Causes of Car Accidents
There is no telling when a car accident will happen, although there are certain circumstances that occur that increase the chances of an accident. In most instances, you can reduce the likelihood of being involved in a car accident by practicing common sense.
That could mean making sure you get out on the road with plenty of time to reach your destination or knowing ahead of time the route you plan to take, or even waiting to get into your car until the weather conditions are more adequately suited for you to be traveling.
Car accidents can be dangerous and scary experiences that can cause life-debilitating or even life-threatening personal injury. They can have an adverse impact on your emotional and mental state as well. It could take you years to recover if you ever do. When you are injured in a car accident, you need to know what your legal options are, and a seasoned car accident lawyer will help you through the process.
What Are Common Causes of Car Accidents in Pennsylvania?
There are a variety of circumstances that lead to car accidents. There are those that you can avoid before even leaving your house, and there are others you can avoid by modifying your own behavior. The following are the most common:
- Aggressive driving/road rage: Unsafe driving behaviors, such as tailgating, cutting off other vehicles, and changing lanes at high rates of speed, are all common causes of aggressive driving accidents. Aggressive driving can also escalate to road rage, which is violent behavior that can lead to injury or death.
- Auto defects: Defective auto parts, such as airbags, brakes, and transmissions, can lead to car accidents. Those who are injured because of defects in the design or manufacture of a vehicle may be able to obtain compensation from the manufacturer.
- Distracted driving: Anything that takes a driver’s attention away from the road can be a distraction, such as texting, operating a navigational system, or talking to passengers in the vehicle.
- Drowsy driving: Drowsy driving is an epidemic in the United States. Whether owing to inadequate sleep, medication, or sleep disorders, driving while fatigued can be just as dangerous as drunk driving.
- Drugged driving: Drugs, whether illicit, prescribed, or over the counter, can affect driving ability.
- Drunk driving: Slowed reflexes, blurred vision, and impaired judgment are just some of the ways in which driving under the influence increases the risk of a car accident.
- Reckless driving: Also referred to as careless or dangerous driving, reckless driving can include many types of unsafe driving behaviors, such as racing, running stop signs, and failure to yield the right of way. In Pennsylvania, reckless driving violations can carry penalties of jail time, license suspension, and fines of up to $15,000.
- Speeding: A form of aggressive driving, speeding is one of the most common causes of car accidents. When speeding is involved, the risk of fatality is increased.
- Texting while driving: Pennsylvania drivers are prohibited from using all interactive wireless communication devices, such as smartphones, GPS devices, or portable computers while driving. The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) refers to texting while driving as the trifecta of driving distractions because it involves all three types of distraction: visual, manual, and cognitive.
- Weather-related accidents: A significant portion of all vehicle crashes in the United States are weather related. Wet pavement, rain, snow, icy pavement, and fog are some of the main weather conditions that lead to these types of car accidents.
Although there are certain behaviors and situations you can modify, there are others that you will have to avoid. If you are out on the road and you encounter a driver who you believe is impaired or driving aggressively, do your best to avoid that person until they are well clear of you. It may mean that you pull over for a few minutes, but it might be an ideal time to take a break from the road for a few minutes at that point anyway.
What Types of Injuries Are Commonly Associated with Car Accidents?
There are a variety of injuries that you could sustain when involved in a car accident, and they can range in severity from minor to life threatening. Regardless of how severe you might believe them to be, it is always wise to have yourself evaluated by a doctor who can make a proper assessment. Not all injuries manifest themselves immediately.
A few of the more common injuries associated with car accidents include:
- Whiplash: This is another name for muscle, ligament, and tendon injuries that occur when your body is forced to move suddenly faster than you could move on your own. This sudden trauma can strain muscles along with other soft tissues.
- Cuts and scrapes: Not all injuries can be serious. You could sustain cuts and scrapes from your accident as the result of broken glass or scraping yourself on a twisted portion of the vehicle.
- Head injuries: When your head impacts with the windshield or the side of your car, it can cause an injury to your head that can be severe. Your head does not even have to impact anything; the act of your head snapping back and forth could be enough to cause your brain to slam against the inside of your skull.
- Broken ribs: Your ribs can be fragile and can easily break. They can also crack when they suffer significant or at least a strong impact. They can be quite painful and could require extended rest until you fully recover. Fortunately, recovery from this injury is common.
- Other broken bones: Your ribs are not the only vulnerable bones in your body. You could break an arm or a leg during an impact with another vehicle. The impact your body makes at a sudden stop can cause a break, as it could if your leg is broken if it gets pinned in the car.
- Internal bleeding: This can be extremely dangerous, as you may not realize it is occurring. Internal bleeding can take place as easily as external bleeding and is a main reason seeking medical attention is so important.
- Herniated disk: This is another common injury and occurs when one or more vertebrae in your spine either rupture or shift out of place. It is another painful experience and causes complications in the future.
- Knee trauma: Given your position during a crash, your knees could collide against the dashboard injuring your kneecaps or ligaments. It could impact the way you walk and require you to wear braces or go through rehabilitation.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): Although there is physical pain in a car accident, there could be mental pain as well. It could be difficult for you to get behind the wheel of a vehicle again or be able to drive with as much confidence as before.
- Other psychological pain: PTSD might not be the only mental anguish you suffer. You could feel remorse or guilt for your role in the accident. You could also suffer from flashbacks or other mental problems. These are real problems that will require real treatment.
Once you have been diagnosed by a doctor for your injuries, it is important that you follow their advice. Doing so might mean you are able to recover more quickly from your injuries.
How Can I Recover Damages after a Car Accident in Pennsylvania?
In Pennsylvania, your legal options will depend on the type of car insurance you purchase prior to your accident as well as the severity of the injuries you sustained.
For instance, you have the option to purchase full-tort coverage, which preserves your right to file a claim against an at-fault driver for your accident. Many drivers do not choose this option because it is more expensive. Under this insurance, you are entitled to seek compensation for all medical expenses and other economic damages incurred by the accident. You can also seek compensation for pain and suffering and other non-economic expenses that have resulted from this accident.
The other type of insurance you can purchase is limited-tort coverage. This cheaper option does limit your ability to file a claim against an at-fault driver unless you sustain serious injuries. Pennsylvania considers a serious injury to be one in which you suffered an impairment of a body function, or permanent and serious disfigurement.
You can still obtain a certain level of compensation if you suffered from a car accident with this insurance. You can file a claim under your personal injury protection (PIP). Under this, you can seek compensation for all your medical expenses and any out-of-pocket expenses that you sustained from your accident. However, you are prohibited from seeking non-economic expenses such as pain and suffering.
It should be noted that although the type of insurance you have purchased matters when it comes to your medical expenses, the same is not the case for property damage. Regardless of the insurance your purchase, you can still file a claim against the at-fault driver for their damage their actions caused to your vehicle or other property.
Are There Limits to Filing a Claim?
If you qualify to file a claim against an at-fault driver, you should be aware that the commonwealth has a two-year statute of limitations on when you can file your claim. The timeline on this begins on the day of your accident.
When it comes to collecting on your claim, it is important to note that Pennsylvania also follows a modified comparative fault model. That means that all parties involved in the car accident are assigned a certain percentage of responsibility for their role. Once the final award is determined, then those who share a portion of the responsibly must pay for the percentage amount equal to their level of fault.
That means that you may not get as much as you were initially expecting if the court finds you shared some of the liability. If the court determines that a person’s responsibility exceeds 50 percent, they will not be entitled to any amount of the final award.
What Steps Should I Take after a Car Accident?
The moments immediately following a car accident can be stressful and disorienting. First, although what has just happened can be a highly traumatic event, the important thing is not to panic and to attempt to maintain a level head. If you are physically capable of moving, there are several steps that you should take following an accident. Those steps include:
- Call the police: Even if the accident is minor, it is important that the police arrive and assess the situation. They will issue an objective report about the accident. It is imperative that you obtain a copy of that report for your case.
- Call for an ambulance: You should call for an ambulance to take care of anyone who might have been injured, including yourself, other drivers, and even bystanders.
- Speak to others: Talk to others at the scene, including the driver who may have caused the accident. Get everyone’s name and contact information along with a statement of what they saw. When it comes to the at-fault driver, be sure to record the type of vehicle they had and their license plate.
- Document all injuries: Record any injuries that you or others might have sustained in the aftermath of the accident. Even if the injuries appear minor, it is important to document them in case they become more significant.
- Photograph the scene: Immediately after the accident is the best time to take pictures of the scene because it will not look like this after vehicles are moved away and debris cleared off the road. You want to include anything that might prove relevant to your case, including any vehicle damage, injured drivers/passengers, skid marks on the roadway, the road or intersection where the accident occurred, and lights or stop signs at the location of the accident.
- Cooperate with police: When the police arrive, be sure to cooperate with the officers and answer any questions they might have. However, you should not say anything that would imply that you were anyway responsible for the accident. You should first consult a lawyer before admitting to any wrongdoing.
- Do not leave the scene: It is important that you remain at the scene until the police tell you that it is fine for you to leave. The only exception is if you must be taken to the hospital to have your injuries treated.
Make sure that you gather all your notes and photographs and keep them in a secure location. You can then give a copy of this evidence to your car accident lawyer who can then use it as they determine the validity of your case.
Philadelphia Car Accident Lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC, Stand by You after Your Car Accident
If you have been hurt in a car accident in Pennsylvania, you may have suffered significant injuries and are seeking compensation for the ordeal you went through. The Philadelphia car accident lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC, will guide you through the process to help determine your options and fight to get you the results for which you are entitled. Call us today at 215-569-4888 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia, Abington, and Media, Pennsylvania; and Wilmington, Delaware, we serve clients throughout the surrounding areas.