Articles Tagged with car accidents

Rear-end accidents happen all the time, and they can be a pain in the neck, often quite literally. Whiplash, a neck injury caused by rapid movement of the neck back and forth, resembling the cracking of a whip, is a common result of being in a vehicle that is struck from behind. Whiplash is bad enough, but rear-end accidents can cause any number of other injuries, as well, particularly at high speeds. Such accidents are, unfortunately, fairly common. In fact, rear-end crashes happen more often than any other kind of traffic collision. Nearly 30% of all traffic accidents involve a rear-end collision, leading to a considerable number of injuries and deaths every year. In fact, reports indicate that there are about 1.7 million rear-end traffic accidents per year, resulting in about 1,700 fatalities and another 500,000 injuries.

Drivers Usually are the Cause of Rear-End Collisions

When one vehicle strikes another vehicle from behind, the odds are pretty good that the driver of the vehicle hitting the vehicle from the rear has messed up and is at fault. It is not always true, but it is a pretty good bet. Tailgating contributes to more than a third of all traffic collisions, making it an obvious cause of the majority of all rear-end collisions. In a more general sense, federal statistics blame 87% of rear-end accidents on drivers simply not paying attention to traffic and what is in front of them. Other sources identify more specific causes, but many seem to be rooted in driver inattention or error, including:

People talk about head-on collisions as being the worst – and with good reason – but head-on crashes are by no means the only kind of car collision that carries with it a high risk of injury or death. Another type of collision that ranks among the most dangers is what is commonly referred to as a “T-bone” accident – the side-impact crash. Named for the popular steak, a T-bone crash is when one vehicle is struck in the side by a second vehicle at a perpendicular angle. Picture a car moving through an intersection when another vehicle enters the intersection on the crossing roadway, entering the intersection from one side or the other of the first car and striking the first vehicle full in the side. Most common at intersections, T-bone crashes can be deadly.

T-Bone Accidents are a Leading Cause of Traffic Fatalities

Traffic accidents can be deadly affairs – they cost more than 36,000 Americans their lives in 2019. More than half of traffic deaths involving passenger vehicle occupants happen in head-on collisions – full frontal impacts, nose to nose. However, more than a quarter of all traffic fatalities in crashes involving passenger vehicles occur in side-impact collisions – in other words, the classic T-bone accident. When a vehicle hits another vehicle from the side, the struck vehicle does not have the crumple zone that provides protection in frontal collisions. Cars are designed to absorb impacts from the front and from the rear, using the trunk for rear-end accidents and the engine compartment, among other features, for front-end accidents to help absorb the force of the collision. When it comes to side-impact collisions, no such crumple zone exists to prevent the exterior of the vehicle from being pushed into the passenger compartment by the force of the collision. One study contends that vehicles struck from the front have five times the energy absorption as vehicles provide in a side impact. The lack of crumple zones on the side of vehicles simply adds to the lethality of side-impact collisions.

No one who has ever driven a car is a stranger to distracted driving. Pretty much every single driver out there has driven while distracted at some point. Making adjustments to you climate controls, fiddling with your sound system, even eating some fast-food take-out – it is all distracted driving. Because everyone does it, and almost everyone does so without any serious consequences, many people tend to downplay the risks associated with distracted driving. Just because you have not been harmed by distracted driving, though, just means it has not happened yet. You have probably never been hit by lightning, either, but deaths and injuries from distracted driving are far more common than being hit by lightning. If you are on the road, you are at risk.

Distracted Driving is Deadly

More than 2,800 people died in the United States in 2018 in traffic accidents involving distracted drivers, and that number only reflects the number that we know about. Countless other accidents may have been caused by distracted driving but not reported as such. Another 400,000 people were injured in such accidents. Roughly 20% of those deaths were among people who were not even in a vehicle on the road – they were pedestrians, bicycle riders, or just close enough to a roadway to be killed in a traffic accident.

Side-impact crashes – commonly referred to as “T-bone” collisions – are among the most dangerous of car accidents for occupants of the vehicle being T-boned. A T-bone accident is one in which one vehicle strikes another straight into the second vehicle’s side at a perpendicular angle, hence the popular nickname. The car being struck in the side forms the cross of the “T,” while the striking vehicle forms the stem. T-bone accidents frequently are the result of one vehicle or the other running a stop sign or running the red light at a traffic signal. No matter how they occur, side-impact crashes can have devastating consequences for the occupants of the car on the receiving end of the side impact.

Side-Impact Collisions are Especially Dangerous

According to federal statistics, more than half of all traffic deaths from accidents involving passenger vehicles result from head-on collisions. That makes sense given the impact speeds involved in head-on crashes. Much more surprising, though, is that a quarter of all traffic fatalities occur in side-impact crashes – or T-bone accidents. Unfortunately, the lethality of side-impact collisions also makes sense. Many cars still on the road do not have side airbags, and a car hit from the side does not enjoy the protection of the front-end automobile architecture that has reduced the lethality of head-on collisions. There is no crumple zone on the side of a car. Side airbags were introduced in the late 1980s and early 1990s by Chrysler and Volvo on some models, and have become common in all passenger vehicles since the early 2000s, but they are not mandated by the government except for front-seat side air bags.

A Marietta man was charged with two counts of felony murder, two counts of serious injury by vehicle, felony fleeing, felony hit-and-run, reckless driving and speeding after leaving the scene of an accident in Midtown where an 18-year-old and a baby died.

Hit-and-Run

In Georgia, a driver’s obligation to stop after being involved in a car accident is contemplated in the Georgia Code. Under Section 40-6-270, the driver of a vehicle that has been involved in an accident that results in injuries, death of a person, or damages to another vehicle has the obligation to stop at the scene and stay there until he or she fulfills the following:

When an auto insurer unreasonably refuses to settle a personal injury claim against one of its policyholders, the policyholder can turn around and sue the insurance company for acting in “bad faith.” If successful, a bad-faith lawsuit can mean the insurer is liable for the full amount of any judgment that the accident victim obtained against the policyholder.

Whiteide v. Geico Indemnity Company

A federal appeals court recently asked the Georgia Supreme Court to resolve a number of legal questions arising from a successful bad-faith coverage lawsuit. The case was tried before a jury in federal court following Georgia state law. In situations like this, a federal court may opt to “certify” unresolved legal questions to the state’s supreme court before proceeding further.

Georgia law requires insurance companies to act in good faith when resolving auto accident claims. For example, if you are injured in an accident caused by another driver’s clear negligence, the other driver’s insurance company is expected to make a good-faith effort to negotiate a settlement, especially when your damages meets or exceeds the limits of the actual policy. Conversely, if the insurer acts in bad faith, you can file a lawsuit and seek additional damages.

Kemper v. Equity Insurance Company

For example, a federal appeals court recently revived a bad-faith lawsuit brought against an insurance company by the victim of a motorcycle accident. The plaintiff in this case, Kemper v. Equity Insurance Company, was driving her bike down a road in Coweta County, Georgia. Another driver, who it turned out was intoxicated, crossed the centerline of the road and crashed into the plaintiff, causing her serious injuries.

In general, monetary damages in a personal injury case are meant to compensate the victims for their losses. But there are cases in which a jury may award what are known as “punitive damages.” These damages are not meant to compensate, but rather to punish. Put another way, punitive damages are designed to “send a message” that certain types of outrageous or egregious misconduct will not be tolerated in a civilized society.

Punitive damages are considered an extraordinary remedy under Georgia law. This means that it is not enough for a plaintiff to show they were injured by the defendant’s negligence. Rather, state law requires proof by “clear and convincing evidence” that the defendant engaged in “willful misconduct, malice, fraud, wantonness, oppression, or that entire want of care which would raise the presumption of conscious indifference to consequences.”

Ferguson v. Garkuhsa

When an employee of a private business causes an auto accident, the victim can seek to hold the employer accountable under the legal principle of vicarious liability. What happens when the employee works for a local government? In that scenario, it is still possible to hold the public employer accountable, but there are a number of procedural hurdles that the victim must clear first.

Green v. Baldwin County Board of Commissioners

A May 5 decision from the Georgia Court of Appeals, Green v. Baldwin County Board of Commissioners, illustrates the difficulty such hurdles can pose. This case involves a June 2015 auto accident in Baldwin County. The plaintiff was stopped at an intersection when a police car driven by a sheriff’s deputy rear-ended her.

This may sound like a test question from an introduction to philosophy class: If a truck hits two vehicles in succession, one right after the other, is that one accident or two accidents? When it comes to dealing with insurance companies, however, this is not just a hypothetical issue. How the law defines “accident” can significantly affect the award of insurance benefits to accident victims.

Grange Mutual Insurance Company v. Slaughter

The U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta recently confronted this “one accident or two” question in a complex personal injury case, Grange Mutual Insurance Company v. Slaughter, arising from an October 2015 incident. The driver of a dump truck owned by Four Seasons Trucking (FST) illegally crossed a center line and hit two other vehicles in rapid succession.

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