There are around seven million car accidents a year, though these range from minor fender benders to the forty thousand highway deaths that occur every year. Motor vehicle accidents typically have one or more of several common causes. This list includes driver error, medical emergencies, adverse weather conditions, vehicle defects, poor vehicle maintenance, animals, and roadway defects. Let’s look at each of these in greater detail.
The four biggest causes are drunk driving, drugged drivers, distracted drivers and drowsy driving. These situations are overwhelmingly the fault of the driver in that state. You were buzzed, and you didn’t choose to call a cab. You were in an altered state due to cannabis or too much cold medicine, but you should have known that it was dangerous to drive in that state. Police can detain you if they have reasonable suspicion that you’re drugged or drunk.
Medical emergencies are responsible for a number of accidents every year. For example, a diabetic may pass out unexpectedly and get in a wreck. The same thing can happen if you have a seizure while driving. You may bear personal responsibility if you are not managing the health condition or refused to accept driving restrictions because your condition made it dangerous for you to be on the road. However, no one is going to be punished for getting into an accident because they had a sudden heart attack.
Adverse Weather Conditions
You probably know when adverse weather contributed to an accident. The roads were wet from the rain, and it took longer than expected to come to a stop, so you crunched the bumper of the guy in front of you instead. There was a heavy fog, and you didn’t see the animal or the pedestrian in the road until it was too late. Note that you may bear some responsibility for the accident, if you didn’t modify your behavior to reflect the driving conditions. This means you need to slow down when the roads are slick, or visibility is poor.
Vehicle defects cause failures that are not the driver’s fault. The classic example is the Takata airbag recall. People died because their airbags didn’t deploy properly. It wasn’t their fault that the air bag failed to protect them. Manufacturing defects in tires that cause them to blow out and send someone spinning into a guard rail also fall into this category. A good car accident attorney will work with automotive experts to determine if the root cause of the failure is with the vehicle.
Poor Vehicle Maintenance
Poor vehicle maintenance is a term that applies to accidents that would have been prevented if the driver or vehicle owner had done proper maintenance. Driving on nearly bald tires falls into this category. Driving with brake pads that are making noise because they’re wearing down and you don’t want to pay for their replacement yet also falls into this category.
Note that the root cause of the accident may be the fault of a third party. For example, a truck driver may not know that the trucking company sent them out in a car that needed new brakes or had other structural problems.
Did you hit a deer? Did you hit a tree swerving to avoid hitting a cow in the road? These are accidents caused by animals. A surprising number of cases are a combination of animals and driver error, such as when you let your dog ride with you and they get in the way while you’re driving, causing an accident. The animal shouldn’t have been left free in vehicle.
Roadside defects range from deep potholes that caused you to lose control when you hit it to intersections laid out so that there was poor visibility from all sides. Few people have the expertise to identify when the root cause is a defect in the design of the road at that location or poor maintenance of the roadway. A personal injury attorney may be able to demonstrate this, if they’re aware of other accidents at that location.