Road traffic accidents cause a significant number of injuries and much property damage each year. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports 36,096 deaths from motor vehicles in 2019 alone. Another 6, 025 pedestrians were killed by motor vehicles in that year.
There are a large number of different types of road accidents, which can include:
- Pedestrian-vehicle accidents;
- Accidents involving bicyclists;
- Accidents causing whiplash and other injuries;
- Trucking accidents;
- Collisions with a tree, structure, sign post, or other stationary object at the side of the road;
- Accidents involving multiple vehicles and pile-ups, often caused by adverse weather conditions;
- Accidents involving encounters between motor vehicles and animals, e.g. deer.
Thus, road traffic accidents are often classified according to the types of vehicles involved, as well as the nature of the cause of the collision. The laws governing the operation of motor vehicles on public roadways differ from state to state, but there are also many commonalities.
What Are Some Legal Remedies for Road Traffic Accidents?
Road traffic accidents often lead to lawsuits, especially where more than one vehicle was involved and one of the drivers was driving in a negligent or reckless manner. In this case, the most common legal remedy is going to be an award of damages to the non-negligent party to compensate them for injury and damage to property.
Here, the negligent driver must reimburse the injured party for costs such as medical expenses, car repairs, and other financial losses. In most cases, the auto insurance company of the negligent driver provides compensation up to the limits of the negligent driver’s insurance policy. This can help offset some of the cost to the negligent driver of paying an award of damages. Many less serious traffic accident lawsuits end in a negotiated settlement.
In some cases, the negligent driver may face criminal charges. The police may charge a driver for a crime if, for example, the person intentionally struck another person with their car (vehicular assault), if they were driving with extreme recklessness, or if they were driving while intoxicated.
Occasionally, a defective vehicle can be the cause of an accident. In this case an injured driver may have to seek compensation for their injuries and any damage to their motor vehicle from the manufacturer of the automobile. Or, if the defect was the result of faulty repair or maintenance, then the company that performed the repair or maintenance that caused the defect would be responsible.
Filing a lawsuit against an automobile manufacturer, a repair or maintenance garage or possibly a dealer would be something for which a person would need an experienced personal injury lawyer. A personal injury lawyer would be able to identify experts to work on the case. An expert would be needed to investigate the defect and make the case that the manufacturer, dealer or repair garage was the source of the defect.
If it were to become necessary, a person’s personal injury lawyer would file a claim that stated a number of causes of action. The lawyer would allege negligence, strict product liability for a defective vehicle, breach of implied and express warranties and breach of contract. In a lawsuit for strict product liability for the manufacturer or distributor of a defective vehicle, the injured party does not even have to prove that the manufacturer or distributor was negligent in some way, but rather must prove only that the vehicle was defective.
And still another cause of car accidents can be the defective design of roads and entrances to roads. Or, a road may have been inadequately maintained, which can result in an accident. For example, failure to trim trees and bushes can lead to blocked views of traffic. So, someone making a turn from one road to another may not see oncoming traffic and this could end in an accident.
If investigation shows that an accident was caused by the defective design or maintenance of a road, then a person injured in an accident caused by the defective design or maintenance of a road would have to seek compensation from the government agency or entity that owns the road. This might be an agency of a city, county or a state. The interstate highways are actually owned by the states in which they are located.
In all of these cases, the damages a person would seek would be the same. They would include compensation for the cost of medical care, doctor’s bills, hospital treatment, medication and rehabilitation, if that were necessary. In addition, damages would include compensation for any lost wages or lost salary a person suffered if they had to miss work and compensation for repair or replacement of their motor vehicle.
In addition, a person injured in a motor vehicle road accident can recover compensation for their pain and suffering. In rare cases, if the conduct of the person who caused a motor vehicle to be defective was especially callous or even intentionally negligent, a person might recover punitive damages, which is an amount that is intended to punish the negligent party.
What If Alcohol Is Involved?
Traffic accidents can be caused by many factors, such as poor driving conditions, mechanical failure, or distracted driving. However, one of the main causes of traffic accidents is one that is completely avoidable and that is drunk driving. All states have DUI laws that prohibit people from driving while under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or other controlled substances.
If the police who respond to the scene of an accident discover that a driver is intoxicated by alcohol or controlled substances, this can also lead to criminal DUI charges (DWI in some states) in addition to civil damages. Conviction of a criminal charge of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs results in criminal penalties, usually fines, suspension of a person’s driver’s license, and possibly a term of imprisonment in jail and mandatory DUI classes.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Assistance with Road Traffic Accident Issues?
Road traffic accidents are a large percentage of the personal injury cases filed in courts every year. You may need to hire an experienced car accident attorney if you need assistance with any road traffic accident claims.
If a claim involves a minor accident, you may not need a lawyer to help you. So, for example, a person might be rear-ended by another driver who was texting while driving and admits their responsibility. If everyone was traveling at a low rate of speed and there were no injuries, only minor damage to the cars involved, the negligent driver’s insurance company might settle the claim without any controversy.
But if an accident is more serious and you or a passenger in your car has suffered significant injuries, then the situation probably requires an experienced personal injury lawyer. Or, if the cause of the accident is not completely clear, again you want an experienced personal injury lawyer to investigate possible causes and identify the party that is responsible. Your attorney can help identify any experts who might be needed and help identify who is responsible for the accident.
If a lawsuit has to be filed, your attorney can handle the court paperwork, review documents, marshal all of the evidence you need for your case and represent you in court.