Car Accidents in Greenbelt
Many people who moved into the suburbs surrounding Washington, D.C. came to the communities for a little more space and a somewhat slower pace, away from work that was often in the nation’s capital, eight miles away. Greenbelt, with its population of 23,000 encompassing just over six square miles, is one of the nation’s first planned communities, designed in the 1930s.
Although there are certainly still quite a few Greenbelt residents commuting in and out of the city, many of them doing so using public transit, traffic patterns have changed as businesses spread out from metropolitan areas and public transit is used considerably less than before. Nearly 70 percent of Greenbelt workers are driving to their jobs, most are driving more than 30 minutes to work alone, and most families have two vehicles.
All too often, more cars on the road means more accidents on the road.
It is important to remember that not all the victims involved in car accidents are drivers, and not everyone struck by a car is in a car. In fact, Greenbelt outpaces the state of Maryland for pedestrian accidents.
Car accidents cost everyone involved, including the victims, the at-fault drivers, as well as the insurance companies and the employers of each affected party. According to road safety advocates Safer America, car accidents cost about $871 billion each year across the United States.
People who sustained personal injury in a car accident should consider their options. Insurance companies will naturally look to minimize their costs, and that should not minimize the compensation victims receive.
Car Accidents that are Not Caused by the Driver
Road conditions, grading changes, and bad weather can make an accident far more likely. So can faulty traffic signals, which often happen following an electrical storm or a power outage. Some vehicles are made with an inherent defect.
Below is a list of reasons for an accident that are not the fault of the driver:
Weather conditions. When tires cannot maintain traction on the road because of rain, snow, or ice, the driver can lose control of the vehicle. This could cause a vehicle to slide off the road or hit another car or a fixed object. Fog and high winds can also make accidents far more likely.
Road conditions. Potholes and grading irregularities cause problems for tires. If a tire blows out while the vehicle is in motion, it can cause an accident if the driver cannot quickly pull over to the side of the road.
Vehicle defects. There are vehicles built with an inherent defect, and this has spurred many mass recalls over the past 20 years. Accelerator pedals that stick after being released by the driver can cause the vehicle to continue speeding when slower speeds or stopping are required. Besides the sticky accelerator pedal, engines, brakes, and exhaust systems with inherent problems have and do make their way into a dealer’s showroom and from there, go on the road and cause problems for owners and other drivers.
But these problems are far less common than the number one cause of car accidents, according to government statistics and safety advocacy groups: driver error.
Driver Errors that Cause Accidents
Some of the common reasons for car accidents are also very common errors, ones that drivers may realize they exhibit themselves or they often see exhibited by other drivers on any given day on the road. It is hoped that all drivers can take preventative measures by keeping the following common mistakes in mind while behind the wheel:
Distracted driving. Driving requires focus, and that means two hands on the wheel, eyes watching the road, and thoughts staying on what is happening in the road. Distractions are plentiful though.
One of the most common distractions in a vehicle is the phone. Texting or talking on the phone take eyes off the road and, often, hands off the wheel.
Grooming, eating, drinking, and checking on passengers are all common distractions in the car. They also make it much more likely that a driver could hit something that could have easily been avoided. If a driver spills a coffee or drops a cheeseburger into their lap, they will not be looking at the road when they try to tidy up the spill. Human beings are not as good at multitasking as they hope to be. Best to keep both hands on the wheel and both eyes fixed on the road.
Recent efforts by cell phone manufacturers, automobile manufacturers, road safety advocates, and government entities have all begun targeting one of the most tempting behaviors for drivers: using the phone while driving.
Bluetooth technology means cell phones can be used to conduct a conversation or send a text, via voice commands, and often, the phone can be hooked up wirelessly to the driver’s car. Wireless earbuds can utilize the technology if the vehicle is not built with it.
In addition, many cell phones are designed with an option for a virtual shut-off while the car is driving, to reduce the temptation for the driver to check the phone.
Public awareness campaigns have made people more aware of the issue; it is hoped that numbers for this type of car accident will decline as a result.
Drunk/impaired driving. An average of 29 people per day die because of a drunk driver. There have been massive public outreach campaigns to curb this problem, from alcoholic beverage manufacturers, law enforcement, and road safety advocacy groups.
The national battle with opioid painkiller prescriptions and the legalization of marijuana in most states, in either medical or recreational form, impact drivers as well. Many motorists who are driving under the influence are driving under the influence of legal substances, not just illicit drugs.
Another unfortunate side effect of the Coronavirus (COVID) pandemic is that driving under the influence accidents increased, along with fatal crashes, despite a remarkable drop in accidents overall. There were fewer drivers on the road for much of last year, but those who were on the road were more likely to be driving under the influence.
The problem of people driving under the influence can be easily addressed now, with a proliferation of lower-cost rideshare options that cut down the cost of a traditional taxi service for people to get home.
Speeding. This is a remarkably common driver behavior. Although drivers routinely go 10 to 20 miles per hour over the posted speed limit, particularly on the highway, the speed limits are selected based on road safety standards. It is easier to maintain the speed limit then wind up needing to test out reaction times and the vehicle’s brakes with a quick stop.
Running red lights. Whether because of driver distraction, driving too fast to be able to break in time, or a conscious decision to blow by a red light, accidents at intersections account for over 33 percent of car accidents nationwide.
Aggressive driving. Aggressive driving includes a number of driver behaviors that could cause an accident, including speeding. It ultimately means driving without consideration of other drivers or their property.
Drowsy driving. An overtired driver may experience microsleep for a couple seconds behind the wheel. A few seconds is enough time to travel the length of a football field if the car is driving at 65 miles per hour. A lot can go wrong while covering that distance.
But even if an overtired driver’s eyes are open and focus is on the road, their reaction time is far slower. Studies have compared overtired drivers with people driving under the influence. In both cases, the driver may not be able to react in time to changing conditions on the road.
What Should I Do after an Accident?
In the tense moments following an accident, there are a few steps all drivers should keep in mind:
- Check to see if everyone in the car, any other vehicle, or people on the street are all OK.
- Get all the vehicles involved moved to the side of the road if they can be moved.
- A driver should not leave the scene. The worst reaction to a car accident is to panic and drive away, even if it is just a bumper-to-bumper tap. Leaving the scene of an accident is a misdemeanor in minor accidents, but in cases in which there was personal injury or death, it is punishable by jail time. It also could mean that the driver is leaving an injured or dying person on their own.
- Someone should call the police, providing the location and any other information the operator requests. Besides allowing emergency medical services to arrive if those are needed, police will survey the scene and write a report on the accident, which will be used by the insurance companies involved and, if the case goes to court, by the jury.
- Seek medical attention immediately.
- Drivers should not apologize or admit guilt. It is a natural instinct in humans to apologize in these kinds of situations, but it is also likely to be considered an admission of guilt by insurance companies and courtrooms later. Best to just check if other drivers or people nearby are OK, exchange insurance information, and be quiet.
- Seek legal advice. Drivers should contact a lawyer following a car accident. Although this should come after all involved have gotten medical attention and insurance companies have been contacted, drivers should definitely call a lawyer before accepting an insurance settlement. Not all traffic accident cases require a lawyer, but it is best to get a professional opinion on a case. Insurance companies are naturally going to minimize the costs of the accident, but that does not mean the accident victims need to accept a modest offer. Drivers should be mindful to include all the known information around the accident, even the ones that might make that driver look bad. A lawyer is acting as an advocate for his or her client, and the opposing side will use that information as well. An advocate can help frame the situation in the best possible light for the client.
- Drivers should hold off on paying traffic tickets from the accident. It is likely that drivers involved in an accident will be issued traffic tickets by the police officers who respond. Drivers should fight the traffic ticket by disputing the charge. It is regarded as an admission of guilt if a driver pays the fine, and the case is harder to fight in court.
- Do not wait too long to file the claim. Drivers in Prince George’s County communities also have to consider the statute of limitations, which is three years. Depending on the circumstances and the number of drivers and people involved, it may take the better part of three years to have a case go before the court. It is best to get a legal opinion right away.
Injuries from Car Accidents
Injuries are likely in car accidents. Depending on the size of the vehicles involved, the speeds of travel before collision, the physical location of each person in the car, and the positioning of people in the car, all impact the types of injuries and the extent of those injuries. The age of the cars involved can also impact injuries: modern cars have airbags; vintage and classic cars do not. More recent models include side-impact airbags, which reduce injuries from the particularly dangerous type of accident often referred to as a T-bone.
Some possible car accident injuries are as follows:
Traumatic brain injuries (TBI). This happens when the brain is damaged by a blow or a piercing injury to the head. TBI is the cause of death for over 50,000 people every year and leads to long-term disability for another 80,000 people annually. Car accidents are a leading cause for this type of brain injury.
Spinal/back injuries. Spinal cord injuries result in paralysis or partial paralysis. Injuring the back without becoming paralyzed is possible if the bones break around the spinal cord, but not the spinal cord itself.
Back injuries may take time to show their effects following an accident. Pain and the disabling effects of back injury are often serious and long lasting.
Burns. Most vehicles run on gasoline and have chemicals such as windshield washer fluid and coolants under the hood as well. Some accidents result in the vehicles catching fire, and occupants inside may suffer burns as a result. Severe burns require a series of surgeries called skin grafting, to replace the damaged skin.
Internal injuries/internal bleeding. A car accident will force all the internal organs forward, possibly causing injury. Internal bleeding can occur. Broken ribs can puncture the lungs, which will impact breathing. All of these injuries require emergency medical treatment.
Fractures and broken bones. Broken bones are common in car accidents. Broken legs, ribs, arms, ankles, wrists, and sometimes pelvis fractures all take time to heal and require emergency medical treatment. Some bone breaks will require surgery.
Disfiguring facial injuries and scars. Car accidents can also lead to facial injuries because of broken glass or impact with a steering wheel, dash, windshield, airbag, side window, car seat, or any hard surface. Disfigurement from facial injuries may require surgical correction and could leave a victim with a lasting scar.
Amputation. Some injuries are severe enough to require limb amputation. This type of trauma has lifelong impacts on the victim. Besides the emotional and psychological wounds, amputation can lead to a lifetime of painful procedures and impact the victim’s job opportunities. The loss of a limb may mean the victim has to get job training for a new career.
Soft tissue injuries. Whiplash is the common term for muscle, ligament, and tendon injuries that often result in neck pain following a car accident. Speeds as low as 15 mph can cause whiplash, with or without a seat belt.
But although whiplash is a common soft tissue injury, victims in a car accident can suffer from soft tissue injuries anywhere in their body. This kind of damage is painful, can be disabling, and usually requires physical therapy/occupational therapy and time to heal.
Lacerations, bruises, and road rash. Lacerations, or cuts, are common in car accidents, as broken glass and objects are flying with force and sharp edges on skin will result in cuts. Bruises are caused by the impact of an object against the body. Road rash involves abrasions caused by friction from being dragged or skidding on pavement or concrete.
It is best for those involved in a car accident to seek medical and legal help immediately, even if the car accident seems relatively simple and everyone is able to walk away. Some injuries are not immediately seen.
Types of Accidents
Newton’s laws of motion explains that speed, angle, and weight all play huge roles in determining how traumatic an accident between vehicles can be. However, there are types of accidents that are worse than others, based on where in the car the collision occurs. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), these are a few of the most common car accidents:
Rear-end collisions. The NHTSA lists this as the most common type of car accident. It is the result of a driver in front needing to stop or hit the brakes suddenly and the driver immediately behind not being able to brake in time to avoid a collision.
Single vehicle crashes. This is when a driver goes off the road, possibly because of losing control because of speed, changing road conditions, distractions, bad weather, or driving under the influence.
Side-impact collisions. For those who are traveling in the car that gets hit on the side, this type of accident can be particularly dangerous. Many cars are not equipped with side impact airbags, and unlike front or rear-end collisions, there is nothing but glass and a metal door between the passengers and the oncoming car. It is most often driver negligence that causes this kind of accident.
Clipping. This is a common collision on any given commute into work. Clipping is usually the result of a driver attempting to enter the roadway from an on ramp and a motorist in that lane not yielding, or not having time to yield. It also occurs when a driver changes lanes and the drivers in those lanes do not have time to react by breaking for the new car in front.
Some of these accidents are preventable by adjusting the mirrors before starting the car. Some of these types of accidents are prevented by modern cars equipped with a warning system for oncoming vehicles on either side. However, it is best for a driver to turn their head and check for oncoming cars.
Maryland Car Accident Laws are Based on Contributory Negligence
The fault system guides Maryland car accident laws. This means that the driver found to be at fault, or the one found to be liable for the accident, is the driver who pays damages to those injured or harmed by the accident.
In Maryland, there are degrees of fault. Maryland is one of only five states that operates with the contributory negligence rule guiding its car accident laws. This means that if the injured party was partially at fault, even a fraction at fault, that injured party will receive nothing from the other driver.
There are states that operate with comparative negligence for car accidents, in which each party can recover damages, minus a percentage that equates to the amount they are found to be at fault for the accident. But contributory negligence means the injured party needs to be found completely blame-free of the accident to collect damages.
Because the at-fault driver’s insurance company is going to be reviewing all of the facts of the accident, searching for reasons to deny liability so damages do not need to be paid out, it is important to consult a lawyer.
PIP No-Fault Claims
Personal injury protection (PIP) is included in most insurance plans in Maryland, unless specifically rejected at sign-up. On some insurance policies, it will be referred to as economic loss protection, but it means the same thing.
This kind of coverage, which drivers who are injured can turn to when they need to cover the bills from an accident, is a no-fault insurance claim, despite Maryland car accident law being based on fault. Therefore, having a police report will start the process for the injured driver to get compensation from their own insurance policy.
Because time is of the essence when medical bills and car repairs are coming in, the PIP coverage will help those who are waiting on money from the at-fault driver’s insurance company. PIP processes quickly because it is not based on finding fault. This coverage will pay medical bills and up to 85 percent of lost income, up to the policy limit. Minimum policy limit is $2,500, but some insurance companies offer up to $10,000 in PIP coverage.
Greenbelt Car Accident Lawyers at the Law Offices of Duane O. King Advocate for Injured Car Accident Victims
Car accidents are a very serious matter, and victims need a team on their side to get the compensation they deserve. If you were injured in a car accident, the Greenbelt car accident lawyers at the Law Offices of Duane O. King will advocate for car accident victims. Call us at 202-331-1963 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Washington, DC, we work with car accident victims in Prince George’s County, including Laurel, Beltsville, Adelphi, College Park, Greenbelt, Mitchellville, Woodmore, Greater Upper Marlboro, Springdale, Largo, Bowie, Capitol Heights, District Heights, Forestville, Suitland, and Seat Pleasant, Clinton, Oxon Hill, Temple Hills, and Fort Washington.