A car accident involving only one vehicle is sometimes referred to as a single-car accident. While a single-car accident has the same potential to result in serious injuries and property damage, dealing with the accident will differ slightly than if the accident involved two or more vehicles.
With a single-car accident it is possible that there will be no witnesses other than the driver of the single car. Whether you are able and/or required to file an insurance claim may also differ if you’re involved in a single-car accident.
Common single-car accidents include when a vehicle:
- Hits a pedestrian or bicyclist
- Hits a deer or another animal
- Collides with a mailbox, retaining wall, tree, pole, road sign, guard rail, or other stationary roadside object.
- Loses control and spins, overturns, or rolls before the driver can regain control
Who Can Be Held Liable for a Single-Car Accident?
At first, it may seem that a single-car accident should always be deemed the fault of the one driver involved. That is the case for many single-car accidents, but there are several other people or entities that can be found liable.
The one driver involved will without a doubt be found liable if the accident is a result of the driver’s negligence, recklessness, or violation of traffic laws. It is not uncommon for this to involve speculation on the part of the person investigating the accident, as it is very possible that the driver may be the only witness. It’s likely that the driver will not be eager to admit fault and there may not be enough additional information available to find the driver at fault.
Another driver may be found liable if their actions caused the single-car accident. For example:
- If one driver’s violation of traffic laws, carelessness, or recklessness requires another driver to swerve and hit a roadside object or lose control
- If unsecured cargo in a truck bed falls from the truck and either hits another vehicle or causes another driver to lose control while trying to swerve to avoid hitting the cargo
No one may be found at fault if the accident was likely unavoidable and resulted from circumstances beyond the driver, or anyone else’s control. For example:
- If the accident involves hitting a deer or another animal
- If the accident is the result of inclimate weather or bright sun directly in the driver’s eyes
In the case of a single-car accident involving a car’s collision with a pedestrian or bicyclist, it is possible for the pedestrian or bicyclist to be found liable. This is only likely to occur if the pedestrian or bicyclist was being negligent or reckless which resulted in the accident. It could involve the pedestrian or bicyclist ignoring traffic laws or taking unnecessary risks around vehicle traffic.
The public entity responsible for road maintenance (the city, county, or state, depending on what type of road the accident occurs on) could be held liable if the entity was negligent in designing or maintaining the roadway. This is difficult to prove and will almost certainly require the assistance of an attorney to accomplish.
The vehicle manufacturer may be found liable if the accident was a result of a manufacturing or design defect in the involved vehicle. Again, a situation like this would require the assistance of an attorney.
Whoever is found to be liable can be responsible for paying expenses related to injuries sustained in the accident, damages to the vehicle or to other property, and other damages. An important factor that comes into play is what rule of negligence is used in the jurisdiction where the crash occurred.
Most states use comparative negligence, which takes into account how much at fault each party involved is, and then assigns responsibility accordingly. In just a few jurisdictions, however, a rule called pure contributory negligence is practiced, which means that if a party is found to be at fault to any degree (even if they are found 1% responsible) they cannot recover for damages.
Can I Be At Fault in a Hydroplane Car Accident?
Hydroplaning is one weather-related cause of single-car accidents. Hydroplaning is when a driver loses control of a vehicle while driving on wet roads. Sometimes a driver is unable to avoid hydroplaning, in which case the driver would not be found to be at fault.
However, if driver error is determined to have contributed to the hydroplaning accident (for example, if the driver was speeding, driving under the influence, or texting while driving), then the driver can be found to be at fault.
Can I File an Insurance Claim for My Accident?
The option to file a car insurance claim for a single-car accident will depend on what kind of car insurance policy the driver (or vehicle owner) carries. A liability policy will pay for damage caused to property or a pedestrian that a driver hits, but will not pay to repair the driver’s car. Insurance policies and coverage can get very complex, but your car insurance company should be able to explain to you what your options are. If you feel as though you’re not being covered to the extent you should, you may want to contact a car insurance lawyer.
You may not be required to report a single-car accident to your car insurance or to police. Laws vary from state to state, but in many states, you are not required to report the accident if it does not result in damage to anyone else or their property, or if the damage is under a certain dollar amount. In some jurisdictions it is not required that you report an accident occurring on private property, even if there is damage done to someone else’s property.
Factors you will need to consider are:
- The laws in the jurisdiction where the accident occurred
- Whether anyone suffered physical injuries
- The extent of the damage vs. how much your insurance rate will likely go up
- The preference of any property owner whose property was damaged in the accident
Do I Need an Attorney to Help Me with My Single-Car Accident?
Because there are so many factors at play in dealing with any car accident, it is advisable to contact a local personal injury attorney, regardless of if you were the driver in a single-car accident, or if you or your property were damaged as a result of a single-car accident.
A lawyer can help you to navigate the insurance claim when one is filed, can handle any settlement negotiations with the other party, and can prepare and present your case at trial if that becomes necessary.