Car accidents are undoubtedly the leading cause of catastrophic injuries. Auto accidents have the potential of changing your life in the few seconds the accident occurs. While you might have done your best to drive safely, a few seconds of distraction by either you or another motorist could cost your life or leave you with life-changing injuries.
These injuries require extensive treatment and demand a more extended stay in the hospital or recovery. Some people never fully recover from these injuries.
The LA Personal Injury Law Firm helps you recover the damages that arise due to a catastrophic auto accident. We have worked with different clients in establishing fault, calculating the value of their damages, and going through the civil process to recover the compensation for their injuries.
Overview of Catastrophic Auto Accidents
A fender bender would probably bother you with the minor cosmetic repairs you will need to make in your car. Your only concern might be getting the filling out insurance reports, your record with the DMV, and reporting the accident.
However, these concerns change if you or a loved one is involved in a catastrophic auto accident. These accidents cause severe and often long-lasting injuries, disfigurement, or loss of body parts or functions.
California records more than 150,000 auto accidents with close to three thousand fatal accidents every year. Most of these accidents are avoidable if all the stakeholders play their part in preventing them. These include drivers, the federal, state, and local governments, manufacturers, and mechanics, among others.
One of the leading causes of auto accidents in California is distracted driving. Distractions happen to all of us, but they can cost your life and that of other road users if you are behind the wheel. Statistics report that distracted driving plays a role in close to 80% of all the accidents in California.
Distractions vary and might include a call, texting, eating in the car, fixing your makeup, or engaging in a conversation with your passengers.
The reason distractions are so dangerous to driving is due to the structure and functioning of our brain. The brain can only focus entirely on one activity at a time. Therefore, if you are tuning your radio and driving, you will automatically pay more attention to the radio than the road. Each second you spend on the distraction increases the risk of you getting into an accident.
Driving is a demanding task that requires your full mental and physical capacity. Your brain, therefore, needs to be clear and focused for a safe ride. That is why drunk driving contributes to a significant number of fatalities and car accidents on California roads.
Alcohol, controlled substances, and prescription drugs affect your efficiency at the wheel. A drunk driver has reduced perception and control over his or her faculties. It is, therefore, easy to step too hard on the accelerator or drive on the wrong lane.
Such problems, coupled with a slow reaction to hazards, raise the chances of getting into a severe accident.
Another common cause of car accidents is fatigue. Driving when you are tired is a recipe for disaster. You might fall asleep behind the wheel, have poor judgment, and a slower response to hazards.
Speeding also contributes to the majority of auto accidents in America. When driving at high speeds, you are less likely to respond to emergencies in time. Therefore, you have a higher chance of colliding with another car, stationary objects, and pedestrians.
Your car is also more likely to lose control when driving at high speeds. Car tires have less contact with the road making braking difficult. The dangers of speeding heighten in the presence of adverse weather conditions such as snow or storms.
Weather conditions contribute to a significant number of accidents. Weather conditions such as storms and snow affect visibility and traction of the car and the road. For instance, cars are more likely to slip when roads are covered with snow.
Weather can also affect visibility, especially in fog or storms. Sometimes, driving when directly facing the sun can affect visibility on the road.
Manufacturing defects contribute to several accidents. The common defects include design flaws, tire defects, brake failure, and safety systems that do not work. These defects could be the cause of an accident or worsen the injuries.
Poor road conditions are another contributing factor in auto accidents. Some of these conditions include wheel ruts, potholes, missing barriers, confusing road signs, and unsafe work areas, and absent lane markings.
Common Types of Auto Accidents
Car accidents can be of different types depending on the area of collision, the number of vehicles involved, and the parties in the accident. Car accidents can lead to both minor and extensive injuries depending on the severity of the accident. Some accidents, however, have a higher probability of causing life-altering injuries. Some of the accidents include:
Rear-end collisions are indeed a common type of accidents in California and the entire nation with more than 5 million reported incidents annually. These accidents occur when the front of the tailing car crashes into the rear of the leading car.
Rear-end collisions contribute to fatalities of about 1700 people annually while others sustain serious injuries. The severity of the injuries sustained in a rear-end crash depends on factors such as:
- The speed of the vehicles involved
- They type of vehicles involved, including their size and weight
A rear-end accident can cause serious injuries, with the most common being whiplash. Whiplash is a neck injury that results from the sudden forward and backward jerking movement when the cars collide.
In severe cases, you might also suffer head injuries when your head hits the airbag, the steering, or any part of the car during the collision. Spinal injuries can also occur, especially if you were not wearing a seatbelt at the time of the accident.
Most of the time, the tailing driver is at fault in rear-end collisions. The law requires that the tailing driver maintain a safe distance between his or her car and the leading vehicle. The distance allows enough reaction time in case of emergencies, such as the leading vehicle stopping suddenly.
However, the driver of the leading car could also be at fault if he or she makes a sudden panic stop, or if the court establishes that he or she purposely got into the accident (usually for insurance fraud).
Head-on collisions are another deadly type of auto accident. These accidents occur when two cars from opposite directions collide.
Head-on collisions are often deadly or lead to catastrophic injuries for the occupants of both vehicles. The impact is magnified if the accident involves cars of different sizes and weights. Speeding also increases the likelihood of fatalities or severe injuries.
Most of these accidents occur when one or both drivers leave their lane into oncoming traffic. The common causes of these accidents include distracted driving, drunk driving, and weather conditions such as snow.
A driver may lose control of his or her vehicle due to a manufacturing defect, causing him or her to crash into oncoming traffic.
These accidents are common on roads without separation lines for opposing traffic, along sharp bends and on roads with high traffic volumes.
Rollover accidents are often fatal since they cause the car to tip on its side or roof. In some cases, the car might roll several times, thus increasing the severity of the accident.
Rollover accidents can occur due to internal forces inside the car or external forces. Some of the common causes of these accidents include:
- Collision with another vehicle or object (especially side-impact collisions)
- Crossing a steep ditch or slope
- Maneuvering a rough terrain
- Hitting large obstacles on the road
- Navigating a corner at a high speed
Rollover accidents are more likely to cause severe injuries since the roof might cave into the car as it rolls over. The passengers are, therefore, likely to be trapped in the vehicle. The chances of a fire occurring in a rollover accident are also higher, increasing the severity of the injuries.
Side Impact Collisions
Side impact collisions can be deadly, with more than eight thousand people dying annually due to these accidents. They occur when one car hits another from the side.
The lack of a crash crumple zone on the sides of the car increases the severity of the injuries. The passengers in the car only have the door to protect them from the impact of the crash.
While some vehicles are installed with side airbags and other protective mechanisms, the risk of suffering a life-threatening injury in a side-impact collision is still significant.
Most side-impact collisions occur at intersections and parking lots. The leading causes are a disregard for traffic signs and lights, failure to yield to other motorists, distractions, mechanical defects, and drunk driving.
Run-off-road collisions are accidents in which the car leaves the road. The common causes of these accidents include losing control, distracted driving, avoiding a collision with an object or another car, and misjudging a curve.
These accidents can lead to severe accidents, especially if the vehicle collides with another stationary object like a utility pole or a tree. Injuries can also be severe if the object strikes the side of the car.
Catastrophic auto accidents are responsible for serious injuries, which might include:
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Head injuries
- Severe burns
- Organ damage
- Internal bleeding
- Spinal injuries
These accidents and injuries can set you a few thousand dollars back and prevent you from working. However, you can claim compensation for both economic and non-economic damages.
- Medical costs
- Lost wages
- Lost earning potential
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of parental guidance
- Wrongful death damages (medical costs, funeral and burial expenses, and pain, and suffering)
What to Do After an Auto Accident
Being involved in a catastrophic accident can be terrifying. You might have sustained severe injuries such that you are unconscious or incapable of noticing the details of the accident. Sometimes, you are thankful to be alive and unaware that you could recover damages for the injuries resulting from the negligence of another party.
An understanding of what to do after an accident is crucial to the preparation of your injury claim. Most of the things you do at this stage will form the foundation of your injury claim. Some of these actions depend on your condition after the accident. If you were severely injured and need immediate medical help or are unconscious, someone else might do the steps or once you start recovering.
The first step you need to take is to move your car to a safe spot if you can. Accidents such as pileups occur when other vehicles collide into vehicles that are already in an accident. Such accidents can worsen the severity of the injuries and even increase fatalities.
Once you are at a safe place, call 911. Calling emergency services could help any injured person receive medical care and create a record of the accident.
Next, get medical attention immediately. You might look fine on the outside, but you have suffered internal injuries to your organs. Prompt medical examination can help your case by connecting the injuries directly to the accident. The defendant might claim that the injuries for which you were treated later are unrelated to the accident. Make sure you document all the treatment and diagnosis both for your insurance claim and personal injury claim.
Contact your insurance company to report the accident. Insurance companies require this report so that they can process your claim based on the coverage. If you are unsure about the questions or information you should give to your insurance provider, talk to an attorney. You should also avoid making recorded statements or accepting any settlement for your injuries.
Document as much as you can remember from the scene of the accident. Describe what happened; take pictures and videos of the cars involved and other evidence from the scene. You should also document the injuries you suffer, especially if they are visible. Visual evidence is much more convincing in court.
Keep records of all the expenses related to the accident. These include medical costs, expenses for alternative transportation, and any related expenses from the estate of the deceased if a loved one is killed in the accident.
You will also need to gather the relevant documents that you will need, including:
- Police reports
- Witness statements
- Your records about what happened in the accident
- Medical reports
- Safety records and inspection reports
- You tax return documents
- Receipts of expenses related to the accident
Contact an attorney to discuss your case. A lot is at stake when you are in a catastrophic auto accident. You must, therefore, have an attorney representing you so that he or she can look out for your rights.
Some of the reasons why you need an attorney after a catastrophic injury include:
- You have suffered injuries that require an extended hospital stay, and they affect your health long-term
- Someone is killed in the accident
- You have accumulated medical bills higher than a couple of thousand dollars
- You have missed more than a few days of work
- You intend to collect damages for pain, suffering and emotional trauma
- The parties are in dispute about who is at fault
- The case involves complicated medical, technical or legal issues
- You are having problems with your insurance provider
Hiring a lawyer should make sense, depending on the circumstances of your case. Since most cases involving catastrophic auto accidents have a substantial settlement, the value of the settlement justifies the need for an attorney. The final step is to file a claim against the at-fault party.
Filing a Claim
Filing a claim after an accident can be a tedious process, but if you have suffered catastrophic injuries, it is the best option to cover the costs of repairing yourself. The first step in filing a claim is submitting a demand letter to the insurance company of the at-fault party.
The demand letter should include details of how the accident occurred, the type and extent of your injuries, the fault of the defendant, and the suffering you experienced due to the injuries.
You should accompany the letter with facts and supporting evidence, including copies of your medical records, the police reports, and photographs from the accident scene.
The next step you take will depend on the response from the insurance company. They might reply, saying you do not have a valid claim in which case you can speak to your attorney and file a lawsuit.
If the insurance company finds that you have a valid claim, they will make a low offer. You should never accept the first offer as the final one, especially if you suffer catastrophic injuries.
If you have an attorney working on your case, he or she will have calculated the value of your claim based on:
- The type and extent of your injuries
- The long-term effect of your injuries
- The wages, benefits and future income you have lost due to the injury
- The pain and suffering you experience from the injuries
He or she is, therefore, in a better position to negotiate a fair settlement. The negotiation between the insurance company and your attorney can take some time and may proceed to court.
Throughout the process, be keen to avoid the common mistakes that can jeopardize your claim:
- Do not engage with the insurance company of the at-fault party without talking to your attorney first. Insurance companies are there to make a profit, and settling claims is not a profitable venture. Therefore, they will use any detail you provide to their advantage to minimize or deny your claim. Similarly, do not accept a claim before speaking to your attorney.
- Do not exaggerate or minimize your injuries. If something burns say it burns, not it hurts. Most insurance companies will require an independent medical evaluation to ascertain that you are suffering from the said injuries. The officer examining you will conduct various tests to verify that you are injured, and the extent of your injuries is as you say. Bring a friend along so that he or she can act as the witness.
- Do not share the details of the accident or your life on social media. Insurance companies might be on the lookout, and any information you post on your social media accounts can be used to dispute your claim. You should also ask your friends and relatives to avoid posting any accident-related information on their social media accounts.
- Do not skip any appointments you have with your doctor. The defendant will use this as evidence that your injuries were not as serious as you claim. You must also take all the medication and comply with all requirements of the treatment.
- Do not settle too soon. The power of negotiation comes to play in personal injury settlements, especially those involving catastrophic injuries. If you need to, call expert witnesses who can corroborate your injuries or future damages so that you can recover the right value for the injuries you suffer.
- The worst mistake you could make is choosing to represent yourself. Of course, a fender bender might not necessitate an attorney; however, when you are dealing with severe injuries like spinal injuries, you need as much expert help as you can get.
Find a Personal Injury Attorney Near Me
Catastrophic accidents can change your life in an instant. Whether you lose your limbs or suffer traumatic brain injuries, the effects of the accident will stay with you for a long time. You will have to spend a lot on medical bills, and you might miss work as you recover.
These changes are stressful, and it is only fair that the responsible party compensates you for any damages you suffer. Pursuing compensation for catastrophic injuries is complicated. You have to choose the right timing to file, gather the required evidence, and negotiate a fair settlement.
The LA Personal Injury Law Firm has worked with clients across Los Angeles who suffered injuries due to catastrophic auto accidents. Contact us at 310-935-0089 to discuss your case.