Common Car Accidents by Vehicle Type
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If you’ve ever been in a car, truck, or motorcycle accident, you know that even minor, common car accidents can leave the victim frustrated and confused. In addition to the injuries, property damage, and medical treatment, there are a ton of questions around the auto accident laws and settlements when it comes to the type of vehicles involved in the crash. For example:
- Are motorcycle accident settlements usually larger than car accident settlements?
- If I was hurt in an accident on public transportation, whose insurance do I contact?
- If I was a passenger in an accident in an uber, lyft or other rideshare, do I contact the company’s insurance or the other drivers?
By far the most common motor vehicle accident is one car hitting another. These can be as harmless as a parking lot fender bender, but also claim more lives annually than strokes, diabetes, or Alzheimer’s disease. With over 36,000 fatalities in 2019 in the US alone, auto accidents are one of the most common causes of death in the US, and the most common for young adults.
Common causes of car accidents include:
Learn about common types of car accidents, average car accident settlements, and what to do if you’ve been in one.
Due to the sheer size and weight of semi-trucks, coupled with the fact that most truck accidents tend to take place on highways where everyone is driving fast, truck accidents can be among the most damaging and deadly.
As a result, commercial truck drivers need to meet special licensing requirements and carry additional insurance policies to drivers of standard cars. As a result of the size, speed, and additional insurance limits that are involved with semi-truck accidents, the settlement amounts tend to be a lot larger than the average car accident settlement.
Many commercial vehicle accidents cause serious injuries such as paralysis and dismemberment, and the fatality rate (number of accidents divided by number of deaths) is typically much higher in semi truck accidents than in car on car collisions.
Motorcycle drivers and their passengers are the most vulnerable motorists on the road. What would be a simple fender bender in a two car crash, can be deadly when there is a motorcycle involved. This is attributed to a few factors:
The lack of protection offered by the exterior frame of a car.
The relative high speeds motorcycle riders often travel at.
Lower visibility – It’s harder for other drivers on the road to see a motorcycle due to less mass, less light, etc.
If the motorcyclist is lucky enough to survive the accident, the risk of serious and permanent injury is much greater than most other motor vehicle accidents. Paralysis, loss of limbs, and permanent injuries are much more common in motorcycle accidents than in other motor vehicle accidents.
Multi Vehicle Accident
Sometimes known as a “x car pile up”, multi vehicle accidents typically occur when two cars collide, then stop or get pushed into other cars. On highways and busy roads, multi vehicle accidents can be deadly and cause thousands of dollars in property damage.
Usually the first crash in multi vehicle accidents are side impact collisions that cause a car to go into the next lane over, or rear end collisions where a driver runs a stop sign or red light because they weren’t paying attention.
Case results in multi-vehicle accidents can vary widely. It can be hard to place fault, and the extent of the damages and injuries can range from deadly to non-eventful in the same car accident. However, generally the first accident is the most serious and the initial at fault driver usually bears the brunt of the liability for the crash.
Due to the complex nature of calculating these types of car accident settlements, speaking with a personal injury attorney is recommended if you’re ever involved in a multi-car accident.
Public Transportation Accidents
When someone is injured in an accident on a public bus, train, or subway, personal injury laws in that state apply. Sometimes the fault is on the driver of the bus or train, and others it’s another driver on the road who is responsible for the damages.
It can be especially difficult to file a claim for these types of crashes, because of the bureaucratic nature of dealing with government entities. On the bright side, governments are usually solvent and well insured, so recouping a car accident settlement can be a little easier than dealing with a private individual and their insurance.
Examples of Public Transportation Accidents Include:
- A city bus hits a car with 3 people inside, causing serious injuries to the driver and minor injuries to the passengers.
- A subway car comes off the tracks, causing the subway car to flip over, killing 3 people and injuring 32 others.
- A commuter train hits a truck that got stuck on a railroad crossing, causing injuries to the driver and totaling his semi truck.
Bicycle Accident/Cyclist Hit By Car
Similar to motorcycle accidents, cyclists are incredibly vulnerable and unprotected when they are hit by a car. Even with top of the line helmets and safety gear, with over 5000 deaths and 70,000 injuries to cyclists & pedestrians hit by cars, according to the CDC. Many personal injury attorneys won’t take up cycling, as they’ve often seen devastating results of bicyclists being hit by cars.
Uber is a leading ride-sharing app used by passengers nationwide to get from one point to another. Unfortunately, many passengers are injured while riding in an Uber and may not know about their legal rights to compensation for their injuries.
One confusing aspect of these car accident settlements in who to file a claim with – is it against the driver, against uber, or do I contact my own insurance company? The answer depends somewhat on the circumstances, but since most uber and lyft drivers are classified as independent contractors operating their own vehicles, the liability falls with their auto insurers.
Passengers injured while taking a Lyft may have legal rights to compensation for their injuries. Similar to Uber accident settlements, Lyft drivers often carry their own insurance and are classified as independent contractors, so getting into an accident in a lyft vehicle is very similar to filing a car accident claim as a passenger.
Uber, Lyft, and other rideshare companies have been under fire, legally speaking for the past few years now about their decision to keep their drivers as contractors rather than employees. Most news coverage on this issue is focused on how the rideshare companies don’t want to pay benefits like health insurance or paid vacation to drivers, but another important factor is this: If they were to classify their drivers as employees, every car accident in a rideshare vehicle would be the responsibility of the company, whereas by keeping drivers as contractors they get to pass the buck to the driver, potentially saving millions in insurance costs annually.
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Often involving children, bicycle riders, and runners, pedestrian accidents are far too common. The increased usage of smartphones has caused more distracted driving, which in turn has resulted in more pedestrians being struck by distracted drivers.
While laws against texting and driving, drinking and driving, and better street lights all help save pedestrian lives, the burden of responsibility often lies on the pedestrian to keep themselves safe on the roads. Make sure to pay attention when walking or riding a bike, especially when crossing a street, and wear bright clothing if walking/riding at night.
While not technically a car accident, boating accidents are fairly common and fall under the same laws as do car, truck, and motorcycle accidents. In addition, due to the recreational nature of boating, there tend to be a higher percentage of boat accidents that involve drunk motorists.
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Frequently Asked Questions:
In short, yes. You as a passenger in the vehicle have the same right to sue for your injuries as the driver. But as the passenger, you cannot be found at fault for the accident. This situation can result in some uncomfortable negotiations; if the driver of the vehicle in which the passenger was riding caused the crash, the passenger may file a lawsuit against their own friend or relative in most states. But you should remember that usually any settlement or pay out will come from the driver’s insurance policy and not from their own funds.
In 2006, more than 60,000 pedestrians were hurt in car accidents. Hitting a pedestrian at more than 30 miles per hour can cause fatal injuries, but it also is possible to severely injure a pedestrian traveling at only 10 miles per hour.
If the driver is at least partially responsible for the accident with the pedestrian, he or she can be sued in most states. If the pedestrian was partially responsible for the crash, they still can file a personal injury lawsuit and recover damages in most states. However, some states will reduce the amount of the award the pedestrian can recover based upon their degree of fault for the crash.
In legal terms, boating accidents are considered the same as motor vehicle accidents in most states. Even though boats are on the water, many of the things that lead to deaths on the roads occur with boats as well. The US Coast Guard reported in 2013 that the most common cause of death in boating accidents was simply inattention. The most common cause of driver deaths on the road is distracted driving. On the water, there may be a tendency to think there is no need to watch as closely as on the roads; after all, there is much more space typically between boats on the open water compared to cars on the road. But boats can close rapidly on one another, and hitting immobile objects with a boat is also very common.
Another very common cause of boating and car accidents is drinking. Drinking and boating is treated the same as drinking and driving. You can receive the same punishments on the water as on the road. And if you injure or kill someone due to drinking alcohol in a boat, you can do jail time and also be sued.
As with most car accidents with damages and injury, you are required to file an accident report for any accident in a boat where there was an injury, death or property damage.
There is no question that motorcycles are much more dangerous than cars. Motorcycles are only 3% of the registered vehicles in the country, but they account for a large chunk of serious and fatal accident injuries. Motorcycles are much more likely to be involved in fatal crashes. A higher percentage of motorcycle accidents are caused by drunk driving, too.
The NHTSA reports that 13 cars out of 100,000 are in fatal crashes, while 72 motorcycles out of 100,000 are involved in fatal accidents. Also, for every mile traveled, motorcyclists have a risk of a fatal crash that is 35 times higher than a car driver. In 2004, there were 37,000 people killed in car accidents and 4,000 killed in motorcycle accidents. But remember that motorcycles are only 3% of registered vehicles on the roads.
Distracted driving is the most common cause of car accidents, with the National Safety Council stating that 25% of car accidents involve cell phone use. The most common cause of motorcycle accidents is cars making a left hand turn without giving right of way. About 42% of all car accidents involving a motorcycle are due to a car turning left. Lane splitting is also a common cause of motorcycle accidents. This practice is not legal in all states; you should check the laws in yours.
A typical passenger vehicle weighs 3,000 pounds while pickup trucks tend to weigh well over 4,000 pounds. Accidents tend to happen in both types of vehicles in roughly the same amounts each year, but there are some differences.
First, as pickup trucks usually weigh more than cars, there may be fewer serious injuries with pickups simply because they are heavier.
However, it should be noted that pickup trucks usually have a higher center of gravity so they can tend to roll in an accident. Vehicles that are taller will always have a greater chance of rolling. Rollovers can lead to very serious and fatal accidents because there is a higher chance of an occupant being ejected from the vehicle.
Another common difference with pickup truck accidents is that many of them are used by companies to do various outdoor work. Generally speaking, pickup trucks are more likely to get into accidents with bikers and pedestrians.
If you think that small cars are more dangerous in accidents, you are right. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the seven most unsafe models were classified as small cars or mini-cars. This data verifies the logical conclusion that smaller cars fare worst in serious crashes. But the data also shows a very large gap in fatalities between the smallest and largest vehicles on our roads.
IIHS date shows these small vehicles are the most dangerous on the roads today:
- Hyundai Accent
- Kia Rio
- Scion tC
- Chevrolet Spark
- Nissan Versa
- Ford Fiesta
- Kia Soul
The data shows that four door minicars had a rate fatality rate of 87 per million registered vehicle years, versus six for the lowest fatality category which was large luxury SUVs. That means minicars with four doors have a 15 times higher risk of fatalities. The seven worst vehicles listed above had more than 100 driver fatalities per million registered vehicle years.
While they are relatively rare, the head on collision is the type of accident with the most fatalities. Data indicates that head on accidents account for 54% of all traffic deaths, as of 2015, but they are only 2% of all crashes. The reason is that both cars are traveling at speed in opposite directions so, the impact forces are doubled. If both cars are going 45 MPH, the impact speed is 90 MPH. This is enough force to cause serious and usually fatal injuries.
However, rollover accidents also cause a high number of injuries and are more common than head on crashes. Rollovers account for 1/3 of all road deaths in the US. This could be because more people are ejected from the vehicle in a rollover. Being thrown from the vehicle either through the windshield or a side window nearly always results in grave injury or death.
Current statistics show the most common causes of car accidents are:
- Distracted driving: Driver distraction is the most common cause of car accidents. Distraction can be caused by many things – cell phone use, drinking, eating, talking to passengers, intoxication, fatigue and others. Thousands of people die due to driver distraction every year.
- Speeding: Driving above the speed limit has been shown repeatedly to kill. Speed limits are set to save lives. When people go faster, very serious accidents can occur. Also, speed limits are set for ideal conditions. It is common for drivers to drive too fast for conditions, such as darkness or poor weather. Driving at the theoretical speed limit in bad weather can be just as dangerous as driving well over the speed limit.
- Drunk driving: Approximately 10,000 people are killed every year from drunk driving. When you drink even a single drink, you lose your ability to focus on tasks, and it becomes more difficult to handle the various complex tasks required to drive safely. While the legal limit for most states is .08% BAC, it is dangerous to drive with any amount of alcohol in your system.
- Reckless driving: This can be a variety of dangerous driving actions, from changing lanes too fast, to speeding, to tailgating.
- Rain: Driving too fast for conditions is a common cause of accidents, and rain is a common reason. When the road is wet, it takes longer to stop. It is important to always slow down when the road is wet. It also is dangerous to drive too fast when the road is wet because of the danger of hydroplaning. In this situation, the rubber of the tire briefly loses contact with the road. This can lead to a spin out and complete loss of vehicle control.
In addition to rear end, single vehicle and side impact collisions, these are other types of common road traffic accidents:
- Vehicle rollover: These are extremely dangerous and frightening accidents. They occur when the vehicle flips onto the roof or side in an accident. Any type of vehicle can roll over, but SUVs are most vulnerable due to their higher center of gravity. Rollovers can occur when taking a turn at too high of a speed. These accidents can cause vehicle ejections, spinal cord injuries, head trauma and death.
- Head on crash: These very serious accidents often occur when a driver goes the wrong way on a highway at night. Head on crashes also are often caused by intoxicated drivers. Another common scenario is where a driver on a two lane road loses control of the vehicle due to distraction, fatigue or intoxication and crosses the yellow line into oncoming traffic.
- Hit and run: This is an accident where the driver hits another car or person and leaves the accident scene before the police arrive. All states require drivers involved in an accident with property damage or injury to stay at the scene until the police arrive. If there is serious injury, the driver is required to stay and render aid.
- Pile ups: This is a multiple vehicle crash that often occurs on busy highways. A common cause is a traffic jam caused by construction, bad weather or another accident. One driver does not slow down and rear ends another vehicle stopped ahead. This can cause a pile up with serious and fatal injuries.
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration reports the most common type of car accident is the rear end collision. The agency states this type of crash accounts for 30% of all car accidents. The NHTSA found in a 2007 study that drivers in rear end accidents are often engaged in activities that take their attention from their driving. Also, 64% of people in rear end crashes were not looking at the roadway when the crash happened.
Another common type of car crash is the side impact crash. The NHTSA stated in 2009 that these accidents were 27% of all accident deaths in America. These accidents include the classic T bone collision that happens when one driver does not stop at an intersection where the other has the right of way. These accidents are more likely to be fatal because the sides of cars and trucks do not have the same amount of energy absorption potential as the front and rear of vehicles.
The third most common type of car accident is the single vehicle crash that can happen for a variety of reasons. This accident is especially common for teen drivers. Common reasons include running off the road due to fatigue or distraction, slipping on ice and hitting stationary objects.
BMW models topped the list of cars most likely to have reported damage in 2017, according to Wikilender. The 4 series was the most common car involved with accidents, with 18.5% of all 4 series cars on the road having been damaged in 2017. A close second was the BMW X1, with an even 18% of all cars being damaged.
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