Car accidents happen under a wide variety of circumstances. In this blog post, we review the most common types of car accidents, how they happen, the kinds of injuries they can cause, and how drivers can take steps to avoid them.
No matter how a car accident happens, it has the potential to cause drivers and other vehicle occupants serious injuries or even fatalities. If you have sustained injuries in a Seattle-area car accident, or if a loved one has died in an accident, then you may have rights to significant compensation. Contact Boohoff Law today to learn more.
Rear End Accidents
Rear end car accidents happen when the front end of one car collides with the rear end of another car while both are traveling in the same direction. They are among the most common of all car accidents, and frequently happen in heavy traffic or other areas of traffic congestion. The most common “cause” of a rear-end accident is the trailing car following the front car too closely, leaving insufficient time for the trailing car to stop if the car in front stops or slows suddenly. These days, another significant contributor to rear-end accidents is driver distraction, particularly drivers using their cell phones instead of paying attention to the road ahead. (Using a hand-held cell phone while driving a car, even when stopped in traffic or at an intersection, is against the law in Washington State.)
Rear end accidents can cause a wide range of injuries to drivers and passengers in both vehicles. Those in the leading vehicle (the one that gets hit from behind) often sustain back, neck, and soft tissue injuries from the “whiplash” motion of their bodies as they absorb the impact. Passengers in the trailing vehicle (the one that runs into the back of the other) often sustain similar injuries, as well as typical front-impact related injuries like broken bones and head injuries.
As the driver of the leading car, it’s somewhat difficult to avoid a rear end collision. The best advice is to try and avoid sudden, unpredictable braking that would surprise the car behind you (although this isn’t always possible), and to allow a vehicle “riding your tail” to pass you as soon as you can. As the driver of the trailing car, you can help avoid colliding with the car in front of you by leaving at least two car lengths distance between your car and the one in front (more in slippery conditions), and by avoiding all distractions that could take your attention away from the road ahead.
Single Car and Rollover Accidents
A significant number of car accidents in the Seattle area every year involve only a single car. These accidents take all kinds of forms, but all involve a loss of driver control of the vehicle, and often result in a collision with a stationary object (like a road divider), running off of the road (often colliding with a tree, telephone pole, or other object), or rolling over. Unpredictable or slick road conditions, and animals entering the roadway, play a significant role in causing single vehicle accidents because they make it difficult for a vehicle to control. Speeding, distraction, and alcohol or drug use also play a large role in these accidents, because of how they make it difficult for a driver to react to road conditions in a safe and controlled manner. Rollovers often happen when a car leaves the road, rides up or down an embankment, or when a driver swerves so severely that the car’s momentum causes it to roll.
Whatever the cause, single-car and rollover accident have the potential to cause extremely severe injuries and fatalities. Drivers and vehicle occupants who are not belted-in often get thrown from a vehicle in this kind of accident. Even when they remain within the car’s cabin, victims in single car accidents may sustain severe injuries as the car’s body crumples around them. Some of the more severe of these injuries include traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, severe lacerations, and traumatic amputations or crushed limbs.
It sounds simplistic, but the best way to avoid a single car accident is to drive appropriately for the road conditions. Or, to put it even more simply, slow down. The more time you give yourself to react to the road, the better your chances of remaining in control. Also, avoid distractions. Fixating your attention on a device screen will inevitably cause you to lose focus on the road ahead and to allow your vehicle to drift dangerously. Similarly, avoid “rubbernecking” or otherwise getting distracted by something outside the vehicle. As your head turns, your brain tells your hands to compensate by turning the steering wheel in the opposite direction. Look straight ahead at all times. And, of course, always wear your seatbelt.
Angular (or “T-Bone”) Collisions
Another common form of accident, particularly at intersections, is the angular accident (also known as “getting t-boned”). These accidents happen when the front-end of a vehicle collides at an angle with the side of another vehicle. Failing to yield the right of way to another vehicle is far-and-away the most common cause of an angular collision. Frequently, angular collisions happen when one car makes a left turn across a lane of oncoming traffic, and an oncoming vehicle collides with the turning car. They also happen when a vehicle fails to stop at an intersection by running a red light or a stop sign. Driver inattention due to substance use or distraction can contribute to the risk of these collisions.
Angular accidents can cause very serious injuries and fatalities. Whereas the safety systems of the typical car provide a relatively high degree of protection in frontal collisions, it is difficult for engineers to design and implement safety equipment to protect against collisions from odd angles. Some vehicles come with side impact airbags, which can help, but they cannot eliminate the extreme and awkward forces the human body absorbs in an angular collision. Spinal cord and soft tissue injuries frequently result from these accidents. Fatalities are also common, especially when the front of one vehicle collides the side of a vehicle closest to the driver or a passenger in the other. In those collisions, the driver’s or passenger’s body takes the full force of the collision with only inches of door-frame to protect them.
To guard against an angular collision, all drivers should exercise caution at intersections. A driver turning left needs to assess traffic traveling in both directions before making a turn. Drivers approaching any part of the road where someone might be turning left, or entering the travel lane, must keep a close eye out. As with the other types of accidents above, avoiding driver distraction is very important. Whenever you drive in an area where you or others need to turn across traffic, you need your full attention on the road to stay safe. Also, exercise extra care when driving after dark or in poor weather conditions, when it can be more difficult to see and react to crossing traffic.
Head-on collisions, in which the front end of one vehicle collides with the front end of another, are relatively rare. But, they are deadly when they happen. Cars collide head-on when they’re traveling in opposite directions in the same lane of a road. Typically, neither driver has any expectation of encountering traffic coming straight-on, and has little or no time to react. As a consequence, head-on collisions happen at relatively high speeds. As a matter of physics, the force of the impact is catastrophic. (Consider that, roughly speaking, a head-on collision of two cars traveling at 60 miles per hour is the equivalent of one car colliding with a concrete barrier at 120 miles per hour.)
Alcohol and drug use by one of the drivers often plays a role when these collisions result from one of the two vehicles driving the wrong way on a one-way or limited access road. Another cause of these accidents is driver distraction and rubbernecking, in which a driver loses concentration and allows his vehicle to drift over the center median into an oncoming lane of traffic.
Automotive safety equipment is designed to provide maximum protection in a head-on collision. The fronts of many cars are designed to crumple, absorbing some of the energy of the impact. Airbags should deploy, cushioning the passengers, while seat belts should tighten, preventing them from ejection from the passenger cabin. Still, all of the safety equipment in the world cannot eliminate the effects of a virtually instant deceleration or the partial or total collapse of the passenger cabin. Even when these accidents do not prove fatal, they frequently cause traumatic brain injuries, crushed and traumatically amputated limbs, broken facial bones, lacerations, and massive soft-tissue damage.
We probably sound like a broken record by now, but avoiding a head-on collision begins with drivers paying attention to the road ahead. Refusing to look at a device screen or to turn your head to look at something outside the car, or to talk to someone in the back seat, can prevent you from drifting into an oncoming lane and causing a head on collision. Paying strict attention to the road ahead will also afford you just a split-second’s more reaction time should someone drift into your lane or, God forbid, drunkenly drive the wrong way down the road straight at you.
What To Do After a Car Accident, No Matter the Type.
Here at Boohoff Law, we hope you’ll never get into a car accident serious enough to need our legal advice. But, we also know that accidents happen even to the best, most attentive drivers. When they do, it’s a good idea to keep these simple tips in mind to keep yourself safe and protect your rights.
Get Medical Help
Victims of serious car accidents that cause massive injuries will typically receive emergency medical care. But, even if you are lucky enough to “walk away” from a car accident, do not assume you can also “walk away” from receiving medical treatment. In the moments after an accident, your body’s natural “fight or flight” response produces adrenaline and other stimulants that can mask pain. In other words, as the victim in a car accident, you are not the best judge of whether you need to see a doctor. Leave it to the professionals. Let an EMT check you out, take a ride in an ambulance to the hospital if recommended, and always, always schedule an immediate follow-up with your regular doctor. Getting care protects your health, which is of the highest importance. It also generates records that could prove useful in seeking compensation later on.
Collect Evidence, if You Can
We don’t expect you to be a forensic scientist. But, if you are able, and after you have received appropriate medical care, be your own detective and take pictures or video of the accident scene, the vehicles involved (including their license plates or other “official” markings like DOT numbers), tire marks, security cameras in the area, and street lighting. Exchange information with the other driver if possible, and get the names of any other witnesses who saw what happened. Speak to the police, but DO NOT make incriminating statements about how you “didn’t see it coming” or how you “should have avoided it,” as these can be misinterpreted as admissions of fault.
Meet With an Attorney
As soon as it’s practical for you to do so, schedule an appointment with an experienced car accident attorney like Tatiana Boohoff and her team at Boohoff Law. Initial consultations are always free, confidential, and come with no obligation to move forward if you don’t want to. At the end of a consultation, you’ll usually have a sense of whether you have the right to seek compensation for your injuries and losses from other parties. That’s good information to have, regardless of what you decide to do.
Contact Boohoff Law today online or at (877) 999-9999 to schedule a time to meet with our team to discuss your legal rights after a car accident.