Car accidents can be traumatic. However, after you recover from a crash, you might consider who was to blame and in the event the crash involved 2 or more vehicles, which driver needs to cover auto repairs, possible medical expenses, and other potential damages.
But what about liability in a single-vehicle accident? While drivers may carry some of the blame for a one-car accident, other factors, such as poorly maintained roads, vehicle defects, or repair mistakes, could also play a role.
Here is a look at the details surrounding liability in a single-vehicle accident.
What Is a Single-Vehicle Accident?
A single-vehicle accident does not involve any other cars or trucks. The driver may leave the road, crash into an object on the roadside, hit an animal, or crash after losing control due to poor road conditions or expected maneuvers from other drivers. Even though one vehicle crashes in these incidents, other drivers could bear partial responsibility.
Single-car accidents can cause damage to property and injuries to the driver and their passengers. Even in single-car accidents, in an “at-fault” state such as Indiana, comparative negligence laws and other factors could affect liability.
What Are Some of the Common Causes of These Crashes?
Often liability in a single-vehicle accident depends on the cause of the crash. Here are the common reasons for crashes involving only one car.
- Bad weather – Heavy rain or snow could create difficult driving conditions, causing cars to slide off the road or reducing visibility. Drivers must slow down, brake gradually, and take other steps to account for the conditions. However, slippery pavement, winds, or visibility problems can still cause accidents despite drivers’ best efforts.
- Speeding – Speeding is a common cause of single-vehicle accidents. In most cases, the driver simply does not give themselves time to turn, stop, or make necessary maneuvers to avoid objects or stay on the road.
- Distracted driving – Drivers may also leave the pavement or hit objects if they are distracted by their mobile device, radio, food, maps, or other items that cause them to take their eyes off the road. In some cases, you may be trying to drive attentively but lose focus due to fatigue.
- Impaired driving – Impairment due to drugs or alcohol can limit a driver’s ability to react to situations on the road. Drunk drivers miss road signs, fail to make turns or maneuver through curves, and hit objects on the side of the road.
- Avoiding other cars – In some instances, other vehicles may drive erratically or unsafely. You may leave the road or hit a tree or guardrail as you steer to avoid hitting the other car.
- Avoiding unexpected objects – In some cases, drivers may have an accident when they run over items that aren’t supposed to be on the roadway. These may include items that fell off a truck, blew into the road, or detached from another vehicle.
- Animals – Your car could leave the road or sustain damage if you hit a large animal like deer. Bird strikes or other incidents involving animals could also cause damage, or you could swerve aggressively to avoid an animal and lose control as a result.
- Pedestrians – You might also have to swerve and lose control when pedestrians enter the road unexpectedly. For example, they may cross the street outside a designated crosswalk or enter the street despite a don’t walk signal.
Other incidents involving cyclists, poor light conditions, potholes, road maintenance issues, and vehicle defects may cause single-car wrecks. In each of these cases, liability depends on the situation when the accident occurred.
Understanding Liability in a Single-Vehicle Accident
Liability is when someone causes damage due to actions or omissions. For vehicle accidents, it means the driver failed to take reasonably-expected steps to ensure their safety and the safety of others on the road. In addition to obvious steps like avoiding impaired driving, speeding, aggressive maneuvers, or distractions, responsible driving can mean adjusting driving to account for challenging conditions.
Liability in a single-vehicle accident could come into question when the actions of others led to the crash. The actions of a pedestrian, other drivers, or the agency in charge of road upkeep could be partially or totally to blame for an accident. Also, in some instances, such as animal strikes, the accident could be unavoidable despite the best efforts of the driver.
When The Driver is Not Liable
Drivers are generally partially or fully responsible for single-car accidents if they are impaired by drugs or alcohol, speeding, or driving inattentively. However, there are some incidents in which the driver isn’t responsible for the incident.
- Maneuvering to avoid an accident – If you are swerving to avoid another driver, you may not be liable in a single-vehicle accident, especially if the other driver was speeding, impaired, or distracted.
- Vehicle defects or maintenance mistakes – If the vehicle has flaws that caused the driver to lose control, the liability may lie with the auto manufacturer. Also, failing to repair an automobile to reasonable standards could leave the mechanic at fault.
- Hitting an animal – In many cases, drivers cannot reasonably be expected to avoid a deer or dog that jumps right out in front of their car.
- Road conditions – Drivers must make adjustments to safely navigate during poor weather or to deal with obvious changes to road conditions. However, unexpected issues, such as large potholes, improperly repaired roads, or incorrectly painted lines, may shift liability away from the driver.
- Materials in the road – Materials that flew into the road off of other cars or trucks or were thrown on the road on purpose may leave the parties responsible for the materials responsible for accidents caused by their presence on the road.
An experienced car accident lawyer can help you define the liability in a single-vehicle accident and ensure the insurers involved provide fair compensation and coverage.
What Happens If I Am At Fault For the Crash?
You shouldn’t assume that you are automatically liable for a single-car accident. However, if your negligence caused the incident, you can expect certain outcomes.
- Traffic citations or charges – If you broke the law, you might get a ticket from law enforcement. This outcome can happen if you were speeding or driving recklessly. If you were impaired or caused injury to passengers or others due to reckless driving or impairment, you might face misdemeanor or felony charges.
- Insurance premium increases – An accident may cause the insurance company to reconsider your risk level. They may increase premium costs to account for the additional risk from your driving habits.
- Out-of-pocket payments – If you do not have proper insurance coverage or if the damage exceeds your coverage amounts, you may have to pay for repairs or replacement out of your pocket.
Does Car Insurance Cover Single-Vehicle Accidents?
Auto insurance policies may differ. Coverage depends on the details of your policy. In Indiana, the average policy offers some liability protection for injuries and property damage you cause with your car. It may also cover medical costs and other forms of damage. In some cases, deductibles apply, meaning you must pay some costs out of pocket until you reach the coverage minimum. After this, the insurance covers all costs.
Insurance policies often have coverage maximums. If the damage exceeds this amount, you have to pay the remaining costs.
It is important to establish liability in a single-vehicle accident because your insurance premiums are likely to increase if you are at fault.
What To Do If You Have Been In A Single-Vehicle Accident
If you are in a single-vehicle accident, you need to take specific steps. First, you should never leave the scene of the accident, which is against the law in Indiana even if only one vehicle is involved. You should notify the police and wait for them to arrive in a safe place. Even if the damage is minor, it is important to get a police report to have evidence for the insurance claim. The report will also be essential in establishing liability.
If the police question you about the incident, you should be honest about what happened, but you should never admit fault or say that you made a mistake. You should simply state the facts and speak with a car accident attorney before offering more information.
You should also collect evidence at the scene if it is safe to do so. For example, you can take pictures of the vehicle, any property damage, or road conditions. Even if you think you are liable, the evidence could be useful for proving the extent of your liability and preventing other parties from making claims for damage unrelated to the accident.
If you or a passenger are injured, you should seek medical treatment. An exam could also help establish the extent of injuries related to the accident. Since insurance policies often cover medical expenses, this documentation is essential for compensation purposes.
If you have questions about liability in a single-vehicle accident or need advice about how to proceed after a crash, you should contact an experienced attorney in your local area.
Fishers Auto Accident Attorney
SLG Accident Attorneys can provide legal advice and representation in Fishers, Indiana, and the wider Hamilton Country area. In addition to an excellent record in auto accident and personal injury cases, Hasan Shah provides personalized service to each client, regardless of the details and size of their case.
Contact us before you settle with the insurance company. We will negotiate on your behalf to pursue compensation and seek a fair distribution of liability. We can also represent you should you face charges related to the accident or if other parties file civil suits against you.
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES FOR CAR CRASH VICTIMS