Understanding Liability in a Single-Car Accident
When discussing car accidents, most people imagine a collision involving multiple cars, with at least one party at fault. However, many accidents involve only one vehicle, making it more challenging to determine who is at fault. According to the National Safety Council (NSC), single-vehicle accidents of all types make up 55% of fatalities and about 25% of injuries on the road nationwide.
Learn about single-car accidents, how liability works in such cases, and why the driver isn’t always at fault, even if their vehicle is the only one involved in a crash.
The general definition for a single-car accident is any automotive crash where only one motor vehicle sustained damage, regardless of the surrounding circumstances. This definition applies even if another driver or vehicle contributed to the accident.
Typical examples of single-car accidents:
- Swerving and hitting a road sign or another fixed roadside object, such as a tree, a mailbox, or a guardrail
- Losing control of the car over an icy or snow-covered road
- Accidentally driving into a ditch
- Animal impacts, such as deer-vehicle collisions
- Crashes with non-motor vehicle road users, such as bicycles, or pedestrians
- Crashes caused by objects or debris falling or flying off other vehicles
- Losing control or crashing due to potholes, cracks, or ruts in the road
Although many single-car accident cases result from driver error or negligent behavior, such as speeding and losing traction or control, this isn’t always the case.
Single-vehicle accidents can and do frequently happen even to careful, competent drivers. You can hold the at-fault party accountable for your damages and injuries in these situations.
Another driver or road user can directly cause a single-vehicle accident, even if they weren’t involved in the crash. Examples include:
- Aggressive or reckless driving, such as tailgating or cutting the other vehicle off, causing the victim to crash
- Negligence, such as failing to look before pulling into the road, forcing the victim to swerve in an attempt to avoid them and crash into another object
- Failing to secure cargo or other objects, causing them to hit a vehicle behind them
Specific single-vehicle crashes can be traced back to faulty or defective vehicle parts or an inherently dangerous vehicle design, causing the driver to crash.
One of the most famous examples of manufacturer liability in automotive history is the “Bucking Bronco,” referencing the 1983-1988 Ford Bronco II. This SUV’s design was prone to tipping onto two wheels, causing its occupants to be involved in rollover crashes, even at low speeds.
The incidents resulted in numerous lawsuits against Ford, one of the most notable being Ford v. Ammerman, which resulted in a $4.4 million recovery settlement plus $13.8 million for punitive damages.
Unsafe roads can be the direct cause of many single-car accidents. A local, state, or federal government entity may be liable for your damages and injuries.
Examples of unsafe road conditions include:
- Generally poorly-maintained roads
- A large number of potholes, cracks, and other road damage
- Failure to remove hazards or debris
- Defective traffic signals or lack of proper signage
- Dangerous or unsafe road designs, such as uneven road surfaces
If you were involved in a single-vehicle accident in the state of Missouri and know you weren’t at fault, it is critical to follow the proper steps to obtain the compensation you deserve:
- If you sustained injuries in the crash, seek medical attention as soon as possible and keep copies of your medical records.
- Report the accident to your insurance company.
- Get the contact information for any witnesses to your accident.
- Take pictures of the damage your vehicle sustained and, if applicable, of your own injuries.
- Seek legal help from a qualified Missouri auto accident lawyer.
If you believe your accident is the result of another party’s negligence or recklessness:
- Evidence proving the other party was at fault, such as dash cam footage, traffic camera recordings, or footage recorded by witnesses, can help build your case.
If you believe the accident resulted from a vehicular defect:
- Stop driving the vehicle immediately. Do not drive it away from the accident scene.
- Have the vehicle towed and ensure a qualified mechanic conducts a thorough inspection.
If you believe your single-accident crash is a result of dangerous road conditions:
- Gather evidence by taking pictures of the scene and documenting evidence of road damage or unsafe road design.
It is critical to seek skilled legal counsel to prove the at-fault party was responsible for your damages and get the financial compensation you deserve, even in single-vehicle accident cases.
At Cofman Townsley, our team of experienced auto accident lawyers has the knowledge and expertise to help you gather evidence and stand up for your rights. Contact us today for a free case review.