Types of Car Accidents Handled by a California Personal Injury Lawyer

Car accidents can occur in various kinds of situations. They could happen in bumper to bumper traffic, driving on a mostly empty street, crossing an intersection, in a parking area, in a pleasant neighborhood – the scenarios are numerous.

How an automobile collides with another automobile, objects, or even pedestrians will impact the injuries that may result from it. In order to reduce the risk of being involved in an auto accident, it is vital to have an understanding of some of the common types of car accidents.

Rear-End Collision

A rear-end collision refers to an auto accident that takes place when one vehicle crashes into another one in front of it. A rear-ending could occur due to sudden braking or deceleration by the car in the front, or when the car behind accelerates faster than the one in front of it. Occupants of the impacted automobile will typically suffer much worse injuries. Rear-end collisions are more common in towns and cities with stop and go traffic, but they may sometimes also occur on highways and freeways.

One of the typical injuries occurring in a rear-impact collision is whiplash. This may occur even when the accident takes place at a moderate speed. The driver of the vehicle that rear-ends the vehicle in front would usually be considered to be at fault because of failure to maintain safe distance or following the vehicle in front too closely, or simply not paying the required attention.

However, not every rear-ending may entirely be the fault of the following driver. One of the exceptional situations could be when the impacted car is operating in reverse gear. Another situation could be if the driver in front all of sudden enters the lane of the rear driver, cutting off the rear vehicle. Similarly, if the brake lights or tail lights of the car in front are not working properly, making it hard for the following driver to comprehend its operation or intention, the driver in front could be responsible for a rear-impact collision.

Injuries in a rear-end collision can range from whiplash, back and neck pain, rotator cuff tears, spinal disc injuries, and other severe injuries or even death in some cases.

Side-Impact Collision

A side-impact collision, also called a broadside accident or a T-bone collision may occur when the rear or front of an automobile or a fixed object impacts the side of another automobile. Occupants on the side of the car struck will usually sustain more severe injuries that they typically would in a rear or front-end crash.

T-bone collisions occur more commonly at intersections when a driver fails to stop at a traffic light or a stop sign, or otherwise fails to give the other driver the right-of-way. Broadside accidents are more likely to result in severe injuries. The driver as well as the passengers may suffer from broken limbs, spinal fractures, or brain injuries in such accidents.

Crash Car Accident

One of the reasons why a side-impact collision leads to more severe injuries is that the automobiles are often knocked off course, resulting in a second collision. The vehicle that has been broadsided could be pushed sideways toward the oncoming traffic or toward the roadside. The force of the collision may also cause the striking automobile to spin in the direction that the other car was moving.

As the automobile goes off course, it increases the risk of additional trauma and collisions, such as crashing into telephone poles, guardrails, and other automobiles. Depending on the force of the collision, the broadsided car may completely roll over, particularly if it’s pushed onto a sloping road or down an embankment.

The proximity between the driver or passenger of the broadsided car and the point of impact may not be much in T-bone collisions. This increases the chances of severe injuries. On the other hand, rear-end or head-on collisions have a considerable distance between the occupants and the rear and front bumpers of the vehicle, which offers more protection than in the case of a side-impact collision.

Many new automobiles now include crumple zones to absorb side impact and may also have side-impact air bags, but when a fast moving vehicle hits close enough to where the broadsided vehicle’s occupants are seated, the risk of severe injuries is still high.

Sideswipe Collision

A sideswipe collision may take place when the sides of two parallel moving cars swipe or touch each other. If both cars are moving in the same direction, while both drivers manage to control their vehicles during the sideswipe, only cosmetic damage to the cars may occur.

A sideswipe accident could typically occur when a driver changes the lane without first ensuring that there is no other vehicle already in the other lane. In another situation, a driver could mindlessly drift into another lane because of not paying adequate attention. The errant driver could be talking to a passenger, using the phone or an iPod, dealing with a child in the backseat, may be intoxicated, or simply too fatigued to be driving at all.

Woman Smarthphone Car

Sideswipe collisions may also occur where two lanes are merging. If the driver fails to ensure that there is sufficient space to merge safely, or if another driver swiftly changes speed and occupies that space, an accident could occur.

Sideswipe collisions can result in severe injuries. Vehicles typically provide maximum protection against rear-end and head-on collisions. But in case of sideswipe collisions, the space between the vehicle’s occupants and the side of the vehicle where the impact occurs is very little. Furthermore, a sideswipe accident could lead to a second collision with another car, tree, light post, concrete barrier, guardrail, or a road sign.

Vehicle Rollover

A vehicle rollover accident may take place when an automobile flips over onto its roof or side. Rollovers usually occur when a vehicle takes a sharp turn at a high speed. While a rollover accident may happen in any vehicle, SUVs are usually at a higher risk because of their greater height and a higher center of gravity. When this gets combined with speeding, the vehicle rollover risk increases. The fatality rate in rollovers is higher than that of other types of auto accidents.

Vehicle rollovers are categorized as tripped and untripped accidents. A tripped rollover occurs due to the force of an external object, such as an impact with another vehicle or a curb. An untripped rollover may be the result of speeding, steering input, and ground friction. In this type of a rollover, the vehicle gets destabilized due to cornering forces. As an automobile rounds a corner, the tire’s cornering forces push it towards the center of the curve.

In comparison to rear, front, or side car crashes, vehicle rollovers are more dangerous for the vehicle’s occupants. The reason is that in average passenger cars, the roof is more likely to collapse in towards the car’s occupants, causing serious head injuries. Vehicles would be safer if roll cages were installed, but the difficulty is that their use in most types of passenger cars would cut passenger and cargo space to such an extent that their use would become impractical.

Head-on Collision Car Accident Highway

A head-on collision may take place when the front ends of two automobiles hit each other. Head-on collisions are among the more dangerous auto accidents because the impact becomes double due to the opposing speeds of both vehicles. As a result, even a relatively slower head-on car accident with each vehicle traveling at 30 mph will cause a double impact equivalent to the force hitting a tree at 60 mph. As many people tend to drive at higher speeds, chances are that a head-on collision may result in an impact of 70 to 80 mph on average.

Head-on collisions are more likely to take place when one of the drivers due to lack of attention, or possibly, intoxication, drifts to the oncoming lane, causing a head-on collision. This type of auto accident can also occur when a driver tries to make a left turn across traffic without paying heed to the oncoming car. The risk of a head-on collision increases when the weather is inclement (snow or ice).

Car Collision Crash

A significant number of fatalities in auto accidents occur due to head-on collisions. As per some reports, head-on collisions account for 10 percent of all automobile accident deaths in the country, while accounting for only two percent of all auto accidents.

Serious injuries occurring due to head-on accidents may include head injuries, broken bones, burns, or scarring. Fractures that may commonly occur in these accidents include leg fractures, pelvic fractures, and foot and ankle fractures. Elbow and wrist injuries may also occur for the driver, depending on the position of the arms on the steering wheel.

Unlike rear-end accidents where the passenger may be saved from a severe injury because of the backseat and headrest, in head-on collisions, the passenger may get thrown forward into the seatbelt, airbag, or the windshield (if not wearing a seat belt). In this type of an accident, airbags almost always deploy, which could lead to additional injuries to the face, eyes, and ears.

Seat belts in head-on collisions can restrict the occupants of the vehicle with extreme force, leading to injuries in the form of fractures, bruises, hematomas, and punctured lungs.

Multi-Vehicle Pile-Up

Multi-vehicle collisions or multi-vehicle pile-ups refer to accidents that involve many vehicles. These accidents typically take place on highways or freeways. The automobiles involved in the pile up may be hit several times, increasing the injury risk of the occupants. Vehicles might spin during such a pie-up and get hit from the sides. Multi-vehicle pile-ups are particularly dangerous because of the large mass of crumpled vehicles can make it difficult for the survivors to escape.

Sometimes the survivors may manage to exit the cars, and get struck by other vehicles. The vehicle in a multiple vehicle pile-up could be hit a second time at high speed. This increases the injury risks of occupants who might have survived the first collision due to the (now-discharged) airbags. Second collisions after the first one might happen from the side, where the occupants are more vulnerable.

If a fire occurs in one part of the multi-vehicle collision, it can rapidly engulf the entire crash site due to spilled gasoline. These large accidents can overwhelm rescue services such as ambulance, police and firefighters, making quick rescues more challenging. If the pile-up occurs in a remote location, getting emergency medical aid to the site can be difficult.

The intense heat generated by a fire in such accidents can burn and melt the asphalt road or damage concrete surface. The fire can also weaken the structural steel of an overpass or a bridge. A fiery multi-vehicle pile-up inside a tunnel can be most dangerous because there is little room to escape the heat and poisonous fumes.

Multiple vehicle pile-ups often occur in conditions of low visibility on highways because the drivers may get perilously close to the automobile in the front and not get a chance to adjust to the road condition. These crashes may even occur when the visibility is good, but the drivers encounter unexpected hazards on the road.

If two cars hit each other, the high volume of traffic on the road may force the cars behind to brake and skid. As a result, the cars could dart into other lanes as well as against oncoming traffic. A chain reaction of collisions is set off as more automobiles become involved.

Hit and Run Accident

A hit and run accident is generally defined as being involved in an auto accident (with another car, a pedestrian, or a fixed object), and leaving the scene after the accident without waiting to identify yourself or providing help to another person who may require assistance. When the at-fault driver chooses to flee from the accident site without waiting to inform the police or speak to the other driver, it is said to be a hit and run accident.

A common example of a hit and run would be a vehicle hitting another and speeding away or a driver hitting a parked vehicle and driving off without leaving any contact information. Some of the reasons why a driver might run from an auto accident may include:

  • The driver is uninsured
  • The driver is intoxicated
  • The vehicle is stolen
  • The driver simply panics and escapes from the scene

If you are caught in a hit and run accident, you may take the following steps if you are feeling physically and mentally fit to do so. Make a call to the police and inform the specific facts of the accident without speculating. Provide all possible identifying information about the other vehicle and its driver that you may be able to recall.

Such identifying information could include the vehicle color, make, model, and a partial license plate. If possible, take photographs of the scene of accident and look for eyewitnesses who might be able to corroborate your version of the accident. Get yourself medically checked by a doctor and contact an experienced auto accident attorney such as Edward A. Smith Law Offices.

In a hit and run accident, the best case scenario would be that the police manage to find the at-fault driver. In such a case, you may proceed with your personal injury claim just like any other auto accident claim. However, if the at-fault driver cannot be found after a hit and run accident, you may still be able to proceed with a claim of bodily injury through the uninsured motorist coverage (if your policy includes this coverage).

Wrong Way Accident

A wrong way auto accident is almost always serious. It is not difficult to see why. Any two automobiles operating at a moderate to high speed will typically have little reaction time before the impact. The resulting collision will create a major impact force and cause significant intrusion into both involved automobiles. Wrong way accidents often result in catastrophic injury and death.

A common cause of wrong way auto accidents is drivers who are intoxicated. However, this is not the only cause. Improper or missing signage, thick vegetation that obscures signage, poor lighting, road construction that changes regular traffic flow, distracted drivers, and drivers who are unfamiliar with a roadway can all be the cause of a wrong way car accident. These causes may sometimes combine to result in a deadly wrong way accident.

Sacramento Car Accident & Personal Injury Attorney

I’m Ed Smith, a Sacramento Personal Injury Lawyer. If you've been injured in an accident, call me for free, friendly advice at 916.921.6400 or (800) 404-5400.

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