Auto Accident Attorney
Of all the causes of serious injury and death, car accidents are among the most frequent. Though not every DC auto accident is serious, victims who experience major injuries or property damage can find themselves stuck in a lengthy process before they can receive compensation. In these cases, the involvement of an attorney can speed things along, increase the award, and even increase the odds of recovery.
Car Accident Negligence
Few car accidents are caused by vehicle malfunction. The technology packed into today’s vehicles, from the tires to the on-board computers to the airbags and seat belts make driving safer than ever, and increase the odds of surviving an accident with minimal or no injuries. Unfortunately, advances in vehicle technology cannot yet remove the main cause of car accidents: driver negligence.
Distracted drivers will look at cell phones or chase a runaway French fry rather than watching the road. Late drivers don’t think they have time to stop for red lights. Angry drivers are sometimes more concerned about the cars that just cut them off than they are with the cars right next to them. All these contribute to the volume of car accident cases flooding the judicial system. In each case, the alleged offending driver is judged according to negligence principles, where a judge or jury will decide what reasonable care any normally prudent person would have taken in his place.
Reasonable care can be defined both by what a driver did, but shouldn’t have done, as well as by what a driver didn’t do, but should have. Thus, if a reasonably prudent person would have stopped instead of driving through a red light, the driver can be found negligent. Similarly, if a reasonably prudent person would not have been traveling at 20 miles per hour over the speed limit on a rainy day, a driver who loses control of his vehicle can also be found negligent.
DC Auto Accidents come in many forms, but there are a few that show up again and again:
Driver Negligence or Error
Whether it’s caused by a disregard for the laws of the road or by a driver thinking of something else, these types of accidents are usually avoidable through driver education and diligence.
- Ignoring traffic control devices
- Failure to yield the right of way
- Following too closely
- Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
Even drivers who know all the rules and normally drive safely can cause an accident if they allow themselves to become distracted by something besides driving:
- Cell phones, including texting, web surfing, etc
- Applying make-up
- Changing the settings on the radio, heater, etc
- Attractions along the road (i.e., ironically, accident scenes)
Poor Vehicle Maintenance
Whether a family car runs out of oil and the engine freezes or a company-owned vehicle’s brakes go out, any failure of an essential part of a vehicle can spell accident disaster. Drivers should be aware of and hold themselves responsible to ensure that each part of their vehicle is functioning properly before driving. It is poor comfort after an accident to be able to yell at someone else who was in charge of maintaining the vehicle.
Road Defect or Poorly Designed Roadway
Some DC auto accidents are not entirely the fault of drivers, but can be caused by conditions or designs of the road itself. Because these are so common, the careful driver can learn to watch for and adapt to the following:
- Poorly designed roadways
- Inadequate traffic control devices
- Construction or debris on the road
- Poor roadway maintenance
Automobile Product Liability Accidents
Some accidents are caused – or made worse – by a manufacturing defect in one or more of the many parts that make up the automobile. These cases are litigated as products liability cases. Products liability covers design flaws, unusual failures in the mechanics of the vehicle, and flaws that compromise the operation and structural integrity of the vehicle.
Products liability cases that can cause accidents include tires that blow out, well-maintained brakes that fail, and a steering systems that stop working properly. Most commonly, however, manufacturing defects don’t cause the accident, but increase the severity of the injuries, such as in the following examples:
- Accident rollovers caused by an SUV’s high center of gravity.
- Gas tank ignition caused by poorly protected gas tanks.
- Airbag that fail to deploy.
- Seat-belt and other restraint system failures.
Combined Fault – Shared Accident Responsibility
Some accidents are caused by a storm of combining factors, such as poor roadways, vehicle defects, and multiple distracted drivers.
When two or more negligent drivers are involved in a single accident – as is often the case in a multiple-car accident – the laws of different states will have a tremendous effect on whether either driver is allowed to recover compensation from the other.
Some state laws hold that any driver who is at all at fault in an accident cannot recover anything from the other driver, even if the other driver is 95% at fault. Other states require the drivers to pay for their portion of the accident, in accordance with the percentage of fault they are responsible for.
Because state laws can vary greatly on the apportionment of fault and how that will affect the chance of recovery, it is important to consult an attorney any time there is a question of shared responsibility for an accident.
Uninsured and Under-Insured Motorist Coverage
In most states, automobile insurance coverage costs increase as a driver’s record gets worse. While it makes sense that insurance companies should charge more for those drivers most likely to file a claim, the cost difference also means that the worst drivers are the most likely to decide that they can’t afford adequate automobile insurance. When an uninsured or under-insured motorist causes an accident, therefore, the other driver can find it very difficult to obtain adequate compensation for her damages.
For that reason, it can be a good idea to purchase an automobile insurance policy that will cover your damages if the other driver is uninsured or under insured – or if he cannot be identified because he failed to remain at the scene of the accident. Then, if you are injured by such a driver, your injuries can still be covered by your own insurance company.
The bad news is that, even with this extra protection, insurance companies can make it difficult to draw upon this type of coverage. Drivers injured by uninsured or under-insured motorists, therefore, should consider hiring an attorney who can help ensure that they are properly compensated, whether it be by the other driver or by the victim’s own insurance company.