Iowa's Department of Transportation (DOT) data indicates there were 1,149,080 automobiles registered in the state in 2021. This isn't counting registrations for other types of motor vehicles, such as motorcycles, trucks, etc.
Cars clearly play an important role in people's lives in the Hawkeye State. When so many Iowans rely on their vehicles to get from point A to point B, accidents can and will happen.
You might be a responsible driver who emphasizes safety. Still, you may have been involved in an accident due to the carelessness of another driver.
This experience can leave you facing costly medical bills, lost wages, and other such struggles. Luckily, you don't have to face the future alone.
It may be possible to secure financial compensation for your losses. This ensures you don't have to pay the price for someone else's negligence.
Learn more by reviewing your case with an Iowa car accident lawyer. They can help you better understand if you have grounds to file a claim or lawsuit. If you have a valid case, a lawyer can also provide representation. Their assistance may boost your chances of securing the compensation for which you may be eligible.
The Role of an Iowa Car Accident Lawyer
Iowa is an "at-fault" or "tort" state. In states using the at-fault model, the insurance of a negligent driver who causes an accident is responsible for compensating victims for their medical bills, lost wages, and other such losses resulting from a crash.
If you have been injured in a car accident because someone else was careless, you can seek the compensation for which you may be eligible by filing a claim with their insurance.
Insurance companies are businesses. Insurers therefore strive to minimize financial losses whenever possible.
You do not need to let a large insurer take advantage of you after a collision. An Iowa car accident lawyer can help you by:
- Accurately determining who is at fault for your accident
- Investigating the accident to collect evidence of negligence
- Reviewing your medical bills and other such losses to determine how much compensation you may deserve
- Filing your claim and handling all the paperwork
- Determining if an insurer's settlement offer is fair
There are instances when insurers may not offer proper compensation. When this happens, victims can file lawsuits to seek damages in court. Your attorney will advise you as to whether this is the right move or whether you should accept a settlement offer.
Preparing for a Consultation With an Iowa Car Accident Attorney
Even if you are not sure whether you're justified in filing a claim to seek compensation after an accident, you may want to contact a lawyer to schedule a consultation. You are taking no risk by meeting with a professional to discuss whether you have a valid case. You are also under no obligation to hire a lawyer after meeting with one. This can simply be a means for you to gather information about your options.
During your initial consultation with an Iowa car accident lawyer, you'll describe the circumstances of your accident.
You want to ensure this meeting is as informative as possible for you. You also want to provide an Iowa car accident attorney with enough information so that they may give you an accurate and thorough assessment of your case's merits.
Thus, you may prepare for your consultation by taking these steps:
- Write out what happened: It is all too easy to forget to mention critical details when describing your car accident to an attorney. This may have been a frightening experience, and it may be jarring to revisit the memory of it. However, if you forget to mention all relevant details, a lawyer might not be able to confidently determine if you should take legal action. That's why it is wise to prepare by writing out a description of your memories of the accident. Bring this with you to your consultation and refer to it when speaking with a lawyer if you ever worry you are forgetting to provide important information.
- Bring evidence: Gathering evidence on your behalf is one of the services an Iowa car accident lawyer offers. That said, you may already have some evidence or similar materials you can bring with you to a meeting with an attorney. For instance, maybe you got the names and contact information of witnesses at the scene of your accident. Perhaps you took photos of the accident scene and your injuries. You should bring any such materials that you believe might be of use to a lawyer.
- Make a list of questions: An initial consultation with a car accident attorney gives you the chance to ask questions about your case. Take advantage of this opportunity by making a list of your top questions. Although a lawyer might not be able to answer all of your inquiries without investigating further, it is worth bringing these questions up during your first meeting.
The Iowa DOT tracks motor vehicle accidents throughout the state. Recent overall crash data from 2021 yields some valuable insights.
On Iowa's roads in 2021, there were:
- 54,483 total crashes
- 356 total fatalities
- 1,435 serious injuries
- 241 fatalities among motorists
- 66 fatalities among motorcyclists
- 32 fatalities among pedestrians
- 11 fatalities among bicyclists
Unfortunately, serious traffic accidents may be on the rise in Iowa. Traffic fatalities reached a five-year high in Iowa in 2021. Reports point to a decrease in seat belt use, an increase in impaired driving, and a pattern of drivers operating at higher speeds.
Officials from Iowa DOT cite the COVID-19 pandemic as a potential explanation for this trend. This echoes the opinions of those who've studied a nationwide increase in serious accidents since the start of the pandemic.
Research shows certain risky driving behaviors became more common during lockdowns. Lockdowns may be over, but drivers may still be engaging in such risky behaviors as:
- Driving while intoxicated
- Driving while distracted
- Not signaling turns
Some argue drivers began taking more risks as a means of rebelling against lockdown policies. Others suggest drivers might have felt safer taking risks when there were fewer vehicles on the road during lockdowns. Results indicate aggression and inattention of drivers increased considerably following COVID-19's spread, correlating to a higher likelihood of major crashes.
This type of driving puts others in harm's way. If you have been harmed in an accident because a motorist was being reckless, you may be able to pursue compensation.
An insurer might not automatically accept that the party who caused your accident was negligent when you file your claim. One of your Iowa car accident lawyer's chief responsibilities is to build a negligence case against the party who injured you.
A negligence case consists of these four elements:
- Duty: A party can only be found negligent if they had a duty of care to an injured victim. In the case of a motor vehicle accident, all drivers have a duty of care to the motorists and pedestrians with whom they share the road.
- Breach: A driver commits a breach of care when they fail to take reasonable steps to guard against endangering others. Sometimes, a breach involves breaking the law. For example, a breach has clearly occurred if a driver gets behind the wheel while intoxicated.
- Cause: Someone may be guilty of a breach without causing an accident. When building a negligence case, your lawyer will work to show that a negligent party's breach is the reason you sustained injuries and other such damages.
- Damages: These are the losses a victim might sustain as a result of an accident. In a negligence case, there must be losses for which a victim can be compensated.
Negligence 'Per Se'
Negligence per se is a legal doctrine your Iowa car accident attorney might use when building a negligence case against a driver who caused your accident. According to negligence per se, a party is automatically considered to be negligent if they caused an accident while breaking a law designed to guard against that type of accident.
For example, negligence per se could apply if you're involved in an accident with a speeding motorist. Speed limits exist to protect drivers and pedestrians. A driver who causes an accident because they're speeding is thus immediately regarded as negligent.
Be aware that someone can be considered negligent without violating safety laws. Traffic safety laws also vary on a state-by-state basis.
This is one of many reasons it's helpful to have legal representation from a professional who understands your state's laws. An Iowa car accident lawyer will apply their understanding of the relevant statutes when building a negligence case against the party who injured you.
Comparative Fault in Iowa
Motor vehicle accidents are often the culmination of several factors. Sometimes, a victim's own actions or carelessness may contribute to their injuries. This can affect how much compensation they may receive in Iowa.
For instance, perhaps you come to a rolling stop at a stop sign before proceeding through an intersection. Halfway through the intersection, a drunk driver traveling well over the speed limit collides with you.
Negligence per se dictates the driver who struck you should be considered negligent in this scenario. They were breaking two essential traffic laws in a manner that put your safety at risk.
However, you were also negligent because you did not come to a full stop at the stop sign. It could be argued that your accident would not have occurred if you had come to a complete stop and taken the time to carefully check for oncoming traffic.
Under Iowa's comparative fault law, you may still be able to receive compensation even if your own negligence played a role in your accident. You can receive compensation as long as you're not more than 50% to blame. Your percentage of fault will affect how much compensation you can secure.
For instance, if another driver were 100% to blame, maybe you could have received $20,000. However, you are found to be 10% responsible for your accident occurring. This means you can only receive a maximum of $18,000.
No one can say what type of compensation may be available to you without knowing the full details of your case. An Iowa car accident attorney can review your compensable losses and offer more thorough information about this topic.
Car accident victims can typically seek compensation for two types of damages: economic and non-economic damages.
A loss with an objective dollar value qualifies as economic damages. A common example is a victim's medical bills. You should not have to pay for your own treatment if someone else caused your injuries.
Another common economic damage is lost wages. While you recover from an accident, you might be unable to work and earn a paycheck. You can seek compensation accordingly.
It is sometimes necessary for a victim to seek compensation for future economic damages after an accident. For instance, perhaps you have sustained major injuries and will require lifelong medical care. These injuries might also prevent you from ever returning to work.
An Iowa car accident attorney can account for these future losses when negotiating for a settlement with the insurance company. Depending on the circumstances, they may also assign a dollar value to non-economic damages.
These are the various damages a victim might incur that aren't financial in nature. For example, you may endure pain and suffering (including emotional trauma) after an accident. Or your enjoyment of life might diminish.
Such losses don't have a clear dollar value like your medical bills do. That doesn't mean you shouldn't receive compensation for them. An Iowa car accident lawyer can help you pursue compensation for your pain and similar damages.
The best way to learn about the types of compensation available to you is to discuss your case with an Iowa car accident attorney. An Iowa car accident lawyer can't ethically promise you will receive a specific amount of compensation. That said, they can estimate your claim's potential value. They can also negotiate aggressively on your behalf if the insurance company will not offer an appropriate settlement.
Car Accidents in Iowa's 5 Most Populous Cities
Des Moines is in both Polk County and Warren County. In 2021, 10,194 accidents occurred in Polk County. In Warren County, 713 accidents occurred.
Iowa DOT only tracks accidents by county. It does not provide data for accident rates in individual cities. Thus, it's unclear how many of these accidents occurred in Des Moines.
That said, accidents tend to be common in busy population centers. Higher traffic density simply results in more situations in which accidents could occur.
The fact that far fewer accidents occurred in Warren County than in Polk County in 2021 reflects this. Technically, only a very small portion of Des Moines is in Warren County. Nearly all of it is in Polk County. This distinction may explain the major difference in accident rates between the two counties.
Cedar Rapids is Linn County's county seat. In 2021, 3,341 accidents occurred in Linn County. Of these accidents, 68 resulted in serious injuries and 372 resulted in minor injuries.
Cedar Rapids is the major population center of Linn County. However, its population is much lower than that of Des Moines.
Per the U.S. Census Bureau, Des Moines had a population of 212,031 in 2021. Cedar Rapids had a smaller population of 136,467. Accidents might thus be much less common in Linn County because there may be fewer drivers on the road.
Davenport is the county seat of Scott County in Iowa, near the Mississippi River. Scott County saw 3,920 accidents in 2021. Of these accidents, 77 involved major injuries and 381 had minor injuries.
Almost all of Sioux City is in Woodbury County, where 2,262 accidents happened in 2021. Of those accidents, 233 resulted in minor injuries, while 34 left victims with major injuries.
A small portion of Sioux City also sits within Plymouth County. In 2021, 405 accidents occurred there, with 8 resulting in major injury and 68 resulting in minor injury.
Waterloo is the county seat of Iowa's Black Hawk County, where 2,155 accidents occurred in 2021. Of those accidents, 40 resulted in major injury and 235 resulted in minor injury.
Waterloo only had a population of 66,941 in 2021. It's also the largest city in Black Hawk County, which is relatively small.
It is unclear why Black Hawk County has a fairly high overall accident rate despite a fairly low population. Several major highways run through and near Waterloo, which may explain this trend.
That said, it's important to remain vigilant on the road wherever you happen to be driving in Iowa. Accidents may be more common in populous areas, but they can occur anywhere.
Perhaps you've been hurt in an accident because someone else was negligent. This can be a challenging experience, but a lawyer could ease your burdens at this time by pursuing the compensation for which you may be eligible. Start by searching for an Iowa car accident attorney today.