The Most Common Cause of CollisionAuto Accidents
Have you ever wondered what the most common cause of vehicle collisions is? So has the Insurance Information Institute (III) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which have compiled statistics on the driver behaviors that cause accidents.
The most common cause of collisions, hands down, is speeding, which causes more than 16 percent of fatal crashes nationwide.
Speeding is defined as going over the speed limit, of course, but also as driving too fast for road conditions (such as inclement weather and traffic jams), and racing vehicles against each other.
The next most common cause of collisions, driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or other substances that impair driving ability, is a distant second, causing just over 10 percent of fatal accidents.
Failure to keep in the proper lane (7.2 percent), failure to yield the right of way (7.0 percent), and distracted driving (5.2 percent), such as talking or texting on a phone, round out the top 5.
Speeding may pose more of a danger to South Carolinians than it does nationwide. More than 1,000 people in South Carolina lost their lives in vehicle collisions in a recent year, and 447 of those—almost half—were speeding-related. That means that speeding, and all the other behaviors that cause accidents, cost lives and injuries.
Who Is Responsible if a Speeding Driver Hits Me?
If a vehicle accident injured you, you will want to hire a lawyer to determine who or what caused the collision. South Carolina is a fault state for car accidents. Simply put, that means that the responsible party may owe compensation for damages to those injured in the accident.
Responsibility hinges on a legal concept known as negligence. Negligence is defined as a breach of the duty of care owed to the public. While most of us do not ordinarily walk around thinking about the term duty of care, we know that we must obey traffic laws and drive prudently. That is the duty of all drivers.
Speeding violates the duty of care on both fronts. Negligence like this brings with it financial responsibility to compensate victims injured specifically by negligence. Victims can seek financial compensation either by approaching the negligent party’s insurance company or by seeing a lawyer to bring a car accident lawsuit.
Sometimes, collision cases are very clear. The driver behind the wheel who violated the speed limit or drove too fast for the conditions is responsible.
In other cases, though, other parties could be responsible as well. If the driver’s brakes did not work properly, the responsible party could include the brake manufacturer, the car manufacturer, a repair shop, and more.
All of these parties owe duties of care to the public as well, such as the safe manufacture of vehicles and proper inspection and repair. Negligence may arise if someone violates these duties and causes a traffic accident.
How do you ultimately find out who is responsible? Here are some steps.
Get a Copy of the Crash Report
Any collision that causes injury or death in South Carolina must be reported to law enforcement immediately. Call 911 after a motor vehicle accident. If you can’t, another person in the accident should report it.
The police will come to the scene and issue a crash report. They will survey the scene, looking at the area and the vehicles. They will talk to all the drivers involved and with any available eyewitnesses who saw the accident.
Crash reports document key evidence because they help indicate who or what was responsible. They may also indicate other factors. If a driver says the brakes did not work (or another vehicle fault), or any other reason, this should be noted on the crash report as well. Your car accident lawyer can obtain the report for you and determine how it helps your case.
Talk to an Attorney
If the causes of the accident are ambiguous, in doubt, or dispute, it is prudent to consult an experienced car accident attorney. Why? Some accidents need an investigation to determine responsibility. Lawyers often work with investigators, law enforcement, and forensic specialists on issues like this.
Get Information From All Other Drivers
You should also obtain contact information from all other drivers, including their e-mail addresses and insurance information. You should make a report to your own insurance company as soon as possible, providing the at-fault driver’s insurance information especially if there are serious injuries.
Insurance companies often use their investigators to determine the cause of an accident. They have a financial incentive, however, to protect their own insured.
Many insurance companies are very concerned with protecting their bottom line. If they see an opportunity to blame another driver or another cause than their own insured, they may take it. That is one of the reasons why it can be a good idea to consult your personal injury attorney and not rely on their investigation.
Other Steps to Take After an Accident
Although the crash report is a vital piece of evidence, obtaining additional evidence about the causes of a collision will be helpful. If you are seriously injured, treating your injuries takes precedence over all other actions, including getting a copy of the crash report. You can get it from law enforcement after you receive medical treatment.
If you are not seriously injured, take notes and pictures (for example, if you have a smartphone) at the scene. Your goal is to show how the accident occurred.
Take pictures of the vehicles from all angles. Take pictures of the scene and anything revealing of what happened, such as skid marks on the road from speeding or barriers or other obstacles that were struck.
If you are not taken away by ambulance, you still need to see a physician as soon as possible after the accident, to receive a check-up. Take pictures of your injuries. Keep all medical records. Pictures and records can also help create a picture of what happened, and thus who was responsible for the crash.
If you need more information, contact a car accident attorney.
Nathan Hughey, an attorney and fourth-generation South Carolinian, founded Hughey Law Firm in 2007. Before that, he spent five years defending nursing homes and insurance companies. Leveraging his experience, he now advocates for those injured or wronged by such entities, securing over $220 million in verdicts and settlements.