SUV and Van Accident Lawsuits
Settlements, Compensation and Hiring a Personal Injury Lawyer
Sport utility vehicles (SUVs), vans and other light trucks accounted for 38.2 percent of all motor vehicle crashes in 2005, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Fatal light truck crashes took 12,975 lives, and injury accidents harmed another 872,000.
Many SUV accidents, van accidents and other light truck accidents are caused primarily by one or more person's negligence. Victims of these accidents often are eligible for compensation to account for medical expenses and other financial losses, as well as pain and suffering.
Please review the information below to learn more about light truck accidents. A personal injury attorney can help you determine your legal right to compensation.
Laws Governing SUVs, Vans and Other Light Trucks
As a legal matter, a light truck accident is an event or string of events involving a pickup truck, SUV, van or utility station wagon that causes damage to property or person. In 2005, 81 percent of light truck accidents involved a collision with another motor vehicle. About 15 percent involved collisions with stationary objects and other non-motorized objects and 4 percent were incidents that did not involve a collision, such as rollovers. Most of these crashes involved an element of negligence, corresponding with a traffic law violation.
A victim of an SUV accident or other motor vehicle accident may be able to receive compensation for losses if he or she can show that the accident was caused by negligence. A victim can demonstrate negligence by showing that:
- The negligent party's carelessness caused the accident
- The victim suffered some form of harm
- The negligent party is accountable for any losses
Victims can use police reports, witness testimony, photographs of the crash scene and other evidence to prove negligence.
Direct evidence in the form of eyewitness testimony is one of the most powerful and persuasive ways to establish negligence. For example, the statement of a passerby who witnessed a driver talking on a cell phone or speeding down a country lane just before crashing into an SUV is convincing evidence of driver negligence.
Indirect or circumstantial evidence may be just as compelling. For example, a police report stating that a driver involved in an SUV accident was discovered sitting amid a heap of empty beer bottles with a blood alcohol count of 0.18 is likely to persuade a jury of driver negligence. A photograph of skid marks in front of a school indicating that a driver was traveling 55 mph in a 15 mph zone would also be persuasive.
In cases where more than one party is at fault, insurance companies or courts may rely on the theory of comparative negligence, which divides liability by percentage of fault.
Victims of SUV accidents and other motor vehicle accidents may be entitled to compensation for the following:
- Lost Prospects
- Property Repairs
- Lost Income
- Medical Expenses
- Physical and Psychological Pain
The amount of compensation a victim receives is dependent on predetermined formulas and the extent of injuries.
In some states, victims are affected by no-fault insurance laws, which seek to prevent frivolous lawsuits and injury claims. These laws also help victims receive prompt payment for lost income and medical costs. Unfortunately, in certain cases they also can prevent victims from receiving compensation for additional costs. Personal injury attorneys help victims understand the laws of their respective states and receive just compensation for their losses.
If injuries from an SUV accident, van accident or pickup truck accident result in death, the victim's family may be able to obtain compensation for the wrongful death of their loved one. A wrongful death attorney can provide the legal expertise necessary to determine the family's legal rights and eligibility for a compensation for fatal accident.
Factors Contributing to Van and SUV Accidents
A number of factors contribute to van and SUV accidents. Many are the result of some form of negligence. Some of the most common contributing factors are:
- Traffic violations
- Driver error
- Equipment failure
- Road conditions
- Road design
Traffic Law Violations. Most van and SUV crashes occur as a result of negligence in the form of a traffic violation. Common traffic violations include the following:
- Improper lane changing
- Improper turning
- Failing to yield the right of way
- Ignoring stop signs and stoplights
- Driving on the wrong side of the road
A traffic citation issued at the scene of an accident strengthens any claims.
Driver Error. One of the most common causes of van and SUV accidents is driver error. Driver error can occur due to a variety of factors, including fatigue, distractions, inattention, intoxication and reckless driving. A recent study found that almost 80 percent of all automobile accidents involved distractions, fatigue or inattention. In fact, 93 percent of all rear-end accidents involved inattention. When a driving error occurs as a result of driving while intoxicated (DWI), the driver can be held responsible for his or her actions in both criminal and civil courts. If you have been charged with DWI, you should strongly consider speaking with a DWI lawyer.
Equipment Failure. Equipment failure plays a large part in some SUV and van accidents. Malfunctioning brakes, tires, steering or suspension can be caused by the negligence of the owner, a mechanic or the manufacturer of the car. Victims can earn substantial compensation in cases involving flawed equipment design or poor maintenance.
Faulty roofs are a problem of particular concern with pickup trucks, SUVs, vans and utility station wagons. This is because they are prone to rolling over due to their high center of gravity. SUVs are the most prone. According to a 2008 report by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), roof weakness or "roof crush" is a major contributing factor in the deaths and injuries associated with this type of accident. The U.S. government requires that roofs sustain no more than 5 inches of crush while supporting 1.5 times the vehicle's weight. More than 5 inches of crush may indicate negligence on the part of the manufacturer.
Electronic stability control devices have been added to many vans and SUVs in recent years. They help guard against rollovers by compensating for a driver's over-steering or under-steering. Any defect in this system may be a factor in a rollover.
When equipment failure or a manufacturing defect is a factor in an SUV or van accident, the car should be preserved as possible evidence in a trial.
If you or someone you know has been involved in an accident that involved equipment failure, you may wish to contact a personal injury attorney to learn about your eligibility for compensation.
Road Conditions. Road conditions such as weather, construction and debris can contribute to van and SUV collisions and point to a driver or government entity's negligence. If the government does not properly maintain the roads, victims of any accidents that result may sue the appropriate government entity for compensation. If, for example, a collision occurs because of a large pothole in the road that should have been repaired, the agency in charge of maintaining the road may be held liable. In these instances, victims should contact a personal injury attorney to help them understand the rules that apply to suing the government, including any statutes of limitations (time limits).
Road Design. In addition to poor maintenance of roads, the government may also be liable for poorly designed roads, which sometimes lead to accidents. Any victim of a collision that occurred because of a poorly designed intersection, merging lanes or other element of road design may be eligible for compensation from the government.
When You Might Need a Personal Injury Attorney
Because many victims only file claims with insurance companies, they frequently lose the opportunity to receive full compensation for their losses. The following are examples of situations that require the assistance of a personal injury attorney:
- A victim is experiencing delays in settling his or her claim.
- A victim has not been completely reimbursed for all of his or her financial losses, including medical expenses, lost prospects, physical and psychological damage and lost income.
- A claim is denied by an insurance company or government entity.
- The negligent party does not have insurance.
In these situations, personal injury attorneys lend their expertise to help victims receive full compensation.
Light trucks pickup trucks, SUVs, vans and utility station wagons are more likely to be involved in fatal single-vehicle accidents (especially rollovers) than passenger cars. However, in multiple vehicle accidents, occupants of light trucks are less likely to die than are occupants of passenger cars.
Source: Insurance Institute For Highway Safety (IIHS)