Single-Vehicle Accidents: What You Need to Know

When we think about collisions, we typically think about two or more cars crashing into one another. But many times, only a single car is involved. In fact, single-vehicle collisions are more common that you might think. Unfortunately, they also account for over half of all crash-related fatalities in the State of Washington.

Single-vehicle crashes can have unique liability and insurance considerations. Often, but not always, the driver is to blame. Occasionally, there are times when a third party could be at fault. When this happens, the victim may be able to hold someone else accountable for their vehicle damage and medical bills. 

This post will cover:

  • Common Causes of Single-Vehicle Accidents
  • Factors that Make Single-Vehicle Accidents More Likely
  • Steps You Should Take if You’re in a Single-Vehicle Accident
  • Insurance and Liability Considerations
  • Knowing when an Injury Attorney Can Help

What are Some Causes of Single-Vehicle Crashes?

As with multi-vehicle collisions, there are many circumstances which could trigger a single-vehicle collision. While we can’t cover every possible scenario, here are some of the more common ones:

If you take a closer look at the list above, you will realize that some of these causes the driver can control, while others they can’t. We’ll discuss fault in some of the sections that follow.

What Factors Increase the Risk of Single-Car Accidents?

In a report published by the NHTSA, several factors were identified as increasing the likelihood of a “run-off road” event. These are single-car crashes where a vehicle leaves the roadway.

Some of the factors include:

  • Nighttime
  • Poor weather conditions
  • Younger drivers (ages 15-24)
  • Male drivers
  • Rural roads
  • Curvy roads
  • Higher speeds

Certainly, there are steps that many drivers can take that would mitigate many of these risks. For instance, you could drive slower when visibility is poor, or avoid hard braking when taking a sharp curve.

What Should I Do if I am in a Single-Car Crash?

You’ve crashed your car – perhaps you’ve struck a guardrail or run into a ditch. Now what? Here are a few steps you should take:

  1. Assess if you need immediate medical attention. If so, this comes first. Call 911.
  2. Assess if your crash impacted anyone else. Don’t assume that because yours was the only car involved, that no one else was impacted. If you struck someone else’s property (for instance, a fence), by law you will need to make reasonable efforts to contact the property owner or leave a note with your information.
  3. Notify the police. This may come as a surprise, but you must not flee the scene of a crash – even if you were the only one involved! Police will still need to file a report, help direct traffic (if need be), and note any property damage. If you believe your crash was someone else’s fault, calling the police is going to be crucial evidence for your case.

A couple possible additional steps include filing a claim with your insurance company and contacting a personal injury attorney. We’ll discuss each of these in a bit more detail in the next few sections.

Will my Insurance Cover my Single-Vehicle Crash?

If you’ve been in a single-vehicle crash, you may understandably want to know if your insurance company will cover the damages. The short answer: it depends on your policy. Here are some potential insurance coverage types that could come into play.

  • Collision. If you are at fault, collision coverage will help pay for damages to your own vehicle. This is the good news. However, the bad news is that you will almost certainly have to pay a deductible. Worse, you should expect to see an increase in your insurance premium. Given this, you may wish to pay out of pocket for repairs versus filing a claim if the damage is minor. Collision isn’t required in Washington State; so, you may or may not have this coverage.
  • Comprehensive. Comprehensive generally covers damages to your vehicle that are unavoidable and out of your control. For instance, if you strike a deer that darted out into the road. You may have to pay a deductible if you file a comprehensive claim. In general, this shouldn’t raise your premiums the way a collision claim would. Even so, you may want to speak to your insurance agent before deciding how to proceed. As with collision, comprehensive is an optional coverage in Washington State. Check to see if it’s part of your insurance policy.
  • PIP. Personal Injury Protection (PIP) is useful for getting immediate medical expenses covered, regardless of fault. PIP is optional in the State of Washington, so make sure to review your policy or call your insurance agent to ensure it’s in place.
  •  Your Own Health Insurance. If you have a health insurance policy, such as from your employer, that could help cover your expenses, too.

Again, just because you have available insurance protection, you may want to count the costs of filing a claim. Even more so if the accident was entirely your fault and your damages were minor. Remember, many single-car accident claims will come with a deductible and the possibility of increased premium rates. As always, reach out to your insurance agent with questions about your policy and options.

When Could Someone Else be at Fault for a Single-Car Crash?

We’ve hinted throughout this post that there may be times when a third party could be at fault for your crash. Here are a few examples.

  • Vehicle Defects. A car or tire manufacturer may be to blame. In general, the defect must be sudden and unexpected. For instance, if your vehicle was subject to a recall or you failed to perform routine maintenance according to your owner’s manual, you likely do not have a case. If you suspect a vehicle defect is to blame, you’ll want to preserve the car in its current condition. Do not have it repaired. Second, call an injury attorney who handles product liability right away for guidance.
  • Road Conditions. Certain road conditions, such as potholes, could cause damage or injury. While it’s possible to file a claim against the State or a municipality, it’s not easy to prevail. There are additional obstacles you’ll need to overcome. Your best bet is to hire a personal injury attorney.
  • Another Driver. Sometimes, another driver’s reckless behavior could cause you to swerve off the road and crash to avoid a worse accident. In this case, you could certainly file a claim against that driver’s insurance policy. However, your hurdles will be identifying the driver, providing they caused the accident, and tracking down their insurance information.
  • Unsecured Load from Another Driver. It’s illegal in the State of Washington to have an unsecured load. If someone else’s load flies off their vehicle and injures you or causes damage to your vehicle, you can file a claim against that driver.

When Should I Reach Out to an Attorney about a Single-Vehicle Crash?

We recommend that you reach out to one of our attorneys if you feel a third party might be responsible for your car crash. These are likely to be complex claims that require professional legal assistance.

There is absolutely no cost or obligation to reach out to an attorney from our team. In fact, we only charge a fee for our services if we’re able to win you a settlement. If you’d like to speak with us about a recent crash, feel free to call us, fill out the short form on our contact page, or send us a message on our Facebook page.

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