Types of Car Accidents: Causes, Liability, and Compensation for Personal Injury Claims

Despite the advanced safety features in motor vehicles, different types of car accidents continue to be a leading cause of death in the US. 

Fatal vehicle accidents can result from a combination of factors, such as negligent driving behaviors and increased sales of motor vehicles. With more vehicles operating on roads, the chances of getting hurt in a car crash can be higher. 

In 2021, the US had approximately 282 million vehicle registrations. The same year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported 42,939 fatalities from motor vehicle accidents. 

Suppose you sustained serious injuries or lost a loved one in a car accident. You can claim monetary compensation for your medical expenses, property damage, missed time at work, and other losses. However, injured victims usually have the burden of proof in a car accident claim. 

When seeking compensation, car accident victims must prove that the driver’s negligence caused the crash and resulting injuries. The knowledge and experience of a personal injury attorney can be invaluable in these instances. 

Understanding the various types of crashes is also helpful. It can provide valuable insights into the potential causes of the collision, liable parties, and compensation you’re entitled to recover.

Key Takeaways
  • Car accidents can happen in different situations. Depending on the type of collision, car accident injuries can resolve within days or result in permanent physical disability.
  • Injured victims can seek compensation for the costs and losses incurred due to the accident and injuries.
  • Determining liability and compensation in car accidents is complex and often requires the assistance of a personal injury lawyer.

Common Types of Car Accidents in Personal Injury Claims and Potential Causes

Car crashes occur in various circumstances, ranging from minor fender-benders to multi-car pile-ups. While the consequences can vary, these accidents frequently result in significant injuries and losses for those involved. In the most tragic circumstances, families must deal with the loss of loved ones. 

The type of vehicle collisions you get into can impact the nature and extent of your injuries, ultimately determining your claim’s value. Additionally, some types of crashes can give you perspectives on what potentially caused your accident and who might be responsible. 

We’ll look into how vehicle accidents can happen and the possible factors that may have caused them. 

Head-on collisions

Although less common than other types of crashes, head-on collisions can have the most damaging impact in car accidents. It occurs when two cars crash into each other directly from the front, typically while traveling in opposite directions. 

The speed and forces of two vehicles are combined during a head-on collision, producing an extreme amount of energy. While absorbing the crash’s impact, the vehicles’ hoods may crumple, leaving the drivers and occupants with serious injuries. 

The force of impact can be even more devastating when a head-on crash happens at high speed between a regular passenger car and a large truck. Unsurprisingly, head-on collisions constituted 10.2 percent of crash-related fatalities in 2020. 

In most head-on car accidents, the fault is often apparent because one of the drivers is going in the wrong direction. Highlighted below are some common factors that can make drivers responsible for causing a head-on crash:

  • Running a red light or stop sign
  • Illegally crossing a double yellow line to pass another vehicle
  • Traveling the wrong way on a one-way street or an exit ramp
  • Losing control of the vehicle due to speeding or distracted driving

Rear-end accidents

Rear-end collisions happen when a car’s front end rams into another vehicle’s rear end. Compared to head-on crashes, the impact of rear-end accidents can be less catastrophic as they’re more likely to occur at lower speeds. 

For that reason, rear-end crashes often get a reputation as fender benders. But even at low speeds, they can result in extensive property damage, serious injuries, and deaths. The National Safety Council (NSC) data shows that rear-end collisions accounted for 17.9 percent of fatalities in 2021. 

Most rear-end crashes involve two cars. However, they can also lead to a chain reaction or pile-up accident involving three or more vehicles. It’s prevalent in intersections where drivers make turns and run a traffic control device. 

The rear driver is generally deemed responsible for not keeping a safe stopping distance. However, there are exceptions. The front driver can also be at fault, especially if they engage in negligent or reckless driving behaviors, such as the following: 

  • Driving with a malfunctioning tail light
  • Slamming on brakes without any valid reason
  • Suddenly reversing the vehicle
  • Making an unsafe lane change

T-bone accidents

T-bone accidents occur when a car’s front end slams into the side of another vehicle, creating a t-shape form upon impact. Hence, the name t-bone collision. But it’s also called side-impact collision since its impact is often on the vehicle’s broadside. 

Although most t-bone collisions happen in intersections, they can occur whenever one vehicle crosses a roadway or street. Additionally, some t-bone accidents may occur in parking lots. For instance, a driver backing out of a parking space may be struck from the side by an approaching car. 

Drivers in t-bone accidents have less protection than in other crashes, causing more severe injuries. The consequences can be especially fatal for the vehicle’s occupants from the side that got hit. 

Potential causes of t-bone collision involve careless or reckless driving behaviors. But in most cases, they happen when one driver violates the right-of-way. Common examples of right-of-way violations in t-bone crashes include:

  • Making an illegal right or left turn
  • Running a red light
  • Making a lane change without checking blindspot

Sideswipe accidents

In a sideswipe accident, two vehicles hit each other on their sides while traveling next to each other in the same direction. 

The impact of sideswipe collisions is often less forceful than side-impact, rear-end, or head-on collisions. Still, sideswipe crashes can lead to catastrophic injuries and even deaths, especially involving high-clearance vehicles like trucks. 

This type of car accident represents 2.7 percent of the total fatal collisions in 2020. The weight of trucks may cause extensive damage to the side of a smaller vehicle, which has less protection for occupants than the front and rear. 

A sideswipe accident can also be more dangerous on highways at high speeds. In such cases, both vehicles can be unaware and unprepared to avoid an impending crash. However, even at lower speeds, the car may spin out of control in a sideswipe collision and crash in other ways. 

Like other types of car wrecks, causes of sideswipe accidents involve driver’s negligence. The most common one is unsafe lane changing. Every motorist has a responsibility to ensure it’s safe to change lanes, including checking their blindspots or using turn signals. However, many fail to do so, resulting in sideswipe collisions. 

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Rollover accidents

Rollover accidents occur when a car flips on its side or roof during a crash. These accidents happen when a vehicle’s tire hits a curb or ditch, causing the vehicle’s weight to be transferred to one side. As a result, the vehicle rolls over before it regains its balance. 

All vehicles are at risk for a rollover accident. But sports utility vehicles (SUVs) are particularly susceptible to this type of crash. Due to their narrower and taller build, SUVs can easily roll over if hit by another vehicle or take a curve at high speeds. 

Depending on the impact force, the car may roll once or multiple times before it completely stops. Rollover crashes can cause passengers to be ejected from the vehicle or the roof to collapse inward, causing severe injuries or even deaths. 

Most vehicle rollover fatalities are associated with single-vehicle crashes. In 2020, it made up for 7.5 percent of non-collisions or accidents that didn’t involve an actual crash but resulted in injuries or deaths. 

A single-car accident can happen in different ways, and one is a non-collision incident. It happens when the driver losses control of the vehicle due to various factors. These factors may include rapid turns or mechanical failure, causing the car to roll over without hitting anything else. 

Parties Who May Be Liable for Car Accidents in Personal Injury Claims

Regardless of the type of crash, injured victims have a right to pursue compensation from whoever was at fault. However, liability for car accidents can fall on different parties, depending on the specific details of the incident. 

Negligence is the most common legal basis when determining liability in traffic accidents. Establishing negligence starts with the duty of care. Does the party have a legal obligation to use reasonable care to protect an individual from the crash? 

If a legal duty of care exists, it’s essential to demonstrate that the party breached that duty, which caused the accident and the resulting injuries and property damage. Additionally, there must be proof of the injuries and losses sustained. 

Note that proving negligence and holding at-fault parties liable can be complex since negligence laws vary in each state. It’s in your best interest to work with a personal injury lawyer. They can guide you through the legal process.

Now, let’s examine the potentially liable parties and the situations in which they can bear responsibility for the car accident. 

At-fault driver

Every motorist has a legal obligation to other drivers, passengers, and pedestrians to operate their vehicle with reasonable care. When the driver fails to take reasonable measures and injures other road users, it may constitute negligence. 

A driver’s negligence can happen in various forms, such as speeding, unsafe lane changes, and distracted driving. If you can prove that the other motorist acted negligently, you can hold them accountable for paying damages. 

One way to prove that the other driver acted negligently is through a traffic citation. You can also seek the help of an experienced lawyer to gather more evidence to substantiate your claim. 

Vehicle owner

The vehicle’s owner can be held directly liable if the conditions of their car caused the traffic accident. Every car owner has a duty of care to conduct appropriate maintenance on their vehicle to reduce the risk of accidents. If the car crash happens because of a lack of maintenance, the owner may bear liability for the injuries you sustained. 

You can also hold the vehicle’s owner responsible for the collision because of negligent entrustment. It happens when the owner loans the car to someone they know is unfit or incompetent to drive it safely. 

In cases like this, you’ll likely need an attorney to prove that the owner entrusted the vehicle intentionally and knew about the potential danger. 


The driver’s employer may be legally responsible when the employee causes a car crash while performing work-related duties. The liability applies whether the employee drives a company or personal car. 

Besides proving that the employee was driving negligently, you’ll need a lawyer’s assistance to establish that the at-fault driver is: 

  • Not an independent contractor
  • Performing responsibilities within the scope of their employment
  • Doing something to advance the interests of the employer’s business 

Government entities

Different government agencies are responsible for the construction and maintenance of roads. When a poorly designed or maintained road results in a car crash, the relevant government agency may be held liable for injuries and losses. However, claims against government agencies have shorter time limits. Consulting with an attorney before making a claim is advisable.

Vehicle manufacturer

If manufacturing defects contributed to the accident, the vehicle manufacturer could be held accountable under product liability

You can file a claim on the basis of negligence since most product defects result from negligent practices in the manufacturing process. However, most claims that involve defective products are based on the principle of strict liability

It removes the burden of proof or showing that the manufacturer was reckless or failed to exercise reasonable care. All you have to prove is the vehicle defects that caused the accident and the injuries you suffered. 

Compensation Available for Car Accidents in Personal Injury Claims

Two primary types of financial compensation are available for car accidents in personal injury claims: economic and non-economic damages. 

Economic damages are the direct financial losses you sustained from car accident injuries. Because they have actual monetary value, you can easily prove these losses with documents like medical bills and invoices. 

Economic damages include medical expenses, property damage, lost wages, and earning capacity. 

Medical expenses cover the costs of treatment, surgery, and medication necessary to recover from the accident. You’ll likely need comprehensive and long-term treatment if you suffer serious traumatic brain injuries or spinal cord injuries. 

Some injuries involve a more extended recovery period. As a result, you may not return to work immediately. Damages for lost wages will compensate you for the income you could not earn while recovering. 

Suppose your injuries result in permanent disability and prevent you from working on the same job in the future. You can get compensation for the loss of earning capacity. 

In contrast, non-economic damages refer to your intangible losses, like pain and suffering, disfigurement, and emotional distress. These losses are challenging to prove and quantify. Thus, speaking with a personal injury attorney is vital to determine the total value of your damages.

Did you know?

Approximately 4.7 million passenger cars were part of US traffic incidents in 2020, accounting for 52 percent of the total number of crashes in the country.

Seek Legal Assistance for Your Car Accident Case

It’s normal to feel confused after getting involved in a devastating car crash. Whatever type of car accident you’re in, seeking legal assistance is always a helpful start. 

Personal injury attorneys specializing in auto accident cases will provide objective views of your situation. They will help safeguard your rights and ensure a reasonable settlement that covers all your medical expenses and other losses. 

Finding a lawyer after getting hurt in a car accident isn’t easy, but we can help you in your search. Avail of our free consultation today, and we’ll match you with a qualified attorney that has experience handling similar cases. 

The Personal Injury Center can help connect you with an experienced attorney. Obtain a free evaluation of your case today. 

FAQs on Types of Car Accidents

States following the comparative negligence rule allow you to get compensation for your injuries even if you're partially responsible for the crash. However, your percentage of fault in the collision reduces the value of your claim. 

In contrast, states using the contributory negligence system bar you from recovering any damages even if you're only one percent liable for the accident. Only the District of Columbia and the states of Alabama, North Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland recognize the principle of contributory negligence.

If the at-fault driver doesn't have insurance, you can file a personal injury claim with your insurance provider. Hence,  it's crucial to have additional coverage on your auto insurance policy and not rely on other motorists to be insured. 

Uninsured motorist coverage will help cover the damages that the at-fault driver cannot afford to pay. Suppose your damages exceed your uninsured motorist policy limits. You can file a claim against the uninsured driver. But if they don't have insurance, they will likely not have other resources to pay damages even if you win the case.

The settlement amount for car accidents depends on the specific circumstances of the collision. Hence, estimating how much you can receive in a personal injury claim will be challenging. But accident victims who sustain permanent spinal cord injuries can generally expect higher compensation than those who suffer a minor whiplash injury.