The Most Common Cause of Collisions

Traffic accidents occur every single day throughout the country. In fact, according to 2017 statistics provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 7,500 people are injured in traffic accidents across the U.S. each day. Most of them have a single, common cause, but it isn’t what most people would guess. Consider the following four scenarios to discover the cause:

  1. In the early morning hours, a young woman is driving home from her night shift job when her vehicle is struck head-on by a pickup truck traveling the wrong way on the road. The woman suffers severe injuries and is transported to the hospital by ambulance. The 28-year-old man driving the pickup is found to have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of nearly twice the legal limit. He is arrested for DWI and transported to jail.
  2. Later that morning, a man is growing frustrated while driving to work. He has already encountered a work zone that tied up traffic for a while, and he feels like he is hitting every red light on his route. He is trying to make up time by driving a bit faster than the speed limit. Because he is speeding, he doesn’t have the time he needs to see a car pulling out from a side road and to respond by slowing down. He hits the car, causing injuries to both of the occupants inside. When officers arrive, he makes the argument that he had the right-of-way. The officer gives one driver a ticket for speeding and the other driver gets a citation for failing to yield the right-of-way.
  3. In the afternoon, shortly after school lets out, a 17-year-old student is driving home with two friends. She has the stereo turned up, and everyone’s cell phones are out. Texts are being sent, selfies are being taken, and social media posts are being made. With all of the distractions taking place inside of her car, the young driver fails to realize that the light at the intersection has turned red and the car in front of her has stopped. She rear-ends the car, causing the driver inside to sustain injuries.
  4. That night, a commercial truck driver is two hours away from both his destination and his permitted number of hours to drive per day, in accordance with federal regulations. He is exhausted and ready for a couple of days off. He doesn’t even realize that microsleep—that is, extremely brief bouts of unconsciousness—has overtaken him until he crashes into the vehicle in front of him.

Inattentiveness is the most common contributing factor in American motor vehicle collisions in each of the incidents listed. While inattentiveness is the leading cause of motor vehicle crashes, there are other major contributors as well.

By and large, inattentiveness includes distracted driving, texting and driving, rubber-necking, fatigue, and many other kinds of multi-tasking. Any activity that takes your attention away from the roadway causes inattention. Many of us have been inattentive at one time or the other, but it becomes really problematic if you are in a crash due to inattentiveness.

Alcohol impairment is a factor in nearly 10,000 crashes in the United States each year, as is speeding. Driving while under the influence is not considered inattentiveness. Climbing behind the wheel after one has been drinking alcohol is just negligent as we have all been made aware of dangers of driving impaired. As well, speeding is not considered inattentiveness.

Distracted driving is reported as resulting in the deaths of 3,166 people in 2017 and is frequently listed as the common cause of car crashes. Distracted driving is a form of inattentiveness. Distracted driving tends to refer to a driver’s use of smart phones while they drive including texting and attending to social media. Fatigued driving continues to be an issue that contributes to far too many crashes for both passenger vehicle drivers and truck drivers. Federal regulations have been instituted to combat fatigued driving for commercial carriers, but continues to be a problem. Often, it is difficult to measure and detect fatigued drivers as the driver is extremely alert after a collision or near-crash.

All of these specific driving behaviors are the result of one thing: negligence. Too often, that comes down to someone failing to pay attention to the task of driving, their surroundings, or failure to be rested when driving. A transportation company’s failure to maintain and inspect vehicles is a violation of federal regulations and subsequently, negligent. As well drunk driving is not due to inattention but are clear decisions to endanger one’s self and other drivers.

What Is Liability?

Liability is a fancy word for “fault”. The facts of the crash determine liability. Police officers at a crash site may talk about the causes of the crash and may clearly say it is one driver’s fault. However, ultimately, an officer cannot determine fault. The officers make a record of the crash and issue tickets or citations such as “failure to yield”, but you will never see the statement in the report by the officers stating the crash was the “fault” of driver A or driver B.

What Is Negligence?

Negligence is defined as a failure to behave with the level of care that someone of ordinary prudence would have exercised under the same circumstances. While this behavior generally involves actions, it can also involve a failure to act. Negligence is also commonly referred to as a breach in the duty of care.

Proving fault or liability is one of the keys to a successful personal injury suit.

If You Were Injured By a Negligent Driver

In Missouri, those injured due to someone else’s negligence have two different avenues to obtain compensation to pay for their damages. The first option is to file a third-party claim with the at-fault party’s insurance as soon as possible after an accident occurs. While this is the generally accepted first step in obtaining compensation, it is often not something to undertake alone without an attorney. Insurance companies are in the business of making money, and one of the ways that they do this is by paying out as little as possible.

Although insurance companies are required to receive and respond to claims that are made against their policyholders, it is not unusual for insurance companies to look for reasons why they should not pay out on those claims, or to offer fast and low settlements that don’t take into account the complete picture of the injuries that were sustained or the expenses that the injured party faces in the future.

An experienced personal injury lawyer is of great benefit in helping injured individuals obtain a fair settlement through a third-party insurance claim. One of the first things your lawyer will do is gather documents and information from you pertaining to the expenses you’ve incurred for the treatment of your injuries, the emotional distress that you’re dealing regarding your accident, any time you’ve missed from work, and other details that will help establish the value of your case.

The most important factor after a car collision that most people do not consider is future medical treatment. If your crash occurred a month ago, you are still healing and you are not absolutely sure of the needed medical treatment you will require in the future. Your doctors may not know the extent yet, so discussing numbers with an insurance company at this point is very premature. How can you negotiate the unknown? You cannot. But an insurance company will happily settle with you before you have time to find out what is really wrong. Once you settle, you are forever barred from making a further claim.

The value of your case is the amount of compensation you need to fairly deal with the expenses and issues you face because of your injuries. Your attorney needs all the information when calculating this value, as obtaining a fair settlement is generally a one-shot deal. If you agree to the settlement on your own or through an attorney that ends up being unsatisfactory, you are forever barred from making any future claims no matter your injury or expenses. Hence, it is critical that your claim/case be handled correctly the first and only time.

If you are the victim of a drunk driving crash, your attorney may want to investigate all possible liability sources in addition to the drunk driver’s insurance carrier. In the event of serious injury due to another driver under the influence, your attorney may be looking to see where the driver acquired the liquor.

If the driver was over-served at a bar, restaurant, liquor store or another establishment in which the server knew that he or she was already drunk, the establishment could also face liability for providing too much alcohol. This area of law is called Dram shop law. These cases are not nearly as easy to prove as they may sound. While you may know deep in your heart that the drunk driver that hit you got drunk at a particular bar, it is another complicated issue to prove that one particular server or staff group knew they were overserving a customer. Most often, you will absolutely have to have an attorney work on this aspect in your behalf.

Once your damages and medical experts can expertly indicate your future treatment and all sources of liability have been established, your personal injury attorney will begin negotiating with the at-fault party’s insurance company. These negotiations will involve presenting evidence that backs up your claims.

What Happens If the Insurance Company Doesn’t Offer a Fair Settlement?

If the insurance company fails or refuses to offer a fair settlement for your case, you still have another option for obtaining compensation: a personal injury lawsuit. Generally, you must file personal injury lawsuits in Missouri within five years from the date of your accident. There are exceptions to the statute of limitations, however. Some of those exceptions include:

  • Lawsuits filed against a governmental entity follow a slightly different process and often require claims to be formally filed with the entity within 90 days.
  • Lawsuits filed by victims who were under 21 or incapacitated at the time of the injury have five years from the time that they reach the age of majority or are declared legally competent to file an action.

Your attorney can advise you if there are any statute of limitation exceptions in your case. The types of damages that you may recover from this type of lawsuit in Missouri include both economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages are those that come with specific costs. Some examples of economic damages are:

  • Past and future medical expenses to treat accident-related injuries
  • Lost wages and loss of future earning capacity. Lost wages are any form of income that the victim was unable to earn due to his or her injuries.
  • Damage to the injured party’s car or other property

Missouri personal injury law also allows victims to claim non-economic damages, also known as general damages or pain and suffering damages. This type of compensation is harder to quantify, as there is no hard-set cost for emotional distress. Some of the factors that an attorney considers when establishing the value of a case and that a jury considers when attempting to determine a fair award for non-economic damages include:

  • How much have the injuries caused the victim’s daily routine to be limited or altered?
  • How much does the injury impact the victim’s ability to sleep or to perform other lifestyle tasks?
  • How does the injury impact the victim’s social and working relationships?
  • How are the injuries going to impact the victim’s lifestyle long-term?

How Long Do Negligence Cases Take to Resolve?

It is impossible to say precisely how long any personal injury case will last. It could last for weeks; it could last for years depending on how the crash occurred and injuries sustained. Each case involves:

  • Hiring an attorney as soon as possible. While it may be tempting to attempt to resolve your case without the benefit of an attorney’s guidance, if you have injuries beyond an initial ER visit, it really is in your best interest to speak to an attorney.
  • Time for the attorney to investigate your case, review documentation of your injuries and prognosis, establish a value for your case, and gather documents and witness testimony to support your claims.
  • The attorney will submit a demand letter to the appropriate insurance companies. This begins the back-and-forth settlement negotiation process.
  • Depending on the unique case and timeline, your attorney may file a lawsuit on your behalf. Motions and other arguments will be heard before a jury is selected to hear the case. A settlement may still be reached after the lawsuit has been filed.
  • Jury selection, litigation, and a verdict. Any award you obtain is subject to the possibility of the defendant’s appeal. If the defendant appeals the verdict, your case will be heard again at the appellate level.
  • After any appeals are heard and a settlement or award is reached, your attorney will begin the process of collecting your award.

A general rule is that more complex cases involving a greater amount of damages and severe injuries may take longer to resolve. Factors such as the caseload at the courthouse where your suit is filed, the defendant’s willingness to settle, and negotiations required can all influence the time your case will take. There is not a standard timeline for all cases as each one is unique as are individuals. Developing a relationship with each client to guide them through the often-complicated process is what we do. Your attorney should keep you informed throughout the process as to what is happening in your case.

Liability is the foundation on which all collision claims are based. If you were injured in an accident due to someone else’s negligence, speaking with a motor vehicle accident lawyer can provide answers to your legal questions.

Contact Us Today

The Cagle Law Firm serves accident and injury clients throughout St. Louis and the greater St. Louis metropolitan area, including the eastern Missouri and southern Illinois communities. If you or a loved one needs legal assistance with your personal injury case, call The Cagle Law Firm at (314) 276-1681 or use our online contact form to schedule a free consultation.

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