Although there are as many ways to have an accident as there are drivers, it is important to understand which collisions you are most likely to encounter. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reviews US crash data for each year and analyzes trends in Traffic Safety Facts. These concentrate on the following types of initial impact and crash.
When cars collide front to front, the resulting crash is extraordinarily dangerous for the occupants. In 2020, they accounted for about 60% of fatal multiple-vehicle crashes of passenger cars. A head-on collision may stem from weather conditions that reduce visibility, leading a driver into the wrong lane or the left side of the road. But head-on crashes also result when a driver negligently or recklessly drifts into the path of another due to drowsiness, distraction, or plain disregard for safety.
Injuries are likely to be severe, if not fatal, and may include:
- Bone fractures
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs)
- Nerve damage and paralysis
These are very common, representing about 42% of the first contacts between vehicles in motion. They often result when the driver in the rear was speeding, not driving carefully enough, or failing to maintain a proper distance between cars. Therefore, the rear driver is usually presumed to be at fault in any investigation, although this is not always the case. The front driver may have contributed, for instance by braking suddenly.
Rear-end collisions often lead to whiplash-associated disorders, due to the sharp jerking motion they cause, which pulls the bodies of the occupants abruptly forward and back. Whiplash can lead to a range of injuries, from temporary stiffness and pain to longstanding nerve damage and disability. A rear-end collision may also lead to a traumatic brain injury if an occupant’s head strikes something like the windshield or dashboard, or even if the head does not contact anything but the quick acceleration/deceleration forces cause the brain to contact the inside of the skull.
A side-impact crash can result from reckless driving at pinch points or intersections. Running red lights or stop signs often leads to the most feared type of side impact, the “T-bone” or broadside collision. Merging too fast on highways or lane changing without signals can also create side-swipe accidents. Although side swipes are less dangerous in themselves, they may lead to further accidents by forcing the car sideways.
As cars tend to be less protected from collisions on the side, they are very dangerous for passengers. Side-impact crashes carry a high risk of chest injuries, such as traumatic aortic transection—a rupture in the heart’s major artery. Due to the angle of the impact, occupants can also suffer significant fractures in the pelvis and legs, and they are vulnerable to spinal injuries with possible paralysis.
The NHTSA defines a noncollision crash as one that was not caused by an initial impact against property, a person, an animal, or another vehicle. Noncollision crashes have many causes, including:
- Overturning (including rollovers)
- Jackknifing (in vehicles with trailers)
- Internal fires or explosions
- Objects falling into the road or onto the vehicle (such as loose cargo from trucks or cars)
- Damage to a road or bridge—sudden subsidence, major potholes, or other obstacles
Due to the increasing weight and height of consumer trucks and SUVs, rollovers pose a particular risk. If you have an SUV or any vehicle with a high center of gravity—heavy and tall—it is wise to take special care to avoid rollovers. Drive at a reasonable speed, especially along curves or in poor weather conditions. Research your car’s carrying capabilities before you pack it heavily, especially if you are using the top of any vehicle.
These accounted for about 19% of passenger car crashes in 2020. They include not only noncollision crashes but impacts with property, fixed objects, animals, or pedestrians.
People on foot are, of course, in the greatest danger in any such collision. Pedestrian accidents tend to occur outside of intersections and at night, both situations in which a driver might not see or expect to see a person on the road. In 2020, 91% of pedestrians killed by cars and 81.9% of those injured by cars were struck head-on. Alcohol is also a significant risk factor for pedestrian accidents—and not only for the drivers involved. In 2019, 32% of pedestrians involved in an accident had a blood alcohol level over the legal limit.
Your Next Steps
After you have been in a car accident of any kind, it is crucial to consult a personal injury attorney. You may be entitled to damages, including compensation for:
- Medical expenses, including travel
- Home care needs
- Lost wages and earning opportunities
- Emotional distress (pain and suffering)
- Alternate transportation
Insurance companies take claims from attorneys seriously. An experienced attorney can maximize your recovery while shielding you from unfair pressure from insurance companies. At Cavanaugh & Thickens LLC, we deal with insurance companies every day to obtain fair settlements for our clients, and we understand how the systems work.
If you have been involved in a car accident in South Carolina, call Cavanaugh & Thickens LLC today at (803) 888-2200 to schedule a free consultation in our Columbia or Charleston offices.