Types of Car Accidents

March 22, 2023 | By Nicolette R. Nicoletti
Types of Car Accidents

It should come as no surprise that drivers regularly repeat the same mistakes when behind the wheel, which unfortunately leads to the same types of car accidents happening over and over again.

When you’re involved in an accident, the exact kind of accident has direct implications in determining which driver was at fault and how much insurance compensation the more innocent of the two drivers qualifies for. When an at-fault driver seriously injures or kills another person in an accident, they can even face criminal charges.

A car accident lawyer can determine fault and fight for your rights after your accident.

Different Types of Car Accidents

Not all car accidents involve multiple vehicles. Two-car accidents are just one of many types of car crashes that happen daily.

The other leading categories of car accidents include:

  • Crashes with other motor vehicles
  • Crashes involving fixed objects
  • Crashes involving non-fixed objects
  • Pedestrian crashes
  • Animal crashes
  • Crashes with animal-drawn vehicles
  • Crashes with railroad trains
  • Non-collision crashes (such as those caused by a blown tire or rollover)

For each of these subcategories, there is a most common type of accident. For example, drivers in crashes involving fixed objects most frequently drive into a curb or ditch. In non-collision accidents, rollovers are the most common outcome and also the most fatal.

However, out of all these crash types, one is the most common and the most dangerous—a crash with another motor vehicle. The National Safety Council (NSC) reports that multi-vehicle crashes cause the most deaths and injuries for motor vehicle drivers of any accident type.

The Most Common Types of Auto Collisions

Types of Car Accidents

Just as two-car collisions are the most common of all car accident types, certain types of two-car collisions happen at a greater frequency and lead to higher numbers of injuries and fatalities. Most of these accidents have a crucial causal factor in common—driver error.

Whether an accident was caused by a speeding, distracted, or intoxicated driver, a car accident lawyer always sees the same situation unfold—negligent driving. Proving another driver’s negligence is the key to gaining compensation rather than paying for your own injuries.

The most common kinds of auto collisions usually happen under similar circumstances, which means fault is often determined automatically. A car accident lawyer can help you fight back if you’ve been unfairly found at fault for a car accident.

Here are the most common types of two-car accidents that drivers are most likely to end up involved in.

Rear-End Collisions

The National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) keeps careful records of the most frequent accident types. When it comes to two-car collisions, rear-end collisions take the lead.

These accidents occur when one car drives into the back end of the vehicle ahead of it. Rear-end collisions have a reputation as a leading cause of whiplash injuries, and these crashes frequently result in death or severe injuries. A recent report from the NHTSA has shown that rear-end collisions account for 27.8 percent of all motor vehicle accidents.

The NHTSA also reports that the majority of rear-end collisions occur when the front car is driving slowly or is stopped at a red light or stop sign, which means that most of the time, the rear driver is usually at fault for failing to stop in time. Being distracted while driving, along with speeding, are two of the most common ways to end up at fault for a rear-end collision.

Angle Collisions


Sideswipe Collisions

Sideswipe collisions are the third-most common type of multi-car accident, but they’re the type of crash that’s least likely to lead to serious injury or death.

Sideswipe accidents are most commonly associated with lane changes, especially when a driver fails to check their blind spot, and they occur when two cars are traveling in the same direction. When one car gets too close to another, the two make contact, skimming against each other. Since both drivers are traveling in the same direction, there’s less of an impact involved, which is why this type of accident is associated with a lower rate of fatality or injury.

That’s not to say that sideswipe accidents aren’t dangerous, however. They often occur on highways, where both cars are traveling at high speeds. In a recent reporting year, the NHTSA identified just under 1000 fatalities and over 100,000 injuries related to sideswipe accidents.

Driver inattention is often the primary cause of a sideswipe accident, though speeding can certainly play a role. If a merging driver attempts to change lanes and ends up hitting another driver who appeared unexpectedly because they were speeding, the speeding driver might be found at fault for the accident.

Head-On Collisions

Head-on collisions are the least common type of recorded two-car accident. As the name implies, a head-on collision occurs when the fronts of two cars make direct contact. Given the proximity of both drivers to the area of impact, it’s not surprising that head-on collisions frequently result in both injuries and deaths.

NHTSA data lends insight into how dangerous head-on collisions can be. Though they are fairly rare, accounting for only 2.1 percent of all motor vehicle accidents (single and multi-car accidents combined), head-on collisions are the cause of 10.2 percent of all accident fatalities, making them several times more fatal than sideswipe accidents, which occur far more often.

Distracted driving is a leading cause of head-on collisions, though drunk driving and wrong-way driving are also common reasons for head-on collisions. Speeding can also play a factor, particularly around curves; if a driver takes a curve too quickly, they can lose control of the vehicle, cross the centerline, and collide with an oncoming car.

Car Accident Contributing Factors

Car crashes may be called “accidents,” but where injury law is concerned, there are no accidents. Someone’s negligent actions are what cause a crash, whether they’re a driver’s, pedestrian’s, vehicle manufacturer’s, or some other party’s.

There’s always a reason behind why a car accident happens.

Some of the most common reasons behind the car accidents that occur at the highest frequency include:

  • Driver inattention
  • Speeding
  • Reckless driving
  • Driving under the influence

Time and again, these four factors appear most commonly as the leading reasons for why car accidents happen, as well as the fatalities and life-altering injuries that result from them.

Drivers can protect themselves by being aware that these common driving errors come with high costs and high chances of ending up in a serious crash. Obeying driving laws, putting down the phone, staying focused on traffic, and never driving under the influence are simple but life-saving ways to avoid death, injury, and the financial consequences of being found at fault for a car accident.

Why the Type of Car Accident Matters

Car accidents are, of course, always bad news. They’re costly, dangerous, and often fatal, but even when everyone involved is lucky enough to walk away unscathed, you’ll still likely be left facing the consequences like a totaled vehicle, expensive repairs, and increased insurance rates. These consequences can create a domino effect of sorts that impacts other areas of life, such as your ability to get to work or transport your kids to school.

Every driver should have a general understanding of the most common types of car accidents, how they occur, and how fault is usually determined after they occur. Such knowledge can help you practice defensive driving to avoid these frequent types of accidents, and it can also inform how you move forward after you’ve been involved in an accident.

The type of car accident you were involved in can often be directly tied to whether you end up paying the price or whether the liability falls upon the other driver. Similar types of car accidents occur every day, and as a result, both the police and auto insurance companies tend to assign fault automatically based on what’s considered to be the most common cause of a given accident.

Every car accident comes out of a unique set of circumstances, so it’s always worth consulting with a car accident attorney after you’ve been in a crash. An experienced car accident lawyer can significantly increase the amount of money you can receive through insurance. In some cases, a car accident attorney can even successfully demonstrate that you shouldn’t have been found at fault. Depending on the circumstances of the accident, that can have a significant impact on your driving record, criminal record, insurance rates, and finances.

Don’t Wait to Consult a Car Accident Lawyer

Certain types of car accidents aren’t the only mistakes that occur at a high frequency. Car accident attorneys routinely see clients make the same errors after being involved in a car accident, and those errors often come with a high price.

Three of the biggest mistakes every driver should know to avoid after a car accident are:

  • Admitting fault
  • Speaking to an insurance agent without first consulting a lawyer
  • Waiting to call a car accident lawyer

An experienced car accident lawyer or car accident attorney can do a lot to help you after an accident, from significantly increasing your auto insurance compensation to helping you fight back against unfair criminal charges.

However, when a driver admits fault for the accident, accidentally makes incriminating statements to an insurance agent, or waits too long to ask for legal help, the amount a car accident attorney can do to help is more limited.

Waiting to Call a Car Accident Attorney Can Cost You

Nicolette Nicoletti, Car Accident Attorney

Taking legal action over a car accident is a time-sensitive affair. For example, in Florida, you only have four years to pursue compensation in court over a personal injury caused by another driver’s negligence.

While four years may sound like a long time, waiting to contact a car accident lawyer puts you at risk of running out of time. A lawyer needs to conduct an investigation, which may involve time-consuming steps such as hiring experts like accident reconstruction specialists. They’ll also need to spend time building an argument for your case value by collecting evidence of the damage.

Finally, they must negotiate with the insurance company, a process that can involve multiple sessions over an indeterminate length of time. A lawyer will only take legal action if insurance negotiations are unsuccessful, and that final step is what the statute of limitations places a deadline on. Failing to get a lawyer working on your case from the start means that you risk running out of time when you need it the most. Reach out to a personal injury lawyer.

If you’ve been involved in a car accident, don’t make the mistake of waiting. Get in touch with a car accident lawyer immediately after a car accident.

Nicolette R. Nicoletti Author Image

Nicolette R. Nicoletti

Managing Partner

Nicolette R. Nicoletti is the founder and managing partner of the Nicoletti Accident Injury Lawyers. She was born and raised in New Port Richey, Florida.  Nicolette attended Genesis Preparatory School and graduated salutatorian of her class.  She then went onto Saint Leo University for her undergraduate education. She graduated magna cum laude from the Honors Program with a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science.  While at Saint Leo University, Nicolette was President of Pi Sigma Alpha (Political Science Honor Society), Secretary of Alpha Phi Sigma (Criminal Justice Honor Society), and an active member of Delta Epsilon Sigma (National Scholastic Honor Society).

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