Investigating the cause of a car accident is an important step in determining who was at fault for it. Unfortunately, nearly all car accidents are preventable, and the majority of accidents in the U.S. result from driver errors. Certain other factors cause some accidents, however, which can shape the process of proving liability. Many accidents result from more than one cause, so several people and entities may be involved in the case. A thorough investigation can help you determine whom to sue and assess any liability of your own.
People make mistakes, and some of those mistakes can cause devastating injuries or even death to victims. Historically, the most publicized type of driver error has been drunk driving, which is responsible for more fatal crashes in the U.S. than any other cause. Anyone who consumes alcohol and then gets behind the wheel can expect to suffer from reduced reaction time and alertness as well as impaired vision and cognitive abilities. Drugged driving has received less publicity but has similar effects. It is important to be aware that, even if a driver is not charged with and convicted of DUI following a crash, you still might be able to hold them liable for your injuries. Civil cases use a much lesser standard of proof and contain different elements from criminal cases.
Studies in recent years have reported that distracted driving may have overtaken drunk driving as the leading cause of accidents overall. The most familiar form of distracted driving involves cell phone use behind the wheel, but this is not the only distraction. Drivers also can get distracted by using the GPS or radio, eating or drinking behind the wheel, rubbernecking at roadside sights, or arguing with passengers, among other causes. Trying to handle other tasks while you are driving has an impact comparable to drunk driving, reducing reaction time and concentration. Hazards can arise suddenly on the road, and even the few seconds that it takes to check your phone or take a bite from a sandwich can make the difference between a safe evasive maneuver and a high-speed collision.
Other Types of Driver Errors
Another common but dangerous behavior behind the wheel is speeding. Many people speed routinely, confident in their ability to handle a car. This is especially true of young drivers, who are less experienced and thus more likely to cause a crash. Drivers sometimes do not adjust their speed to poor weather or road conditions, which may require driving at a speed below the posted limit.
Also, drivers need to leave enough room from the car in front of them to avoid a rear-end collision, a common type of car accident. Some people succumb to road rage behind the wheel or engage in forms of aggressive driving like tailgating. This can cause avoidable high-speed crashes.
According to the NHTSA, even a driver who falls asleep for just a few seconds while driving at 55 mph may travel more than 100 yards.
Some people make the mistake of getting behind the wheel when they are too tired to drive. Fatigue plays a major role in accidents involving trucks and other commercial vehicles, which operate according to strict deadlines. Ordinary drivers of passenger cars can make this mistake as well, however, overestimating their ability to stay awake and concentrate. Driver fatigue can make it harder to promptly notice hazards or traffic control devices.
If a car contains a defect or a defective component, this may result in a malfunction that causes a crash. In this case, the manufacturer and other entities in the chain of distribution of the vehicle or the component may be held liable. A victim could bring a products liability claim against them, which involves elements distinct from an ordinary car accident case.
Inadequate maintenance of a road may cause a crash. People who are injured as a result of a road hazard might consider suing the entity responsible for construction or maintenance, as well as the owner of the road. These cases may involve shortened deadlines and complex procedural rules. Similar to auto defect claims, they probably benefit from the assistance of an attorney.
Poor weather conditions may work in tandem with another safety concern, such as speeding, to result in a crash.
A crash involving snow, ice, heavy rain, fog, or other adverse weather conditions may seem unavoidable, such that nobody was at fault. This is not necessarily true. If a driver failed to reduce their speed in poor weather conditions, for example, they may be found negligent and liable for a resulting crash. Or perhaps a vehicle safety component failed to function properly in response to a weather hazard, which might mean that its manufacturer could be sued. You should not assume that nobody was at fault until a crash is thoroughly investigated.