Why Does It Feel Like Time Slows Down During an Auto Accident?

Who had the last chance to avoid a collision - AK Blog

Neuroscientists are constantly learning more about how human beings perceive and react to the world around us. During a dangerous car accident, these perceptions can have fatal consequences. The split seconds between seeing an obstacle and reacting to it can determine whether you will live or die. These actions also have legal consequences because each driver’s choices determine who is at fault for causing the accident in the first place.

The experienced auto accident lawyers at Arash Law learn about developments in neuroscience to be better prepared to serve our clients. We know how to prove that the other driver was at fault for the accident, even if it seems like they were forced to make a split-second decision. Often, a driver’s poor choices (such as drinking and driving) are made before an accident ever occurs. Learn more about the latest scientific research into this crucial issue.

New Research Into the Subjective Experience of Time

Depending on what you are doing, it can feel as if time is passing slower or faster, even when the same amount of time has passed. We have all experienced this phenomenon. Remember back to your school days, when the boring classes seemed to pass the slowest.

On the other hand, fun classes seemed to go much more quickly, even though they were the same length as the boring classes. Neuroscientists have conducted many different studies to examine this phenomenon and have found two main causes of this change in the perception of time:

  • Increased attention to time appears to make it pass more slowly, and paying less attention to time passing seems to make it pass more quickly.
  • When your brain is aroused (such as by the threat of a car accident), it begins increasing its rate of neural pulses in order to respond to the danger. The increase in rate causes your brain to count more time “units, ” making it seem as though more time has passed.

A study published in Neuroscience in 2011 took a closer look at the specific brain structures that are activated when an oncoming threat causes the sensation of time slowing down. While it was only the first study of an important issue, the researchers were able to identify specific areas of the brain that are involved and the difference in time perception that occurs when a threat is oncoming versus when it is going away. The researchers also speculated that more accurate results would be possible in future studies using 3-D imaging to more accurately represent an oncoming threat.

What These Findings Mean for Victims of Car Accidents

So what does all this mean for car accident victims? First, many victims do experience the sensation of time slowing down during a crash because their brains are reacting more quickly to determine the best way to deal with the oncoming threat. This experience is not limited to drivers. Passengers, motorcycle riders, bicyclists, pedestrians, and other road users can all experience this effect when they are in the danger zone. Second, you might not experience this phenomenon.

If, for example, you never saw the car before it hit you, your brain would never have a chance to evaluate an oncoming threat. Whether you experience this phenomenon or not, you still need to get medical attention for your injuries as soon as possible. This phenomenon also does not generally affect the legal outcome of your case. The question of fault (“liability”) is usually made based on the conscious choices each person made on the road, not the reflexive decisions made in the fraction of a second before a collision occurs.

The Legal Questions

It is helpful for injury victims to understand how fault is determined in an accident case. (This legal responsibility is also called “liability,” and adjusters often refer to the “at fault” driver. All of these terms mean the same thing.) It is also important for injury victims to understand that they are not bound by an insurance company’s determination of fault.

If the insurance company tries to blame you for part of your own injuries or deny the claim altogether, your attorney has the right to appeal this decision by upgrading your claim to the insurance company’s attorneys. If the insurance company still refuses to accept your claim, you have the right to file a lawsuit against the negligent driver. What follows are some questions that attorneys use to determine who was at fault for an accident.

  • Who is at fault for causing a collision?

    The first question in an accident claim is, “Who was at fault for causing the crash?” The person who was at fault also has a legal obligation to pay for the injuries that they caused. Liability can also be split between two drivers. It can even be assigned to a third party that was not at the scene of the accident. (More on this later.) Insurance companies can use liability to try to get out of paying claims.

    Because the insurance company is only obligated to pay for damage caused by their insured driver, they do not have to pay anything if someone else was at fault. This reason is why an insurance company denies a claim altogether. When this happens, you must be prepared to fight back by proving who had legal fault for causing the accident, a difficult task if you do not have an accident lawyer on your side. The injury lawyers at Arash Law know how to prove liability in all types of accident cases.

  • What if I was partly at fault for the accident?

    There is an old law of liability called “contributory negligence.” This harsh rule states that a victim cannot recover any damages if they were at fault for the accident. (In some states, the rule is modified to say that a victim can recover damages, but only if their fault was less than the defendant’s.) This rule isn’t in effect in many states anymore.

    California follows the more modern law of comparative fault, in which the person is liable for their own portion of damages, regardless of the other parties’ portions of the fault. So why do we mention this rule if it is not used in California? Because insurance companies still sometimes try to use it to get out of paying claims. Many injury victims who do not have an attorney will negotiate their own claims.

    If the insurance adjuster claims that they were at fault and denies the claim, the injury victim might not know that they are still entitled to compensation. The experienced accident lawyers at Arash Law know how to prove who was at fault for causing an accident. In some cases, the injury victim might bear a portion of responsibility. For example, a pedestrian who was crossing the street outside of a crosswalk might be found 20 percent at fault for a resulting collision.

    In this case, the injured pedestrian can still recover 90 percent of their damages from the negligent driver who was 90 percent at fault for the accident. Our lawyers know how to prove fault in a wide range of accident cases. We work hard to protect our clients from unfair liability so that they have access to all the compensation they deserve.

  • Can a third party be liable for my injuries even if they weren’t at the scene of the accident?

    It might surprise you to learn that a defendant does not have to be at the scene of an accident in order to be liable for your injuries. For example, workers’ compensation insurance covers all injuries sustained in the scope and course of employment. If you are hit by a negligent driver while on the clock in a work vehicle, you are still entitled to workers’ compensation coverage. This claim would be against your employer.

    Even though your employer was not at the scene of the accident, they are still required to cover your injuries through workers’ compensation coverage. (If you later get compensation for the same costs from the negligent driver, the workers’ compensation carrier may be entitled to reimbursement for the portion they paid. Your injury lawyer will handle this process (called “subrogation”) in order to ensure that you are not double-billed for any expenses and that you receive all the compensation you are owed.)

    Another common scenario involves a crash that is caused by a defective vehicle. Think of all the manufacturers’ recalls you have heard about in the news. Car companies voluntarily pay for expensive recalls so defective vehicles can be fixed because this is less costly than paying for accidents caused by their defective vehicles. An auto manufacturer is held accountable through a legal theory known as “products liability,” a consumer protection law that requires manufacturers to sell only safe products to American consumers.

    If a product causes injuries because it is defective, the injury victims are entitled to compensation from the manufacturer. The manufacturer does not have to be at the scene of the accident to be held legally accountable for causing it. The injury victims do not even have to prove that the manufacturer was negligent. So long as the product was being used as intended, strict products liability will ensure that the manufacturer is legally obligated to pay for any injuries caused by the defective product.

    So how does products liability work in a car accident case? Imagine that a new truck has defective brakes. When approaching an intersection, the driver is unable to stop the truck through no fault of their own. The driver and a pedestrian are injured in the accident. Both injury victims may file products liability claims against the manufacturer. The claim can also be filed against the company that made the brakes.

    There are a few disclaimers. If, for example, the brakes weren’t working because the driver had ruined them while trying to launch their boat into a lake, this would not be a defect. There would be no products liability claim because they had not used the truck as intended. (The pedestrian would, however, still have a claim against the driver for negligence.) Products liability claims can also be denied if the user of the product is not foreseeable.

    So if, for example, a thief stole the truck, the manufacturer would not be liable for injuries caused by this person who was not intended to use the product. As you can see, products liability claims can get complicated. The skilled injury attorneys at Arash Law know how to handle negligence and products liability claims to ensure that your right to compensation is protected.

What should I do to avoid a collision?

In most cases, it is not your responsibility to find a way to avoid a collision in the split-second before it occurs. The person who put you in danger is liable for your injuries. (An injury victim may also be partially liable if they put themselves in danger, for example, by crossing the street outside of a designated crosswalk.) Despite this, there are still some things you can do to reduce your risk of being involved in an accident.

  • Slow down! – Speed is a factor in many fatal car accidents. Speed increases the amount of force that is generated in a collision. This increase, in turn, increases the severity of injuries, which is why so many speeding accidents become fatal. Speeding also reduces the time you have to react to an obstacle on the road. With more time to react, you will have better options for avoiding an accident when possible. Often, drivers who were speeding are found partly at fault for an accident, even if the other driver bears more liability.
  • Be prepared in times of low visibility. – There are many times when it is difficult to see the road ahead of you. You should use extra caution at night, during rain or snow, or when it is foggy. Slow down and be extra mindful of the roadway surrounding you. Use your headlights or horn as necessary to alert other drivers to your presence. The law requires drivers to act with “reasonable prudence,” meaning that they must take reasonable precautions to avoid accidents when their visibility is limited.
  • Be prepared to encounter smaller vehicles. – The smaller a vehicle is, the more difficult it is to see, which is why motorcycles are involved in so many accidents. As a driver, it is your responsibility to watch out for smaller vehicles around you, even when they are hard to see. Be especially watchful during times of low visibility. Watch out for motorcycles, bicycles, scooters, and pedestrians.
Who had the last chance to avoid a collision?

Earlier, we discussed the harsh old rule of contributory negligence. Because this rule is so harsh, it has an exception known as the “last clear shot” doctrine. Under this exception, the person with the last clear shot to avoid the collision had the responsibility to do so, meaning that an injury victim who was partly at fault for the accident could still win a case if the negligent driver had the last clear shot to avoid the accident.

So why do we bring this up if contributory negligence does not apply to California accident cases? Again, because insurance companies sometimes try to use this rule to get out of paying. Even in cases where contributory negligence is not applied, a claims adjuster might say that you had a chance to avoid the collision, so you were at fault.

This assertion is usually completely false. But injury victims who do not have a lawyer may not know the applicable law. Insurance adjusters sometimes throw out complex legal theories to confuse injury victims and get out of paying them what they deserve.

Arash Law does not stand for this. We believe that every injury victim is entitled to fair compensation for all their injuries and losses. Our attorneys fight hard to prevent insurance companies from trying to get negligent drivers off the hook.

Experienced Car Accident Lawyers for All California Injury Cases

You don’t have to spend hours searching online for a “California accident lawyer near me” since you have already found the best personal injury law firm in the state. At Arash Law, our experienced motor vehicle accident attorneys at Arash Law have decades of experience, and our team has collected over 200 million dollars for clients across the Golden State.

Our skilled legal team serves clients in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Riverside, Bakersfield, Santa Barbara, San Jose, San Diego, Fresno, Sacramento, Sherman Oaks, and throughout California. Clients all across the state trust our team to protect their legal rights. Call (888) 488-1391 today to schedule your free consultation. The sooner you have an experienced auto accident lawyer on your side, the better protected your legal rights will be.

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DISCLAIMER: Information provided on this blog is not formal legal advice. It is generic legal information. Under no circumstances should the information on this page be relied upon when deciding the proper course of a legal action. Always obtain a free and confidential case evaluation from a reputable attorney near you if you think you might have a personal injury lawsuit.

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