Everything You Need to Know About Rear-end Back and Neck Injuries
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates approximately 1.7 million rear-end collisions in 2010, a number that continues to rise each year. In its most recent yearly data, the NHTSA reports almost 2.4 million rear-end collisions on the nation’s roads in 2016, including almost 700,000 crashes resulting in injury and about 2,300 fatal rear-end crashes. Rear-end collisions account for a third of all traffic accidents in the United States, making them the most common type of car accident.
Being involved in a rear-end crash can result in a wide array of injuries. Accident victims are particularly vulnerable to back and neck injuries. Depending on the speed and angles of the accident, a back or neck injury might result in permanent disability and a life riddled with chronic pain. If you or a loved one has suffered a neck or back injury during a car accident in Florida, then contact a skilled car accident attorney to learn how to recover losses related to your injury. Contact Dolman Law Group or Sibley Dolman Accident Injury Lawyers, LLP, at 833-552-7274 (833-55-CRASH) to schedule a free consultation.
This guide offers information about back and neck injuries in rear-end collisions, how to prevent these common crashes, liability in rear-end collisions in Florida, and immediate steps you should take after a rear-end collision.
How Does a Back or Neck Injury Occur During a Rear-End Collision?
Rear-end collisions stand apart from other types of car accidents because they often happen at low speeds. Although seat belts and airbag deployment reduce some passenger movement in a collision, especially for those in the front seat, a person’s neck and upper back still endure unnatural forces. When a rear-end crash occurs, bodies in the car move back and forth quickly during impact. This motion coupled with a body’s interaction with the seatback is a large part of why neck and back injuries occur.
Facet joints connect each vertebra in your spine, making you flexible so you can bend and twist. Many neck injuries occur because the facet joints collide with each other when the neck moves during an accident. The impact of a rear-end collision also causes your middle and lower back to move back and forth, which disrupts the natural curve of the spine and flattens them.
Types of Neck and Back Injuries From Rear-end Collisions
Rear-end collisions might result in a wide variety of back and neck injuries that vary based on the speed at which they occur. Some common injuries include:
- Whiplash is the most common injury associated with a rear-end collision. When the head and neck move upon impact, the victim sustains soft tissue damage in the neck and sometimes the upper back. Whiplash injuries can range from mild to severe.
- Spinal fractures are most likely to occur when a rear-end crash occurs at a high speed. A driver’s or occupant’s torso and head get tossed around while the lower half of their body is held by the seat belt, resulting in compression fractures or other breaks in the vertebrae. Stress fractures might also push vertebrae out of place, resulting in a condition called Spondylolisthesis where nerves and/or the spinal canal are compressed causing pain and numbness.
- Slipped discs, more formally referred to as herniated discs, occur when the impact of a rear-end collision causes the discs that provide cushioning between the vertebrae to shift out of place. This also results in pain and numbness.
- Spinal cord injuries can happen even when a rear-end crash occurs at low speeds. Small injuries to spinal processes and nerves might cause temporary paralysis that will hopefully heal with time. Sometimes, however, the cord gets severed, leading to permanent total or partial paralysis. Keep in mind that the higher on the body a spinal cord injury occurs, the more likely a victim will experience loss of functions or paralysis.
Delayed Symptoms of Neck and Back Injuries
Seek medical attention as soon as possible after a rear-end collision. You might have immediate symptoms of a back or neck injury including pain and numbness, but it’s also common to feel fine for a little while after the accident.
It’s a mistake to skip medical treatment for a couple of reasons. First, medical documentation of your injuries provides evidence your attorney can use later on to prove an accident caused your neck and back injuries. Second, many symptoms of neck and back injuries do not show up for days or weeks after an accident. Just because you feel okay, doesn’t mean you weren’t injured.
Below are some symptoms of neck and back injuries that often do not show up immediately after a rear-end collision:
- Neck and shoulder stiffness
- Back pain
If you experience any of these symptoms after your accident, even if it’s days later, immediately visit your doctor. These symptoms indicate that you might have a neck or back injury, especially if you are suffering from more than one.
But (and, we can’t repeat this enough), even if you do not experience symptoms right away, you should still visit a doctor after any rear-end collision. Only a qualified doctor can tell you, for sure, whether and to what extent an accident injured your neck or back.
Neck and Back Recovery After a Rear-end Crash
When you suffer a neck or back injury in a rear-end collision, you will need ample time for healing and recovery. Treatments will vary based on your injury and its severity, but might include:
- Wearing a brace. Your doctor might direct you to wear a neck brace or back brace to stabilize your body, allowing it to heal and prevent further injury. Braces also help with pain management by preventing you from moving in a way that causes you pain.
- Heating pads and ice packs. The heat helps eliminate pain by easing muscle tension. If you experience swelling, your doctor might have you apply an ice pack to your injured area to reduce swelling.
- Pain medication. When your pain is severe, your doctor might prescribe prescription pain killers when over-the-counter pain pills won’t do the trick. Addiction to prescription pain pills is a real risk, so expect your doctor to discuss multiple options to avoid developing a dependence on a particular remedy.
- Physical therapy. Frequent physical therapy visits are often a part of preparing your body to return to normal function. Oftentimes, neck and back injuries cause a loss in your range of motion. Physical therapy helps rebuild your muscles in the injured area so you can restore your range of motion. In the case of a severe injury that forced you to remain in bed for days, weeks, or months, you will need physical therapy to help with muscle loss in all parts of your body.
- Chiropractic care. Your primary goal after an accident should be to feel better. Some accident victims find that visiting a chiropractor helps with pain and recovery; however, you should discuss this with your attorney. Some insurance carriers consider chiropractic care as alternative medicine, so your treatment might not be covered. It might be in your best financial interest to substitute visits to an M.D. and physical therapist with chiropractic visits.
About Rear-End Collisions
The high frequency of rear-end crashes has prompted the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) to conduct research on driver attributes in regards to rear-end collisions. Their most recent study revealed the following trends:
- As drivers age they are less likely to strike the vehicle in front of them in a rear-end crash; conversely, younger drivers, especially those under 18, are most likely to cause a rear-end collision.
- Young male drivers cause the most rear-end crashes.
- Distracted driving is responsible for more than 85 percent of rear-end crashes, with eating while driving, daydreaming, and cell phone use as the most common distractions.
- Most rear-end collisions occur when the front vehicle is stopped in traffic.
- Most rear-end collisions occur on clear weather days.
Avoiding Rear-end Collisions
Rear-end collisions are entirely avoidable in the vast majority of situations. Whether you are the lead vehicle or following another vehicle, you can avoid a rear-end collision by following these tips:
- Keep at least a four-second space between you and the car you are following, giving you enough time and distance to react if they must suddenly stop.
- Avoid all distractions while driving including cell phone use, personal grooming, adjusting the radio, reaching in the back, etc.
- Make sure your brake lights and turn signals work, and that you use them to let the drivers behind you know your intentions.
- Scan your rear-view mirror to watch cars behind you, especially before you slow down or make a turn.
- If someone is following you too closely, pull to the side and let them pass.
- When it’s raining, increase your following distance because of wet roads.
- Make sure your brakes are functioning well. If they fail, you risk an accident.
- Don’t slam on your brakes at the last minute—instead, brake early and slowly.
Liability in Florida Rear-end Collisions
Florida’s no-fault auto insurance law requires motorists who register a vehicle here to carry personal injury protection (PIP) insurance coverage because. This means that after a rear-end crash, each driver must file a claim under his or her own PIP policy regardless of fault. Keep in mind that Florida’s PIP coverage only pays out 80 percent of medical expenses and 60 percent of lost wages to policyholders. In serious accidents that result in severe injury, it’s likely that you will meet or exceed your policy limit and need to take legal action with the help of a personal injury attorney to recover additional compensation from parties with legal liability to you.
When you file an insurance claim under your PIP policy, you don’t need to worry about fault, but when you take legal action with an attorney’s help, fault will often become a contested issue In the vast majority of rear-end collision cases, the driver of the rear vehicle will bear the principal fault for the collision; however, this isn’t always the case. Expect the defense to make arguments to avoid some or all liability for the accident and injuries, such as by claiming that you were driving under the influence, distracted while driving, or driving while fatigued.
If you are partially at fault for the accident, Florida law still entitles you to seek damages in civil court. A court might reduce your award based on the extent to which you contributed to the accident, but you have a right to seek compensation so long as you are less than 50 percent at fault.
Contact Dolman Law Group After a Rear-end Collision in Florida
If you have suffered a severe neck or back injury after a rear-end collision and have exceeded the limits of your PIP policy, Florida law entitles you to sue for damages. Those damages may include current and future costs for medical treatment, lost wages, lost earning capacity, and non-economic costs such as pain and suffering, loss of consortium with a spouse, and others that might apply to your case.
When another driver’s careless choices behind the wheel lead to a rear-end collision and cause you harm, you deserve full and fair compensation for the physical, emotional, and financial pain those choices inflict. Letting an experienced attorney guide you through the process of seeking compensation can free-up your mind and body to focus on healing and recovery.
You don’t have to fight for compensation and negotiate with insurance companies alone. We are here to help. The skilled car accident attorneys at Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, and Sibley Dolman Accident Injury Lawyers, LLP, can handle all details of the typical car accident case, including investigating your accident, gathering relevant documents, negotiating a settlement, and litigating when settlement isn’t an option.
Contact us at 833-552-7274 (833-55-CRASH) to schedule a free consultation and learn about the ways we might be able to help you after a rear-end crash. We serve clients from our offices across both Florida coasts.
Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765