How do single car accidents happen?

A single vehicle crash can happen for a number of reasons, including distracted driving, avoiding a collision with a deer, hitting a dog or other animal in the street, swerving to avoid road debris, or avoiding a collision with another vehicle. Property damage (to the car or surrounding property) is usually the most frequent result of a single car accident, for instance from hitting a telephone pole or colliding with a guardrail. Learn more about what to do if you hit a road sign.

How does insurance cover single vehicle accidents?

The coverage will depend on the nature of the accident. If the damage is considered preventable, then collision coverage generally applies. If the damage is considered unavoidable and unexpected, then comprehensive coverage applies.

Are single car accidents considered my fault?

In many cases, you'll be considered at fault for a single car accident if you were driving. There are some exceptions where the accident may not be ruled your fault, but it will depend on the insurer and the nature of the accident:

  • Vehicle defect: If your brakes malfunctioned due to a manufacturer's defect or incorrect installation, the manufacturer or mechanic could be considered at fault for the crash instead of you.
  • Road conditions: If the condition of the road contributed significantly to the single vehicle accident, you may not be considered at fault. This may not apply if you knew the road conditions were bad and didn't slow down or drive accordingly.
  • Hitting a deer: Because of the unpredictable nature of deer (or other animals that may run into the street), you may not be considered at fault for this type of accident.
  • Avoiding another accident: If you swerved to avoid another vehicle that was at fault and about to cause an accident, the other driver may be blamed instead of you for forcing you to swerve and avoid the collision.

What should I do after a single car accident?

Although circumstances may vary, here are some recommended steps to take after a single car crash:

  • Check to see if everyone is safe: Identify if anyone needs medical attention before doing anything else.
  • Make sure your car is not a safety hazard: If your car is in danger of being hit by other vehicles, turn the hazard lights on and try to get it off the roadway. If you can't move your vehicle, leave it, and get yourself and everyone else to safety as best you can.
  • Steer clear of injured wild animals: If you hit an animal and it's wounded, resist the urge to try and help it. Wild animals that are scared and hurt are more likely to harm you if you get too close to them.
  • Call the police: There can be serious consequences for leaving the scene of an accident, even a single car accident. If anything is blocking the road because of your accident, let them know.
  • Document the accident: Take photos of your vehicle and the scene. Write down or record everything you remember about what led up to the accident, the accident itself, and the aftermath. Talk to any witnesses about what they saw, take notes, and ask them for their contact information. The police and your insurance company will want this information.
  • Consider calling a tow truck: If your car is damaged and too dangerous to drive, a tow truck can tow it to the nearest mechanic.

Can I leave the scene of a single car accident?

In many states, leaving the scene of a single car accident can result in serious consequences. Since many single vehicle accidents result in property damage, the police will want to investigate and document the incident. Leaving the scene can lead the police to classify the accident as a "hit-and-run", which can result in serious penalties including:

  • Fines
  • Jail time
  • Punitive points on your driving record
  • Loss of your driver's license
  • Increased auto insurance rates
  • Cancellation of your auto insurance

Depending on your state, there may be some limited circumstances that would justify leaving the scene, such as if remaining there would be dangerous or pose the risk of further injury.

Should I file an insurance claim for a single car accident?

If the damage to your car is significant or more than the cost of your deductible, it may make sense to file a claim with your insurer. If the damage is minimal and the repairs will cost less than your deductible, then it may not make sense to file a claim. Since many single vehicle accidents are ruled at fault, it's important to keep in mind that an insurance claim may raise your rate in the future. Regardless of whether you decide to file a claim, it's recommended to notify your insurer about the accident right after it occurs.

How can I avoid single vehicle crashes?

Maintain your focus and avoid distractions from your cell phone, instrument panels, and your passengers. Adjust your driving to accommodate poor weather conditions like rain, snow, hail, sleet, and ice, and consider staying off the road when the weather is bad. At dusk and dawn, stay extra vigilant for deer and look for deer crossing signs to indicate more deer activity in the area. Finally, if you're feeling drowsy, avoid driving if possible. If you're already on the road and start to feel sleepy, find a safe place to stop and rest.

Looking for more information about auto insurance? Our car insurance resource center has you covered.