For some reason, wrong-way accidents are on the rise in Western Massachusetts. Between 2015 and 2018, our state experienced twice the national average in wrong way accident fatalities with 500 deaths per year. Springfield reported 315 wrong-way car collisions between 2010 and 2020, making it the second worst in the state for such accidents behind Worcester.
Causes of Wrong-Way Accidents
Many of these accidents are on divided highways. Safety experts point to a variety of factors that cause motorists to end up on the wrong side of the highway or road:
- Unfamiliarity with road—driving the wrong way on a one-way street, making an unsafe U-turn, not knowing how to navigate an unfamiliar traffic roundabout or circle
- Road construction and detoured traffic—confusion when traffic is re-routed such as going in the wrong direction when parallel lanes for opposite-direction traffic are used
- Poor visibility due to sleet, fog, snow or hard rain
- Lack of signage or obscured signs—inadequate lighting or lack of “Do Not Enter” signs or poorly marked ramps can cause drivers to enter a street in the wrong direction
- Inexperienced driving
- Advanced age—about 15% of wrong way accidents are caused by older drivers who be suffering early onset dementia and confusion, poor eyesight, and physical limitations where they are unable to react in time to a hazard
- Intoxication—according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, around 50% of wrong way collisions are caused by motorists under the influence of alcohol or drugs or a combination
- Distracted driving—answering the phone, texting, reading a text or email, or watching a video on a cellphone are a major cause of car accident injuries and deaths. This can lead to crossing the center line, crashing through a median, turning onto the wrong highway ramp, or failing to see that you are going the wrong-way on a one-way street
- Defective road design—cloverleaf and partial cloverleaf designs can be hazardous if entrance and exit ramps are parallel
- Defective vehicle equipment—a faulty steering system, defective tire, or even a mistaken GPS system can cause you to travel in the wrong direction of travel
Injuries in Wrong Way Accidents
Motorists and passengers in vehicles encountering a wrong-way vehicle are more likely to be in serious or fatal accidents given the high potential of a head-on collision. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Board (NHTSB), around 1 in 5 wrong-way accidents are fatalities. If you are fortunate to survive such an accident, you are likely to suffer a catastrophic injury such as:
- Traumatic brain injury
- Spinal cord injury
- Internal injuries to organs in the chest or abdomen
- Broken pelvis, collarbone, and limbs
Victims and/or their families suffer greatly when a catastrophic injury or death takes away your livelihood, or the ability to enjoy life, or a loved one. In such cases, an experienced and resourceful car accident attorney is needed to determine all possible causes of the accident and if additional defendants can be named.
Other Defendants in Wrong-Way Accidents
It is not uncommon for a driver who caused a wrong way accident to cast blame on other factors. As noted above, your car accident attorney can have an expert investigate the roadway and accident site, and review data on the roadway for similar accidents to determine if the city, county, or state had notice that too many accidents were occurring on this stretch of roadway. The defendant’s vehicle should be examined if the driver blames faulty steering or some other equipment failure that led him to suddenly lose control and end up on the wrong side of traffic.
Highway experts can determine if a roadway’s design was unreasonably confusing and could have easily been designed differently to eliminate confusion. If vegetation obscured a sign, or there was no signage at all warning drivers of a one-way road or that traffic had been re-routed, then fault can be found with the city or entity responsible for the defect or omission.
If an intoxicated driver was at fault, your attorney can investigate possible dram shop liability on the part of a restaurant or bar if the driver was served alcohol while visibly intoxicated. The driver’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level if elevated can be a determining factor in such cases, and especially if the driver was observed by police to be heavily intoxicated after having left the bar or restaurant just minutes before the accident.
Damages in Wrong Way Car Accidents
A wrong way accident can be fatal or result in catastrophic injuries. Damages in serious accident cases can include:
- Past and future medical expenses
- Past and future income loss
- Loss of earning capacity
- Permanent disability
- Permanent disfigurement
- Emotional distress
- Diminished quality of life
- Pain and suffering
- Separate claim by spouse for loss of consortium
In a wrongful death case, the damages can be:
- Medical expenses for final care if any
- Lost earnings
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Pain and suffering if the decedent was visibly observed to have consciously suffered
- Loss of the decedent’s love, guidance, and counsel
- Punitive damages if the defendant’s conduct was grossly negligent or exhibited a wanton disregard for the safety of others
Wrongful death claims in Massachusetts are brought by the executor for the decedent’s estate on behalf of the immediate family members.
Retain the Law Office of Burns and Jain
Wrong way accidents can be deadly and demand scrutiny by experienced car accident attorneys who can identify all causes of an accident and hold all responsible parties accountable. Call a car accident attorney from Burns and Jain at (617) 362-3202 for a thorough analysis of your car accident injury or death claim.