical bills and vehicle damage costs, you can file a personal injury lawsuit against the person responsible for the accident.
Keep in mind that in states that observe the comparative fault ruling, it is important to prove the fault of the other party in the accident. If you are the victim, however, it’s proven during the investigation that you are partly responsible for the accident. The damages awarded to you will be reduced based on your contribution to the accident. If it is found that you are responsible for the accident by at least 51%, your compensation claims may be dismissed, and the other party may, in turn, file a personal injury lawsuit against you.
What Types of Damages Can You Receive After a Car Accident?
Compensation benefits awarded to crash victims come in two forms: Economic damages and non-economic damages. Economic losses are losses that have a definitive value, while non-economic damages are those that can’t be quantified easily because of their nature.
Some examples of economic losses include:
- Medical costs – this includes all current and future medical treatment costs related to the accident. This includes hospital room and board, professional fees, physical therapy, laboratory tests, diagnosis, medication, mobility tools, and more.
- Loss of income – Victims of car accidents who are hospitalized are considered incapacitated and therefore cannot go to work. All current and perceived income lost because of incapacitation will be compensated for as long as the patient is not medically sound. This means that if you require long-term treatment because you are suffering from a temporary disability, you will receive payments for lost wages until a set date. In cases where the disability is permanent, and the doctors declare that there’s nothing else they can do for you, permanent disability benefits may go on for an indefinite amount of time.
- Vehicle damage – if your car was wrecked because of the accident, you can ask for compensation benefits equivalent to the cost of repairs. You will need to bring your car to the nearest service station to have the vehicle damage inspected.
- Funeral costs – In many cases, the victim dies a wrongful death, either at the accident scene or in the hospital while receiving treatment. In cases like these, the surviving family is eligible for funeral benefits. They will be compensated for any out-of-pocket expenses they incur relating to the funeral of the victim.
- Wrongful death – In case of a car crash fatality, the victim’s surviving family can file a wrongful death suit against the negligent driver.
- Punitive damages – The guilty party must pay punitive damages if there is sufficient evidence that the crash was intentional and they wanted to hurt or injure the victim on purpose.
Examples of noneconomic damages include:
- Pain and suffering – The court awards compensation benefits for the emotional distress and trauma that the victim has gone through because of the accident. This includes all emotional trauma experienced during and after the accident and the entire duration of recovery.
- Loss of consortium – This compensates accident victims for any negative effect the accident has had on their family lives. Spouses can seek damages for loss of companionship if their spouse has become cold and withdrawn after the incident.
- Loss of enjoyment – A motor vehicle crash can severely affect the quality of life of the victims. They can be traumatized for life and suffer long-term mental anguish. If the accident causes paralysis or brain damage, their ability to enjoy life to the fullest will also be compromised.
Hiring Experienced Attorneys After A Car Accident
In some cases, the responsible driver accepts responsibility and pays the victims of the crash adequately. However, this is rare, especially in fault states. Because the at fault driver has to pay damages to the accident victims, nobody wants to admit that the car accident was their fault. It’s also likely that the insurance company of the negligent driver will also be working against you. This results in a drawn-out out-of-court negotiation, which may eventually escalate to an equally drawn-out court proceeding.
Filing a personal injury lawsuit is your best chance for success. Don’t be intimidated, especially if you know you are in the right. Hire a personal injury attorney who will be your trusted ally throughout the whole process. They won’t stop until you get the fair compensation you deserve.
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