Receiving Compensation After a Single-Vehicle Accident

Single-vehicle accidents

Can you recover damages if you’re the only vehicle involved in a crash?

Just because there were no other vehicles involved, doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t receive compensation following a car accident. Learn the common causes of single-vehicle car crashes and find out who can be held liable.
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As the phrase suggests, a “single-vehicle accident” is a motor vehicle crash involving only one vehicle. Single-vehicle accidents are less common than multiple-vehicle accidents and they raise some interesting questions about liability and whether or not the driver can receive compensation.

Let’s take a closer look.

Common causes of single-vehicle car accidents

Single-vehicle car accidents generally take 1 of 3 forms:

  1. An impact with a pedestrian
  2. An impact with a fixed object (for example, trees, buildings, or signs)
  3. A rollover
Facing factsRollover rates of SUVs are roughly 3 times those of passenger cars due to their high centers of gravity. Research shows that electronic stability control (ESC) reduces single-vehicle crashes, many of which are rollovers, by roughly 41%.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) looked at 15 years worth of single-vehicle collision data and found that most of the time at least one of the following factors contributed to the crash:

  • Drowsiness
  • Alcohol
  • Sharp curves
  • Speeding
  • Adverse weather

Other factors that commonly contribute to single-vehicle crashes include:

  • Animals in the road
  • Inexperience
  • Vehicle defects
  • Objects in the roadway
Real Life Example:Tiger Woods was seriously injured in a single-vehicle crash on February 23, 2021, in Ranchos Palos Verdes, California. While the cause of the wreck is not known for sure, speeding seems to have played a role.

Single-vehicle accident statistics

On average, there are roughly 6 million car crashes every year in the United States. The NHTSA reviewed crash data from across the country and estimated that approximately 30% of all car crashes are single-vehicle crashes.

Estimated motor vehicle crashes by type in the U.S.
Number of vehicles Percentage of crashes
1 30.8%
2 57.2%
3+ 12%
Source: NHTSA

Approximately 53% of all motor vehicle crash deaths in 2019 occurred in single-vehicle crashes. The state of Maine had the highest percentage of deaths in single-vehicle crashes (68%), whereas Nebraska had the lowest percentage (43%).

Can you receive compensation after a car crash if no other vehicles were involved?

Whether or not you can receive compensation for a car crash in which no other vehicles were involved depends largely on whether the accident was your fault or someone else's fault.

Let’s take a closer look at both scenarios.

Single-vehicle crash that was your fault

Generally speaking, the person who causes a car accident is responsible for paying the damages caused by the car accident. Most single-vehicle crashes are the fault of the party behind the wheel.

Let’s look at an example:

Joe was driving his Subaru Forester down Highway 12 in Utah. Because he was texting while driving, he failed to notice a sudden turn in the road and his car left the roadway. Joe’s vehicle was damaged and he suffered minor injuries.

If the single-vehicle crash was your fault, then you’ll have to pay for the damages. This means you’ll have to pay for any property damage and medical expenses out of your own pocket unless your auto insurance covers the accident.

Examples of auto insurance coverage that might pay for your damages in a single-vehicle accident in which you were at fault include:

  • Collision insurance covers the cost of replacing or repairing the driver’s vehicle if the driver collides with a fixed object (such as a tree) or if the vehicle rolls over.
  • Comprehensive insurance covers the damage to the driver’s vehicle if the driver hits an animal. 
  • Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance or MedPay covers the driver’s medical expenses regardless of who is at fault for the accident.
Enjuris tip:Most states only require liability insurance, which means that you’ll have to purchase optional coverage if you want insurance coverage for the accidents that you cause.

Keep in mind that when a single-vehicle accident is your fault, you (or your insurer) will be responsible for any damages that you cause. In addition to damages to your car and your person, this includes damages to anything you collide with (such as a fence or sign) and even any harm you might cause to a roadway or piece of property.

Single-vehicle crash caused by someone else

The driver of the vehicle that crashes isn’t always responsible for the single-vehicle accident. Other parties who may be responsible include:

  • Other drivers. Sometimes another driver causes a single-vehicle accident even though they’re not actually impacted in the accident. Let’s look at an example:

    Mandy is driving in the left lane of a 2-lane highway. Jason is driving in the right lane of the same highway. Jason is texting while driving and he drifts into Mandy’s lane. To avoid a collision, Mandy swerves to the left and ends up crashing into a tree.

    In this scenario, Mandy was involved in a single-vehicle crash, but Jason’s distracted driving was the cause of the accident. Accordingly, Mandy can file an insurance claim or a personal injury lawsuit against Jason to recover damages.
  • Manufacturers. Sometimes single-vehicle accidents are caused by vehicle defects. For example, a faulty electronic stability control system or faulty tires could cause an SUV to roll over. If a single-vehicle crash is caused by a defect, the injured driver can file a product liability lawsuit against the manufacturer.
  • Property owners. Property owners have a duty to keep their properties free from dangerous conditions. For example, the city or state has a duty to maintain publicly-owned roadways. If an accident is caused by a dangerous condition on the roadway, such as crumbling asphalt or poor water drainage, the driver may be able to sue the owner of the property for damages.

Do I need to hire an attorney?

If you’re involved in a single-vehicle crash and you don’t think the crash was your fault, it’s a good idea to sit down with an experienced personal injury attorney. Most initial consultations are free and the attorney will be able to explain your recovery options.

You can find an experienced car accident attorney near you using our free online directory.


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