Although there’s no such thing as a safe car accident, some accidents have greater destructive potential than others. When you’re driving in Albany, just a few feet may separate you from a vehicle in the other lane. If the other vehicle crosses into your lane and makes contact, you become a victim of a sideswipe accident.
Sideswipe accidents in Albany are among the most dangerous accident types. These auto accidents can occur when two cars (traveling either the same or opposite direction) brush up against one another with enough force to cause exterior damage. However, the initial contact isn’t what makes sideswipe accidents so lethal.
Why are Sideswipe Accidents in Albany So Dangerous?
Sideswipe collisions are unique because the cars may continue to travel at high speeds after the initial impact. Although not a problem on the surface, drivers who are jarred by the accident, tend to lose control of their car while it’s still moving. Clearly, the potential for catastrophic secondary accidents after a sideswipe is unrivaled.
When this happens in dangerous intersections in Northwest Albany’s shopping district, like Nottingham Way and Westover Boulevard, sideswipes can involve multiple vehicles and terrible injuries.
According to a recent Insurance Information Institute report, nearly 1,000 fatal sideswipe accidents took place in one year. This doesn’t include the thousands of other crashes that caused serious injuries and extensive property damage.
If you survive a sideswipe vehicle collision, you could face a new, challenging reality. In addition to debilitating physical injuries, you may also experience extensive medical debt, job loss, and mental trauma. In extreme cases, you might require live-in care and frequent medical treatment for the rest of your life.
Many drivers lack basic information about sideswipe accidents, despite their prevalence and destructive potential, Here is some basic information about why these collisions occur, how to avoid them, and options available to victims.
Sideswipe Accident Causes
Sideswipe accidents have many different causes. However, more often than not, sideswipe accidents are caused by these common situations:
Despite tremendous advancements in automotive technology, blind spots still cause thousands of accidents every year. In fact, drivers who fail to notice others in their blind spots cause over 840,000 car accidents every year.
Because most blind spots lie along a car’s driver-side door, they cause a disproportionate number of sideswipe accidents. Many drivers simply lose sight of the vehicle in the next lane until they attempt to move into that lane and realize the vehicle is still there. By then, it’s usually too late to avoid a collision.
Distracted driving remains a huge problem on America’s roadways. People continue to text, comb their hair, do their makeup, and even get dressed while driving. This, of course, has catastrophic consequences for those drivers and other people on the road.
Considering the small margin for error (sideswipe accidents can occur if a car swerves just a few feet to its right or left), distracted driving often causes sideswipe accidents in Albany.
Driving Under the Influence
State and local governments have made a tremendous push to prevent drinking and driving. Despite the best efforts of policymakers and advocates, driving under the influence remains a serious problem in New York State and around the country.
A considerable percentage of sideswipe accidents occur because a driver was under the influence. This isn’t surprising considering intoxicated drivers tend to weave between lanes and suddenly swerve into other lanes without notice.
Some drivers are prone to bouts of extreme anger while behind the wheel. This phenomenon, known as road rage, causes hundreds of sideswipe accidents every year. Angry drivers often attempt to exact revenge by swerving towards a vehicle they believe violated the rules of the road. Unfortunately, this frequently results in a sideswipe collision and serious personal injuries.
When drivers fail to account for weather conditions, they may lose control of their vehicles and cause sideswipe accidents. It’s more difficult for cars to get traction driving on icy or wet roads, which may cause them to slide or skid. When a driver loses control, even briefly, they could swerve into the other lane and cause a sideswipe accident.
Drivers should always take extra precautions when it’s snowing or raining. Driving at a slower speed, taking wide turns, and using snow chains are simple measures that can help prevent weather-related crashes.
Injuries Caused by Sideswipe Accidents
Not all sideswipe accidents result in serious injuries; in fact, many cause no damage beyond a broken side-view mirror.
However, drivers may lose control of their vehicle after the initial collision. In those situations, both drivers could suffer devastating physical injuries. Runaway vehicles can hit other cars, pedestrians, structures, and anything else in their way. They also tend to leave the road completely.
Victims of a serious sideswipe accident may experience these injuries:
- Orthopedic: The impact of the collision may cause broken bones, bone fractures, and bone contusions. These injuries often take months to heal and may keep you from performing basic tasks, such as walking. Orthopedic surgery, or even amputation, is often necessary in extreme cases.
- Back and Spine: Fractures and dislocated vertebrae are common back injuries. A serious back injury may result in a compressed or lacerated spinal cord. Back and/or spine damage significantly decreases your mobility. In severe cases, you could become a paraplegic or quadriplegic and you may require a wheelchair.
- Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI): Sideswipe accident victims often suffer concussions, brain contusions, and other severe conditions including coup-contrecoup brain injuries (where two sides of the brain are damaged), and diffuse axonal injury (DAI) involving the tearing of the brain’s nerve fibers. TBI injuries may impair memory and cognitive function and victims may also experience emotional and psychological issues.
- Burns: Cars may catch fire after a serious sideswipe accident, which can leave occupants with severe burns. Leaking gasoline and other toxic fluids may cause chemical burns. Burns are often excruciatingly painful and could leave the burned area permanently disfigured. Severe cases require expensive, painful skin graphs and plastic surgery.
Many of the injuries listed above will take weeks or months to heal, leaving you unable to work, attend school, and perform basic life tasks in the meantime. Some may result in permanent disabilities that leave people totally dependent on outside assistance for the rest of their lives.
Do I Have a Legal Claim After a Sideswipe Accident?
Most sideswipe accident claims are based upon a theory of negligence. To bring a legal negligence claim, you must claim that the other driver failed to exercise the level of care that a reasonable person would have exercised under the same circumstances and that this failure injured you.
As a personal injury plaintiff, you must demonstrate four elements for your negligence claim to be successful:
- The defendant/other driver owed you a duty of care,
- The defendant’s actions violated this duty,
- This violation caused your injuries, and
- Your injuries resulted in monetary losses known as damages.
For example, in a sideswipe accident, the plaintiff must prove:
- The defendant, by operating a vehicle on a public roadway, owed other drivers a duty of care;
- The defendant violated this duty when they drove recklessly and sideswiped the plaintiff’s vehicle;
- The defendant’s reckless driving caused the plaintiff’s injuries; and
- They can value their injuries in monetary terms.
The plaintiff must be able to link the defendant’s actions to the plaintiff’s injuries. The defendant could have acted in the most outrageously irresponsible way imaginable, but if his behavior did not cause the plaintiff’s injuries there is no legal claim.
Also, the plaintiff’s injuries cannot just be nominal. They must have resulted in concrete losses that dollars and cents can measure.
Parties Who May be Liable in Sideswipe Accidents
When most people think about liability, they think about the party directly involved in the accident—namely, the other driver. However, multiple entities could be responsible, depending on the circumstances of the case.
For example, perhaps poor road conditions caused the defendant to swerve and sideswipe a car in the next lane. In this case, the government entity responsible for the road’s upkeep may be liable. Or, if the defendant’s car had a defect that caused the accident, the car’s manufacturer may be liable.
To protect your legal rights, trust an experienced Albany car accident lawyer to analyze the facts of your case and launch an investigation to determine which parties may be held responsible.
What Compensation is Available for Sideswipe Accident Victims?
If you file a New York car accident lawsuit and win your case, the court will award a financial judgment to pay for your losses, also known as damages. This money addresses the specific injuries you suffered and nothing else. In the language of the courts, damages make the victim whole again by returning them to the condition they enjoyed before the injury.
There are two main types of plaintiff’s damages — monetary and non-monetary.
Monetary damages include financial losses that are easy to convert into a dollar amount. This category includes medical debt, lost wages, and loss of future earnings. Usually, to prove these claims the plaintiff can simply provide a bill or receipt. In sideswipe accidents, monetary damages are usually a major component of the financial compensation granted to the plaintiff.
Non-monetary damages address more abstract injuries that are difficult to convert into dollars and cents. These losses include pain and suffering endured, as well as psychological and mental trauma. Additionally, claims related to loss of enjoyment of life and loss of marital relations fall under this category.
Proving these claims can be challenging, and plaintiffs must often provide testimony from an expert witness, such as a doctor or psychologist, to be awarded damages.
Punitive Damages are Rare in Sideswipe Accidents
Courts rarely award punitive damages, a third damages category in personal injury cases. Unlike monetary and non-monetary damages, punitive damages don’t make the plaintiff whole again. Rather, as the name suggests, these damages are meant to punish the defendant.
Courts only award these damages in extreme circumstances in which the defendant’s conduct is especially outrageous. Generally, the behavior must be so offensive that it is “grossly negligent” or “wanton and reckless.”
For example, if a driver caused a sideswipe accident by speeding in a school zone while under the influence of alcohol, the court may find such conduct deserving of punitive damages.
When a court awards punitive damages, it wants to send a message to the defendant and to society in general that it will not tolerate such conduct. Each state has unique rules governing punitive damages. Certain states ban or impose caps on punitive damages.
What to Do if You are a Victim of a Sideswipe Accident in Albany
Suffering serious injuries in a sideswipe accident can change your life. Of course, the arduous physical recovery may take months or even years. However, you may also face financial difficulties such as medical debt, lost wages, and loss of future earnings.
The burden on you and your family can be enormous. The things once taken for granted may now seem out of reach. Paying the rent and putting food on the table could become herculean tasks.
Considering such dire circumstances, it may be easy to lose hope. However, you don’t have to suffer in silence. When you talk to an experienced Albany car accident lawyer, they can explain your options. You may need to bring a claim against your insurance carrier. Your attorney can help negotiate your claim, or if a settlement is not possible, you may be able to file a lawsuit to protect your rights. If your lawsuit is successful, you could receive a considerable financial damages award depending on your situation.
Damages address the injuries you incurred because of the accident. They can cover financial losses such as medical expenses, lost wages, and loss of future earnings. Additionally, courts also consider pain and suffering, mental trauma, and loss of consortium when awarding damages.
When to Call a Car Accident Lawyer in Albany
Navigating the legal system can be challenging. The laws are often confusing and the court procedures can be difficult to navigate. Furthermore, a seemingly innocent mistake early in the process can have severe implications down the road. For all of these reasons, having a dedicated personal injury lawyer by your side is critical.
The first step is scheduling a free consultation with an experienced Albany car accident attorney. Experienced personal injury attorneys understand the nuances of the law and what evidence is needed to prove your case. Furthermore, they appreciate the challenges facing their clients. They can offer candid advice and an empathetic voice throughout the process.
Car accident lawsuits often require extensive discovery to uncover the facts and legal implications of each unique situation. Between insurance negotiations and the trial process, your claim may take months or even years to resolve. The faster you take action, the sooner you and your family can receive the compensation you deserve.
If cost is a concern, many car accident lawyers offer a free initial consultation and work on contingency, so you will pay nothing unless your lawyer recovers compensation for you.
Mr. Finkelstein is the Managing Partner of Finkelstein & Partners, LLP. He has become a noted consumer activist through his representation of injured individuals against corporate wrongdoers and irresponsible parties.
An accomplished litigator, Mr. Finkelstein has represented Plaintiffs in wrongful death and catastrophic personal injury cases. He has successfully handled dozens of multi-million dollar cases.