Causes of Car Accidents

Car accidents can happen for a variety of reasons. Many crashes occur as a result of human error, such as distracted driving or speeding, while others may be impossible to prevent and happen due to factors outside of a driver's control, such as poor road conditions. Regardless, when an auto accident is caused by another's negligence or recklessness, the injured party may be eligible to recover compensation from the individual or entity responsible for their car accident.

At Block O'Toole & Murphy, our New York auto accident attorneys have the resources to investigate the cause of your auto accident and establish liability in your case. If someone else's negligence led to your car accident injuries, you may be eligible to pursue compensation through an auto accident lawsuit. To learn more, call 212-736-5300 or contact us online.

Common Causes of Car Crashes

Although there are numerous causes of car crashes, the most common typically fall under the category of accidents caused by human error. According to the organization Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), crash causation is largely caused by driver-related factors, such as driver error, fatigue, distraction, or impairment. These factors were present in approximately 90% of crashes observed in their study of driver crash risk factors. In more rare cases, an accident can be caused by circumstances outside of the driver's control, such as a defective car part or a poorly maintained road. If you have been injured in a car accident caused by any of the below, you may be able to bring a personal injury case against the negligent party.

  • Distracted Driving: According to the study done by PNAS, distracted driving is a major detriment to motorists today; it is certainly a leading cause of car accidents. The report concludes that drivers are participating in distracting activities while driving more than 50% of the time, which leads to a crash risk that is double that of someone who is driving with no distractions. Cell phones are just one of the temptations that can cause drivers to take their eyes off the road, diverting attention from traffic signals, other motorists, and pedestrians. Other driver distractions that can lead to motor vehicle accidents include eating, putting on makeup, attempting to calm children in the backseat, talking with other passengers, and reaching for an object inside the vehicle.
  • Impaired Driving: Unfortunately, driving while intoxicated is a common cause of collisions. Driver impairment occurs when an individual's ability to operate a motor vehicle is compromised due to the use of alcohol or drugs. The most common form of impaired driving is drunk driving; the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that drunk-driving crashes claim more than 10,000 lives per year. However, impaired drivers can be affected by prescription or illegal drugs as well. According to the NHTSA, alcohol and marijuana slow a driver's coordination, judgment, and reaction time, while cocaine and methamphetamine can make a driver more aggressive and reckless. Driving under the influence of alcohol or any drug is illegal in all 50 states. It puts others on the road at risk for catastrophic car accident injuries.
  • Reckless Driving: Reckless driving has such potential for catastrophic harm that it is considered a misdemeanor, which is a criminal offense and punishable by law. A reckless driver is one who willfully ignores the rules of the road and the safety of others. Unsafe or reckless driving behaviors can include speeding, driving while fatigued, aggressively tailgating, driving while intoxicated, failing to yield or pay attention to traffic signals, and making abrupt lane changes, to name a few. Drowsy driving is often considered reckless, because it increases the risk of accidents. The NHTSA reports that there were 91,000 crashes involving drowsy driving in 2017, leading to approximately 50,000 injured people and almost 800 deaths. However, even these numbers are thought to underestimate drowsy driving's impact.
  • Speeding: A major cause of car accidents on its own, speeding is often paired with other risky behaviors. According to the NHTSA, drivers who were speeding when involved in fatal crashes in 2018 were statistically more likely to have been drinking, and drinking larger amounts, than those who were not speeding. Additionally, in fatal crashes that year, almost 50% of speeding drivers were not wearing seatbelts at the time of the crash, as opposed to 21% of non-speeding drivers. Any increase in speed, however slight, greatly increases a driver's chance of being involved in an auto accident and causing harm to himself and others. According to the WHO, pedestrians have a 90% chance of surviving car crashes at approximately 18 miles per hour or below, but less than a 50% chance of surviving an accident in which the car was traveling at approximately 28 miles per hour or above.
  • Poorly Maintained Roads: The World Health Organization (WHO) names road-related factors as one of the main risk factors in car crashes. Poorly designed or infrequently maintained roads can present various road hazards to motorists. The WHO states that a road defect, like a pothole, could directly trigger a crash, or some element of the road may be poorly designed and mislead the driver, leading to human error that causes a crash. Potholes, uneven pavement, lack of road signage, and shoulder drop-offs can all increase a driver's chances of being involved in a collision. Sometimes, poor weather conditions can also affect the quality of the roads and make them difficult to drive on. For example, in colder climates, rainwater can quickly harden into ice on many roads, and it is typically the responsibility of the state, city, or local government to ensure roads are always safe to drive on. When a roadway does not meet certain safety standards or is not maintained properly, the liable party may be held accountable for any resulting injuries.
  • Malfunctioning or Defective Car Parts: In some instances, a car crash can be caused by a malfunctioning or defective part, or if the car is generally insufficient in terms of crash protection. The WHO cites a lack of in-vehicle crash protection as one of the main factors that determines crash severity. If a vehicle does not have the proper crash protection or if an essential part of the vehicle malfunctions, it could have disastrous effects. In these cases, often the car manufacturer, distributor, or retailer of the defective part can be held accountable for any resulting injuries.
  • Insufficient Traffic Control Devices: Sometimes traffic control devices or signs may not be easily visible or may malfunction, causing a collision. A prime example is from this case, in which a motorist suffered a traumatic brain injury that led to his death when he was struck by another vehicle while proceeding through an intersection. The intersection only had a traffic light mounted on a low pole, as opposed to an overhead signal. The man's surviving wife argued that because the signal was mounted on a pole rather than overhead, it was not easily visible to drivers, resulting in the collision. Similar examples are a stop sign that is blocked by tree branches, a traffic light that malfunctions, or any other directional road signage that is knocked down and not swiftly replaced. If an accident occurs as a result of insufficient or unavailable signage, the city, state, or local government may be at fault for not ensuring their roadways were safe for motorists.

Common Causes of Car Accidents in New York

In New York, common causes of car accidents are similar to those listed above; most remain the same across the nation. However, there is data that demonstrates at what volume New York motorists are experiencing some of these car accident catalysts. The following data was obtained from the NHTSA; numbers are based on a total of 943 traffic fatalities recorded across New York State in 2018.

Drunk driving caused the highest number of fatalities (307 out of 943), with speeding close behind, causing 274 fatalities. And although New York had a 92.9% rate of seatbelt use in 2018, not wearing a seatbelt still caused 153 New Yorkers to lose their lives that year. New Yorkers are safe drivers, but you never know when you will encounter someone reckless or intoxicated on the road. Wearing a seat belt, driving sober, and maintaining a reasonable speed are all important steps you can take to protect yourself and others from motor vehicle collisions on the streets of New York.

Call An Attorney to Learn About Your Options After a Car Accident

If you or a loved one have been injured in a car accident, an attorney can help determine whether the crash was caused by another's negligence or recklessness. If so, you may be eligible to recover monetary damages to cover medical bills, replace lost wages, and compensate for pain and suffering. The car accident attorneys at Block O'Toole & Murphy have over 30 years of experience litigating car accident cases and understand how devastating being a victim of a crash is. Notable auto accident case results* we have obtained include:

  • $32,756,156 record-breaking verdict for a 60-year-old veteran who fell into a coma and suffered a traumatic brain injury after he was violently struck by a reckless driver
  • $22,500,000 settlement for a 32-year-old husband and father who suffered compound, comminuted fractures when his car crashed after slipping on black ice on a poorly maintained road
  • $14,000,000 verdict for a 23-year-old motorcyclist who had to have a below-the-knee leg amputation when he was struck by a left-turning truck at an intersection
  • $13,500,000 record-breaking settlement for a 24-year-old woman who was violently struck by a company-owned van, resulting in catastrophic injuries and brain damage
  • $12,000,000 settlement, with $71,643,000 anticipated payout, for a 12-year-old child who was struck by a vehicle that jumped up on the sidewalk in the immediate aftermath of another collision
  • $9,950,000 settlement for a 28-year-old social worker who was struck from behind by a commercial van that sped into the parking lot where she was standing, causing her to need an above-the-knee amputation of her left leg
  • $8,800,000 settlement for a 53-year-old grandmother who suffered a traumatic brain injury when she was struck by a van that jumped up onto the sidewalk after it collided with another van
  • $7,525,000 wrongful death settlement for the surviving family of a mother and young son who were tragically killed in a T-bone accident with a commercial van in Suffolk County
  • $6,000,000 settlement for a city bus passenger who suffered serious shoulder and knee injuries when the bus he was riding on collided with a flatbed truck at an intersection
  • $5,500,000 settlement for a 43-year-old man who was sideswiped by a semi-truck, resulting in herniated discs and lumbar fusion surgery
  • $4,600,000 settlement for a 53-year-old man who sustained multiple herniated discs, requiring fusion surgery, after he was T-boned by another driver who ran a stop sign
  • $4,250,000 settlement for a man who was rear-ended by another vehicle in Westchester County, causing him extreme back pain which required multiple surgeries
  • $3,500,000 settlement for a daycare director who was struck on the driver's side of her vehicle when the other driver ran a stop sign, resulting in severe back and knee injuries
  • $3,000,000 settlement for a 78-year-old woman who was riding a motorized scooter in the bike lane on 8th Avenue when she was struck by a city garbage truck illegally driving in the bike lane, resulting in multiple fractures and a need for ORIF surgery
  • $2,760,000 settlement for a 60-year-old man who suffered multiple severe neck and back injuries when he was struck by a UPS truck while sitting in his cousin's double-parked vehicle

To find out whether you are eligible to file a lawsuit seeking compensation for your car accident injuries, call 212-736-5300 or fill out our online contact form for a FREE case review. We serve New York and New Jersey.

*Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

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