If you pay any attention to the news, we guarantee that you hear plenty about fatal car accidents. These crashes can have a devastating impact on the family who’s left behind after an accident; but why do these fatal crashes happen? What can surviving family members do after a loved one is killed by someone else’s negligence or carelessness?
Leading Causes of Fatal Car Accidents in the U.S.
Distracted driving kills numerous Americans every day. This dangerous behavior puts everyone on the road at risk—in fact, 20 percent of people who die in crashes with a distracted driver aren’t even in vehicles. They are pedestrians, bicyclists, and so on.
Statistics show that some drivers are more likely to operate vehicles distracted than others. Young drivers, in particular, account for a sizable portion of fatal distracted driving accidents.
There are three primary types of distracted driving:
- Visual distracted driving takes your eyes off of the road
- Manual distracted driving takes your hands off of the wheel
- Cognitive distracted driving takes your mind off of driving
You can prevent distracted driving:
- Don’t drive if you are very tired or emotional
- Help situate kiddos and passengers before driving
- Use apps to minimize cell phone use while driving
- Remember that you can attend to things after your drive
- Speak up when you see distracted driving
Reckless, Aggressive Driving
Reckless (and especially aggressive) driving claims thousands of lives each year. Some people drive recklessly without being aggressive, but it doesn’t do much to minimize the risk to the people around them.
Aggressive driving is an issue that the NHTSA has attempted to curb for years. Lots of people drive in ways that endanger other people and their property—and they do it intentionally.
Some of the most common signs of reckless and aggressive driving include:
- Improper following
- Improper lane changing
- Passing where prohibited
- Illegal driving on the road shoulder
- Failure to obey traffic signs and signals
- Driving too fast
- Making improper turns
- Failure to yield right of way
Avoiding reckless driving. If you come across a reckless driver on the road, you may be unsure of how to best deal with the situation.
There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to the question, but here are some tips for staying safe in the presence of a reckless driver:
- Call 911; make sure you pull over somewhere safe or you have a passenger make the call; share the vehicle’s location and any information you have about the car
- Stay away from the driver; even if you need to pull off of the road to let them pass, it’s better than driving near them
- Do not engage with reckless drivers; many become aggressive—but, even if they don’t, you don’t need to distract them on top of their reckless driving
Driving Under the Influence
Roughly one-third of driver fatalities in the US occurs with a BAC of .08 or higher. Driving under the influence is a serious crime and presents a massive danger to everybody on the road. Twenty-nine people die in the United States every day in a crash involving an alcohol-impaired driver. Alcohol-related accidents cost over $44 billion annually and kill somebody new every fifty minutes.
Blood alcohol concentration—the effects:
- BAC of 0.02: Some loss of judgment; altered mood, slight body warmth
- BAC of 0.05: Impaired judgment; exaggerated behavior, lowered alertness
- BAC of 0.08: Judgment, self-control, reasoning, and memory are impaired; poor muscle coordination
- BAC of 0.10: Slurred speech, slowed thinking, extremely slowed reaction time, minimal control
- BAC of 0.15: Minimal muscle control, potential for vomiting, extreme balance loss
Someone with a BAC of 0.08 to 0.10 or higher generally displays an inability to maintain lane position and an inability to properly use a car’s brakes.
Marijuana and driving. Driving under the influence doesn’t just refer to drinking and driving. Marijuana use is increasing—and so is driving under the influence. Statistics show that more than 10 percent of nighttime and weekend drivers have marijuana in their systems. Marijuana users were also shown to be about 25 percent more likely to cause a crash than drivers with no evidence of marijuana use.
This one is pretty obvious! Poor weather conditions can make it extremely difficult to drive. In some cases, inclement weather is so severe that certain entities might advise against driving altogether.
Rain and snow are two shining examples of weather that can cause fatal accidents; but consider how impactful fog can be when you’re on the road, too. Even a hazy day with too much sun can reduce visibility to next to nothing.
Sometimes, it’s the weather itself that appears to cause a crash. Sometimes, it’s the effects of the weather that are so dangerous. Slick roads, for example, can cause hydroplaning.
Swerving and Avoiding
Sometimes, accidents are caused by someone who’s trying to avoid getting hurt in the first place. We’ve all had to swerve to avoid something in the road before—whether it was a piece of a tree that seemed too risky to drive over, or a giant pothole that still hadn’t been fixed—and it usually doesn’t feel dangerous, but swerving to avoid can and does cause its own accidents.
Failure to Obey
We all know that it’s important to obey stop signs, traffic lights, and other signs and signals on the road; but not everybody plays by the rules. When people ignore these signs, they put everyone around them at risk. Blowing through a red light or speeding through a four-way stop is incredibly dangerous.
Failure to yield, in specific, is a very common offense. Drivers who fail to yield—even if they have the right of way—increase the risk of a collision. This is very common near intersections, parking lots, and schools.
According to the NHTSA, speeding presents a myriad of risks:
- Greater likelihood of loss of vehicle control
- Reduced effectiveness of occupant and road protection equipment
- Increased stopping distance after perceived danger
- Increased degree of crash severity
Why do people speed?
Some people simply speed for fun or because they feel emboldened by the anonymity their car affords, but people also speed because of:
- Running late
- Traffic congestion
- Disregard for the law
Common Injuries In Fatal Car Accidents
If you are involved in a fatal car crash, there’s a high likelihood that you’ll sustain a few injuries. For some, the injuries cause death—others may survive, but with long-lasting consequences. These are a few of the injuries most commonly sustained in fatal car accidents.
Traumatic Brain Injuries
Traumatic brain injuries (or TBIs) often cause long-term complications for survivors. They can also cause death.
Every brain injury is totally unique. There’s no one type of injury or one set of symptoms that stand out over the rest.
If you believe that someone may have suffered a brain injury in a car accident, look for:
- Mood changes
- Behavioral changes
- Memory problems
- Lack of coordination
- Blurred vision
- Problems concentrating
Spinal Cord Injuries
We rely on our spinal cords to function throughout day-to-day life. The spinal cord is a bundle of nerves that runs down our spines and begins at the brain. Everything our bodies do—from breathing to keeping our hearts beating—relies on the spinal cord. Spinal cord injuries are very serious and have the potential to cause death or lifelong damage.
Signs of a spinal cord injury include:
- Difficulty talking or breathing
- Loss of sensation in the extremities
- Kinks or twists in the back of the neck (that can be seen)
- Extreme, shooting pain or pressure in the neck or back
Internal injuries can take on many different forms. Their danger lies in the fact that they often go undetected immediately after a crash. The harder an injury is to pinpoint, the harder it is to treat effectively—so internal injuries are very dangerous.
Nobody is shocked to hear that broken bones often come along with severe car accidents. There are lots of ways for bones to break—and more complex breaks are common in deadly crashes. A fatal crash is more likely to cause a compound break that fractures in numerous places and breaks the skin than it is to cause a hairline fracture.
Other Injuries in Fatal Car Accidents
- Road rash
- Head injuries
- Back injuries
- Neck injuries
- Soft tissue injuries
Head-On Collisions Often Cause Death
A head-on collision can happen for a variety of reasons. You may have heard them referred to as frontal accidents or front impact crashes. They happen when two vehicles that are traveling in opposite directions collide and hit each other’s front ends.
These crashes are so dangerous because of the extreme force they produce. When the fronts of two cars slam together, it can create deadly consequences.
A Wrongful Death Lawyer Can Help After a Fatal Car Accident
If someone you love was killed in a car accident, you may bring a wrongful death lawsuit on their behalf. This devastating experience does not need to hurt you financially, too.
What Does “Wrongful Death” Mean?
A wrongful death accident refers to an unintended fatality due to someone else’s negligence or recklessness. In wrongful death car accidents, that “someone else” is often another driver; but you can hold other parties responsible for your loved one’s passing, too—people like:
- Car manufacturers
- The entity responsible for maintaining safe roads
Will the Liable Party Go to Jail?
No. Wrongful death cases are not criminal cases. They do not seek to send a liable party to jail.
A Wrongful Death Claim Allows You to Pursue Financial Damages
When you work with a wrongful death attorney, he or she will help you pursue compensation for the financial damages you experienced due to your loved one’s passing.
Some examples of costs that lawyers help retrieve compensation for include:
- Emergency medical transport
- Hospital, emergency room bills
- Cost of treatment
- Funeral expenses
- Loss of the deceased’s earning capacity
- Loss of benefits from the deceased
- Pain and suffering the deceased experienced before death
- Pain and suffering you and your family have experienced
There is, obviously, no monetary sum that can account for the loss of a loved one. Compensation exists to help survivors mitigate the financial impact of an accident. Nobody can compensate you for the actual emotional experience of losing a loved one—but a wrongful death lawyer will try to recover that money anyway.
The Basic Elements of a Wrongful Death Case
Suing somebody for wrongful death will involve some work. This is one reason why we recommend partnering with a wrongful death attorney who can help. Lawyers have extensive experience proving things in court, and you’ll need to prove several facts to build a successful case.
If you want to sue somebody else for wrongful death, you need proof that:
- The fatal accident happened
- The liable party owed the deceased a duty of care (we all owe each other a duty of care and we’re supposed to drive safely on the road)
- The liable party breached the duty of care (by breaking road rules or similar)
- The fatal accident was caused by the breach of duty of care
- Surviving loved ones who are suing have suffered physical, emotional, and/or financial consequences
Who Can Sue for Wrongful Death?
We receive a lot of questions about who, exactly, can sue for wrongful death after a loved one is killed. Generally, only immediate family members have the right to bring a case like this. You should still ask a lawyer for more information if you aren’t direct family, though, as there are always exceptions.
Some examples of parties who generally sue for wrongful death include:
- Children (including adopted children and step-children)
- Life partners
- Financial dependents
- Parents of a deceased child
If someone you love died in a car accident, a car accident lawyer might help you figure out how to get through this terrible ordeal.