How to Treat Road Rash From a Motorcycle Accident

Personal Injury Attorney Tatiana Boohoff
Tatiana Boohoff, Auto Accident Attorney

Road rash sounds deceptively innocuous. Rashes heal, right? No biggie, right?

Not so fast. Yes, a road rash injury could amount to nothing more than the sort of scrape a child gets from falling from a bike or skateboard. It hurts and it needs some cleaning, but it will heal with some basic first aid. But other road rash injuries can get a whole lot worse than the sort of childhood booboo suggested by the name. The road rash you can get from a motorcycle accident amounts to a major trauma that comes with serious health risks, medical costs, and the potential for permanent scarring.

In this blog post, we examine these more severe cases of road rash and how to treat them. With any luck, you will never have to experience the extreme pain and long recovery time of one of these injuries. But just in case you find yourself nursing a serious road rash injury, we hope this blog will prove useful. And if your road rash injury resulted from a motorcycle accident that wasn’t your fault, contact a skilled motorcycle accident injury attorney at Boohoff Law today to learn about your rights.

What Is Road Rash?

Road rash is trauma to skin and soft tissue resulting from friction with a road surface (usually, but not always, pavement). It is one of the most common injuries in motorcycle accidents and is comprised of several distinct varieties of injury:

  • Abrasion, in which the road surface wears away layers of skin like sandpaper on wood;
  • Avulsion, in which the road surface tears skin or separates a skin layer from one underneath it;
  • Laceration, in which features of the road surface slice the skin; and
  • Thermal burn, in which friction with the road surface generates heat that burns the skin.

Any of these injuries, alone, can cause significant trauma and health risks. But when they occur together in a road rash, they can prove as life threatening as a severe burn or gunshot wound. In fact, doctors classify road rash injuries by degree, just like they do with burn injuries. “The degree of injury ultimately depends on the bodies in motion, the speed of the skin when it hits the road, the texture and condition of the surface, and the sliding distance,” according to this article in the Bulletin of the American College of Surgeons.

These primary injuries can also lead to secondary health complications (much the same way a severe burn can). They include:

  • Infection. The breadth and depth of the injuries from road rash, which often become embedded with dirt, can introduce dangerous bacteria into the wound, leading to life-threatening infection;
  • Tissue and nerve damage. Especially deep and severe cases of road rash can damage nerve cells and muscle tissue; and
  • Disfiguring scars and traumatic tattoos. A wide abrasion typically will leave a scar. If doctors cannot remove dirt and other material from the wound, it may cause permanent discoloration of the healed skin known as a traumatic tattoo.

These are not the only complications possible from a severe case of road rash. Anyone who has suffered anything more than a minor case of road rash should seek medical attention immediately. Waiting to seek medical attention (or skipping it altogether) could put you in danger of a life-threatening infection that worsens very quickly.

How to Treat Road Rash

Road rash injuries vary in severity. You can treat the simplest cases with the sort of first aid measures described below. But more severe injuries require immediate medical attention and may leave you hospitalized. If you have any doubt about whether you can treat a case of road rash on your own, play it safe and go to the doctor right away.

Treating Road Rash at Home

Treating Road Rash Burns You might treat simple cases of road rash from a motorcycle accident—and by this we mean very, very minor cases that resemble the cuts and scraps a child might get from falling off a bike—at home. Here are the steps Healthline.com recommends you take to treat minor road rash at home.

  • Wash your hands. Road rash wounds risk infection. Practice caution by cleaning your hands before treating them, so as not to introduce dangerous bacteria into an open wound.
  • Gently clean the wound. The primary method for doing this should be to flush the wound with water. If you use gauze or a cotton swab, be very gentle. Do not scrub a road rash wound, as that could end up pushing dirt and other dangerous parties deeper into damaged tissue.
  • Remove foreign matter. If flushing and (very) gently cleaning does not rid the wound of dirt and debris completely, then use a pair of tweezers to extract it. Again, be gentle.
  • Use antibiotic ointment. Ointment serves two purposes. It helps to protect against infection, and it creates a layer that will prevent a bandage from sticking to the wound.
  • Bandage. Use a simple band-aid if you can. But it is more likely you will need to use medical tape and sterile gauze.
  • Re-apply ointment/bandage. Change the bandage periodically to help prevent infection. Road rash injuries do not close as quickly as some other types of cuts and scrapes. Leaving a dirty bandage on them could be dangerous.
  • Keep an eye out for infection. Monitor the wound for signs of an infection setting in, such as continued swelling, redness radiating from the wound, foul-smelling puss, growing pain, and nausea. Any of these could signal a potentially life-threatening infection requiring immediate medical care.

If any of the steps above seem over your head, go to the doctor. Do not risk an infection or permanent scarring.

Medical Treatment of Road Rash

A doctor will assess the severity of a case of road rash as described above. If it is a relatively straightforward case, then a doctor’s office will follow the same basic steps above to treat it. For more severe cases, the medical literature suggests a course of treatment similar to how a doctor would treat a thermal burn. This may include “administration of intravenous fluids and shock resuscitation,” “topical therapy using antiseptic and/or antimicrobial agents,” debriding the wound (or removing dead or unsalvageable tissue), and performing a skin graft.

Doctors will also use techniques similar to those involved in thermal burn therapy to address secondary health complications. Intensive courses of antibiotics might be necessary to treat any infection that has set in. The doctor may isolate the patient in a ward specially designed to prevent further infection.

Because a severe case of road rash may also damage muscle tissue and nerve endings, doctors may also prescribe a course of physical or occupational therapy to help a road rash victim recover from the injury. In the end, this care can cost thousands of dollars.

How to Treat the Other Real-Life Consequences of Road Rash

Medical treatment for a case of severe road rash from a motorcycle accident is only part of the picture, however. The financial damage done by a severe case of motorcycle accident road rash—medical bills, lost wages, property damage, etc.—can follow victims and their families long after the wound itself has healed. So can the physical and emotional trauma of having lived through an extremely painful, frightening, and life-disrupting accident and injury.

These harms require as much “treatment” as the medical conditions brought on by road rash. But how?

In many motorcycle accident scenarios, the rider is not at fault for his own injuries. When that is the case, the rider may have the right to take legal action to recover compensation from the party or parties whose actions caused him harm. For example:

  • Motorist negligence or intentional aggression. Motorcyclists have the same rights to use Washington State roads as anyone else. Unfortunately, other motorists do not always treat bikers with the respect they deserve. Motorists frequently cut off motorcycle riders, fail to see riders in their blind spots, turn left across a motorcyclist’s path, and open car and truck doors in front of motorcyclists. Some motorists even engage in aggressive driving behaviors (such as road rage) that target motorcyclists. When an accident results from motorist negligence and reckless conduct, the motorist (or in some cases the motorist’s employer) may have legal liability to the motorcyclist who ended up with a bad case of road rash as a result.
  • Unsafe road conditions. Washington roads should be safe for every type of road user. Unfortunately, sometimes road construction crews and road maintenance departments cut corners or leave roads in a dangerous condition for motorcyclists. At the very least, motorcyclists should receive warnings about un-repaired potholes, grooved pavement, road debris, and other conditions that could cause them to lose control. When someone neglects to deliver these warnings and/or to repair the unsafe condition, that person may have legal liability for the motorcyclist’s road rash injuries.
  • Defective equipment. Manufacturers of motorcycles and aftermarket motorcycle parts have certain obligations to the general public to ensure the quality and safety of their products. If a defective product causes a motorcycle accident that leaves a rider with a bad case of road rash, then the manufacturer may have legal liability.

This is just a sampling of the parties who could have legal liability to a motorcyclist. The best way to find out if someone should pay you damages for your road rash injury is to consult an experienced motorcycle accident injury lawyer. A lawyer can:

  • Assess whether someone’s negligent or reckless actions caused your motorcycle accident and road rash injuries and advise you about whether you have the right to pursue legal action for damages;
  • Investigate the facts and circumstances of your motorcycle accident and your resulting road rash injury to build the strongest possible case for legal liability;
  • Negotiate with potentially-liable parties and their insurance companies in hopes of obtaining a settlement of your claim that compensates you for both your out-of-pocket costs and your pain and suffering; and
  • Go to trial, if need be, to prove your case to a Washington State judge and jury.

The sooner you speak with an experienced motorcycle accident injury attorney about your case of road rash, the better your chances of recovering the compensation you need. There is a short time window for taking legal action, and evidence pointing to who is to blame for your accident has a way of disappearing over time. Protect your rights by seeking legal advice right away.

“Treating” Road Rash by Avoiding It

We would be remiss in writing about treatments for road rash if we did not include information about how to avoid a severe case of road rash in the first place. The problem of road rash is hardly new for motorcyclists and the public. Here are some preventive measures that have been tested and proven to protect against the worst cases of road rash:

  • Wearing protective gear. There is a wide array of protective clothing motorcyclists can wear to reduce their risk of road rash. The motorcycle clothing industry constantly introduces new styles of pants and jackets, in particular, that resist abrasion. When worn along with a helmet (which is mandatory in Washington State), this gear can keep you safe from road rash altogether, or can at least minimize the severity of a road rash injury.
  • Trip planning. Knowing the roads where you intend to ride can help to avoid a motorcycle accident. Check out the Washington State Department of Transportation website, for example, for current information about road conditions and construction areas.
  • Be careful and ride responsibly. Like any motorist, you have a big part to play in keeping yourself safe when riding your motorcycle. Follow the rules of the road. Don’t speed. Observe warnings and traffic signs. Never, ever, get on your bike after drinking or taking impairing drugs or medications. And avoid riding when you know you are likely to encounter dangerous weather conditions that could leave you injured.

To learn more about your legal rights after a motorcycle accident leaves you with severe road rash, consult an experienced motorcycle accident injury attorney.

Phone: (877) 659-2417
2200 6th Avenue, Suite 768
Seattle, WA 98121

If You Have an Accident in Which Someone is Injured You Should…

10 Tips to Follow After a Car Accident Injury

Personal Injury Attorney Tatiana Boohoff
Tatiana Boohoff, Auto Accident Attorney

Every day, across Washington State, motorists sustain injuries in car accidents. The lucky ones “walk away” from their accidents with nothing more than minor cuts and bruises. But lots of Washingtonians are not so lucky. Their injuries inflict serious physical, emotional, and financial pain that keeps them, at least temporarily, from living their lives to the fullest.

In this blog post we offer some advice about what to do if you are in a car accident that injures you or someone you care about. This is not legal advice, but following the tips below could help you protect your rights to recover damages as compensation for the harm done to you. (Many of the tips below are adapted from the Washington Driver Guide, available online here.) For more specific legal advice contact the trusted car accident attorneys at Boohoff law to discuss your case.

1. Call 911

If someone is hurt, call 911 immediately. Try to stay calm and explain the situation as best you can. Be prepared to tell the responder where you are, how many vehicles are involved, how many people are injured, and (to the extent you can tell) how serious the injuries are. If someone is burned or there is a fire, be sure to tell the responders so they can dispatch firefighters. Also, alert the dispatcher to any other potentially hazardous situation the emergency responders may encounter, such as someone who appears to be under the influence of drugs and alcohol, or a dangerous road condition that could affect the responders’ ability to reach the accident scene.

Police who arrive on the scene will most likely prepare a collision report. But in the unlikely event that does not happen, it is your responsibility to ensure a report gets filed. You can obtain a collision report form here or call 360-570-2355.

2. Remain at the Accident Scene in a Safe Location

Do not leave the accident scene. You must stay there to speak with first responders and to obtain medical care. If your car can still move, pull over to the side of the road and out of the flow of traffic, and then shut it off. If it does not move, shut it off and, if you can, get out and move to the side of the road and out of harm’s way. If you have emergency flags or other signal devices to warn other motorists of an accident, then use them, but only if you can deploy them without putting yourself or others in danger. Do not smoke anywhere near the damaged vehicles, as they may have spilled fuel and could pose a fire or explosion risk.

3. Not Move Injured People, Unless They Are in Extreme Danger

Moving a person injured in a car accident could make their injuries worse. Do not move anyone unless their car is on fire or they are in danger of being hit by traffic. Instead, render basic first aid without moving the person. Apply pressure directly on any wound that is bleeding. Cover the person with a coat or blanket to help prevent them from going into shock. Do not give anyone injured anything to drink, not even water. Be prepared to tell first responders what you have observed about a person’s injuries as soon as they arrive.

4. Let an Emergency Responder Examine You, and Follow up With Your Doctor

Even if you feel “fine” after an accident, let an emergency responder give you a once-over. Adrenaline runs high after a car accident, potentially masking pain and other symptoms of an injury. Plus, some car accident injuries do not show symptoms right away, but can be diagnosed with simple tests. Err on the side of caution at the scene.

Even if a first responder declares you okay, always follow up with your primary care physician the next day. EMT’s are there to make sure no one is about to die, not to diagnose potentially complicated injuries that begin to show symptoms days or weeks later. Following-up with your doctor has the added benefit of generating medical records that document how the car accident caused your injuries. Those records may prove useful later on if you need to prove someone’s liability for causing the accident.

5. Photograph/Video the Accident Scene, but Don’t Get in the Way

Injured in Car Accident Lawyer Put your smartphone camera to use by documenting the accident scene. Be as thorough as possible. Take pictures or footage of the vehicles involved from as many angles as possible. Take close up and far-away pictures of damage, and include surrounding objects to establish a sense of scale. Capture images of any skid marks, again close up and at long distance. Get shots of the area surrounding the accident scene, including any road signs, street lights, security cameras, traffic signals, or visual obstructions (such as vegetation, hills, or road curves). You cannot be too thorough. Get images of everything you can think of.

That said, remember that emergency responders have a job to do. Their priorities on the accident scene come first. Do not get in their way or do anything that might make it more difficult for them to tend to the injured, restore traffic flow, and otherwise keep everyone safe.

6. Obtain Contact Information From Everyone

Virtually everyone knows to obtain contact and insurance information from the “other driver” in a car accident. But your job doesn’t end there. If you can, obtain contact (and, if applicable, insurance) information from everyone at the accident scene, including other vehicle passengers, eyewitnesses, and even first responders. Collecting contact information makes life vastly easier for your insurance adjuster and any attorney you hire who needs to investigate the accident. If you do not collect contact information, you risk losing potentially critical eyewitness evidence forever. Like photographing the accident scene, this is a task in which you cannot be too thorough.

7. Notify Your Own Insurance Carrier, but Avoid Talking to Anyone Else’s

Notify your auto insurance carrier that you have had an accident, so that they can open a claim file. Provide only the minimum information necessary, however. Do not get into an extended discussion of “fault” for the accident or of your own injuries (or lack thereof). You cannot be sure to have a thorough-enough understanding of the accident to give an opinion about fault, and it is best to wait to make statements about your health until you know, for sure, you have not sustained any hidden injuries.

If anyone else’s insurance company reaches out to you, beware. The only reason an insurance company other than your own would contact you after a car accident in which someone gets injured is to limit its financial exposure. Insurance adjusters sometimes call accident victims in hopes of getting the victims to say something, anything, that calls a potential future insurance claim into question. Alternatively, insurance companies sometimes make low-end settlement offers to accident victims, hoping the victims will jump at “quick” money in exchange for giving up important legal rights. In either case, the best response if someone else’s insurance carrier calls you is to decline to talk and to put the caller in touch with your attorney.

8. Stay off Social Media

These days, people live a substantial portion of their lives online. Social media posts represent a timeline of our lives, but not necessarily an accurate one. It is common, and understandable, to portray a positive and happy image of one’s life on social media, even when *real* life feels difficult and overwhelming.

At Gomez Trial Attorneys, we encourage our clients to stay off of social media after getting hurt in a car accident. In our experience, insurance adjusters and defense attorneys lurk on social media looking for a post or picture that might undermine a damages claim. Something as innocuous as posting a happy-looking, smiling picture, or writing a comment as simple as “I’m okay!” could harm your rights. Better to avoid making an inadvertent mistake.

9. Contact an Experienced Car Accident Lawyer

The tips above constitute sensible and important advice to follow after you get into a car accident that injures you or someone you know. But you will not find answers particular to your situation in a blog post. Every car accident has its own unique facts and circumstances. When questions arise about your legal rights after an accident, seek the advice and counsel of an experienced car accident attorney.

What can a car accident attorney do for you? Here are some reasons to speak with an attorney right away.

  • An attorney can take care of many of the tasks above in the event you cannot. Oftentimes, a car accident leaves its victims too badly injured or shaken up to do an adequate job of following up with insurance companies and collecting important evidence. An experienced car accident attorney can help to pick up that slack, so that your rights stay protected during an emotionally trying time.
  • An attorney can act as a buffer between you and insurance companies. When insurance adjusters start asking questions, having an attorney to refer them to comes in handy as a way to avoid a potentially risky conversation. Attorneys, like insurance adjusters, negotiate settlements day-in, day-out. Having them deal with insurance companies on your behalf levels the playing field and gives you the best shot at a full financial recovery.
  • An attorney can investigate the facts and circumstances of your car accident and your injuries. Attorneys often work with specialized investigators who know what details to look for at a car accident scene that could point to a particular cause or party at-fault. Attorneys also frequently work with medical experts who specialize in diagnosing and treating health conditions caused by car accidents, such as spinal injuries and brain trauma.
  • An attorney can identify all of the parties who may have legal liability to you for the injuries you sustained in a car accident. An experienced attorney knows how to find out if there are more parties potentially at fault than you initially imagined. The more parties with potential liability to you, the greater your chances of recovering every dollar of compensation you deserve.
  • An attorney can negotiate with those parties to achieve a fair and reasonable settlement for your injuries, calculated on the basis of a thorough evaluation of how badly you were hurt and your prognosis for making a full recovery, among other factors.
  • An attorney can take your case to a California judge and jury, if necessary, to seek a damages award that pays you for the full emotional, physical, and financial cost of your car accident injuries.

These are just some of the tasks attorneys routinely perform for car accident victims. To start speaking with an experienced attorney, schedule a consultation and plan to sit down with the attorney in person to discuss your accident and injuries. Do not sweat the cost. Initial consultations with attorneys are always free, and most attorneys represent clients on a contingency fee basis in which clients pay nothing up-front and attorneys only recover fees out of any settlement or jury verdict they obtain on their clients’ behalf.

…Take Care of Yourself

There is nothing fun or easy about sustaining injuries in a car accident. It’s a traumatic experience that may stay with you for a while. Go easy on yourself. Do not expect life to feel “normal” again immediately or put pressure on yourself if you find that you struggle with feeling better physically or emotionally. Take time with your family and friends. Trust in your attorney to have your back, to explain decisions you need to make in clear and understandable language, and to pursue maximum compensation for you so that you can move forward from your accident.

Phone: (877) 659-2417
2200 6th Avenue, Suite 768
Seattle, WA 98121

Where Do Broadside Collisions Most Commonly Occur?

Personal Injury Attorney Tatiana Boohoff
Tatiana Boohoff, Auto Accident Attorney

Broadside collisions, also called angle collisions or T-bones, most frequently occur at intersections when the front end of one motor vehicle strikes the passenger side of another vehicle at a right angle. Broadside crashes are among the most treacherous and fatal traffic accidents. Occupants of the vehicle broadsided tend to suffer the worst in the collision, because cars usually do not have safety features that are as effective against a side-collision as they do for a front-end collision. In particular, seat belts and airbags aren’t as effective in preventing injury during broadside collisions.

In this blog post we explore broadside collisions, including where they most commonly occur, why intersections are dangerous, and common causes of broadside collisions. Having an in-depth understanding of these deadly crashes can help you avoid falling victim to one when you travel on Washington’s streets and highways. For more information after your accident call Boohoff Law and speak with a car accident attorney today to discuss your legal options.

Most Broadside Collisions Happen at Intersections

Intersections are where motor vehicles cross paths most often, making them the most common location for broadside collisions. It shouldn’t be surprising that intersections are among the most dangerous spots on roads and highways. In fact, you might notice an increase in roundabouts at intersections because they keep traffic flowing smoothly, reducing the number of accidents. Some distinctive features related to driving through intersections increase their danger. These features include:

How Humans Process Information

The mere existence of an intersection does not cause an accident; drivers make intersections dangerous. Negligent and careless drivers can make mistakes, get distracted, and make poor decisions behind the wheel, putting others with whom they share the road in danger. Researchers and engineers who study highways and roads give special focus to intersections, especially as it pertains to human error and how humans process information.

Safely driving through an intersection requires drivers to receive and process information to make appropriate maneuvers. The human brain can only sequentially process information one piece at a time. Intersections are complex situations that include huge amounts of information for the brain to process. Drivers who don’t process the right information at an intersection or process information in the wrong order risk causing or falling victim to a broadside collision.

Intersections Are Planned Points of Conflict

The United States government tasks the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) in researching, monitoring, and regulating the nation’s roads and highways, especially in regards to safety. The FHWA dedicates millions of dollars each year to study intersections, which they refer to as “planned points of conflict.” Planned points of conflict are present in all of Washington’s road systems including interstates, state highways, county roads, and city streets.

According to the FHWA, about 20 percent of all traffic deaths and 40 percent of all traffic accident-related injuries occur at intersections, making them the agency’s focus to improve road safety. The FHWA also reports that almost 50 percent of traffic accidents that occur at intersections are angular collisions, making them the most frequently occurring type of motor vehicle accident at intersections.

Efficiency and Presence of Traffic Control Devices

Seattle Traffic Accident AttorneyWhen you include Washington’s rural areas, the vast majority of the state’s intersections do not have traffic signals, stop signs, or any other type of traffic control device. Uncontrolled intersections present extra danger and a greater chance for a broadside collision to occur. Yet, controlled intersections also have their share of accidents. This can be a result of careless drivers or poor engineering.

Engineers who design and build roads and city planners spend ample time considering the best traffic control devices for a particular intersection. Sometimes planners make the wrong choice concerning signs and signals. The factors that influence traffic control device decisions at intersections include:

  • Frequency and amount of traffic in an intersection
  • Location of an intersection—urban vs. rural
  • Amount of projected pedestrian and bicycle traffic
  • Number of lanes that make up the intersection
  • Impact on the flow of traffic for specific devices
  • Driver response to control devices
  • Placement of the device for maximum driver visibility
  • Projected growth of an area

City planners and engineers who miss the mark and don’t decide on traffic control devices that meet the need of an intersection put drivers at a higher risk of broadside collisions and other traffic accidents. Other engineers or planning failures that can also lead to a broadside collision include excessively low time settings for yellow lights, which might result in drivers running a stoplight, and traffic devices that drivers cannot easily see. When drivers cannot see a stop sign or stoplight, they risk running the device and causing a broadside collision.

Left-hand Turns Across Traffic

Drivers need to make left-hand turns, which is the most likely maneuver to result in a broadside collision, especially in uncontrolled intersections. Even minor intersections like driveways and parking lots can be sites for broadside collisions when drivers don’t carefully make a left-hand turn. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Association (NHTSA), over 53 percent of “crossing-path” accidents, including broadside collisions and T-bones, involve left-hand turns.

Common Causes of Broadside Collisions

Many different scenarios might lead to a broadside collision at an intersection, including driver-related causes, mechanical failures, and environmental conditions. Some of the most common causes of broadside collisions include:

Drunk or Drugged Driving

Driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol can cause fatal traffic crashes, including broadside collisions. According to the Washington Traffic Safety Commission, drivers who mix drugs and alcohol are three times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash. Prescription drugs, even when taken as directed by a physician, can also impair a driver and potentially lead to a broadside collision. Drivers under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol might experience one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Slower reactions to information, including traffic control devices
  • Difficulty with short-term memory
  • Reduced hand-eye coordination making it difficult to turn or steer
  • Lack of focus making it challenging to process information found at an intersection
  • Difficulty judging distance and time

Distracted Driving

Distracted driving includes any activity that takes your attention away from the road, and it can lead to all types of traffic crashes, including broadside collisions. As previously mentioned, drivers need to process information at intersections to go through them safely. If they become distracted, they miss the information they need to process that can lead to a broadside collision.

Most think of cell phone use when they think of distracted driving. Yet, Washington has some of the strictest distracted driving laws in the nation, making other distractions more likely to lead to accidents. According to the Washington Traffic Safety Commission, drivers in Washington may only use a cell phone in their vehicle under the following circumstances:

  • When they use their phone hands-free and starting use only requires a single swipe or touch
  • When they are parked
  • When they are calling 911

Even when you eliminate texting and driving and other dangerous and distracting phone-related driver behaviors, many other things might distract a driver, leading to a broadside collision. Some examples include:

  • Combing or brushing hair, applying makeup, and other personal grooming
  • Adjusting vehicle features such as climate controls, mirrors, or the radio
  • Watching another event, often a traffic collision, outside of the vehicle
  • Having conversations with passengers, especially dangerous for rideshare drivers
  • Tending to children in the rear seat
  • Reaching for dropped items in the backseat or on the floor

Fatigued Driving

Drivers who don’t get enough rest suffer similar impairments as those who use drugs or alcohol. Truck drivers and shift workers are especially at risk for fatigued or drowsy driving because of demanding schedules. Even those who regularly work the night shift are going against their internal time clock, which can cause fatigue. Others who share the road are at risk for a broadside collision when a driver nods off while driving or completely falls asleep.

Some of the ways fatigue and drowsiness can affect drivers include slowing down thought processes, making it difficult to appropriately react at an intersection; impairing vision, judgment, and overall driving ability, and causing drivers to fall asleep at the wheel, creating the conditions for a dangerous and deadly broadside collision.

Speeding

Drivers must slow their vehicles or completely stop when approaching intersections, especially when signals, stop signs, or other traffic control devices are present. Speeding interferes with vehicle control, making it more difficult for drivers to react to information coming at them as the near and go through an intersection. Speeding increases the odds that a driver will cause a broadside collision. To make matters worse, speed causes the impact of an accident to be much higher that also increases the likelihood of debilitating and fatal injuries to passengers and drivers.

Poor Visibility

Visibility is crucial to avoiding a broadside collision when traveling through an intersection. The notorious rain and fog in the Seattle area can make it difficult for a driver to see an intersection, its traffic control devices, and others. Invisible intersections are extremely dangerous, especially when drivers must make a left-hand turn and cross oncoming traffic.

Some ways to ensure you can always see intersections in rain, fog, and bright sun by wearing sunglasses, maintaining the wiper blades on your vehicle, and always be prepared to slow down to avoid a collision. Using turn signals is a must-do when visibility is low, so other motorists know your plans to turn or change lanes.

Reckless and Aggressive Driving

The vast majority of drivers exercise some caution when driving a motor vehicle. They don’t operate their vehicles with complete disregard for the law and the safety of others on the road. Yet, young drivers and some irresponsible older drivers drive recklessly and aggressively. This might include excessive speeding, ignoring traffic control devices, running late yellow or red lights, and other dangerous maneuvers. When drivers intentionally ignore signs and signals at intersections, they have a high risk of causing a broadside collision.

Immediate Steps After a Broadside Collision

You can take every measure possible to be safe on the road and avoid a broadside collision, yet you have no control over the actions of other drivers. If you experience a broadside collision, you should take as many of the immediate steps as physically possible:

  • Get medical attention ASAP. It’s likely a witness will call 911 if they see a severe broadside collision, but you should also call just in case, and make sure emergency response teams are on their way. Law enforcement will fill out a police report and you need to be checked out by a doctor. Some injuries don’t immediately present symptoms, so a physician can examine you for common accident injuries. This provides valuable information for the court and/or insurance company.
  • Gather information. Get contact information and insurance information from all drivers, occupants, and witnesses involved in the broadside collision. You should also use your cell phone to take pictures of property damage, visible injuries, license plates, and any other items that you believe might be useful for an injury claim. Much of this information will be on the police report, but it’s in your best interest to gather information too, just in case law enforcement misses something.
  • Call your auto insurance company. Regardless of fault, you need to report a serious accident to your insurance carrier as soon as possible to comply with most policies. Only give facts about the accident and don’t offer extra information that might be used against you to devalue your claim. In many situations, passing off communication with your insurance carrier to an attorney will be your best protection against the tricky tactics of insurance companies, especially when you are not the policyholder.
  • Contact a qualified auto accident lawyer. Broadside collisions are typically severe accidents that result in costly injuries and sometimes death. Depending on insurance policy limits, you might quickly meet or exceed limits with lost wages and medical expenses. Ensure you get full and fair compensation for injuries sustained in a broadside collision by hiring a skilled auto accident attorney who can investigate your accident, gather relevant documents, interview witnesses, and build a strong case against the at-fault driver.
Phone: (877) 659-2417
2200 6th Avenue, Suite 768
Seattle, WA 98121

Common Causes of Collision: It’s More Complicated Than You Think

Personal Injury Attorney Tatiana Boohoff
Tatiana Boohoff, Auto Accident Attorney

Traveling in Washington can be an exhilarating experience. Take to the roads of the Evergreen State and you’ll encounter breathtaking ocean views, majestic mountains, and scenic skylines. Unfortunately, you will also confront poor drivers: speeders, texters, and motorists under the influence of alcohol and mind-altering drugs, among others.

Bad drivers are difficult to avoid. The only way to stay clear of them altogether is never to use the road, which isn’t an option for most Washingtonians. And so, from time to time bad drivers intrude on our lives and wellbeing by causing car accidents, from minor fender-benders to major catastrophes. The former causes headaches and annoyance; the latter can rob you of weeks, months, or even years of your life, leading to financial and personal upheaval.

In this blog post, we discuss the common causes of motor vehicle collisions and the sometimes complicated analysis lawyers, insurance companies, judges, and juries must make in determining who is at fault. If you’ve recently been involved in a car accident contact Boohoff Law and speak with a skilled car accident attorney to discuss your legal options today.

Current Factors in Washington Collisions

The Washington State Crash Data Portal provides up-to-date information about motor vehicle accidents in Washington State. It is a valuable public resource that makes it possible to track accident totals and trends in near real-time. The latest statistics through mid-November 2019 include these accident characteristics and causes.

The Washington Department of Transportation documented 77,223 accidents.

  • Alcohol: Drunk drivers were involved in 5,339 accidents. 84 people died and 370 sustained what police officers suspected were serious injuries. Alcohol diminishes a driver’s functioning abilities and their ability to control their vehicle. 6,326 accidents involved drivers who admitted that they had been drinking. Drunk driving is a significant factor in serious injury and fatal accidents. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data shows that impairment occurs at BAC levels far below what is considered legally impaired. Drivers who had been drinking were involved in 454 accidents with fatalities or serious injuries.
  • Fatigue: Drowsy driving is difficult to document but it was a known factor in 541 accidents this year. It occurs when drivers fail to get enough sleep, if they’re on medication, and if they suffer from conditions such as sleep apnea. Drowsy driving was a factor documented in 50 accidents involving fatalities and serious injuries.
  • Drug-Impairment: Police officers have confirmed drug use as a factor in 752 accidents so far in 2019. The drugs that contribute to driver error or negligence can be legitimate prescriptions, illegal drugs or legal THC-containing products. 54 people sustained fatal or serious injuries in accidents involving drug use.
  • Distraction: 7,308 of Washington accidents involved distracted drivers. Distracted drivers were involved in 162 accidents with fatal or serious injuries.

“Cause” Is a Complicated Concept

The factors above play a role in accidents on Washington State roads, undoubtedly. But do they cause those accidents in a legal sense? Let’s take a closer look.

What Lawyers Mean When They Talk About Cause

Ask someone to define the word cause and you will likely get a slew of vague, maybe even philosophical, answers. But if you put that question to a lawyer, the response is likely to include some mention of the concept of proximate cause, a legal doctrine judges, lawyers, and scholars have debated for nearly a century and still struggle to agree on, even though it forms a core part of how we assign liability for damages in personal injury lawsuits.

Most lawyers and judges (never mind the law professors) understand proximate cause to mean some combination of two ideas:

  • That the initial event occurred close enough in time and space for there to be a direct connection between it and a subsequent event; and
  • That the subsequent event was a reasonably foreseeable consequence of the initial event.

If those two ideas seem about as clear as mud to you, then you are not alone. But here are two illustrations of how we might apply them in practice.

The Texting Drunk Driver Example

Auburn, Washington: A 40-year old driver allegedly runs a stop sign while texting and possibly under the influence of alcohol. The driver’s vehicle allegedly collides with one driven by a 17-year old student, sending him to the hospital with serious head injuries that require emergency surgery.

What is the proximate cause of the accident? Any of the following would seem to qualify if we follow the common understandings above:

  • Running the stop sign;
  • Texting-while-driving; and
  • Driving under the influence.

Lawyers might sum up all three of those factors by saying “Reckless driving was the proximate cause of the accident.” And that sounds about right. Reckless driving seems directly connected to the collision, and a collision is the reasonably foreseeable consequence of driving recklessly.

The Seattle Seahawks Example

Football Car accident LawyerIn 2015, the Highway Loss Data Institute published a report, Collision Claim Frequencies and NFL Games, which concluded, among other things, that traffic accidents in neighborhoods surrounding NFL stadiums increase in frequency after games, and especially after games the home team loses. The post-game accident statistics for Seahawks games put Seattle among the ten teams with higher-than-average post-game accident rates nationally (though during the time period covered by the study, 2011 to 2013, the Seahawks went 19 and 5 at home).

So suppose the same accident as described above occurs, the only difference being that the reckless driver got into the accident after a (rare) Seahawks home loss. Considering the research above, could we say the Seahawks’ actions were the proximate cause of the accident? No. Why not? Because:

  • Despite the research, there isn’t anything resembling a direct link between the Seahawks winning or losing and this specific accident. The study only shows a potential correlation.
  • It is not reasonably foreseeable that the consequences of the Seahawks’ include an individual fan driving drunk, texting and driving, or ignoring a stop sign. After all, the vast majority of Seahawks fans (not to mention fans of countless other sports teams) make it home after a game, win or lose, without getting into a collision.

It doesn’t take a legal scholar to see how far-fetched it would be to sue a sports franchise for causing a fan to get into a car accident. But some cases make for much closer calls. For example:

  • Was a bartender’s decision to pour a beer for the driver, who didn’t appear drunk but had an above-the-legal-limit blood alcohol content, the proximate cause of the accident? (Under Washington State law, the bar owner could be held liable if so.)
  • Was a drug manufacturer’s failure to warn about dangerous side effects of a medication the driver was taking, particularly when combined with alcohol, the proximate cause of the accident?
  • Were the repeated texts sent by the driver’s angry girlfriend, who demand he respond immediately even while knowing the driver was behind the wheel, the proximate cause of the accident if he didn’t pull over to read and answer them?

There are reasonable scenarios in which each of these questions might be answered in the affirmative. Proving them, however, requires the skill and experience of a seasoned car accident attorney.

Who Decides the Cause of an Accident?

Identifying one or more causes of an accident is not simply a philosophical exercise for lawyers. Who-or-what caused an accident has real-world implications for everyone involved in a collision, such as:

  • Determining who has civil liability for money damages to accident victims;
  • Who receives a traffic citation for the accident;
  • Who has criminal liability, if any, for the harm caused by the accident; and
  • Whose insurance pays for damage caused by the accident.

Numerous parties may determine the cause of a collision for these purposes.

Police Officers

Police officers who arrive at an accident scene typically collect information and prepare a report documenting the officers’ findings. This may include the police officer’s evaluation of what caused an accident, and may serve as the basis for issuing a citation or even for arresting someone.

A police officer’s determination of cause (and its related concept fault), however, does not constitute a conclusive determination. Any person whose rights are affected by the police officer’s determination of cause can, ultimately, challenge it in a court of law if doing so is worth their while.

Insurance Companies

Like police officers, insurance companies also take guidance in their own actions from a determination of the cause of a collision. What caused a collision will affect whether and to what extent the insurance company has an obligation to pay insurance benefits to its insured. For example, an insurance policy may cover collisions caused by foul weather, but not ones in which the insured driver intentionally collided with another vehicle.

Insurance companies employ adjusters, whose job is to investigate a claim by an insured party against an insurance policy. In conducting that investigation, the adjuster typically reviews police reports and interviews its insured party. Depending on the size and significance of the claim, the adjuster may also dig deeper to uncover additional facts weighing on the question of cause. Attorneys for the parties involved in the accident often become the adjuster’s allies or adversaries in this investigation, insofar as they want to influence the adjuster’s conclusion and the outcome of a claim.

Attorneys

Attorneys hired by parties involved in a collision (and/or their insurers) also take a keen interest in evaluating the cause of a collision. As we’ve described above, attorneys formulate their investigation with a view toward how they can prove (or disprove, as the case may be) what was the proximate cause of an accident.

In building a case around proving proximate cause, attorneys do much the same type of investigation as that conducted by an insurance adjuster (and as we said, sometimes the two work hand-in-hand, or at least side-by-side). Attorneys review police reports, interview their own clients and other witnesses, and collect visual and forensic evidence.

When the stakes of a case are high, or when the attorney determines that it will take some convincing to extract money from an insurance company or a jury, an attorney will also often hire and work with experts in the fields of accident reconstruction, road design, and automotive engineering (to name just a few). The purpose of working with an expert is to prepare a strong argument for proving proximate cause. After all, it is not enough to simply say “the collision was caused by brake failure.” In a courtroom, the attorney must show evidence of defective brakes if she wants to convince a jury to award her client damages.

Judges and Juries

In most personal injury matters involving a motor vehicle collision, attorneys for the parties and/or their insurance companies attempt to negotiate a resolution (or settlement) of the claims of accident victims. In a broad sense, each side tries to convince the other of the strength and merits of their arguments, based on evidence that proves what caused the accident.

Usually, these negotiations lead to a mutual resolution of a claim. But not always. Sometimes the parties cannot agree on what caused an accident and who should have legal liability for it. When that happens, the attorney representing the injured accident victim takes her client’s case to Washington State court, to be decided by a judge and/or jury. The judge and jury hear evidence and decide the disputed issue of the cause of the collision, using that decision as their guide in determining legal liability and damages.

Contact an Experienced Collision Injury Attorney

It is not always easy to determine the cause of a collision, much less to figure out which of those causes points to legal liability. Every collision has its own unique facts, and that is why having skilled legal counsel represent you after a collision is so important.

Consult an experienced car accident attorney as soon as possible after a motor vehicle accident injures you. The sooner you speak with an attorney, the sooner the attorney can get involved in investigating the cause of the collision, and in building the strongest argument for why you deserve compensation for your injuries.

Phone: (877) 659-2417
2200 6th Avenue, Suite 768
Seattle, WA 98121

Rear-End Collision Injuries

Personal Injury Attorney Tatiana Boohoff
Tatiana Boohoff, Auto Accident Attorney

When another driver rear-ends your vehicle, the physical and emotional complications often change your life. While whiplash is the most well-known injury associated with rear-end collisions, a severe impact can contribute to many other serious problems. Rear-end accidents cause spinal injuries, fractures, and other serious conditions.

As with many accidents, rear-enders sometimes leave you with a vague awareness that a crash could happen again at any moment. The ideal of driving may leave you squeamish as you slip behind the wheel. You may feel uncomfortable when a vehicle approaches you from the rear. The physical and emotional challenges begin during your emergency treatment and continue as you try to reestablish your sense of what’s normal.

Rear-end accident-related injuries have a financial cost as well. Recovery is often stressful as well as expensive. You lose income during your initial recovery. Income losses continue due to temporary and permanent disabilities and changes in your ability to work. When you suffer from serious or catastrophic conditions, accommodating your injury often requires you to reassess your future and rework your entire life. If you or a loved one has recently been involved in a rear end collision, speaking with an experienced car accident lawyer at Boohoff Law can help determine your options for compensation.

Rear-End Accidents are Common

You have a right to feel worried about that car closing in on your rear bumper. Data from the National Highway Transportation Safety Association pinpoints rear-end collisions as a major cause of auto accidents nationwide. The 2017 Traffic Safety Facts Annual Report Tables document 4,509,000 accidents involving two or more vehicles. In 2,132,000 of those accidents, a rear-end collision was the first harmful event.

Law enforcement authorities consider rear-end accidents an “assured clear distance” problem. When a driver crashes into another vehicle’s rear, the obvious reason is that they failed to maintain a following distance that assured they wouldn’t strike the vehicle in front of them. In Washington, police cite drivers for following too closely. Rear-end accident citations explain what happened immediately before a crash, but they tell only half of the story.

When drivers fail to maintain an appropriate distance from the vehicle directly in front of them, it’s usually a consequence of another driving problem. Drivers who cause rear-end accidents are often engaged in the same driving behaviors that cause and contribute to numerous other types of accidents.

  • Distracted driving: Drivers who are distracted by a phone, a passenger, or anything else lose the ability to focus on traffic and anything else going on around them.
  • Speeding: Even if speeding drivers spot another vehicle in their path, excess speed diminishes their stopping capability. Braking is often ineffective as a speeding car requires a greater stopping distance.
  • Driving under the influence: Drunk driving is a major factor in all accidents. A driver who uses alcohol before getting behind the wheel inevitably has impaired functioning, even at Blood Alcohol Concentration levels far lower than the legal limit.
  • Drug-impaired driving: Although the statistics don’t specifically document rear-end accidents, the Washington State Traffic Safety Report shows that drug-impaired drivers caused 200 fatal accidents during 2017. Drivers who tested positive for THC were involved in 126 fatal accidents.
  • Drowsy driving: Drowsy driving is difficult to track, but during 2017, Washington law enforcement officials confirmed that 9 fatal accidents involved drowsy drivers. Drowsy driving occurs when a driver operates a vehicle without adequate sleep, suffers from sleep apnea issues, takes medication that causes drowsiness, or consumes alcohol before driving.

Whiplash Injuries Are Common in Rear-End Accidents

When a vehicle strikes your car in the rear, the impact forces your head to move backward then forward. Your neck flexes and extends in a rapid whip-like motion. This often results in a soft tissue injury that normally, but not always, dissipates within weeks. But sometimes this whipping motion causes serious and life-altering injuries.

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke researches whiplash and other trauma-related conditions and has observed a range of symptoms and conditions that often accompany a whiplash diagnosis. An injury that seems initially to involve soft tissues and ligaments can include the injured person’s head, neck, shoulders nerves, joints, and discs. People with whiplash injuries often suffer from headaches, inflammation, neck stiffness, and tingling. They also suffer from memory loss, concentration issues, and other cognitive and psychological problems.

Some Whiplash Injuries Don’t Improve

Doctors often treat whiplash injuries conservatively. When an injury doesn’t respond to traditional neck and back treatments such as pain medication, heat, and rest, healthcare providers move on to other remedies while reassessing the diagnosis. Given the neck and back’s intricate inner structure, doctors recognize that chronic pain often means a more advanced condition involve internal structures.

  • Facet joint injury: Each vertebra has a facet joint on either side. When a patient’s whiplash injuries don’t respond well to initial treatment, the North American Spine Association explains that the problem is often a facet joint injury.
  • Torn annulus: The annulus, which is a disc’s outer wall, houses nerve endings. Neck and back patients often suffer from unresolved pain when an accident causes a torn annulus.
  • Disc issues: Whiplash injuries often damage the discs which form a person’s spine. When a disc herniates (bulges) it often affects the spinal cord and its nerves.
  • Muscle sprain: Muscles sustain injuries during the initial accident trauma then become overworked while protecting injured spinal structures and nerves. This often contributes to chronic sprains.

Why Are Whiplash Injuries so Controversial?

Whiplash is a legitimate injury that’s been documented and proven by physicians. Although the neck and back damage associated with whiplash are often serious, the injury has developed a bad reputation over time. This is mostly due to insurance company misperceptions. The insurance companies that investigate and handle injury cases often train their adjusters to be suspicious of people who suffer neck and back injuries. They suspect that injured people often exaggerate or fake their whiplash injuries because the injury manifests itself in atypical ways.

  • Serious whiplash injuries sometimes occur due to low-speed impacts.
  • Injured people don’t always immediately manifest neck and back injury symptoms.
  • A whiplash injury that begins as a minor condition can degrade into a far more complicated problem.

It’s Not Just About Whiplash

Rear-end accidents are notorious for the whiplash motion that causes back and neck injuries. The accidents often involve circumstances that cause a variety of other injuries. NHTSA’s traffic facts show that 615,000 vehicle occupants sustained injuries in rear-end accidents. Damages and injuries are far more serious when the striking vehicle is moving at a high speed or the driver doesn’t attempt to slow down or stop.

Differences in the colliding vehicles are also a factor in injury severity. SUVs and pickup trucks are often heavier with higher bumpers that sometimes cause extensive upper-vehicle damage to smaller cars. Tractor-trailers and other large commercial trucks weigh far more and require greater stopping distances. When SUVs, heavy pickup trucks, and large commercial vehicles strike a smaller vehicle in the rear, the results are often disastrous. These heavyweight impacts cause injuries that far exceed the whiplash neck and back injury classification.

Spinal Cord Injuries

When a crash is severe, it easily traumatizes a delicate human spine. In a serious crash, vehicle occupants sustain disc fractures, partial or complete paralysis, and other serious traumas. The more serious rear-end accident injuries require extensive medical treatment, physical and rehabilitative therapy. Spinal cord injuries cause temporary and long term disabilities and often change the injured person’s life.

Brain Injuries

Brain injuries sometimes occur when an impact moves back seat passengers forward. The rapid shift sometimes forces a rear seat passenger’s head into the back of the front seat. Traumatic Brain Injury Model System, which has tracked 16,495 TBI patients, explains that auto accidents cause 51 percent of all TBIs.

Serious traumatic brain injuries require long term treatment and rehabilitation. Brain-injured victims must learn to manage their lives with modified physical and mental capabilities. As time passes, patients may recover somewhat from their initial injuries, but even healed brain trauma paves the way for future brain conditions. Information from the Brain Injury Association of America suggests that persons with TBIs often have an increased potential for dementia, Parkinson’s disease, seizures, and other conditions.

Fractures

When a heavy vehicle crashes into the rear of a smaller car, the small car’s structure easily gives way. Metal intruding into a rear passenger’s space often causes upper body and limb fractures.

Internal Injuries

Seatbelts constrict a rear passenger’s chest upon impact causing chest injuries and bone fractures. Broken bones and bone fragments cause additional injuries from puncturing and tearing internal organs.

Psychological Trauma

As with most auto accidents, victims of rear-end collisions sustain more than just physical injuries. Psychological trauma is a common rear-end accident after-effect, although people rarely refer to it as a psychological injury. When describing the emotional and mental concerns that follow a rear-end accident, injured victims, insurance companies, and even attorneys use traditional phrases such as anxiety and emotional distress.

Psychological trauma can be subtle like the paranoia you feel when another vehicle gets a bit too close to your vehicle’s rear. It can be dramatic like the sense of doom that overtakes you when you’re confronted with the mere idea of getting behind the wheel. A Psychology Today article by forensic psychologist James F. Zender, Ph.D., advises that there are structural and functional similarities between patients suffering from accident-related traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder. Zender has helped many patients as they struggled with PTSD and other accident-related conditions.

Fatalities

The idea that rear-end accidents don’t cause serious injuries is an easily-disputed myth. Nationally NHTSA-compiled data show that 2,456 vehicle occupants sustained fatal injuries in rear-end accidents.

Rear-Seat Passengers Require More Safety Features

Both rear and front-seat passengers sustain injuries in rear-end accidents. Those seated in the rear encounter greater safety challenges that often make their injuries worse. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recently published an article cautioning vehicle manufacturers about rear-seat safety concerns. The title of the IIHS article explains it simply, “Rear-seat occupant protection hasn’t kept pace with the front.”

When the IIHS studied passenger injuries, it found that recent advancements in airbags and seatbelts provided a higher level of security for front-seated passengers.

  • Front seat belts employ crash tensioners that immediately tighten around front seat occupants upon collision.
  • Force limiters prevent the excess seatbelt restriction that causes chest injuries.
  • Front airbags deploy immediately.

Rear-seated passengers don’t have the same level of protection. While failure to use seat belts can be a problem with rear-seated passengers, belted passengers sustain serious injuries as well. Rear seatbelts don’t include limiters or tensioners. Side airbags protect rear-seat passengers but offer no frontal protection.

To reduce rear-seat passenger injury severity, IIHS has several safety recommendations. They suggest that car manufacturers enhance rear-seat safety with inflatable seat belts to protect the chest and force limiters to reduce seat belt chest pressure. They further recommend rear seat frontal airbags to protect passengers’ heads from contact with front seats.

Dealing With Insurance Companies

During the initial hours and days following a crash, you may be under a doctor’s care, in pain, on medication, and confused about your best course of action. That won’t stop an insurance company claim department from contacting you, however. No one can force you to talk to the other driver’s insurance carrier but, to preserve your coverage, you usually should talk to our own company’s claim department representative.

In these conversations, it is important to choose your words carefully. If you don’t recognize and understand all of the legal issues, you could easily say something that might jeopardize your insurance coverage or your legal rights.

Should You Contact an Attorney?

Yes—after getting injured in a rear-end accident that’s someone else’s fault, consult a car accident attorney as soon as possible. Attorneys handle the legal details so you have the time and space to recover.

A personal injury consultation is a simple exchange of information. Your attorney discusses your accident and your injuries and counsels you on how best to proceed. You can learn more about the legal process without making a commitment. When you’re ready to proceed, your attorney can take the appropriate legal steps on your behalf.

Phone: (877) 659-2417
2200 6th Avenue, Suite 768
Seattle, WA 98121

The Serious Injuries That Come From Sideswipe Collisions

Personal Injury Attorney Tatiana Boohoff
Tatiana Boohoff, Auto Accident Attorney

A sideswipe collision set off a chain-reaction crash involving six vehicles in Kitsap County. According to a news report of the Tuesday afternoon accident that occurred on State Road 303, a vehicle was traveling southbound and had entered the turn lane when it sideswiped two vehicles and rear-ended another. The vehicle that got rear-ended was pushed into the intersection, where it was struck by a fourth vehicle. The driver who caused the accident then struck a fifth vehicle while attempting to make a left-hand turn at the intersection. Three people were injured, including the at-fault driver, and the intersection was shut down for about three hours after the accident.

Sideswipe collisions can range from minor, property damage only accidents to major crashes, depending on the circumstances. If you’ve been injured in this type of accident, an experienced car accident attorney at Boohoff Law can provide details on the process of obtaining compensation that can help cover expenses such as medical treatments, missed work, and pain and suffering.

What Is a Sideswipe Collision?

A sideswipe collision is an accident in which the left side of one vehicle makes contact with the right side of a vehicle traveling alongside it in the same direction. Sideswipes may also involve the two vehicles traveling in opposite directions on a roadway where there is no median to separate the directional travel lanes, or a driver may sideswipe a parked vehicle or other stationary object. According to the National Safety Council, around 27,000 injuries and 2,500 fatalities occur each year due to this type of accident. One aspect of sideswipes that make them particularly dangerous is that they generally take both drivers by surprise, creating a situation in which neither driver has time to react or take evasive measures to avoid the collision.

11 Causes of Sideswipe Accidents:

  1. Inattention. A driver fails to look before changing lanes.
  2. Bad timing. Two drivers attempt to enter the same lane of travel at the same time.
  3. Distractions. A driver is busy texting, eating or drinking, visiting with other passengers, or is otherwise distracted and drifts into another lane of travel. The owner of a Seattle-based body shop stated that there was a jump in the amount of work coming into his shop after the state’s distracted driving law went into effect, due to people holding their phones low as they texted while driving so that any nearby officers wouldn’t see them texting. The law went into effect in 2017, and prohibits drivers from holding their phones while driving, even if stopped in traffic. The law also prohibits eating or applying makeup while driving.
  4. Alcohol impairment. Alcohol impairs the skills that one needs for the safe operation of a motor vehicle, including the ability to maintain one’s own lane. A man was found guilty of murder in the deaths of a father and son. The man’s vehicle sideswiped the vehicle occupied by the father, son, and two of their family members. The force of the impact pushed the father and son’s vehicle into a center divider. The car then flipped over the center divider into oncoming traffic, and was struck by other cars. All four occupants died as a result. The convicted man had fled the scene but was later found by law enforcement. It was determined that his blood alcohol content was .19 four hours after the crash, which is more than twice the legal limit. It was estimated that his blood alcohol content was likely around .24 when the accident occurred.
  5. Blind spots. Commercial trucks, in particular, have significant blind spots on all four sides. If a car enters the truck’s blind spot in an adjacent lane, the truck driver may be unaware and may change lanes without realizing that it is unsafe to do so.
  6. Objects in the road. A driver may swerve to avoid hitting an animal or object and wind up sideswiping a vehicle in an adjacent lane instead. This is particularly true in accidents involving a wrong way driver. Another driver may attempt to avoid having a head-on collision with the wrong way driver by veering into an adjacent traffic lane and—if one happens to be there—into another vehicle, as well.
  7. Driver fatigue. Drowsiness has similar impacts to one’s driving skills as alcohol impairment, including an increased risk of drifting out of one’s lane of travel.
  8. Over-correcting after making a driving error, which could cause you to leave your lane of travel.
  9. Speeding, which reduces a driver’s ability to maintain control of his or her vehicle and also reduces the time he or she has to react appropriately and responsibly to hazards on the roadway. A lengthy police chase involved a suspect sideswiping multiple vehicles as he attempted to evade authorities. Officers first came in contact with the suspect as they were responding to a domestic violence incident at an apartment complex. The man had reportedly attempted to kidnap his girlfriend from her apartment. She was able to escape to a manager’s office and call for help. The man fled when officers arrived, driving erratically from the Eastside through parts of South Seattle. In addition to sideswiping two vehicles, the man also attempted to carjack another vehicle that was stopped at a traffic light before police closed in and arrested him.
  10. Attempting to complete a turn in a lane alongside another turn lane, when one driver either fails to complete the turn safely or is unsure of which traffic lane he or she is supposed to turn in to.
  11. Inclement weather. Icy or wet roads can cause vehicles to slide out of their lane of travel, increasing the potential for a sideswipe accident.

Who Is Liable for a Sideswipe Collision?

Washington traffic law states that a vehicle must remain in a single lane of travel until the driver has determined that he or she can safely change lanes. What this means is that, if the accident occurred because one driver changed lanes without looking, swerved into an adjacent lane, or drifted into one, he or she is liable for the accident that is caused. In cases where two vehicles attempted to move into the same lane of travel at the same time, liability for the accident may fall on both drivers.

When examining the facts of your case, to determine liability, your car accident attorney will look who was in the lane first, whether the driver properly signaled his or her intention to change lanes, and whether there were other factors such as alcohol impairment or fatigue that could indicate negligence and provide a basis for a personal injury claim or lawsuit.

Injuries Associated With Sideswipe Accidents

The unknown factor makes sideswipes dangerous, as does the location on the vehicle in which the collision takes place. The sides of vehicles often lack the protective features of other parts of the car. While individuals are somewhat insulated from the energy of a frontal crash due to the engine and airbags, and from the energy of a rear crash by the trunk, there is little to insulate the side of the vehicle. Because of this, injuries are often severe for occupants sitting on the side of the car that was hit. Additionally, the impact experienced by a sideswipe may lead to a chain reaction situation in which the vehicle collides with other cars on the roadway, objects such as trees or fences beside the roadway, or may even roll over during the accident.

Injuries may also be more serious if there is a significant size mismatch in the vehicles involved. For example, a sideswipe accident involving a commercial truck and a small passenger car will likely result in severe injuries to the passenger car occupants due to the size discrepancy. That said, some of the common injuries associated with sideswipe accidents include:

  • Whiplash, due to the violent back and forth motion of the head and neck due to the collision.
  • Broken bones, particularly arms, legs, hands, and feet on the side of the vehicle that is struck.
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Lacerations and penetrating injuries caused by glass or metal from the side of the car.

How to Avoid a Sideswipe Accident

There is no way to control all of the factors that may lead to an accident. However, you can control your own driving behaviors to prevent dangerous sideswipe collisions by doing the following things:

  • Change lanes safely and legally. Signal your intention to change lanes at least 100 feet—or at least five seconds—before doing so. Check your mirrors and scan the lane you’re wishing to enter over your shoulder to ensure that there is a sufficient gap in traffic in which to do so.
  • Don’t drive while impaired by alcohol or while extremely tired. Cut down the distractions that draw your focus away from the task of driving.
  • If you notice that a driver in an adjacent lane is likely going to change into your lane, you should slow down to allow the driver enough room to execute the lane change safely.
  • Don’t linger in the blind spot of any vehicle, particularly a commercial truck. Remember that if you cannot see the image of the truck driver in his or her side mirror, chances are he or she cannot see you either.
  • Attempt to build a cushion of space around your vehicle, positioning yourself so that no one is directly in front, behind, or alongside you. This allows you the space to execute a collision avoidance maneuver if necessary.
  • Scan, scan, and scan some more. Be fully aware of the roadway around you and the vehicles that are also occupying the same area of that roadway. Surveillance is the key to avoiding sideswipes and other types of accidents.
  • Maintain a safe speed to maintain your lane. Speeding makes it more difficult to maintain a lane and control of your vehicle.
  • Remain visible to other drivers. For drivers of passenger cars, this means using your headlights at night and always using your turn signals to communicate your intentions. For motorcyclists or bicyclists—both of which can also be the victims of sideswipe accidents—your visibility to others can be improved through bright or reflective clothing, and accessory lights.
  • Slow down on wet or icy road conditions to avoid sliding out of your lane of travel.
  • Use caution when turning, particularly alongside other turn lanes and when turning alongside a commercial truck. Commercial trucks require extra space to complete the turn. Be mindful of that and slow down to allow the truck to complete its turn. Ensure that you’re turning into the proper travel lane.
  • Use caution when driving past parked vehicles, including emergency vehicles rendering aid to other motorists on the side of the road. Many sideswipe accidents are caused due to a distracted driver failing to be aware of hazards not only in his or her own travel lane, but on the shoulder of the road or in parking lanes, as well.

Injured in a Sideswipe Accident? Steps You Should Take

If you were injured in a sideswipe accident, speak to an accident attorney as soon as possible. Your attorney can advise you about filing a third-party insurance claim, whether you’re eligible to obtain compensation through a personal injury lawsuit, whether there are potentially other liable parties and insurance resources available, and can provide answers to all of your legal questions about your accident and injuries. Other things you can do following an injury accident include:

  • Obtaining a copy of the police report, names of witnesses, copies of medical bills, auto repair bills, and other evidence that may be needed in your case.
  • Avoid speaking to an insurance claims adjuster or signing any official statement or settlement offer without first talking to your attorney, as you may inadvertently agree to something or provide a statement that is not in your best legal interest.
  • Avoid posting about the accident on social media, as your posts may be used against you.

The best thing you can do, after seeking medical care, is to call a car accident lawyer who can help you figure out whether you can recover compensation to pay for your injuries and other damages. Most offer a free consultation and case review, so you can call with nothing to lose.

Phone: (877) 659-2417
2200 6th Avenue, Suite 768
Seattle, WA 98121