A single-vehicle accident is a car accident involving only one vehicle. Since there is only one driver involved in a single-vehicle accident, many people may believe that the driver is legally responsible for the collision. However, that is not always the case. There are ways drivers can defend themselves after a single-vehicle accident, and other parties may be held liable for their injuries.
Types of Single-Vehicle Accidents
Single-car crashes can occur due to driver error or factors outside of a driver’s control. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), human choices, such as speeding, alcohol impairment, and drowsy driving, are main causes of driving fatalities. Some of the most common types of single-vehicle accidents include:
- Hitting objects: This type of single-vehicle accident occurs when a driver hits a natural or artificial object in the road, such as an animal, tree, pole, fallen debris, guardrail, or a pothole.
- Running off the road: This type of single-vehicle accident occurs when a driver runs a vehicle onto the shoulder, median, roadside, parking lane, gore, or separator and hits one or more objects.
- Roll-over accidents: In some cases, a vehicle may spin out of control and roll over. Approximately 85 percent of roll-over fatalities occur in single-vehicle accidents, according to the NHTSA.
Defenses to Liability for Single-Vehicle Accidents
Drivers have a duty to drive safely on the road and follow all traffic laws. Therefore, drivers who are intoxicated, distracted, or driving too fast at the time of the accident are liable for any consequent damages and injuries. Although the driver in a single-vehicle accident is usually the one legally responsible for the crash, this is not always the case. Being involved in a single-vehicle accident does not mean automatic liability. There are various causes of single-vehicle accidents other than the driver, such as:
- Another driver: A driver does not necessarily have to be involved in the crash in order to be liable. For example, if a distracted driver veers into another’s lane, causing them to swerve and hit a tree, the distracted driver may be responsible for the accident.
- Poor road conditions: Drivers who crash due to an unreasonably dangerous road condition may be able to sue the government agency responsible for maintaining the road.
- Vehicle defects: In cases where an accident was caused by a vehicle defect, the car manufacturer or car repair shop that did the repairs may be held liable.
Can Drivers in Single-Vehicle Accidents Sue for Their Injuries?
This depends on what type of car insurance a driver has. Pennsylvania is a choice no-fault car insurance state, meaning that drivers have a choice between full tort and limited tort car insurance. Full tort coverage is more expensive than limited tort but also provides more benefits.
Choosing the full tort option grants the right to seek compensation for injuries caused by at-fault drivers. This means that drivers who are in accidents are not limited to their insurance policy coverages. A motorist may sue the driver responsible for the accident directly to recover both monetary and non-monetary expenses associated with the accident.
Drivers who opt for the limited tort option are confined to the no-fault car insurance law, which states that injured drivers must go through their own car insurance company for compensation, regardless of who is at-fault for the accident. Medical and other out-of-pocket expenses are covered, but non-monetary damages, such as pain and suffering, are not covered unless they fall under the serious injury exception.
What is the Serious Injury Exception?
There is an exception to the no-fault rule. Under Pennsylvania law, even those with limited tort coverage may be able to seek recovery for pain and suffering and other non-monetary damages if their injuries are considered severe. Pennsylvania law defines serious injuries as those that result in death, serious impairment of bodily function, or permanent disfigurement.
Injuries such as amputation, traumatic brain injuries, and paralysis are all considered serious enough to warrant stepping outside the no-fault insurance system. However, other types of injuries may be considered severe as well, such as broken bones requiring surgery or scars on the face, neck, or hands.
Can a Driver Recover Compensation If Found Partially Responsible for the Accident?
This depends on the state in which the driver lives. When it comes to car accidents, some states follow the comparative fault rule, which states that when both parties share blame for an accident, each party is financially responsible for their percentage of fault. For example, if someone sues an at-fault driver for their injuries but they are deemed to be 40 percent at-fault for the accident, then they would only receive 60 percent of their award.
Other states follow the less popular contributory fault rule, which states that plaintiffs are barred from recovering anything at all if they were even one percent at-fault for the accident. Plaintiffs would not be able to recover monetary damages from the other driver unless they were not at all responsible for the accident.
Pennsylvania follows the modified comparative fault rule which is a combination of the two. Under the modified comparative fault rule, those who bear some responsibility for their accident may not recover damages if they are deemed to be more than 50 percent responsible. If they are no more than 50 percent responsible for the accident, they may recover damages in proportion to their fault. Therefore, if someone sues another driver for their single-vehicle accident in Pennsylvania but they are deemed to be partially at-fault, their damage award will be reduced by their percentage of fault.
What Should Drivers Do After Single-Vehicle Collisions?
A driver who is involved in a single-vehicle accident should follow the same procedure as they would if they were involved in a multi-vehicle accident:
- Call the police.
- Take pictures of the scene.
- If possible, move the car to safety and turn the hazard lights on.
- Write down the details of the events leading up to the crash.
- Report the accident to the insurance company.
- Obtain contact information from any witnesses.
- Seek medical attention immediately.
- Contact an attorney.
Additionally, a motorist involved in a single-vehicle accident should make sure to protect the viability of their claim if they believe another party is to blame for the accident. For example, an injured driver may be able to file a claim against the agency responsible for maintaining the road if their accident was caused by missing or damaged signs, a large pothole, or other road damage that was not repaired in a timely fashion. In those cases, drivers are advised to report the accident to the government agency responsible for maintaining the road.
A victim who believes their accident was caused by a vehicle defect should have their car checked by a qualified mechanic as soon as possible to document any defects that may have caused the accident. Injured drivers may generally protect their right to compensation by collecting as much evidence as possible, keeping detailed records of their expenses arising from the accident, and filing their claims within the statute of limitations. In Pennsylvania, a personal injury claim must be filed within two years of the date of the accident. A helpful accident lawyer will be able to assist a victim with a claim.
Bucks County Accident Lawyers at Freedman & Lorry, P.C. Defend Drivers Injured in Single-Vehicle Accidents
If you were injured in a single-vehicle accident, contact our Bucks County accident lawyers at Freedman & Lorry, P.C. We will help you determine the best strategy in your case and fight for the compensation you deserve. For a free consultation, call us at 888-999-1962 or complete our online form. Located in Philadelphia, Cherry Hill, New Jersey, and Pinehurst, North Carolina, we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania.