Old photo of a steamed-powered vehicle a part of the history of car accidentsWhen and where did the first car accident occur? The answer to that question may depend on your definition of an automobile. The first recorded fatal accident occurred in 1869 when Irish scientist Mary Ward was riding in a steam-powered vehicle built by her cousins. As they rounded a curve in the roadway, Ward was thrown from her seat, fell in the car’s path and was run over and killed on the spot by the vehicle.

Ohio City claims the very first auto accident involving a gas-powered vehicle. This was in 1891 when engineer James Lambert was driving one of his inventions, a gas-powered buggy. The vehicle hit a tree root sticking out of the ground and crashed into a post. Lambert and his passenger escaped with minor injuries.

Tragic Fatalities

History of Car Accidents from steam-powered vehicles to the dawn of Auto Insurance

As for the first pedestrian fatality, it happened five years later in 1896 when Bridget Driscoll stepped off a curb in London and was struck by a gas-powered vehicle. According to witnesses in that case, the pedestrian was totally flabbergasted at the sight of the car and froze in place.

So, even though the car was crawling at a speed 4 mph, the collision occurred. The driver in that case, Arthur Edsall, was arrested, but he was not prosecuted as the death was ruled an accident. The coroner who examined Driscoll’s body is believed to have famously said that he hoped such a thing “would never happen again.”

Old Car that has broken down in the middle to the street and apart of the History of Car AccidentsThe first pedestrian death in the U.S. occurred on Sept. 13, 1899 when Henry Bliss was struck by an electrically powered taxicab. According to eyewitness accounts, he was either getting off a streetcar or helping a woman step out. He suffered fatal head injuries. In May 1896, New York City motorist Henry Wells hits a bicyclist with his new Duryea motor wagon, the first commercial automobile sold in the United States. The bicyclist suffered a broken leg and Wells spent the night in jail, recording the first auto collision in the United States.

The Dawn of Auto Insurance

History of Car Accidents shown in old black and white photos

Gilbert J. Loomis holds the distinction of being the first person in the United States to buy an automotive liability insurance policy in 1897, according to the Ohio Historical Society. That first policy, which was issued in Dayton, Ohio, protected Loomis if his car damaged property or killed an individual. Since then, auto insurance started to become more comprehensive with auto theft and fire insurance becoming available in 1902. In 1927, Massachusetts passed the first law making it mandatory to have liability car insurance.

Car Accident Claims Today

RI Car Accident Lawyer reviewing auto accident case with clients injured from driver negligenceIt’s been a long journey to today, where there is a process in place to claim compensation for injuries, damages and losses you have sustained in a car accident. If you or a loved one has been injured in an auto accident, please contact our experienced Rhode Island car accident lawyers who will fight hard and work diligently to protect your legal rights and best interests. Please contact us toll-free at 1-800-992-6878 for a free consultation and comprehensive case evaluation.

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Paul d’Oliveira

Attorney Paul d’Oliveira has been practicing personal injury and disability law for over 30 years. He started his personal injury law practice in 1989 with two offices in Fall River, MA and East Providence, RI. Today his firm has 16 offices in RI and Southeastern, MA.

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