Peter Thompson
Peter Thompson

Common Causes of Accidents

There are a wide variety of factors that cause motor vehicle accidents. Perhaps the single greatest cause of accidents is driver distraction. Reaching to pick up a cell phone, dialing numbers while driving, or texting while driving frequently results in a driver being distracted to the point that he takes his eyes of the road and fails to notice a car stopped ahead, a pedestrian crossing the road, or a traffic signal having turned. Similarly, adjusting a radio while driving often results in the driver taking his eyes off the road for long enough that he fails to notice changed circumstances ahead. At Peter Thompson & Associates, the majority of the cases we have handled have involved accidents caused by driver distraction. In a recent case, our client was driven off the road by a vehicle that came into her lane due to the defendant driver texting someone. The defendant driver was so distracted that he did not even notice that he had caused our client to drive off the road to avoid a collision and continued down the road without stopping. Fortunately our client was able to describe the car to law enforcement and, because it was a small town, the vehicle was identified a short time after the accident and the defendant driver was pulled over. He stated that he had no idea that there had been an accident, but admitted having driven down the road where the accident happened a short time before. His insurance company initially denied the claim, but we were able to obtain copies of his text messages which established that he sent a text at the time of the accident. This information resulted in our client receiving a large settlement.

Drivers are also often distracted by their own thoughts to the point where they are not being attentive to the road conditions in front of their vehicles. We recently settled a case involving a driver who was distracted due to having just been fired from her job. There was a dispute over how the accident happened, with the defendant driver claiming that our client was primarily at fault. Unfortunately the accident scene did not provide clear evidence on this issue, nor did the damage to the vehicles. One of the more significant issues in the case was whether the defendant driver was driving too fast. The defendant driver claimed that she was paying close attention to her speed by looking at her speedometer. At her deposition, she admitted that she had just been fired from her job only 30 minutes before, but claimed that, despite being fired, she was not upset or angry. Although this claim seemed unlikely on its face, we went ahead and deposed her employer who stated that she was very upset and vocal at her termination meeting, stormed out of the meeting, and immediately drove off. This information was critical to getting the case successfully resolved in our client’s favor.

Excessive speed is another common contributory factor in automobile accidents. While many people feel that it is acceptable to speed 5-10 miles per hour over the speed limit, they often do not realize that the 5-10 miles per hour of additional speed can make the difference in whether they have time to stop or react to changed conditions ahead. This is particularly the case in bad weather conditions.

Finally, malfunctioning or inoperable equipment on a vehicle is frequently a cause of accidents. In particular, inoperable turn signals have been the cause of many cases we have handled. One case worth noting involved our client colliding with another vehicle when the defendant driver’s vehicle took a left turn in front of her as she was passing that vehicle. The defendant driver claimed that she had illuminated her turn signal before she started her turn, but our client claimed that it was not on. The turn signal light was badly damaged in the accident and, therefore, we hired an expert to examine the turn signal bulb which broke in the collision. He was able to determine from the appearance of the bulb that it was not on at the time it broke (based on the appearance of the filament). While this information did not conclusively establish that the turn signal was off, it was very helpful in getting the case resolved for several times what the insurance company offered our client before she came to us for representation.

There are also many, many other less-frequent causes of accidents. At Peter Thompson & Associates, we treat each case with the individual attention it deserves and work tirelessly to get to the bottom of how an accident happened by, as indicated in the case examples above, digging into the evidence and utilizing the best experts.