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Common Types of Car Accidents in California

Table of Contents for Specific Topics

Drivers in California are not unfamiliar with accidents along the highway, on side streets, and even in parking lots. These accidents can sometimes result in property damage and in more serious cases, injury, or death. They often involve 2 vehicles or one vehicle and a pedestrian or bicycle. Car accidents can also occur with stationary objects like medians, walls, road signs, and utility poles. The different types of vehicle accidents can be caused by inattentive drivers, driving under the influence, failing to follow road sign directions, and several other reasons. The types of collisions are usually determined by site of impact and the victims involved in an accident.

Different Types of Car Accidents

Some car accidents are simple minor fender benders which can happen at any time. There are other collision types that usually result in more significant damages:


Head On Collision

Head on collisions are some of the more violent collisions due to the intensity of impact caused by objects going in opposite directions at high speeds. These accidents cause front end damages on both vehicles and can often lead to drivers being pinned or ejected from the vehicle. The type of injuries sustained also tend to be extreme. Intense injuries like traumatic brain injuries, broken bones, organ damage, and more can be caused when 2 cars going opposite directions crash into each other. These accidents are often caused by intoxicated or fatigued drivers who drift into oncoming traffic. The faster the vehicles involved in the collision are going, the higher likelihood of catastrophic injury.


Side Impact Collision

T bone accidents are caused when one driver collides head on with the side of another driver. This is usually the result of someone failing to stop at a stop sign or red light and sometimes failure to yield when a light turns yellow or when making a left turn. Due to the impact location of this type of accident, either the driver or the passenger will receive the brunt of the hit. Even if side impact air bags are present and deployed, serious injury can be caused by a T-bone accident because the impact will transfer force to the body closest to impact. This violent transfer of force can cause a body significant neck and spinal cord injuries, broken bones, head trauma, and crushing injuries.


Rear End Accident

Read end accidents are the most common type of car accident. They are typically caused when a driver fails to properly judge the time and distance required to come to a full stop at current speeds. Rear end accidents typically happen at signals, stop signs, intersections, and any other time when a vehicle is likely to be stopped. The other large factor that leads to rear end collisions is distracted driving when drivers are using their phone. Any activity that results in a driver not paying attention to what is directly in front of them, increases the likelihood of a rear end collision. To avoid these types of accidents, motorists are recommended that they follow the “3 second rule” which provides enough time to come to an immediate stop if the car in front slams on their breaks. 3 seconds of distance means that it should take the following car at least 3 seconds to pass a landmark that the car in front just passed. The speed at which the rear end collision happens will determine the severity of injury. It is possible for a rear end accident to result in death in extreme cases where a driver hits another vehicle at a high speed. For slower impacts, less severe but serious injuries can still be inflicted.


Sideswipe Accidents

In multiple lane roads and highways, sideswipes are a potential threat. Drivers not paying attention, distracted, or driving while impaired or drowsy may make a lane transition without checking which can come into contact with a vehicle in the way. This type of accident can result in damages to the side of either vehicle or cause a vehicle to spin out. In minor side swipe accidents, the likelihood of injury and death are low. However, if a vehicle is hit at an angle that causes one of the vehicles to spin out, it could result in impact with another vehicle or one of the cars going off the road. In either circumstance, there is a chance of significant injury and death. These types of accidents are also more frequent when smaller vehicles fall in the blind spot of larger trucks. In these instances, the smaller vehicle can get crushed if there is no place for the smaller vehicle to move to.


Roll Over Accidents

Roll over accidents can be some of the more devastating car accidents due to a vehicle potentially flipping several times. Each rollover introduces enough force to eject any passengers who are not secured. These types of accidents are more common in trucks and SUVs that have higher centers of gravity and have a higher likelihood to roll when turning at fast speeds. If a roll over accident happens, any passenger who is secured inside a vehicle can experience serious neck and spinal cord injuries, impact injuries, and burns if a vehicle that rolls spills fuel which ignites.


Single Vehicle Accidents

Single vehicle crashes happen frequently and are often the result of a vehicle colliding with something in their way. This could be a road obstacle like debris, an animal, or cargo that was not safely secured. This can also occur when a drowsy or intoxicated driver hits a pole, tree, or parked car. These accidents can often result in serious injury as accidents with stationary immovable objects usually results in a car being crushed. This can result in serious catastrophic injury and death. The cause of most of these types of accidents are often drowsy, inattentive, or intoxicated drivers. However, there are instance when wild animals cross onto a road in front of oncoming traffic.


Multiple Car Pileups

Multiple vehicle pileups are usually caused by an initial collision that results in several subsequent collisions due to cars not giving each other enough space when at a complete stop. There are other potential reasons for a multicar pileup like icy roads but most of the time these accidents are caused by one driver. Individuals involved in multicar pileups are likely to experience significant injury if a car is going fast enough and with enough force to drive the struck vehicle into the vehicle in front of it. It also causes the cars in the middle of the accident to suffer from both front and back-end damages and potentially crushing injuries. These accidents can be extremely difficult to navigate and assign responsibility.


Hit and Run Accidents

Hit and run accidents occur when someone responsible for an accident flees the scene. It is expected of California drivers that they stay and exchange information when an accident occurs. Hit and run accidents typically occur when an at fault driver has shown negligence when driving which would result in tickets, fines, suspensions, or arrests. While hit and run accidents are normally a misdemeanor criminal action, if an injury or death has occurred, the hit and run becomes a felony.


Pedestrian / Bicycle Accidents

Pedestrian and bicycle accidents occur when vehicle crashes into someone walking or riding a bike. Pedestrians generally have the right of way in California, but they are also expected to follow pedestrian safe practices to minimize the likelihood of pedestrian impacts. This means that liability can be partially assigned to the pedestrian if they recklessly run into oncoming traffic due to CA comparative negligence laws. Bicyclists are expected to follow the law of the road just as expected of vehicles. These types of accidents can occur when a driver doesn’t see a bicyclist in the road. Pedestrian and bicycle accidents often result in catastrophic injuries and death because the victim is not as protected as the individuals inside of a car.


Parking Lot Accidents

Parking lot accidents are least likely to result in significant injury and death. This is because these types of accidents typically happen at slow speeds. They happen frequently due to inattentive drivers or drivers that are maneuvering their vehicles without being able to see everything in their paths while backing up or making turns. It is expected that the driver responsible for the crash stay until the damaged vehicle owner returns or leave documentation of contact and insurance information with the damaged vehicle.


Car Accident Causes

Knowing how to prevent these accidents requires driver make changes to how they drive to prevent the reasons behind many car accidents. The most common causes of car accidents include:

  • Speeding
  • Distracted or inattentive driver
  • Failure to follow road signs
  • Driving on opposite side of road
  • Improper turns
  • Intoxicated drivers
  • Drowsy drivers
  • Failure to abide by right of way laws
  • Cell phone use


What Should You Do After a Car Accident?

If someone has been in a car accident, they should follow the steps outlined in a car accident checklist:

  • Try and stay calm
  • Get to somewhere safe or move your car somewhere safe if possible
  • Seek medical attention
  • Exchange information with the other driver
  • Gather witness information and evidence of liability
  • Document damages and accident details
  • Contact insurance company, DMV, and a car accident lawyer


Contact a Car Accident Lawyer if You Have Been in a Car Accident

If you have been in any of the car accident types that were described above, it may benefit you to speak with a licensed and experienced car accident lawyer who can obtain the maximum compensation for your case. The team of personal injury lawyers at Mesriani Law Group can provide guidance on how to move forward in the event you have been a victim of a car accident.


Car Accident Type FAQs

What are the different kinds of car accidents?

The different types of car collisions typically fall into head on collisions, t bone accidents, sideswipes, rear ends, rollovers, multicar pileups, single car collisions, hit and runs, or accidents involving pedestrians or bicyclists.

What is the most common type of accident?

The most common type of accident is the rear end accident. This can be the result of a distracted driver not slowing down when other cars are stopped or a driver misjudging the time and distance between vehicles when slowing down to a stop.

What are minor accidents?

Minor accidents typically involve accidents at low speeds. This could be rear end collisions, parking lot accidents, and accidents involving one driver. These accidents typically do not result in substantial damages to a motor vehicle and are often easily repaired.

About the Author
Rodney Mesriani
Rodney Mesriani

Rodney Mesriani is the principal partner of the Los Angeles and Santa Monica based Mesriani Law Group. He specializes in personal injury and employment law while also being an accomplished litigator and trial attorney. Rodney is an aggressive negotiator and a well-known and respected attorney in the areas of practice he specializes in.

He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting from California State University Northridge before attending Southwestern School of Law where he received his Juris Doctorate. While being an accomplished personal injury and employment lawyer, Rodney Mesriani has made it a point to attend numerous State Sponsored MCLE events and seminars over the years as a law practitioner to be informed of the latest laws and litigation strategies.



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