Mississippi Gulf Coast Lawyers for Car Accident Injuries
Being injured in a car accident can turn your whole life upside down. You are suddenly faced with mounting medical bills, the prospect of missing a lot of time from work, and the uncertainty of not knowing when you will recover so your life can return to normal. The stress involved not only weighs down the victim, it can also take a major toll on family members. When an auto accident injury happens because of someone else’s negligence or recklessness, victims and their families deserve to be fully compensated.
At the Gardner Law Firm, one of our main areas of focus is representing people who have been injured in car accidents on South Mississippi highways, roads, and interstates. We have in-depth experience with these types of cases, and we work closely with our clients to help them recover maximum compensation. We are strong litigators and skilled negotiators, and when we take a personal injury case, we fully prepare for trial from the outset. In many cases, it is in our clients’ interests to negotiate a settlement that reflects full and fair compensation for their injuries. But if the other side is not willing to negotiate in good faith, we are ready and able to pursue full damages through litigation.
It is important to realize that, despite what their advertisements may say, insurance companies are not looking out for you. Their goal is to pay out as little as possible in damages, and as such, their interests are not aligned with yours. We know the common tactics insurers often use to avoid responsibility or diminish the value of a car accident claim, and we know how to successfully thwart these tactics. Bottom line: we have the knowledge, skills, resources, and commitment to help ensure that you receive the strong personalized representation you need and deserve.
Types of Car Accident Personal Injury Cases
There are many ways you can be injured in a car accident. The most common is to be involved in an accident as a driver or passenger in another vehicle. But you could also be struck as a pedestrian while walking, or while riding a bicycle or motorcycle. In all of these situations, the consequences of being involved in a motor vehicle accident may be devastating and life-altering, from broken bones to head injuries and spinal injuries. Here’s more on different types of automobile-related accidents.
Though they don’t happen as often as other types of motor vehicle accidents, head-on collisions can result in some of the most severe and catastrophic injuries and fatalities. The force and impact of two cars colliding into each other from different directions, even at a fairly low speed, can cause vehicle occupants to be thrown rapidly in a jerky, back and forth motion, with the potential for moderate to serious injury. Collisions at higher speeds greatly increase the likelihood of major injuries occurring.
What Causes Head-On Collisions?
Head-on auto wrecks can happen for a variety of reasons, and most of the time, they are preventable. As we touched on earlier, for a head-on crash to occur, at least one of the drivers involved usually commits a breach, such as crossing into oncoming traffic.
Here are some of the most common issues that can cause a head-on collision:
- Driving too fast: Many head-on crashes happen because the driver is speeding excessively or going too fast to safely navigate adverse road conditions. Hills, curves, and winding roads require extra caution, and even more so when there is inclement weather such as rain and ice. Driving too fast for the conditions increases the likelihood of a collision with an oncoming vehicle.
- Driving carelessly your recklessly: Another issue that is closely related to excessive speeding is reckless driving. Examples may include tailgating, weaving in and out of lanes, refusing to yield the right of way, making sharp turns, and playing “chicken” with oncoming traffic.
- Failed passing attempts: When someone is driving on a single-lane undivided highway, the only way to pass the car in front of them is to cross over into the oncoming traffic lane. This, of course, puts drivers at risk of a head-on crash. Motorists should always be careful when passing on an undivided road. Only do so in lawful passing zones and when there is no oncoming traffic. In addition, be extra cautious while going up and down hills, driving during inclement weather, and when trying to pass in a large commercial truck.
Side Impact Collision
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), side-impact car collisions make up a quarter of passenger vehicle occupant fatalities in the United States each year. Side-impact collisions, also called “right-angle collisions” or “T-bone collisions,” are dangerous since the sides of vehicles have relatively little space to absorb impact and protect the occupants.
Who is Liable during a T-Bone Crash?
In general, it is quite easy to establish fault in a T-bone crash as this type of collision involves a motorist making a left turn.
Consequently, the driver of the car that made a left turn is often the person who is responsible for causing the T-bone crash. But there are certain exceptions to the rule. For instance, if the motorist who is heading straight ignores a red light or stop sign, then they will at least be held partially accountable for the collision.
Stemming from this, if a driver is speeding way above the posted speed limit, they may also be held at least partially liable for the T-bone accident. Distracted and drunk drivers can also be held at-fault for the T-bone crash.
Rear-end collisions account for roughly one-third of all motor vehicle accidents. These types of accidents happen more often when there is heavy traffic, bad weather (e.g., rain, snow, ice, sleet, etc.), road construction, and other adverse conditions. Rear-end crashes occur when the front end of the trailing vehicle collides into the back end of the lead vehicle. Usually, these collisions only involve two vehicles. However, there are some instances when it becomes a multi-car accident as one vehicle is bumped into another, then into another, creating a domino effect.
Some rear-end wrecks result from vehicles colliding at high speeds, which can cause serious and catastrophic injuries. More often, rear-end accidents happen at lower speeds. These are commonly known as “fender benders”. Even at a lower speed, those involved in the collision can sustain moderate to severe injuries. It is often presumed that a rear-end crash is the fault of the trailing driver, because they the one that initiates the collision, and they are generally best able to see the danger. This is not true in all cases, however. If you or a loved one has been injured in a rear-end collision, it is important to speak with a seasoned auto accident attorney, so you understand your rights and options.
Common Causes of Rear-End Wrecks
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NTHSA) reports that just under two million motor vehicle accidents in United States are rear-end collisions, and over half a million individuals are injured in these types of accidents. There are several reasons why rear-end crashes happen, some of the most common include:
- Following too closely: Tailgating is one of the leading causes of rear-end accidents. When someone is following another car too closely, they may not have time to stop if the other car suddenly slows down due to heavier traffic or another reason. People sometimes tailgate because they are in a hurry and looking to pass the car in front of them. Other times, they drive aggressively for no valid reason. Either way, this type of driving heightens the chances of a rear-end wreck.
- Driving recklessly: Tailgating is one possible form of aggressive or reckless driving that can lead to a rear-end collision. Other examples include speeding excessively (generally 15 to 20 MPH or more over the speed limit), weaving from one lane to the other, turning out sharply in front of an oncoming car, failure to yield the right of way, and many others.
- Distracted driving: Motorists have always had distractions, but the problem has become far worse with the widespread use of smartphones. Activities such as texting while driving are extremely dangerous, because they distract drivers visually, manually, and cognitively. When a driver is looking down at their cell phone, it is very easy to take their eye off the road and fail to notice traffic slowing down in front of them.
Distracted driving has become an epidemic in the United States. According to the Centers For Disease Control (CDC), an average of 9 individuals are killed per day and more than 1,000 are injured in crashes that involve a distracted driver. These accidents cost our society an estimated $40 billion each year.
The distracted driving problem is most prevalent among teen drivers (those between the ages of 15 and 19), largely because of their youth, inexperience, and tech savviness. In recent surveys, 42% of high school students who drove within the past 30 days reported having sent a text or email while driving. And distracted driving is now the cause of nearly 60% of all crashes that involve teen drivers.
In order to recover just compensation for their losses, those who are injured in distracted driving accidents must file a civil claim for damages. Damages are usually recovered through a settlement from the responsible party’s insurance company, or through a personal injury lawsuit. These types of cases can be complicated, however, and the insurance company for the other side will do everything they can get away with to undermine the claim and minimize the amount of compensation they have to pay.
- Drunk driving: The use of alcohol or drugs before getting behind the wheel can be a deadly combination. Motorists who are chemically impaired tend to make very poor driving decisions. Some get very sleepy, while others drive recklessly and have willful and wanton disregard for the rules of the road and the safety of others.
- Faulty breaking systems: Some rear-end crashes happen because of brakes that are worn or defective. When the brakes are bad, it becomes harder to slow down, particularly at higher speeds. When brake pads, rotors, and other related parts start showing their wear, car owners have a duty to get them replaced to help ensure the safety of themselves and others on the road. If the crash is due to a defective auto part, however, this could be the fault of the manufacturer, supplier, or distributor of the faulty part.
Rollover crashes are fairly rare compared to other types of motor vehicle accidents, but they can be some of the deadliest events that occur on the roadways. Only about 3% of all traffic-related accidents are rollovers, but according to an NHTSA study, they account for approximately 30% of all vehicle-related fatalities. Clearly, when a vehicle flips over or gets thrown to its side, the risks of severe and catastrophic injuries are very high, and those inside the vehicle are fortunate if they can escape intact.
In general, rollover accidents happen when a driver loses control of their vehicle before it flips over. There are number of reasons why this could happen, which may include the type of vehicle, weather conditions, the actions of the driver, and many others. Typically, there are a number of factors that can contribute to a rollover crash, and a thorough investigation will be needed to identify the cause and determine who was responsible.
What are the Most Common Causes of Rollover Crashes?
As mentioned previously, rollover accidents typically result from a convergence of factors that cause a vehicle to get turned over or flipped to its side. Some common factors that contribute to rollovers include:
- Type of Vehicle: The make and model of a vehicle can often be a contributing factor to a rollover crash. While any vehicle could flip over under the wrong set of circumstances, this type of event is more likely to happen with vehicles that are taller, narrower, and have a higher center of gravity. Vehicles that fall into this category include sport utility vehicles (SUVs) and various types of vans and pickup trucks.
- Vehicle Speed: “Speed kills”, and this slogan is especially true when it comes to rollover crashes. In approximately 40% of rollover accident cases, the driver is going over the speed limit. In addition, nearly 75% of rollovers that involve fatalities happen on roads where the posted speed limit is 55 mph or above.
- Accident Location: A lot of rollovers happen in rural areas where there are no medians, guardrails, or other barriers that prevent a vehicle from crossing the center line or going into the ditch. Without these barriers, the chances of a vehicle rolling over or getting tipped to its side increases.
- Weight of the Vehicle: A heavier vehicle has a higher center of gravity, making it more likely to roll over. The weight distribution within the vehicle could also be a factor, especially with accidents in which a vehicle gets flipped to its side. Both of these issues are common with large tractor-trailers, which can weigh more than 80,000 pounds when fully loaded. An 18-wheeler that is overloaded or unevenly loaded could get into a rollover crash if it encounters heavy winds, ice, and other adverse conditions.
- Driver Negligence: Some type of driver error or negligence often plays a role in a rollover accident. We talked earlier about speeding; other examples include reckless driving, drunk driving, distracted driving, and drowsy driving. Any of these and other poor driving behaviors can contribute to a rollover crash.
One of the most common injuries from rear-end wrecks is known as “whiplash.” Whiplash happens from the force at impact, which throws your body back and forth, causing soft tissue injuries in the neck, back, and spinal cord.
Causes of Car Accidents
- Speeding: There is a good reason for the speed limit laws that are posted. Going over the speed limit or driving too fast for current conditions vastly reduces the time a motorist has to react to adverse situations on the road that may arise. Going too fast might also cause someone to lose control of their vehicle. The impact of a high-speed collision also increases the likelihood of more serious and catastrophic injuries.
- Reckless Driving: Driving recklessly means driving with wanton disregard for the rules of the road and the safety of others. Excessive speeding is one common form of reckless driving, others include following too closely/tailgating, weaving back and forth between lanes or straddling the center line, running stop signs and red lights, illegal or dangerous passing maneuvers, and street racing.
- Drunk Driving: A large percentage of car accidents happen because of driver intoxication. This is most common during the evening hours and near local bars and casinos around southern Mississippi. Chemical impairment slows driver reaction times, and it can also alter the mindset and cause a motorist to lose their inhibitions and drive recklessly.
- Drowsy Driving: Drowsy driving is far more common than most people realize. A National Sleep Foundation poll from 2005 found that approximately 60% of all adult drivers had driven while they were tired or fatigued during that previous year, and about one third of all drivers admitted to having fallen asleep behind the wheel. A more recent study by AAA found similar results, with about 37% confessing to having fallen asleep while driving.Many people are aware that they probably shouldn’t be driving when they are tired or fatigued, but they may not understand how dangerous this practice is. Drowsy driving is not illegal in most states (Mississippi included), and this type of behavior does not get nearly as much attention as drunk driving or distracted driving. Despite these facts, drowsy and fatigued driving is a contributing factor in tens of thousands of auto accidents each year.When someone drives while drowsy or fatigued and it results in an accident with injuries, that driver is negligent and deserves to be held responsible. If you or someone close to you has suffered injury because of a drowsy driver, you deserve to be fully compensated for your losses. Unfortunately, insurance companies will use all kinds of tactics to diminish the value of your claim and cause you to lose out on the just compensation you are entitled to. For this reason, you need strong legal counsel by your side fighting hard to secure maximum compensation.
Each of these irresponsible (in legal terms, “negligent”) behaviors can cause serious injury or death to innocent people. If you have been injured in a car accident, our goal is to help you get the financial compensation you deserve.
Damages for Car Accident Injury Claims
After someone gets hurt in an auto accident that was someone else’s fault, they are entitled to compensatory damages. These can be grouped into two general categories:
- Economic Damages: These are direct monetary losses that the victim sustains, such as hospitalization costs, costs for surgeries and other types of medical treatment, rehabilitation expenses, the cost of ongoing medical care, lost wages, loss of future earning capacity, property damage, and funeral and burial expenses (in the case of a wrongful death).
- Noneconomic Damages: These are losses that are real but intangible and more difficult to quantify. Examples of noneconomic damages include pain and suffering, psychological distress, loss of enjoyment, disfigurement, loss of consortium, and permanent disability.
In some limited cases in which the actions of the driver responsible for the accident were willful or malicious, punitive damages might also be awarded. Punitive damages are not meant to compensate the victim, but rather to “punish” the wrongdoer and help deter them (and others) from committing similarly egregious acts in the future.
Bottom line: In a Mississippi car accident case, unless you are 100% to blame, you should be able to get some compensation for your losses, although it is obviously in your best interests to minimize the percentage of fault you share.
Why Are There More Auto Accidents Happening in the US?
Automobile accidents occur more frequently in the US compared to many other countries, according to a WHO research report. Traffic laws in the US are quite permissive of risky driving behavior, which results in more injuries and fatalities on the roads.
The global research study, which reviewed accidents and related laws worldwide, shows that the fatality rate in the US is 12.4 per 100,000 auto accidents, which is significantly higher than similar countries in Europe as well as Australia, Japan, and Canada.
Earlier research studies and surveys have shown that Americans drive much more than people in other countries. (An average American drives 5,468 miles in a year, while this number in Canada is 2,672 miles.) Higher rate of driving itself exposes Americans to a higher risk of automobile accidents.
Driving Laws and Safety Practices in the US are Weak
Compared to other developed nations of the world, the driving laws and safety policies in the US are weaker.
Poor Seat Belt Laws
Unlike most other developed countries, it is not mandatory in the US to wear a seatbelt in the back seat. The risk of injury or fatality reduces by up to 50 percent when seat belts are used in the front seat and by up to 25 percent in the rear seat.
Although the rate of seat belt compliance in the US has now gone up to 90 percent, it is lower than that of Canada (which has a compliance rate of 95 percent.) In other words, the non-compliance rate in the US is twice that of Canada.
Lenient DUI Laws
Drunk driving laws in the US are relatively lenient when compared to WHO recommendations or to laws in other countries. Countries across Western Europe as well as Australia, Canada, China, and Brazil enforce DUI at a low threshold of 0.05 BAC (blood alcohol concentration).
However, in the US this limit is higher at 0.08. Other countries impose relatively more stringent penalties on vehicle drivers who violate DUI laws. As a result, some of these countries have much higher road safety records than the US.
Vehicle Safety Standards
When it comes to automobile safety, the US again lags behind its peers as well as falls short of the UN recommended standards. Analysts and road safety activists have often said that the US has continued to resist imposing additional safety systems in vehicles that would reduce the rate of pedestrian injuries and fatalities. High vehicle safety standards would also provide added protection to the driver and other occupants of the car.
High Incidence of Distracted Driving
One of the leading causes of car accidents in the US is distracted driving. The country has a very high rates of social media engagement, text messaging, online chats, and internet surfing. When these activities are performed while driving, it increases the risk of accidents. Distracted driving results in more auto accidents every year compared to drunk driving, speeding, and other common causes.
High Incidence of Speeding
Compared to other countries, the US lags behind in controlling driver speeds. According to international standards, the speed limit threshold in urban streets must be strictly low (about 31 mph) in order to achieve benefits from speed control laws.
Local areas in the US are often not permitted to impose their own speed limits and are required to obtain permission from the state. To make matters worse, in many local areas, a traffic ticket may not be issued unless the driver has significantly exceeded the posted speed limit.
Fatality Rates in US Car Crashes
Driving laws and their enforcement in the US should be more stringent in the light of the following key facts:
- More than 37,000 fatalities occur in car accidents every year
- One person dies every 16 minutes in a US car crash
- Drivers in the age group of 16 to 20 are involved in car crashes that kill about 8,000 people every year
- More than 1,600 kids below 15 years of age are killed in auto accidents every year
What to Do after a Car Accident
- Make sure that everyone is safe and OK. If you and your passengers are OK, try to move the car to the shoulder and put up hazard signs or flares. This will help prevent further accidents and injuries and keep traffic flow.
- Remain calm. You may be running on adrenaline and quite upset. You may want to lash out at the driver who caused the accident. Do not allow your emotions to get the best of you. Losing your temper could end up hurting your damages claim and could end up landing you in jail. Let cooler heads prevail instead.
- Call the police. Even though Mississippi does not require you to file a police report if the damage is under $250 or no one is hurt, a police report can be a part of the evidence you’re collecting. Get the police officer’s name and badge number and show him or her proof of vehicle registration and insurance. Make sure to obtain the police report later when it’s completed. A police officer may determine fault on the scene, which may or may not help your case. If a car crash results in more than $250 in damage or anyone was injured, then you have 10 days to file a police report. If you fail to do this, you can be charged with a misdemeanor and have your license suspended.
- Call the paramedics. You and your passengers may be visibly fine, but it’s always good to double-check. Injuries from a car crash could be internal, so it’s better to be on the safe side. Also, it lessens the chance that an insurance company will claim that you’re inventing your injuries just to make a damages claim.
- Do not admit fault. This could present problems for you later. It’s OK to see if the other driver and passengers are OK, but in general, keep conversations with them to a minimum.
- Write down the names and phone numbers of the other driver, passengers, and witnesses. Exchange names, addresses, license numbers, car tag numbers, the insurer’s name, phone number, and policy number with the other driver. Record the names and contact information from as many witnesses as possible.
- Take photos of the accident scene. Take pictures of the cars from multiple angles. Also take photos of the road or highway including skid marks and the road conditions. Take pictures of the general scene. You can take video if you want. You can document any evidence of the accident that seem relevant. Using your mobile phone to document the accident and scene is fine.
- Record what you remember. This may be difficult if you’re in shock, but try to get as much down as you can while it is fresh in your mind. Ask the other passengers and witnesses what happened, if possible.
- Go to the doctor as soon as possible. Even if the paramedics checked you out after the accident, some injuries may show up days later. Not only is this best for your own health, but it will help bolster your insurance claim. It will be easier to get compensation for your medical bills when your injuries are documented.
- Do not accept a settlement without consulting with an attorney first. The other insurance company may contact you in hopes of settling quickly. This may prevent you from obtaining the damages and compensation you deserve. If you feel like you are being pressured to settle, you should contact a personal injury attorney who has experience with car accident cases.
If you have been involved in a car accident as a driver or passenger, motorcyclist, bicyclist, or pedestrian, please call us for an official consultation. As our client, we will help you navigate the insurance process and protect any personal injury claims you may have against the negligent driver(s). Timing is essential, and it is important to act quickly. We will need to gather evidence regarding the state of the driver at the time of the accident, cell phone records, police reports, and other information that will help us build your case.
Even if you were partially responsible for causing the car accident in which you were injured, you may still be able to recover costs and damages if the other party’s behavior also contributed to the accident. Let us determine if are entitled to compensation and get you the money you deserve.
Call Us if You’ve been Injured in a Car Accident
Our client-oriented team of personal injury attorneys is available to talk about your car accident and your options for recovering compensation for your injuries. Contact us online or call us today to schedule your free consultation with a member of our legal team. Or if you are not able to come to our office due to serious injuries, we will come to you.
We handle all personal injury cases on a contingency fee basis, meaning we only receive attorney fees if we recover compensation on your behalf