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Car Accident Types and Causes: A Comprehensive Guide

In the blink of an eye, lives can change forever. According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, a staggering 13 car accidents unfold every minute¹, casting a harsh light on the widespread occurrence of vehicular incidents.

A car accident happens when vehicles crash into each other or something else, often causing damage and injuries. In 2021, about 42,915 people died in vehicle crashes in the U.S. Knowing the types of accidents, their causes, and the injuries they can cause helps us improve road safety and educate drivers.

Car accidents can be head-on, where two cars hit each other front to front; side-impact, where one car hits the side of another; rear-end, where a car hits the car in front of it from behind; and rollover, where a car flips over.

The main reason for these accidents is driver error, which includes being distracted, driving under the influence, not having enough driving experience, and being too tired to drive safely. The injuries from these accidents can be minor, like cuts and bruises, or severe, like brain or spinal injuries, which can change someone's life forever. Understanding all this helps us push for safer driving and better roads.

What are some types of car accidents?

Car accidents are as diverse as the roads themselves, with a wide spectrum of scenarios. The following car accident types are examples of vehicle-to-vehicle impacts:

Head-on collisions

A head-on collision is a type of motor vehicle accident that occurs when two vehicles are in motion and are headed directly toward each other on the same road. In this collision, the front ends of both vehicles collide with significant force, often resulting in severe damage, extensive injuries, and, tragically, sometimes even fatalities.

Side-impact collisions

A side-impact collision, commonly called a T-bone car accident, occurs when one vehicle strikes the side of another. This type of motor vehicle crash involves the front end of one vehicle impacting the side of another perpendicularly, forming a shape resembling the letter T. Side-impact collisions often occur at intersections or in situations where one vehicle fails to yield the right of way.  This can result in potentially serious injuries due to the limited protection provided to the sides of vehicles compared to their front or rear.

Rear-end collisions

A rear-end collision is a type of car crash that transpires when the front bumper of one vehicle collides with the rear end of another vehicle. In a rear-end collision scenario, the impact typically occurs when the trailing vehicle fails to maintain a safe following distance or reacts too slowly to the braking actions of the vehicle in front.

Rollover Accidents

A rollover accident occurs when a vehicle tips onto its side or roof during a crash. The extent of the rollover can vary based on the force of the collision. This event may involve a single roll or multiple rotations before the vehicle eventually comes to a stop. Rollover car accidents can be caused by various factors, including the vehicle's design, speed, road conditions, and the driver's actions. 

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What is the most common type of car accident?

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Institute (NHTSA), head-on collisions are the most common type of car accident³. The severity of such collisions can vary widely, ranging from minor accidents to devastating crashes with significant injuries or fatalities. 

What is the leading cause of car accidents? 

The foremost cause of auto accidents in the United States is driver error, as reported by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)⁴. This generalized category includes specific mistakes drivers make leading to accidents: 

  • Distracted driving, often due to smartphone use or other inattentive behaviors, diverts a driver's attention from the road and surroundings, contributing significantly to accidents. 
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs impairs judgment and reaction times, resulting in devastating collisions.
  • Inexperience and poor decision-making, especially among young drivers, contribute to many accidents. 
  • Additionally, whether from inadequate sleep or extended hours on the road, driver fatigue can impair cognitive function and decrease a driver's ability to respond effectively to changing traffic conditions.

These factors collectively highlight the high importance of addressing driver behavior and promoting safe driving practices to reduce the occurrence of preventable accidents.

What are common car accident Injuries?

In an instant, lives can be forever altered by the indiscriminate forces of a car accident. The scope of injuries that can be sustained in these harrowing moments spans from the visible to the unseen, leaving a trail of physical and emotional devastation in their wake. Here are some common car accident injuries:

  • Impact Injuries occur when passengers strike part of the car's interior or the ground, such as a head hitting a window upon collision.
  • Penetrating Injuries result from loose objects within the vehicle, like shattered glass cutting victims, causing wounds.
  • Car Accident Deaths are tragic and may lead to wrongful death claims. Compensation can include lost wages, funeral costs, and emotional distress.
  • Head and Back Injuries include traumatic brain injuries (TBI), concussions, spinal cord injuries leading to potential paralysis, chronic back pain, and facial trauma due to impact.
  • Neck and Chest Injuries can result in fractured ribs, or even heart attacks can occur from the force of the accident. A more common injury in this area is whiplash.
  • Soft Tissue Injuries like sprains, strains, and severe bruising to muscles and ligaments can cause lingering pain and discomfort.
  • Arm and Leg Injuries from car accidents include broken bones, dislocated joints, or, in extreme cases, the loss of limbs.
  • Organ Damage from high-impact incidents can cause internal injuries to organs such as the spleen, liver, and intestines, leading to serious complications.
  • The emotional impact of an auto accident can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), causing long-term psychological distress. Recognizing and addressing PTSD from a car accident is important for the affected individuals' recovery and well-being.

Understanding the range of injuries resulting from car accidents underscores the need for cautious driving and proactive safety measures.

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What damages can I recover from a car accident?

You may have the right to seek damages if you’ve been affected by a car accident. Through a personal injury claim, two types of damages can be pursued. Economic damages cover financial losses and out-of-pocket expenses directly related to the accident, including medical bills and property repair costs, like damage to your car.
Non-economic damages, on the other hand, account for intangible losses, including pain and suffering, emotional distress, and reduced quality of life. Pursuing these damages can provide much-needed relief and support during the challenging aftermath of a car accident.

Medical expenses

In the aftermath of a car accident, the physical toll it takes on individuals can extend far beyond the immediate impact. Bodily injuries can lead to many medical expenses, forming a pivotal component of economic damages that can be sought when seeking rightful compensation.

These costs include both the present and the future as the ripple effects of an accident continue to unfold. Current expenses account for all medical costs resulting from the accident, while future expenses provide coverage for anticipated medical care and treatment. Potential compensation may include:

  • Ambulance costs
  • Health facility stays
  • Necessary in-home care
  • Surgeries
  • Medication
  • Prosthetic devices
  • Rehabilitation expenses
  • Medical appointments
  • Cognitive therapy

Maintaining a record of all these is important when seeking compensation.

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Pain and suffering

Pain and suffering from a non-economic damage-seeking perspective are the physical pain and emotional distress stemming from the accident and the resulting injuries. However, quantifying the value of pain and suffering proves intricate, as there's no universal industry standard for calculating these damages.

Each case is unique, and variables like the severity of injuries and their impact on daily life play a role. To navigate this complex landscape, a skilled Philadelphia car accident lawyer is invaluable. Our expertise aids in assessing the fairness of any potential award, ensuring that the hardships endured find rightful recognition and compensation.


Lost wages

Car accident victims frequently face work disruption due to injuries and recovery. Damages sought can include lost wages, compensating for income forgone due to missed workdays. These claims address the direct connection between injuries sustained in the accident and the necessary recovery period. They recognize the financial strain imposed by the inability to engage in regular employment activities during this critical time.


Property damage

Car accident victims can seek compensation for physical injuries and damages to personal belongings. This claim extends beyond the vehicle itself, covering items like shoes, clothing, jewelry, and more that may have been affected by the accident. This aspect of compensation guarantees that the financial toll of property damage is adequately addressed, acknowledging the inconvenience and losses sustained beyond the immediate vehicular damage.


What should I do after a car accident?

The moments following a car accident are critical and demand a clear-headed approach. Knowing the appropriate steps can make a difference amid the adrenaline and confusion. Here's a checklist of actions to consider:

  • Check for Injuries: Ensure the safety of all involved parties. If serious injuries are severe, you should go to the hospital after a car accident, so call 9-1-1 for immediate medical assistance.
  • Move Out of Traffic: If the accident is minor and injuries aren't severe, move the vehicles to prevent further collisions.
  • Park Safely: Turn off the cars and activate hazard lights. Use cones or flares to establish a safe area around the accident scene.
  • Call the Police: Contact the police to report the accident and request an official report.
  • Stay Cooperative: Interact courteously with the police, but avoid admitting guilt or arguing with other parties.
  • Gather Information: Collect names, contact information, insurance details, vehicle information, officer's contact details, and the police report number.
  • Document the Scene: Note the date, time, location, and travel directions. Take photos of the vehicles, the accident scene, road conditions, property damage, and injuries sustained.
  • Avoid Signing Documents: Refrain from signing any insurance-related documents without consulting a lawyer.
  • Contact a Car Accident Lawyer: If you're unsure about the legal aspects or need assistance navigating the aftermath, it is highly recommended to contact a skilled personal injury lawyer.

By following these steps, individuals can protect their well-being, secure important information, and set the groundwork for any potential legal actions or insurance claims arising from the accident.

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How can a car accident lawyer help?

Muller Brazil's car accident lawyers are dedicated to providing legal support to individuals involved in a motor vehicle accident. Our team of experienced car accident lawyers can assist you in the following ways:

Case Evaluation: We will carefully review the details of your car accident, assess liability, and determine the strength of your case. Our lawyers will provide a realistic assessment of your legal options and potential outcomes.

Legal Guidance: We will guide you through the complex legal process, making sure you understand your rights and responsibilities. Our lawyers will explain the applicable laws, statutes of limitations, and any potential challenges or obstacles that may arise.

Investigation: Our team will conduct a thorough investigation into the accident, gathering evidence such as accident reports, witness statements, photographs, and other supporting documentation. We will work to establish fault and liability, which is necessary when pursuing a successful car accident claim.

Negotiation: We will handle all communication and negotiation with the insurance company on your behalf. We aim to secure a fair settlement that adequately compensates you for your injuries, medical expenses, property damage, lost wages, and other damages.

Litigation: Our skilled litigators are prepared to advocate for your rights in court if a fair settlement cannot be reached. We will present a strong case on your behalf, striving to achieve the best possible outcome through litigation.

Support and Compassion: Throughout the entire process, our lawyers will provide compassionate support, answer your questions, address your concerns, and keep you informed about the progress of your case. We are committed to providing personalized attention and ensuring you feel supported during this challenging time.

By entrusting your auto accident case to Muller Brazil's auto accident lawyers, you can have confidence in our expertise, dedication, and commitment to fighting for the justice and compensation you deserve.

Contact us now to schedule a consultation, and let us advocate for you. Time is of the essence, so reach out to our team of lawyers for assistance.

  1. 13 car accidents unfold every minute, Bureau of Transportation Statistics
  2. 2021 lives lost in motor vehicle crashes, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
  3. Head-on collisions are the most common type of car accident, National Highway Traffic Safety Institute (NHTSA)

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Meet the Author

Laura Levenberg - Associate Attorney

Laura J. Levenberg is a vaccine injury lawyer at My Vaccine Lawyer. Prior to joining My Vaccine Lawyer, Ms. Levenberg worked as a trial attorney at a litigation firm specializing in personal injury matters, primarily arising from motor vehicle accidents and slip/trip and fall incidents. Laura has successfully represented clients in all stages of litigation, including depositions, negotiations, motion practice, oral arguments, arbitrations, and trial. Laura also serves as a certified arbitrator in Philadelphia County.