By Francis M. Smith
No motorist who is struck by another vehicle is likely to consider him- or herself “lucky” regarding any part of the incident. The fear and trauma resulting from the collision itself, the headaches of dealing with damage to the vehicle, and the pain and life disruption resulting from any injuries sustained are categorically awful experiences. The idea that “it could have been worse” is small comfort to anyone who has suffered an injury in a motor vehicle accident, but statistical trends are important to examine on a larger scale for what they can teach us about making roads safer in the future.
The accident data collected on annual motor vehicle fatalities by the New Jersey State Police breaks down the data concerning accident victims into useful categories: whether the victim was driving a vehicle, riding as a passenger in a vehicle, walking as a pedestrian, or riding a bicycle. The latter two categories of accident victim did not see any statistically significant changes from 2017 to 2018; in fact, the only circumstance that saw substantial change was the case in which the accident victim was a driver of one of the vehicles involved in the accident. In 2018 there were 278 such fatalities, compared to 339 driver deaths the previous year. This is a decrease of nearly 18 percent – almost double the overall decrease in automotive accident fatalities from 2017 to 2018. If it didn’t become significantly less dangerous to be a pedestrian or cyclist involved in a car crash, why then did it seem to become safer for the driver in collisions?
One possible explanation for this trend is the continued introduction of improved safety features in newer models of automobile. Car manufacturers are constantly working to develop new ways of helping drivers avoid crashes, and protecting the occupants of their vehicles in the event of a crash. Safety features designed to protect against injuries from the impact of a collision have little power to help anyone outside the protective shell of the vehicle, so these developments would not significantly alter fatality rates among pedestrians or cyclists. Still, these developments in driver safety are tremendously important, as the majority of motor vehicle crash fatalities were driving one of the vehicles involved in the accident; in 2018, nearly half of all collision fatalities were among drivers of a vehicle involved. In 2016 and 2017, drivers made up well over half of collision fatalities.
Even if motor vehicle collisions have become less deadly in the past year, these accidents remain traumatic and disruptive events for everyone involved, especially if you are injured in such an accident. After being struck by another driver, the first actions you take may be critical in ensuring that your rights are protected and that you are able to seek the compensation you deserve for your injuries. Unfortunately, the aftermath of an automotive accident is also a stressful and confusing time, making it difficult to know how to proceed. There are safety measures to be taken in the moments following a crash, of course, but in the following hours or days, your actions can help or hinder your eventual injury claim. After the immediate demands of the accident scene have been resolved, your first priority should be to seek medical attention. Even if you are not sure that you’ve been injured, you should resist the idea that you'll be OK in the morning - it’s wise to be checked over by a medical professional. In my experience talking to accident victims or over three decades, things don't usually get better over the first couple of days, they get worse. Many times auto accident injuries don’t show symptoms until days after the accident. After that medical treatment, your next order of business should be to contact an experienced personal injury attorney. Your attorney can help you determine whether you have a strong argument for negligence on the part of the other driver, and can begin gathering evidence to build your case right away, while events are still fresh in the minds of any witnesses and while the physical evidence of the accident can still be preserved. Depending on the type and severity of your injuries, you may require extensive, lengthy, and costly medical treatment in order to make as full a recovery as possible. While that treatment is taking place, your attorney can help protect your right to the fair compensation you deserve.