When you see a car accident in Kansas or Missouri, it often involves multiple vehicles. Perhaps one vehicle swerved into the adjacent lane on the highway and sideswiped another vehicle. Perhaps one vehicle turned at an intersection when the light was yellow and collided with an oncoming car. Maybe someone wasn’t paying attention as they approached a stop sign and rear-ended the vehicle in front of them. And perhaps that vehicle then struck the vehicle in front of it. single vehicle accident

Car accidents occur for all types of reasons and at all different locations—curves in the road, stop signs, intersections, parking lots. Car accidents can occur anywhere and can involve any number of drivers. But not every accident involves multiple vehicles. Many car accidents (more than half) are single vehicle accidents.

What Is a Single Vehicle Accident?

A single vehicle accident is any car accident that involves damage to only one vehicle. This could be any car, truck, motorcycle, or other type of vehicle. Often, a single vehicle accident involves only one driver who was negligent or careless while driving and, as a result, perhaps struck an object on the side of the road, like a tree, mailbox, or guard rail, and no other vehicle was involved in the accident.

However, a single vehicle accident also can occur when the accident is not the driver’s fault. Instead, the accident may be the result of someone or something else that caused the accident. Often, this may include:

  • Another driver on the road;
  • A mechanical failure on the vehicle;
  • A dangerous condition on the road;
  • Faulty or improper traffic signals;
  • Improper maintenance of the road.

Even if the driver involved in the accident was not at fault, whenever an accident occurs and only one vehicle is damaged in the accident, this is considered a single vehicle accident.

How Often Do Single Vehicle Accidents Occur?

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there were approximately 5,215,071 non-fatal car crashes in the United Sates in 2020. According to the National Safety Council, approximately 4.8 million people were seriously injured in those accidents. However, in the same year, there were 35,766 fatal motor vehicle crashes in which 38,824 deaths occurred. In 2021, the total number of fatalities in car accidents increased by 10.5% to 42,915 people. This was the largest increase in fatal crashes since 1975.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), of the fatal crashes that occurred in 2020:

  • 62% of the fatalities were occupants of passenger vehicles;
  • 17% of fatalities were pedestrians;
  • 14% were motorcyclists;
  • 2% were bicyclists; and
  • 2% were occupants of large trucks.

Based on 2020 data provided by the U.S. Department of Transportation's Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), 55% of all motor vehicle fatalities in the United States occurred in single-vehicle crashes. And single-vehicle crash fatalities have increased in almost every state in the nation from 2020 to 2021.

In 2020, Kansas and Missouri had significantly high fatality rates in single vehicle crashes. Kansas had a total of 382 fatal crashes with 215 deaths occurring in single vehicle accidents and 211 deaths occurring in multiple vehicle accidents. In Missouri, there were 914 fatal crashes with 560 deaths resulting from single vehicle crashes and 427 deaths occurring in multiple vehicle accidents. These statistics show that fatalities are just as likely to occur during single vehicle accidents as they are to result from accidents involving more than one vehicle.

What Are the Most Common Causes of Single Vehicle Accidents?

It may be surprising that more fatalities result from single vehicle accidents than accidents in which more than one vehicle is involved. However, the statistics make sense when you consider that single vehicle accidents occur for the same reasons that multiple vehicle accidents occur.  Here are some of the most common reasons for single vehicle accidents:

  • Use of drugs or alcohol.  Intoxicated or drunk driving is a leading cause of fatality in motor vehicle accidents. Driving while on drugs or when drunk can significantly impair your motor skills, reaction time, and judgment. Even if your blood alcohol content does not exceed the legal limit, you still may be impaired to a degree that affects your ability to drive safely. When you are impaired, you are just as likely to be in a single car accident as one in which you strike another vehicle.
  • Speeding.  Speeding is dangerous and increases the likelihood of being in a single vehicle accident. Speeding can include exceeding the posted speed limit or simply driving too fast for the conditions on the road. For example, even though you may be driving at a speed that is under the posted speed limit, the road may be icy, slippery from rain or leaves, dimly lit, or just in poor physical condition. Under such circumstances, it may be more dangerous to drive even under the legal speed limit. Driving too fast for the conditions on the road may increase your chances of driving off the road and being in a single car accident.
  • Distracted driving. Driving while distracted is another leading reason why motor vehicle accidents occur on the road. Distractions can result from:
  • Other occupants in the vehicle;
  • Cell phones or other electronic devices;
  • Adjusting radios, temperatures dials, or seats;
  • Focusing on other vehicles or surroundings;
  • Driving on unfamiliar routes or looking for directions;
  • Eating or drinking while driving.

Single vehicle accidents can easily occur when a driver takes his or her attention away from the road, even for a split second. This can result in injury or death in a single car accident just as quickly and as easily as if the driver collides with another vehicle.

  • Tired or sleepy driving.  If you have ever driven for long distances or for long periods of time without rest, you probably know the feeling of “dozing off at the wheel.” This is a horrible feeling and is a clear warning sign that you should not be driving.  When you fall asleep at the wheel, your vehicle naturally drifts out of your driving lane in one direction or the other depending on the physical structure of the road. When you drift off the road, you can easily strike a tree, guard rail, wall, or even a pedestrian. Even with new safety features built into modern vehicles that warn of drifting into adjacent lanes, you may not hear the warning in time to avoid a single vehicle accident.     
  • Inexperienced driving.  New drivers, particularly young drivers with very little experience behind the wheel, may be prone to make mistakes on the road and find themselves in a single vehicle accident that a more experienced driver may be more likely to avoid. This most often occurs when an unseasoned driver experiences unfamiliar road conditions (such as icy surfaces or particularly steep or curvy roads) or uncommon traffic events (such as merging lanes due to construction or yellow lights at intersections). When novice drivers experienced unfamiliar circumstances, they may not react appropriately or underestimate their speed or required stopping distance to be able to avoid an accident. This often leads to single vehicle injuries or fatalities.
  • Bad weather / Poor road conditions.  Even the most experienced and skilled drivers can have difficulty driving in bad weather or on poor road conditions. Rain and snow can impair visibility. Strong winds can make it difficult to steer. Sudden storms can lead to flooding and loss of control. Icy, wet, or slippery roads can cause skidding and hydroplaning, which can cause you to lose control of your vehicle. All of these circumstances can cause a single car accident.

Who Is Liable for Damages Resulting From a Single Car Accident?

 

All of the driving circumstances described above can lead to a single vehicle accident. When a single car accident occurs for any of these reasons, the driver is usually at fault and is responsible for any damage caused to their vehicle and any other property (like a tree, mailbox, guard rail, or other personal or public property) that was damaged in the accident.

Every state requires a driver to carry vehicle insurance that may cover the damages resulting from a single car accident. This depends entirely on the terms of the driver’s insurance plan. But even if your insurance covers your damages, this can negatively affect your driving record and may increase your insurance premiums. Single car accidents in which the driver is at fault also may result in a costly traffic ticket or other criminal charges depending on what the driver did to cause the accident.

When Is the Driver Not Liable for a Single Vehicle Accident?

Although most single vehicle accidents are the result of the driver’s negligence or carelessness, there are times when the driver of the vehicle may not be liable for the resulting damages.  If someone or something other than the driver of the vehicle in the accident is the proximate cause of the single vehicle accident, then the driver may be able to recover damages from the entity or person who was at fault. This could occur for several different reasons, such as:

  • The negligence of another driver.  Not all single vehicle accidents are the result of the negligence or carelessness of the driver in the accident. Sometimes the driver in the accident may have been avoiding a multi-car accident that was caused by the negligence or carelessness of another driver that ultimately was not involved in the accident. For example, suppose another driver on the road swerves into your lane because they are intoxicated or distracted and you veer off the road to avoid being struck by the other driver but, in the process, you strike a guardrail and damage your vehicle. In this case, you were not at fault in the accident. Although yours was the only vehicle that was damaged in the crash, your accident was caused by the other driver. In this case, the other driver may be legally responsible for the damages to your vehicle.   
  • Foreign objects or pedestrians in the road.  Although you are responsible for your own safety when driving a vehicle, there are occasions when someone else may create a hazard or violate a traffic law that causes you to experience a single car accident. For example, if someone improperly loads a bicycle onto a bicycle rack or fails to secure an item in the back of a truck such that an object falls off their vehicle in front of you and strikes your vehicle or causes you to crash, the person responsible for failing to properly securing the foreign object may be liable for your damages. Or if a pedestrian or bicyclist disobeys a traffic signal and crosses an intersection or enters the roadway in violation of a traffic law, they may be responsible for your damages if doing so caused you to crash in your vehicle.
  • Mechanical failure on the vehicle. Sometimes single vehicle accidents can occur when something goes wrong with your vehicle that causes the vehicle to crash. This might include:
  • Sudden brake failure;
  • A tire blowing out;
  • Faulty electrical wiring; or
  • Engine seizure.

Any sort of mechanical failure on the car that results from:

  • faulty design,
  • improper installation or service, or
  • substandard quality in manufacturing,

which causes a driver to lose control of the vehicle and crash may be the fault of the manufacturer of the faulty part or the mechanic who last serviced the car. If your accident was the result of a mechanical failure that was caused by someone else’s negligence, another party may be legally responsible to compensate you for your damages.

  • Poorly or improperly maintained road conditions.  Many hazardous road conditions, such as slippery surfaces or sudden or sharp curves in the design of the road, are natural. Every driver must be responsible to take proper precautions when they experience such natural road conditions by reducing their speed or using proper signaling. However, for most highways and local roads, state or local governments are responsible for properly maintaining the roads to avoid hazardous conditions for drivers. For example, an appropriate government agency may be responsible for:
  • Refilling potholes;
  • Trimming overhanging tree branches;]
  • Directing traffic at the scene of an accident;
  • Removing animals, objects, and debris from the road.

If your single car accident is the result of a government agency’s failure to properly maintain safe conditions on the road, you may be able to recover for any resulting damage. Fault in these cases is often more difficult to prove, however. Success in these types of cases depends on your ability to obtain necessary and appropriate evidence quickly. It is especially important to hire an experienced car accident attorney in such cases.

Do Not Assume You Are Liable For Your Own Damages in a Single Vehicle Accident 

If you have been in a single vehicle accident, it is natural to assume that you must be at fault since there were no other vehicles involved. However, this is a mistake. Although you were the only driver involved in your crash, you may not be financially responsible for your damages. There are many reasons why someone else may have been at fault. Before you assume that you will have to pay for the costs associated with your single car accident, discuss your case with the experienced Kansas City car accident attorneys at Foster Wallace, LLC.

The Kansas City car wreck lawyers at Foster Wallace, LLC, have years of experience handling single vehicle accident cases. We know that just because you were in an accident by yourself doesn’t mean that you were at fault and should be liable for your damages. We can help you determine the real cause of your accident and help you hold responsible the party who may have been at fault. You should not have to pay for the cost of repairing your own vehicle just because the party responsible for causing your accident was not involved in the crash and did not suffer any financial damages.

If you experienced a single vehicle accident, don’t assume you have to cover the resulting financial costs. Before you speak to your insurance company, call

the Kansas City, Missouri car wreck attorneys at Foster Wallace, LLC, at 816-249-2101. We will meet with you at no cost to discuss your single vehicle accident case. We will help you determine the real cause of your accident and fight for you to hold the proper party financially responsible.  

Have You Been Injured in a Kansas City Car Accident?

If you've been hurt in a Kansas City car accident you need to speak with an experienced car accident attorney as soon as possible. Contact us online or call our Kansas City office directly at 816.249.2101 to schedule your free consultation.  

Michael Foster
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Kansas City Personal Injury Attorney