You’re driving down the highway at 70 miles per hour on your normal commute to work when suddenly a driver to the left veers into your lane. You have two choices: stay where you are and be hit, or try to dodge the collision.
Most drivers instinctively react by veering right and slamming on the brakes. Yet this reaction can have a dangerous or fatal outcome. The chief risk is running off the road, where you might slam into a tree or overturn your vehicle.
This type of accident happens every day. It’s called a run-off-road accident.
Taking action after a run-off-road accident requires responding swiftly with the help of a skilled car accident attorney. Here’s everything you need to know about how to gain compensation after a reckless driver runs you off the road.
What Is a Run-off-the-Road Accident?
A run-off-road accident is also called a run-off-road accident or a no-contact accident. This type of accident occurs when the actions of one driver force another off the road.
Run-off-road accidents don't always involve a collision between the two primary vehicles. However, the driver forced off the road may collide with other vehicles or objects.
A run-off-road accident can lead to serious injury and death. These crashes often involve colliding with a tree, telephone pole, or other objects. They can also result in a rollover accident or a collision among multiple vehicles leaving the roadway.
On highways, run-off-road accidents commonly occur due to sideswiping and lane changing.
Understanding Run-Off-Road Accidents
Run-off-road accidents often occur on highways. At highway speeds, these accidents often lead to severe injury and death.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that around 70 percent of single-vehicle crashes that end in a fatality are run-off-road accidents.
According to the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP), around 11 percent of fatal single-vehicle run-off-road accidents happen on wet pavement, while overturning and colliding with a tree are the two leading causes of death.
The NCHRP also shows that run-off-road accidents are less likely to occur when roadways have paved shoulders and rumble strips on the right-hand side.
Medians are about 60 percent effective at stopping a driver from running off the road on the left-hand side into oncoming traffic, posing the threat of a head-on collision.
Risk Factors in a Run-Off-Road Accident
There’s a greater risk of a run-off-road accident when two vehicles of different sizes are driving alongside one another. A run-off-road accident might occur when a truck doesn’t see a smaller vehicle in its blind spot or when the driver of a car doesn’t notice a motorcycle driver.
In these cases, there's a heightened risk of the responsible driver leaving the scene, as they may not even realize they forced another driver off the road. This can make it harder to receive adequate compensation, even in a no-fault state like Florida.
Data from the NHTSA shows that common risk factors that contribute to a run-off-road accident include:
- Reckless driving
- Distracted driving
- Weather conditions
- Nighttime driving
- Driving under the influence
- Curved or rural roads
- Roads with fewer lanes
- Multiple occupants in a vehicle
- Driver fatigue
Poorly marked lanes pose an additional risk factor. For example, it's common in construction zones to temporarily redraw the lanes or marked them with cones.
In this case, one driver may be confused about where they ought to be driving. Often, this confusion may be compounded by additional factors, like driving at night or in poor weather.
Proving Liability in a Run-Off-Road Accident
If another vehicle’s action caused you to run off the road, it’s possible to hold them responsible for the ensuing damages. This is true even if the other driver didn’t make contact with your vehicle.
In some cases, the other driver may admit fault for the accident. When this isn't the case, your car accident attorney will need to build a case proving fault. Witness testimony can prove another driver's fault.
In some cases, your attorney may need to call upon experts like accident reconstruction specialists to examine the circumstances of the crash and give testimony in support of your claims.
Deadlines for Taking Action
Every state has different time limits for taking legal action to pursue damages. These time limits also differ based on the type of damage that occurred.
If you need compensation for injuries and the subsequent expenses, your attorney will pursue a personal injury claim. If a run-off-road accident results in the death of a loved one, you can file a wrongful death claim.
In Florida, the statute of limitations on a personal injury claim is four years, while you only have two years to bring forth a wrongful death claim.
Understanding Insurance Coverage in a Run-Off-Road Accident
Insurance is the first line of defense after a run-off-road accident. It's crucial to understand that the amount of compensation you receive through insurance after an accident is not simply a matter of policy; it's a matter of how that policy can benefit you.
Allowing an experienced car accident attorney to communicate with insurance companies on your behalf is essential for maximizing the amount of insurance compensation you’re eligible for after a run-off-road accident.
How insurance applies to your accident depends on a state’s insurance laws and requirements. For example, Florida is a no-fault insurance state. This means that your insurance policy will cover your accident-related costs, regardless of who caused the accident.
However, insurance coverage becomes an issue when policy limits aren’t enough to cover the damages. Florida’s minimal personal injury protection (PIP) requirements cover 80 percent of injury costs up to $10,000. When injury costs exceed this amount, it takes a civil case to gain the compensation needed to cover the injuries.
Run-Off-Road Accident Compensation
Compensation for a run-off-road accident depends on many factors. The general rule of thumb is that compensation should cover the damages from the accident.
Damages in a run-off-road accident can apply to a wide range of concerns. If your lawyer can make the case and provide evidence showing the damage, you can pursue compensatory damages.
Possible items a car accident settlement can cover include:
- Medical bills
- Prescription drugs
- Ambulance bills
- Physical therapy bills
- Psychiatrist, therapist, or counselor fees
- Lost wages or lifetime earnings
- Lost benefits
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional anguish
- Diminished quality of life
- Loss of companionship
After accidents lead to death or a severe injury like a traumatic brain injury (TBI), settlement amounts often reach seven figures.
In some cases, a run-off-road accident claim can also lead to punitive damages. Punitive damages provide additional compensation when the responsible party showed excessive negligence or acted intentionally.
States also vary when capping how much compensation you can receive in a personal injury case. Florida only caps damages on certain medical malpractice cases and punitive damages.
If you receive punitive damages after a run-off-road accident, the amount cannot exceed $500,000 or three times the compensatory damages. However, there’s no limit to the compensatory damages you can gain.
Can I Get a Settlement Without a Car Accident Lawyer?
It’s nearly impossible to gain a fair settlement without a car accident lawyer’s hard work and expertise. Unless you are well-versed in the law and insurance policies, it’s difficult to succeed in the complex process of turning the hope of a large settlement into a reality.
Pursuing a civil claim over a car accident is a complex legal process with many steps, but there are some key reasons why you need a car accident attorney if you hope to come out ahead. An experienced legal professional understands how to navigate the car accident claims process and achieve a successful outcome for a client.
A car accident lawyer can tell you what your claim is worth and suggest methods of gaining fair compensation that may not have even occurred to you. One example is pursuing non-economic compensation for damages like emotional anguish.
Whether you settle through negotiation or yours is among the small percentage of cases that ends up in court, it takes insurance experience and legal knowledge to get the most out of a claim.
Finally, a skilled car accident attorney can make a significant difference in how much compensation you deserve by representing you to the insurance companies.
Should I Try to Settle through Insurance Before Contacting a Lawyer?
Speaking to an insurance company without representation is a big mistake. The insurance agents you speak with on the phone may sound friendly, but what you can’t see is the checklist of questions in front of them.
An insurance agent’s job is to ask specific questions intended to make you unintentionally admit fault for an accident. This saves the insurance company money, and sometimes agents even receive a commission for how much money they can save the company by preying on an accident victim’s ignorance.
Ultimately, what you say to an insurance agent can cost you much—or even all—of the money you’re eligible for after a run-off-road accident.
A car accident lawyer knows how to speak to agents and submit documentation in a way that won’t unknowingly cost you compensation. An attorney knows how to avoid common mistakes while protecting your financial outcome.
What’s the Cost of a Car Accident Attorney?
Paying for a car accident attorney to represent you after a run-off-road accident shouldn't break the bank - in fact, it usually won't cost you anything upfront. Most lawyers handle car accidents with clients on a contingency fee basis.
A contingency fee is an agreed-upon percentage of the final compensation value you win. Payment to your lawyer comes directly out of your settlement, and you only have to pay if your lawyer wins the case for you.
Contingency fees help clients feel more confident about pursuing a civil case, as there's less risk of a financial loss if your case doesn't win. A contingency fee agreement also makes it possible to engage a lawyer without needing the money upfront.
Will I Need to Go to Court for a Run-Off-Road Claim?
You probably won’t have to go to court over a run-off-road claim. Although there’s a perception that working with a lawyer involves suing someone and pleading your case before a judge, the reality is much less dramatic.
Seeking compensation after a run-off-road accident is usually a matter of paperwork and negotiation most of which your lawyer handles for you. Unlike a criminal case, it’s rare to end up in court over a civil claim.
Going to court for a judge’s verdict is more time-consuming and costly than settling through negotiation, so going to court is the exception rather than the rule.
What to Do after a Run-Off-Road Accident?
Call the police immediately after a run-off-road accident. The police will take down an official report of how events transpired.
In some cases, the other driver may not even realize their actions have caused a run-off-road accident.
If the other vehicle leaves the scene, do your best to take note of as many details as you can. Identify the type of vehicle, its color, and the license plate number, if possible. Contact the police immediately, as they may be able to locate the driver if they act quickly.
Proving liability in a run-off-road accident can be more complicated than in other accidents, especially if the at-fault driver didn't make contact. Speaking with an insurance company without a car accident lawyer representing you is a mistake, as it can easily cost you the compensation you deserve.
If you hope to gain fair compensation after this type of accident, you must involve a car accident attorney immediately.