Minivan car accidents happen for most of the same reasons as car accidents. Speeding, distracted driving, faulty machinery, and inclement weather have all been factors in accidents involving minivans. However, minivans are larger than regular passenger vehicles and this creates some extra risks of which drivers and passengers need to be aware.

A minivan is an American car classification for vehicles that have been designed to transport passengers in rear seating rows, although there are minivans that are designed to transport goods and not people.

If a minivan is designed to transport passengers, it comes with seats in two or three rows that can be reconfigured.

Among other features, minivans often have a higher roof than a car, a flat floor, and a sliding door for rear passengers. Unlike a full-sized van, minivans are based on a passenger car platform and have a lower body so they can fit inside the typical garage door.

The longer shape of minivans creates increased bulk for the driver to safeguard when backing up or turning around. Increased momentum can build around the minivan because of the extra weight of the vehicle. This can make it harder to stop quickly or turn sharply if necessary to avoid an accident. Minivans are more difficult for drivers to control and their size and weight means that the consequences of an accident with a standard car might be more severe.

How Can I Recover Damages?

Negligence is the standard basis for a claim for damages sustained in motor vehicle accidents, and that is also true for accidents involving minivans. The victim needs to prove that the other driver did not exercise reasonable care to prevent the accident in order to collect damages. The success of a claim for damages depends on showing that the other driver was negligent in some way. For example, they drove too fast for conditions on the road, took a turn too quickly, moved into a blind spot, or drove while intoxicated.

In order to prove negligence in a car accident lawsuit, the non-negligent driver must prove that the other driver owed a duty of care. This is straightforward because any driver of a motor vehicle on public roads owes a duty of care to other vehicles and pedestrians. Next, the non-negligent driver must prove that the defendant breached that duty with his or her actions, i.e., acted negligently. And lastly, it must be shown that the result was damage to property and personal injury.

If the accident was caused by a defect in the minivan due to a problem in the design or manufacturing of it, an injured party might have a claim for product liability against the manufacturer.

What Remedies Exist?

People who have been hurt in minivan accidents can receive money damages if they can prove that the minivan driver’s negligence caused the accident, and they suffered property damage and personal injury as a result. Or, if the accident was caused by a defect in the minivan, the parties might have a claim for damages against the manufacturer. Compensatory damages cover bills for doctor and hospital care, ambulance rides, medication, physical rehabilitation and wages lost because of inability to work.

In some cases, these expenses must be projected into the future, because the costs have to be covered until the injured party has fully recovered. Or, if full recovery cannot be expected, then some expenses may continue until the end of the injured party’s life.

The negligent driver may also be required to pay compensatory damages to cover the cost of repairing the non-negligent party’s auto. Or, if the party’s auto has been totally destroyed, the negligent party’s insurance policy must pay the total value of the destroyed car. Usually, insurance also pays for a rental car for the non-negligent party to use while their car is in the repair shop. Repairs that must be compensated include mechanical and auto body damage.

Compensatory damages are usually paid by the negligent driver’s insurance company. However, if one driver intentionally causes an accident in which another is injured, the insurance company of the driver who caused the accident might not pay any kind of damages at all. Usually, auto insurance policies are designed to provide compensation for accidents that are the result of negligence and not intentional conduct.

Likewise, the insurance company of the injured party might not compensate them under their uninsured motorist coverage, again because the accident was intentional and not a true “accident.” The law in this regard varies from state to state; whether an insurance company pays compensation might also depend on language in the policy.

In this case the injured party may have to try to collect damages from the driver who intentionally caused the accident. Success would depend on whether the guilty driver has enough assets to provide compensation. It is possible that if the guilty driver is convicted of a crime, a judge will require the defendant to pay restitution to the injured party, but this type of compensation does not happen quickly.

If alcohol was involved as a cause of the accident, the negligent driver may also be charged with a DUI. The negligent driver would then face a criminal proceeding.

Other damages for such injury as “loss of consortium” and “punitive damages” might also be recovered depending on the circumstances of the case and the extent of the non-negligent driver’s injuries. The amount of punitive damages would depend on several factors. For example, factors such as the degree of guilt, the severity of harm, and the extent to which the non-negligent party was also responsible for the accident, if they were. If the negligent party has a history of similar conduct, e.g. prior convictions for DUI or DWI, it would support a higher punitive damage award in a case involving another instance of DUI or DWI on the part of the negligent party.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

Accident victims need to be compensated for lost work, the high cost of medical care, and the trauma they endured as a result of the accident. A car accident lawyer is essential to making your best case during settlement negotiations or during a trial.

It is advisable to contact an experienced car accident lawyer if you have been in an accident with a minivan. They can analyze the facts to determine who might be at fault, and they can consult with experts whose opinions might be needed. In cases where proving who is at fault is especially challenging, a lawyer might seek the opinion of a professional in accident reconstruction.

If you have suffered damage or injury in an accident with a minivan, you should consult an experienced car accident attorney in order to get the best possible result, whether through negotiations with an insurance company or in court.