Car Accidents Involving Submerged Vehicles Can Turn Deadly

April 14, 2022 | Attorney, Matthew Dolman
Car Accidents Involving Submerged Vehicles Can Turn Deadly

Sunken Vehicles Put Trapped Passengers at Risk of Drowning

When a car veers off the road and becomes partially or fully submerged in a body of water, the consequences can be fatal for the occupants. While car accidents involving submersion constitute a low risk in terms of frequency, Florida is no stranger to such tragedies.

Florida Has a History of Submerged Car Drownings

In 2016, three teenage girls drowned in a pond after attempting to evade police in a car chase. Their parents have accused police of negligence for chasing them at night, forcing them into the pond. Just last week, a young construction worker died after reversing a dump truck into a canal; he was unable to swim safely to shore.

When the negligent actions of another driver, poor road maintenance, or mechanical failures cause a car to enter the water, victims of submerged car accidents or their families may be eligible to pursue compensatory damages in a personal injury lawsuit.

Understanding the Risk of Drowning in Florida Car Accidents

Florida contains thousands of lakes, not to mention rivers, retention ponds, and wetlands, so it should not come as a shock that Floridians are at an elevated risk for a submerged vehicle accident, and drowning accidents in general.

An NHTSA study found that Florida ranked number one in the nation for drownings in submerged vehicles, with 57 fatalities. For context, Florida outpaced California, a state nearly double its size in population and about three times its landmass.

The report also found that while vehicle submersion may be a rare occurrence, when a car is immersed in water and a fatality occurs, more than half the time it is due to drowning. For their own safety, drivers should be aware of the risks and protocols for escaping a submerged vehicle after a Florida car accident.

Weather and Careless Drivers May Cause Submerged Car Accidents 

How a car comes to be in a body of water in the first place is the make-or-break question for determining liability in a car accident claim. The fault may lie with inclement weather or drivers who engage in reckless driving behaviors, among other possibilities.

Florida's frequent thunderstorms can cause drivers to hydroplane or lose control of their vehicles. Drivers may be responsible for their own injuries or demise due to distracted or drunk driving, leading them to swerve outside of their lanes and into a nearby pond or lake. 

In some cases, drivers have already been the victim of an accident where they were rear-ended or side-swiped. The unexpected impact can be jarring, causing the car to deviate from the road and into another object, such as a tree or telephone pole. The driver may become disoriented, incapacitated, or simply unable to course-correct to avoid driving into the water.

Poor Road Maintenance Can Lead to Submerged Vehicle Accidents

In other cases, liability may belong to government agencies and their contractors who have allowed roadways to fall into disrepair. This lack of care can turn into a wrongful death lawsuit for poor road maintenance in the event that a driver is injured or killed in a sunken car after being forced off the road or not warned of potential hazards.

A large pothole can cause a tire to blow, leading the driver to veer out of their lane and threaten their safety. A missing speed limit sign may lead drivers to unknowingly jeopardize their ability to handle their vehicle in an area of road that necessitates more caution. 

The last line of defense for an out-of-control vehicle is typically a length of guardrail. Guardrails are built to withstand substantial impact and slow down or redirect traffic. Without an adequate and intact guardrail, there is little to prevent a driver from running off of the road in these scenarios. 

Mechanical Failures Can Result in Submerged Car Accidents 

When your car is careening off the road towards the water, the last thing you want to worry about is whether your brakes will work, or if your steering wheel will allow you to turn. Maybe you lost control when a poorly manufactured gas pedal prevented you from slowing down around a curve, leaving your car sticking halfway out of a neighborhood pond.

The mechanical failure may have been the initial catalyst for the accident, or the impact of another car or road hazard could have spun your car towards a body of water. Regardless, the maker of your car owes it to their consumers to take every precaution to ensure the quality of their product. 

Car manufacturers are responsible for producing thoroughly vetted, safe car components and promptly alerting the public if any flaws are discovered. If they shirk this duty to consumers, they can be found liable in a defective product liability lawsuit.

What Should I Do if My Car Becomes Submerged?

Safety experts all concur; the most important thing to do is to stay calm. In order to have the best chance of escaping, you should act quickly to unbuckle your seatbelt and roll down your windows before the car is completely underwater.

If you are unable to roll down your windows or open your doors before the car becomes submerged, wait until your car is filled with water to open the door or break the window. In situations where you are unable to swim to shore, float on your back until help arrives. After you are safely on land, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Near-Drowning Can Cause Permanent Brain Damage

In addition to common car accident injuries caused by the forceful impact of the crash like traumatic brain injuries, inhaling too much water has its own risks. Chief among those is the possibility of brain damage. When the brain is deprived of oxygen for too long due to near-drowning, it can permanently compromise function and lead to cognitive and motor control issues. 

Depending on the severity, people with severe brain injuries can require around-the-clock care for the rest of their lives. In a personal injury claim, a lawyer will likely seek damages to compensate you for the cost of hospital stays, a home healthcare aide, lost earning potential, and pain and suffering

Determining Liability in a Submerged Car Accident Claim

The state and local government may be held liable if they failed to install or maintain a protective guardrail that would have prevented the car from entering the water, or if they were lax in their upkeep of road conditions. Other drivers may be found negligent in a collision that ran a vehicle into the water if their behavior can be tied to the accident and resulting injuries.

Car manufacturers who produced faulty steering or brake systems can also be held liable if the driver was unable to properly brake to avoid skidding off the road and into the water, leading to property damage, injury, or death.

The rarity of submerged car accidents, even in Florida, speaks to the fact that it typically takes more than one failure on the part of at least one party to result in this type of accident. This makes determining liability a complicated process best left to a skilled personal injury attorney.

How Can a Personal Injury Lawyer Help Me in a Car Accident Lawsuit?

If you have been injured or lost a loved one after your vehicle was submerged, you may be wondering when to hire a personal injury attorney to represent you. The answer is simple: as soon as possible. At Dolman Law Group, we will be the point of contact for any insurance company or bill collector you need to speak to, and that's just the start of our services. 

As personal injury lawyers with years of experience, we have seen how the effects of a near-drowning experience stay with victims in the form of PTSD or other mental and emotional issues

When we file for damages on your behalf, we'll include the full scope of your injuries and ask for compensation for medical bills, lost wages, the cost of replacing your car, and account for future expenses.

We will also counsel you on how to frame your statements so that you don't unwittingly deprive yourself of proper compensation. Remember, insurance companies educate their employees to reduce payouts for accident claims. At Dolman Law, we won't settle unless we are confident that you are being fairly compensated.

Contact Dolman Law Group for Help With Your Car Accident Lawsuit

After surviving the ordeal of a submerged vehicle accident, the last thing you need is to be badgered by insurance companies trying to devalue your claim. It is not their goal to protect your interests or ensure that you receive a fair settlement, but at Dolman Law Group it is our only priority. 

There's no need to take on the burden of a lawsuit alone. At Dolman Law Group, we have a long list of satisfied clients who will speak to our compassion and motivation to secure your rightful damages. The peace of mind you receive for our comprehensive services is well worth the cost.

Dolman Law Group respects the importance of each individual case. Unlike big settlement mills, we won't treat you like an opportunity for profit or an interesting story for a t.v. advertisement. You'll receive the personal attention your case merits, which you can verify for yourself at a free consultation where we will discuss how to help you restore your life.

Contact us at (833) 55-CRASH for auto accidents. You can also send us an email on our contact us page.


Matthew Dolman

Personal Injury Lawyer

This article was written and reviewed by Matthew Dolman. Matt has been a practicing civil trial, personal injury, products liability, and mass tort lawyer since 2004. He has successfully fought for more than 11,000 injured clients and acted as lead counsel in more than 1,000 lawsuits. Always on the cutting edge of personal injury law, Matt is actively engaged in complex legal matters, including Suboxone, AFFF, and Ozempic lawsuits.  Matt is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum for resolving individual cases in excess of $1 million and $2 million, respectively. He has also been selected by his colleagues as a Florida Superlawyer and as a member of Florida’s Legal Elite on multiple occasions. Further, Matt has been quoted in the media numerous times and is a sought-after speaker on a variety of legal issues and topics.

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