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Single Car Accident: Am I Always at Fault?

If you find yourself in a car accident and there is no one else around, you may have no one to blame but yourself. Being in a solo vehicle collision brings up several important questions. Are you criminally liable if you hit something while you were under the influence of drugs or alcohol? Do you have insurance? Perhaps the most important question, if you're in a single-car accident is: Am I always at fault?

Single Car Accident Definition

While the most common car accidents involve two or more vehicles, there are times when an accident involves only your car. For example, you swerve to avoid an animal in the roadway, and you end up hitting a fire hydrant or slamming into a building. You may be held at fault for the accident, but if you can prove the collision was the result of someone else's negligence or a vehicle defect, you may be able to claim damages or shift the fault elsewhere.

Vehicle Defects

Sometimes cars have manufacturing defects. Maybe there were faulty brakes or poor alignment, and the car didn't operate the way it should. In most states, you will be able to file a product liability lawsuit and recover any damages you sustain as a result of the manufacturer's negligence. The manufacturer would, in turn, be liable to anyone injured or any property damaged as a result of the accident.

Poor Road Conditions or Maintenance

Maybe your accident was the result of a stoplight malfunctioning or deep potholes in the roadway. If your accident is the result of poor road design or failure to maintain the roadways, you may be able to sue the city, county, or other government entity responsible for the upkeep of these areas. While it isn't always apparent who is at fault in these situations, an experienced attorney will be able to assist you.

The 'Unavoidable' Accident

There are other times when another person, motorist, or cyclist does something negligent, forcing you to respond quickly and thus, get into a single-car accident. For instance, let's say a cyclist pulls out into the roadway without looking, swerving into your lane. Your first reaction is to swerve to avoid the rider, but if you end up hitting something (other than the negligent cyclist, such as a guardrail or stop sign), the cyclist may be held liable for the accident. Keep in mind much of this depends on the negligence laws in your state, so be sure you understand the law before filing a lawsuit or claim.

DUIs and Single-Car Accidents

People driving cars under the influence of alcohol or drugs hit things. This is true whether it is a stop sign or a parked car. In these types of situations, if you are found guilty of the DUI, you will likely owe restitution to repair any damage as a result of your criminal activity. Whether or not your insurance company will cover you for the damage depends specifically on your policy.

Property Damage in Single-Car Accidents

Property damage is a common result of single-car accidents. This can range from damage to your vehicle to damage to roadside objects such as signs, trees, fences, or buildings. You may be liable for these damages, especially if you were found to be negligent or at fault. However, some insurance policies may cover property damage, so ask your attorney to go over the specifics of your policy.

How Does Car Insurance Work for Single-Vehicle Accidents?

Car insurance plays a big role in single-vehicle accidents. If you have comprehensive insurance, it will likely cover damages to your vehicle regardless of fault. However, collision coverage or liability insurance may not fully cover damages if you're deemed at fault. Your attorney can check the specifics of your insurance policy to help determine what is covered.

Medical Bills Resulting From Single-Car Accidents

If you sustain injuries from a single-car accident, your medical bills can pile up quickly. Personal injury protection (PIP) is a type of insurance that covers medical expenses for you and your passengers, regardless of who is at fault. However, not all insurance policies have PIP coverage, so you'll have to check your insurance policy.

Comparative Negligence in Single-Vehicle Accidents

Some states operate under a comparative negligence law, meaning the fault and liability for an accident can be distributed among multiple parties based on their percentage of fault. In a single-car accident, if you can prove another party was partly to blame (for example, due to a poorly maintained road), your degree of fault, and thus your liability, might be reduced.

In this example, if you can prove that the condition of the road was a significant factor in the accident, then the city or county responsible for maintaining the road could be deemed partially at fault.

The applicability and implications of comparative negligence laws vary from state to state. In some states, known as pure comparative negligence states, you can recover damages even if you're 99% at fault. Your compensation will simply be reduced by your percentage of fault. On the other hand, some states follow a modified comparative negligence rule, which allows you to recover damages only if you're less than 50% or 51% at fault, depending on the state. If you're more at fault than the threshold, you won't be able to recover any damages.

Statute of Limitations for Single-Vehicle Accidents

A statute of limitations sets the time limit within which you must file a legal claim after an accident. These limits vary by state and type of claim (personal injury, property damage, etc.). If you fail to file within this time frame, you may lose your right to pursue legal action. Your attorney can help you find out the statute of limitations for your accident in your state.

What if I Violated Traffic Laws?

In a single-car accident, you can be found at fault if it's determined that you violated traffic laws. For instance, if you ran a red light or were speeding before the accident, these infractions could establish your negligence and liability. You could possibly be liable for any damages that resulted afterward due to your own carelessness.

How To Handle an Accident Report After a Single-Car Accident

When law enforcement arrives at the accident scene, they'll typically write an accident report. This report can be vital when filing an insurance claim or if legal action is necessary. It details the circumstances of the accident and any violations of traffic laws. It may even include an assessment of who was at fault.

Here are the steps to properly handle an accident report:

  1. Cooperate with law enforcement: When law enforcement arrives, cooperate fully. Answer their questions honestly and provide as much detail as you can about what happened.
  2. Review the police report: Once the report is prepared, make sure to review it for accuracy. Check that all details, such as the time, location, and circumstances of the vehicle crash, are recorded correctly.
  3. Obtain a copy: Always get a copy of the report for your car accident claim. You may need to visit the local police station or their website to obtain this. There might be a small fee involved.
  4. Share with your insurance company: Provide a copy of the report to your insurance company when filing your claim. This report serves as a critical piece of evidence that may determine the outcome of your claim and your ability to recover compensation for your car accident injuries.
  5. Use for legal action: If you choose to take legal action, the accident report will be an essential piece of evidence. Your attorney can use the details in the report to build your case.

Bodily Injury in Single-Car Accidents

Bodily injuries from single-car accidents can range widely in severity, from minor scrapes and bruises to severe injuries such as fractures, spinal cord injuries, or traumatic brain injuries. Here's how to handle such situations:

  1. Seek immediate medical attention: Even if you believe your injuries are minor, seek immediate medical attention. Some injuries might not show symptoms immediately but can have long-term health implications.
  2. Keep detailed records: Document all medical treatments received, including hospital visits, doctor's appointments, medications, physical therapy sessions, and any other related expenses. These records and insurance information will be important if you decide to file an insurance claim or a lawsuit.
  3. Report to your insurance company: Report your auto accident injuries to your insurance company as soon as possible. Under personal injury protection, your own car insurance may cover your medical bills regardless of who is at fault.
  4. Consider legal action: If another party's negligence contributed to the accident and your injuries, you might consider filing a personal injury lawsuit. You could potentially recover damages for medical bills, pain and suffering, lost wages due to being unable to work, and more. A personal injury lawyer can guide you through this process.

Single-Car Accident: Am I Always at Fault? Related Resources

Are You at Fault for a Single-Car Accident? Get Professional Legal Advice From a Car Accident Lawyer

There are a lot of variables involved in solo car accident cases. It may be best to speak with a personal injury attorney before paying money to anyone for damages caused. This is particularly important if you have serious injuries of your own. A qualified car accident attorney in your area will be able to assist you in reviewing your single-car crash.

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