Car accidents are always frightening. From a minor fender bender that puts a damper on your day to a catastrophic crash that results in serious injuries, they have plenty of ramifications that can make the experience feel even worse. And, when it comes to wrong-way collisions, the statistics are grim. Eighty-one percent of wrong-way fatalities are head-on collisions. So, if you get in one of these types of accidents, it’s understandable to be shaken up and wondering how to move forward. How can you prove fault? What can you do to protect yourself during litigation? And, how can an attorney help?
Common Causes of Wrong Way Car Accidents
There are several factors that could cause a wrong-way accident. The most common include:
Mistakes: Teenagers who are new to driving, elderly drivers who are nervous about being behind the wheel, and not paying close attention to road signs. All of these scenarios can lend themselves to a driver getting on the wrong highway ramp or turning onto a one-way street by mistake.
Low Visibility: Whether it’s heavy rain or fog, or bright sunlight during sunrise or sunset, environmental factors can prevent a driver from seeing signs that indicate a road is one-way only. It is precisely these reasons that make it crucial to be mindful of speed when passing signs during inclement weather or specific times of the day.
Driving Under the Influence: In Florida, driving with a blood-alcohol level (BAC) of 0.08 or above is considered driving under the influence of alcohol. Driving under the influence of drugs is also a reason to consider a person guilty of DUI. In addition to exposing the driver to fines or imprisonment, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs also increase the likelihood of driving against traffic and thus causing an accident — and it also exposes the driver to criminal charges.
Poorly Marked On-Ramps or Roads: The Florida Department of Transportation has the duty to install proper signage along our roads and highways. Sometimes, changes, repairs, or improvements fall through the cracks — either due to human negligence, a car accident tearing down road signs, or a natural disaster like a hurricane. Regardless of the reason, it’s their responsibility to assure that if a sign comes down, it will be erected again as soon as possible.
Distracted Driving: Distracted driving is the cause of many types of car accidents — not just wrong-way crashes. Whether someone is replying to a text, scrolling through social media, or yelling at the kids in the backseat, these types of distractions make it easy to overlook signs warning of one-way on-ramps or streets.
Health Conditions of the Driver: Suffering from seizures, sleep apnea, or the early stages of Alzheimer’s may cause a person to drive against traffic. Dizziness, confusion, and falling asleep at the wheel may also be the side effects of certain medications. If the driver knew of such side effects and decided to drive anyway, they will be found negligent.
Falling Asleep While Driving: This is more likely to occur to overnight shift workers, or individuals who have been on the road for long periods of time, such as people on extended road trips or truck drivers. In these types of scenarios, the problem isn’t that they got on the wrong ramp, but usually that they swerve into oncoming traffic while asleep or falling asleep.
How to Prevent Wrong Way Car Crashes
Wrong way accidents sometimes take people by surprise, especially if there’s poor visibility. Other times, stunned drivers can see a motor vehicle driving against traffic from a distance. For each circumstance, there are steps you can take to try to prevent this type of collision:
Never drive sleepy. Drink coffee, an energy drink, travel with a companion who will engage you in conversation, stay over at a friend’s place, or rent a hotel room. Being alert at all times is essential to preventing car accidents.
Pay close attention when driving late at night. This is when it’s more likely for drunk drivers to make an appearance.
Drive on the right side of the road. While it does have slower drivers, people who are driving against oncoming traffic will usually stay on their right side, making an accident more likely on the left lanes. This is true, especially at night.
Avoid distracted driving. This actually applies to all types of car accidents. Every text message can wait. If your GPS is confusing you, set up voice commands at a reasonable volume. Ignore billboards unless your car is at a full stop.
Leave plenty of distance between your car and the vehicle in front of you. At the risk of sounding paternalistic, this is one of the most practical pieces of advice we can provide to drivers. If the car in front of you gets into an accident, it gives you additional time to maneuver around it and avoid a collision with them. Besides, driving too close may result in being cited with a traffic infraction.
Pay attention to family members with impairing conditions. If you know that a loved one suffers from a health issue that doesn’t allow them to drive safely, take preventive measures so they don’t travel alone.
How is fault determined in a wrong-way car accident?
Every car accident is different, and there are many variables when it comes to determining who’s at fault. However, in wrong-way accidents, there’s a presumption that the person who was driving in the wrong direction was at fault for the accident.
There are several ways to show in court that the other driver was driving in the wrong direction. These include:
- Your own testimony
- Witness testimony
- Surveillance videos
- Police testimony — based on their reports right after the accident
- Medical evidence that shows that the types of injuries sustained were the result of a head-on collision.
What to Do After a Wrong Way Car Accident
You should always report a vehicle that’s driving in the wrong direction, regardless of whether you have gotten into a car accident. However, if you’ve been on the scene of a crash, be sure to do the following:
1. Check to See if Someone is Injured
Florida law establishes a duty to render aid in any accident where a person is visibly injured or if someone requests assistance. The statute specifies that the assistance should be reasonable, and it includes the carrying or making arrangements for the transportation of the injured person to a medical facility.
2. Call the Police
Florida Statute 316.066 requires filling out a long-form police report in certain circumstances, including any accident that resulted in personal injury or death. You’re also required to call the police if any party to the accident or any of their passengers complains about pain, if one of the cars was totaled, the accident involved a commercial motor vehicle, or if someone was driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
3. If Possible, Get Out of the Stream of Traffic
If at all possible, move your car so that it is not obstructing traffic. If the car won’t start and you’re physically able to do so, call a towing company so that your car does not continue to obstruct the regular flow of traffic. The other driver has the responsibility of doing so as well. This is required by law.
How can an attorney help in a wrong-way car accident?
An attorney can help by starting a process called discovery. This is when they can subpoena records and witnesses, take photographs of the scene of the accident to determine whether the Department of Transportation failed to comply with their duty of care, and depose (take the sworn testimony) of medical providers and accident reconstruction experts.
An experienced attorney would also help you negotiate a settlement. They can let you know when it would be unwise to make a statement or offer information that wasn’t requested. They would guide you every step of the way, protecting your best interest throughout the litigation.
Call the Car Accident Lawyers at Clark Law if You’ve Been in a Car Accident
If you or someone you love has been involved in an accident, call us at (855) 680-4911 or schedule a free consultation. At Clark Law, we have experienced attorneys who regularly represent clients involved in motor vehicle accidents, and we can help you determine the best next step.
Disclaimer: This blog is for informational purposes only and does not create an attorney/client relationship.