The population of the United States is currently over 330 million, with California being the highest populated state, with approximately 40 million people calling it home. This large population translates to many people using the roads to move from one place to another. Due to its high population, California is leading with the number of reported fatal crashes at 3,259.

Fatal crashes are the type of accidents that result in death and catastrophic injuries. Out of these crashes, 3,563 people died as a result. When you or a loved one dies in a car crash, the party responsible for the accident must compensate the surviving family for your death or that of a loved one.

Pursuing wrongful death claims is not easy and requires an experienced attorney’s counsel. At Orange County Personal Injury Attorney, we have helped many clients who have been injured or lost their loved ones to file for claims and receive compensation. We are on standby to offer you sound legal counsel around-the-clock.

General Statistics on Fatal Car Crashes

Americans use different modes of transportation to move from one place to the next. Some walk, while others drive different cars or use bicycles. All these modes of transport result in various types of traffic accidents that cause death to the victims.

In this article, we will discuss the statistics of fatal crashes based on:

  • The road user
  • The type of crash
  • Alcohol impairment crashes
  • Restraint use
  • Urban and rural fatal crash statistics and
  • General car crash statistics

Fatalities According to the Road User

According to a 2018 report, types of car crash deaths varied from one state to the other. For instance, the recorded percentage of fatalities involving pickup and SUV's occupants in 2018 was the highest across the states, standing at 49%. In this state, deaths in regular car occupants were relatively lower at 23% compared to the pickups and SUVs.

On the other hand, Vermont recorded the highest percentage of fatalities in car occupants at 49%, and death, where SUVs and pickups were involved, was at 26%. In the same year, Hawaii reported relatively lower fatalities with SUVs and pickups, accounting for 15%, and standard cars at 15%. However, in Hawaii, fatalities due to motorcycle crashes with vehicles were at 29%, and pedestrian-car accidents accounted for the highest percentage of deaths at 36%.

Of bicyclist accidents, the District of Columbia reported the highest percentage of 10% and a higher percentage of 35% for pedestrians and 26% for motorcyclists.

In California, the total number of deaths from fatal car crashes was 3,563 in 2018. Out of these, SUVs and pickups accounted for 18% of fatalities, large trucks 1%, motorcyclists 14%, pedestrians 25%, and bicyclists 4%.

From these statistics, we cannot conclude which road user type contributes to the different states’ highest fatalities. However, it is easy to note that large truck occupants do not suffer high fatalities like occupants of pickups, SUV's or regular cars, and pedestrians.

Types of Crashes

Car accidents can be single crashes or multiple vehicle crashes. The nationwide statistics indicate that in 2018, 53% of fatal car crashes involved single vehicles. Montana reported the highest percentage of single-car crashes at 71%, while accidents involving multiple vehicles resulting in deaths were highest in Nebraska at 57%.

In California, the number of people that died from single-vehicle crashes in 2018 was 1,956, accounting for 55% of car accident deaths. Victims killed out of multiple-vehicle crashes in California were 1,607, accounting for 45% of fatalities out of vehicle crashes.

Fatal Crashes out of Alcohol Impairment

Unfortunately, not all deaths caused by alcohol impairment on the roads are reported despite this being one of the highest causes of accidents on our roads. According to a 2018 study, a conclusion was drawn from states that said at least 70% of BAC related fatalities. According to this report, 65% of reported fatalities on the roads were caused by alcohol-impaired driving.

Montana's state reported the highest percentage of fatal crashes due to impairment, standing at 45% of the deadly accidents recorded. On the other hand, West Virginia is reported to have the lowest fatal car crashes in America, with their estimate being at 12%.

The number of drivers killed in road crashes in California stood at 1,369 in 2018. Out of these, drivers that died with a known BAC were 896, accounting for 65% of drivers killed due to alcohol impairment.

From these statistics, it is easy to conclude that intoxication is one of the leading causes of car crashes that result in fatalities of its drivers or vehicle occupants.

Restraint Use or Use of Safety Belts

Safety belts are designed to enhance vehicle occupants' safety in an accident or another emergency on the road. Because of this, vehicle users are encouraged to always use their safety restraints while on the road. The use of safety belts is critical to the extent that should it malfunction during an accident, the manufacturer can be found liable for the injuries a victim sustains.

Based on a survey carried out over all states, front-seat passengers in vehicles were found to be using restraint or safety belts up to 90%, with only 10% disregarding the practice. Hawaii recorded the highest use of safety belts at 98%, while New Hampshire had the least 76% usage.

The survey further found that fatality rates were lower with vehicle occupants using restraints than those that disregarded its use. California showed that 96% of vehicle occupants used seat belts to secure themselves in the cars. However, this does not mean this practice prevents accidents; only that fatality injuries become significantly reduced. Even with the high use of restraint in California, vehicle occupants still sustained fatal injuries following these accidents.

Occupants wearing safety belts that died from accidents in California were 1,170, and those without were 594. Although the figure for fatalities without safety belts looks lower, it is high compared to the percentage of people using vehicles without safety belts. Based on this report, it is right to conclude that a lack of restraint contributed to more people dying from fatal car accidents.

Urban Versus Rural Statistics

From the same report of 2018, rural areas were found to report fewer fatalities following car crashes than the urban areas. Nationally, rural car accidents resulting in deaths accounted for 45% of all fatal crashes, with 55% being for urban areas. Of all the rural fatal accidents, South Dakota led 90%, with New Jersey recording the lowest percentage at 8%. Massachusetts recorded 10%, while Connecticut shared with 13%.

Of the 3,563 fatalities in California, 2,490 of them occurred in the urban areas accounting for 67%, while 1,072 were in rural areas accounting for 30%. The remaining 3% was not recorded if it was in rural or urban areas. From these statistics, one can conclude that more fatal car crashes occur in urban areas where the traffic is more.

California Fatal Car Crash Statistics

Besides the nationwide statistics, here we focus on California reports on fatal car crashes. Concerning car crashes, California has a unique standing because of its vast population. This means that it is likely to experience more accidents owing to its immense population using the roads daily. According to the California Office of Traffic Safety, statistics on car-related deaths have increased over the last few years. These statistics or facts are as follows:

  • In 2015, California's traffic fatalities stood at 3,387 and increased by 7% in 2016 to stand at 3,623.
  • Statistics based on miles traveled indicated that in 2015, for every 100 million miles traveled, fatal crashes were 1.01. This figure is up from 2013, where at the same distance, 0.91 fatalities were reported.
  • Impaired driving fatal accidents also increased from 911 in 2015 to 1,059 in 2016. This figure has been on the increase compared to 2014, where impaired driving fatalities were at 882.
  • The use of impairment causing substances was reported to be decreasing despite the increase in their accidents. In 2013, drivers involved in fatal car crashes were tested for impairment substances, and 32% of them tested positive. However, the figure reduced with a 2016 report indicating only 15% of fatal car crash drivers were intoxicated.
  • Safety belts are a safety feature in cars, and all occupants are encouraged to fasten them on as long as they are in a moving vehicle. Belts are known to reduce the severity of the injuries a vehicle occupant can sustain following a crash. Unfortunately, not every occupant puts on their safety belts while on the road. In 2015, car crash deaths where at least one of the occupants was not wearing a safety belt stood at 568. In 2016, this figure sadly increased by 3% to stand at 586 deaths.
  • Motorcycle accidents with vehicles resulting in death also increased by 11% in 2016 to stand at 548, up from 494 in 2015. In 2013, reported fatalities involving motorcycles and vehicles stood at 463 and in 2014 at 519.
  • Teen drivers aged between 16 and 19 years have also been involved in fatal car accidents. This figure has been increasing steadily over the years. In 2013 deaths from teen accidents were 72; in 2014, the figure rose to 91. In 2015 the death toll stood at 98, and in 2015, it increased to 110.
  • Pedestrian accidents resulting in deaths have also been on the rise. In 2014, reported pedestrian deaths from car knockdowns were 697. The figure increased in 2015 to stand at 819 and 867 in 2016. Car crashes involving pedestrians often result in fatal injuries to the victims more than other types of traffic accidents.
  • Bicyclists also use the same roads motorists use. Unfortunately, fatal accidents occur involving cyclists and motorists. In 2016, fatalities from these accidents increased by 8.1% to stand at 147, rising from 136 in 2015. 2014 also recorded fewer fatalities from these accidents, standing at 128.

Causes of Fatal Car Crashes

Car accidents occur for multiple reasons that range from environmental factors, vehicle conditions, and human factors. Any of these factors can result in fatal accidents with social factors being punished under the law. Human factors include driving at high speeds, distractions, and impairment, while vehicle factors may consist of brake failures, faulty safety belts, or airbags. Environmental factors encompass external factors that the driver is not in control of, such as road conditions, environmental and weather hazards, and road signs.

Here, we look at these various factors and how they contribute to these fatalities on the roads.

Unsafe or Hazardous Road Conditions

A motorist has no power over unfavorable road conditions. If you suddenly came across a pothole and hit it, the impact can result in your vehicle rolling over. Spillages, especially of oil on the roads, can cause a driver to skid and cause a fatal accident. Unmarked roads are also dangerous and often result in deadly accidents.

Impaired Driving

Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol significantly contributes to high levels of fatal car accidents. The law prohibits intoxicated driving from protecting the vehicle occupants and other road users from impaired driving dangers. Because of these potential dangers, drunk driving is one of California's most severely punished traffic offenses.

Unfavorable Weather Conditions

Weather conditions are not human-made and are responsible for different types of fatal road accidents. Heavy downfall or storms can make it difficult for a motorist to see their surroundings well. As a result, a driver can easily be in a fatal accident. During snowstorms, the roads are slippery and difficult to navigate. As a result, drivers, despite their best efforts, end up in deadly accidents.

Distracted Driving

Motorists become distracted by both internal and external factors. Distractions are the making of motorists and can result in prosecution for a traffic offense. Distracted driving can be because of using a cell phone, eating or drinking as you drive, attending to kids in the car, or from something outside of the vehicle. When you become distracted on the road, you would forget to focus on the road and driving safely and instead focus on the subject of your distraction. As a result, you may fail to see an oncoming vehicle, a car ahead that has stopped, an intersection, or a pedestrian.

Fatigued Driver

 Fatigue is common with commercial vehicle drivers that have to be on the road for long hours. Some drivers want to earn more money and believe they are OK to keep driving. Failure to take breaks as recommended results in you being inattentive on the road, causing accidents. Fatigue also causes a driver to fall asleep on the wheel. This, in most cases, will result in the driver crashing on a stationary object, another vehicle, or veering off the road and end up in a fatal accident.

Mechanical Failure

Vehicles also have various malfunctions that can result in accidents. When you drive, and you come across a sudden emergency, you will depend on your brakes to bring the car to a stop. Unfortunately, the car brakes can fail and cause you to crash your vehicle onto another motorist, stationary object, or road user. If your safety belts also fail, you may end up sustaining fatal injuries that you would otherwise not have if the belts functioned as they should.

Negligent Driving

This is another type of human error that results in fatal car crashes. Negligent behavior on the road may include speedy driving, failing to stop at intersections, signaling when you want to make a left turn, or darting in and out of lanes. These behaviors often result in a motorist causing or being involved in fatal crashes.

Pursuing Compensation in Fatal Car Crashes

California is a fault state when it comes to compensating victims of an accident. However, some cases can have faults shared between or among various parties. In this case, California adheres to the comparative negligence theory for compensation.

Fatal car crashes can cause spot deaths or death because of the injuries sustained. When a loved one dies due to a deadly car crash, it is devastating emotionally and sometimes financially. Besides the cost of burying the deceased, they may not have been killed on the spot and incurred hospital bills. Additionally, if the fatal accident victim was the family's breadwinner, their death will result in the family losing their livelihood.

Fortunately, California's compensation laws allow the surviving family to be paid for the costs incurred before death. Additionally, the income lost because of their death, especially to minor dependents, is also compensable. Pursuing these damages is, however, not easy. The frustrations of pursuing a claim and the emotional pain of losing your loved one can make the process even more difficult. Because of the fault theory, the requirement to determine the party responsible for the crash is also daunting and requires an experienced attorney by your side.

When a loved one dies, the person responsible for the crash must pay the surviving family for their loss. However, the fault must be determined, and one way to do that is to use accident reconstruction experts. Once the blame is determined, the claim is presented to the insurance adjuster of the liable party. If the insurance company denies the claim or offers to pay below your expectations, your attorney can petition the court to receive your wrongful death claims.

The damages you are likely to seek would be for the wrongful death and the treatment cost if the deceased died later from injuries at the hospital.

Recoverable Damages in a Wrongful Death Claim

Wrongful death claims are designed to compensate the heirs for the support they reasonably received from the deceased person if they had not died. When your loved one dies from a fatal car accident in California, you can receive both economic and non-economic damages.

The period which you can claim damage is the shorter one of:

  • The life expectancy of the deceased when they met untimely death or
  • The life expectancy of the heir or plaintiff when the wrongful act occurred

The jury considers all facts, including the deceased's health, occupation, and lifestyle.

Recoverable economic Damages

When a loved one dies out of the negligent or wrongful behavior of another person, the law allows the heirs to obtain economic damages that include:

  • The financial support you would have received from the deceased person
  • The lost benefits or gifts the surviving family would have benefitted from them
  • The cost of burial or funeral arrangements
  • The value of services the dead person would have provided for their households and the value must be within reason

Non-economic Damages

Non-economic damages are not quantifiable, but the jury will compensate the heirs or their surviving family for the loss of:

  • Companionship and societal standing
  • The protection provided to the heirs
  • Affection or love
  • Moral support lost
  • Guidance and training
  • Sexual relations to the surviving partner or spouse

In awarding non-economic damages, no standard amount is set by the law. However, the jury is guided by the evidence presented and common sense to offer reasonable compensation.

Unfortunately, heirs do not receive punitive damages in wrongful death cases. A fatal car crash results in wrongful death, and as such, you would not receive punitive damages after your loved one dies in the crash. But, you can recover punitive damages through filing a survival action. This is a suit filed by the deceased estate to recover damages for their wrongful death.

Statute of Limitations

This is the time allowed by the law for the surviving family to sue for their loved one's wrongful death and receive damages. If a fatal car crash causes the death of your loved one, you have two years on which to file a claim in court. If this time passes, the court cannot hear your case for damages.

With survival action suits, the time starts counting from:

  • The date the injuries occurred or
  • Six months from the time the person died

Find a Personal Injury Lawyer Near Me

When you or a loved one sustains severe injuries or dies in a road accident, the surviving family will suffer emotional loss and financial loss. The statistics discussed in this article show that fatalities are frequent in car crashes. Fortunately, the law allows you to receive compensation for the wrongful death of your loved one.

At Orange County Personal Injury Attorney, we understand the challenges of pursuing damages following the wrongful death of a loved one in a road accident, and we will passionately help you with your claim. Call our office at 714-876-1959 and allow us to discuss your case in detail.