Holding Negligent Drivers Accountable for Sideswipe Collisions
November 09, 2021
Though sideswipe collisions do not have the dramatic fatality rates of head-on collisions, they are still a serious problem that causes millions of dollars in damage every year. Thousands of Americans are also injured in sideswipe accidents every year. We need to hold negligent drivers accountable for the injuries and damage they cause. Learn more about the common causes of sideswipe accidents and the most common injuries in these collisions.
The Common Causes of Sideswipe Accidents
Drivers have a legal obligation to operate their vehicles with due care. They must take reasonable steps to avoid sideswipe collisions whenever possible. Here are some of the most common causes of sideswipe collisions that drivers should be aware of:
#1. Blind Spots
Blind spots are a common problem amongst drivers. When they cannot see a part of the road, drivers can accidentally clip the vehicles next to them. These accidents are more common than you might think: Popular Mechanics reports that failure to clear blind spots cause over 840,000 accidents every year in the United States.
Drivers must be especially cautious of their blind spots when changing lanes. And even though you might know the blind spots in your vehicle, they are different in every car, so your visibility will be different in a rental car or when borrowing a friend’s vehicle.
#2. Distracted Driving
According to NHTSA, distracted driving is responsible for thousands of road deaths in the United States every year. Distracted drivers injure thousands of more people. This represents millions of dollars in property damage, lost wages, medical expenses, and lost productivity that people who are simply not paying attention behind the wheel are responsible for.
Most distracted driving campaigns focus on electronic distractions. This is important: manufacturers equip most new cars with navigation software, wireless connection to your smartphone, and built-in entertainment systems. All of these programs take a driver’s attention away from the road. Even if a driver never touches a smartphone, they can become so distracted by these features that they cause a deadly accident. But it is not just mobile devices and built-in programs that distract drivers.
Food and drink, pets and children, adjusting the radio, and other common distractions inside the vehicle have long been a problem for drivers. Drivers must accept personal responsibility for paying attention to the road ahead. This means they cannot become distracted by eating or drinking, grooming, and other common behaviors that drivers engage in. It is also essential to secure your pets and children in the vehicle before you start driving to reduce the amount of attention you must give them while driving.
#3. Impaired Driving
Despite decades of public awareness campaigns, drunk driving is still a significant problem in the United States. The CDC reports that a drunk driver kills a victim every fifty minutes across America. Drivers impaired by alcohol caused more than one out of every four traffic fatalities in 2016. This represents over ten thousand fatalities – not to mention thousands of more injury victims.
It has never been easier to avoid drunk driving. Uber, Lyft, and other rideshare services are widely available all across the country. There are also the usual options of calling a friend, designating a driver, or taking a cab. There is simply no excuse to drink and drive. Drunk drivers must be held accountable to keep the roads safe for everyone.
Many substances other than alcohol can also impair a driver’s ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. These issues have been under a lot of media scrutiny in recent years, as recreational marijuana laws, the opioid epidemic, and other drugs lead to many different types of impaired driving arrests.
The law prevents a driver from operating a motor vehicle when any substance impairs them. This includes street drugs, prescription medication abuse, and marijuana use. A driver can even face criminal charges of impaired driving if they used a substance lawfully (for example, a prescription medication they take as directed or medical marijuana use through an approved program).
Drivers have a legal obligation to understand the effects that these substances – even legal ones – have on their bodies. If they cause an accident while impaired, they are legally responsible for paying for all the injuries and damages they cause.
Statistics from the National Safety Council show that speeding was a factor in 26 percent of all road fatalities in a recent year. This means that drivers can prevent more than one out of four road deaths simply by slowing down. Speeding killed an average of 25 people in the U.S. every day. But why is speeding so dangerous?
There are several reasons: first, speed gives a driver less reaction time to avoid a collision. Second, speed makes it more challenging to maintain control of a vehicle while you are braking and attempting to avoid a collision. Swerving can lead to rollovers, fishtailing, and other terrifying scenarios where the driver has no control over the vehicle.
The most dangerous aspect of speeding, however, is the force it generates in a collision. A collision involves the combination of forces of two moving vehicles. When the vehicles are traveling faster, they carry with them more kinetic energy. Greater speeds lead to greater injuries. This is why accidents that occur at higher speeds tend to result in more severe injuries – and higher fatality rates – than collisions that occur at low speeds.
Drivers have a legal obligation to travel at a speed that is “reasonable and prudent” given all current road conditions. This means that it is not always safe to travel at the posted speed limit. If there is ice, sleet, hail, or rain, a driver must slow down to reduce the risk of an accident. Drivers must also be especially cautious at night when there is fog or any other time there is limited visibility on the road.
If a driver is traveling faster than is safe for the current conditions, they can be negligent and have the legal obligation to pay for the injuries and damages they cause. The driver can also get a speeding ticket – or even face criminal charges for reckless driving.
#5. Road Rage
People often think of traffic fatalities as horrible accidents that were unintentional. This is not always the case. Violence is a major cause of deaths on the road. According to the Insurance Information Institute, road rage was a factor in more than half of all traffic fatalities in the U.S. over five years.
Sometimes, this is direct violence (such as pulling a gun and shooting the driver directly). Other times, the violence causes the driver to lose control of the vehicle, and the resulting crash causes fatal injuries. Either scenario can lead to both criminal charges and civil liability for the driver who engaged in road rage. That driver is also likely to face traffic citations and possibly lose their license.
Road rage is one of the most preventable causes of sideswipe accidents. Many forms of negligence occur through simple inattention. The driver isn’t paying attention to their speed, or gets distracted by their navigation program, or falls into other bad driving habits.
But road rage is a very intentional action. Drivers choose to engage verbally, or swerve and tailgate, or escalate the situation with physical violence. The law and law enforcement takes these deliberate actions very seriously. Prosecutors file criminal charges, and driving privileges are often suspended (or even revoked altogether).
Injury victims must file a civil claim against a driver who caused a road rage accident. This is another crucial consequence to help deter the driver from engaging in road rage in the future. Filing a civil claim also sends a message to other drivers who might engage in road rage in the future. It is crucial to be sure that there are consequences to the (potentially fatal) decision to engage in road rage.
Common Injuries In Sideswipe Collisions
Many different injuries can occur in a sideswipe collision. Here are just a few of the most common:
#1. Brain Damage
Brain damage is possible in even the lightest of collisions. The brain is an incredibly fragile organ, and even a small amount of force can cause the brain to violently sway back and forth in the skull. This can result in a concussion or more permanent brain damage. Even a mild concussion represents damage to the brain. It is important to consult with a doctor about any neurological symptoms you experience after a car accident.
#2. Neck Injuries
The neck is also vulnerable to injuries. Whiplash is common when the neck cracks back and forth (like a whip) after a collision. Whiplash can be extremely painful, but many neck injuries are far worse. Serious damage can result in temporary paralysis of various parts of the body. The brain and neck comprise the central nervous system – the part of the body that controls your most basic functions, like breathing. Any damage to these crucial organs can be life-threatening.
#3. Broken Bones
A broken bone might seem like a relatively straightforward injury. In many cases, the victim simply wears a cast or sling for a time and can then function normally once the bone has had a chance to heal. Not all broken bone cases are this simple. Complex breaks might require surgical correction with pins or plates. Often, these metal parts remain in the body, and the victim might have to live the rest of their life avoiding metal detectors.
Doctors must re-break some bones to set them correctly. This excruciating process involves both physical pain and mental trauma. Underlying medical conditions can complicate even the most simple breaks. If, for example, the victim has osteoporosis, this can hinder bone regrowth. The bone might never be functional again. You might collect compensation for the pain and suffering you endured under your unique circumstances.
#4. Internal Injuries
There are many vital organs within the abdominal cavity. The liver, pancreas, gallbladder, spleen, and other organs have no bony structures to protect them from the force of a car accident. This makes them susceptible to injury. These organs can sustain crushing or bruising, and if their vital functions get compromised, the victim might not know for hours.
There are also many blood vessels inside the body that a car accident can damage or rupture. Internal bleeding is extremely dangerous: a slow bleed might not show symptoms for hours until there has been enough blood loss to put the victim into shock. This is why a doctor should always examine car accident victims after a collision – even if they do not feel hurt.
#5. Contusions, Lacerations and Scarring
The medical term for a bruise is a “contusion.” Cuts are known as “lacerations,” and they often require stitches. This can cause permanent scarring. Accident victims need to photograph these injuries so that a jury can see the actual effect the accident had on the victim’s body. Stitches do not sound so bad, but some photographs of stitches appear graphic and gory. Juries need to see exactly what the victim went through.
Insurance companies often try to downplay the effects of relatively minor injuries. If there is no dramatic surgery or blood transfusion, they assume that your pain and suffering was not that bad. The truth is that injury victims are legally entitled to compensation for all their pain and suffering.
Stitches are not comfortable. They can itch, they can become dirty and gross, they can interfere with the victim’s work, and they must be left in for weeks. Victims are entitled to fair compensation for these emotional losses. Do not let an insurance company lowball you with a paltry settlement offer that does not fairly compensate you for your pain and suffering. An experienced personal injury lawyer can prove the value of losses such as pain, discomfort, swelling, and permanent scarring.
“These lawyers are not only very efficient, but caring as well. I would not hesitate to refer them to anyone.”
MATTHEW T. / FORMER CLIENT