Were You Injured in a Rear-End Accident?
According to the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration, about one-third of all traffic accidents are rear-end collisions. In other words, 1 in every 3 car crashes is caused by a rear vehicle running into the back of another driver. This statistic shows just how common these collisions are, which is why educating yourself about these types of auto accidents is important.
Read on to find out who can be held responsible for rear-end accidents and whether you can claim compensation from your insurance company or the at-fault driver for your losses.
Rear-Ended Accident Meaning
A rear-end crash, by definition, is a type of automobile accident that occurs when the driver of a vehicle crashes into the vehicle that is driving in front of them. Rear-end collisions are often caused by distracted driving, tailgating, and weather conditions.
What to Expect When You are Involved in a Florida Rear-End Crash
Being involved in a rear-end collision can be life-changing. If you’re the lead driver, you are probably the victim of the accident. You may be facing severe injuries, medical bills, paperwork, insurance company claims, pain and suffering, and emotional distress. Regardless of the outcome, it’s safe to say that nothing good comes out of rear-end accidents. They are inconvenient, time-consuming, and stressful.
Fortunately, Florida defines who should be held accountable for rear-end car accidents. These laws allow victims to recover compensation from the at-fault driver who is responsible for rear-ending them. In virtually every standard rear-end car accident case, the driver in the back is liable for the damages caused. That’s because rear-end collisions can only happen in a handful of unique ways. Likewise, in 9 out of 10 of those unique ways, the driver in the rear is at fault.
Examples of Possible Rear-End Accidents Scenarios:
Scenario 1: Pedestrians in the Road Resulting in Rear-Ended Cars
Driver A slams on their brakes to avoid hitting a child that unexpectedly ran into the road. Driver B rear-ends Driver A because of the sudden stop. Even though the child running out into the road was unexpected, Driver B is at fault for not maintaining an adequate stopping distance between their car and the car ahead at all times.
Scenario 2: Poor Vision Causes Drivers to Rear-End Cars
Driver A is driving down a dirt road. The dirt is creating a cloud of dust which hinders Driver B’s vision who is following behind. Driver A properly stops at a stop sign ahead. Driver B can’t see and drives right into the back of Driver A. Driver B is at fault for not maintaining a safe distance to accommodate for the reduced vision and allow time for the dirt to clear up. The same can be stated for a fog-related vision accident. Any driver, in a low-vision scenario, is responsible for maintaining a safe speed and safe distance so as to have enough time to stop in the event they need to.
Scenario 3: Lane Switching Causes Rear-Ended Cars
Driver A puts on his blinker to indicate a lane switch and begins to merge over. Driver B speeds up in anticipation of a clear lane, but Driver A suddenly changes their mind and goes back into their original lane. Driver B can’t brake fast enough and rear-ends Driver A. Driver B will be at fault once again because they did not maintain adequate stopping distance between them and the car in front of them. However, it is possible that Driver A could be held partially responsible under comparative negligence rules since they did perform a somewhat erratic movement.
Scenario 4: Reckless Turns Can Lead to High-Speed Collisions
Driver A wants to turn right into a gas station, but he’s in the middle lane. He floors the acceleration pedal and attempts to cut off Driver B; however, he doesn’t go fast enough, and Driver B crashes into the back of him. (In this unlikely case, Driver A will be held liable because there is no way Driver B could have prepared for Driver A’s unacceptable road maneuvers.)
“Chain Reaction” Rear-End Car Accidents
On occasion—almost always at intersections or in heavy traffic situations—there will be a case where more than two vehicles are involved in a rear-end wreck. This scenario causes a domino effect—a chain reaction where one car rear-ends multiple other vehicles in a chain-reaction accident.
Basically, Car B slams into the back of Car A, the lead vehicle in front of them. Car B’s sudden stopping without slowing down or brake lights causes Car C to slam into the back of Car B. This forms a chain reaction where both Car A and Car B are rear-ended in a multi-car accident.
Applying the same rear-end crash liability guidelines exampled above to cases like these makes it easy to spot the party at fault. Once again, the at-fault party is almost always the driver in the rear of the accident that started it all.
For example, if Driver C rear-ends Driver B, who is stopped at a red light behind Driver A—the force of the initial crash may propel Driver B’s vehicle into Driver A. In this case, both Driver A and B would seek to recover from Driver C.
In very rare cases, Driver B might cut off Driver C and create an initial rear-ended car accident. Driver B may then get forced into Driver A and rear-end him. In this scenario, Driver A and C would have Driver B to blame. However, it’s not very often you see a driver brave enough to cut in between a tight space of 2 moving vehicles.
If you were one of the vehicles involved in a chain reaction crash, you might be able to pursue compensation from multiple at-fault drivers. Consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer to understand your unique circumstances.
Common Injuries Suffered in Florida Rear-End Collisions
For the most part, there’s not much good that can come out of rear-end accidents. Generally, the most positive aspect of any automobile accident is surviving with only minor injuries or, better yet, completely unharmed. But in the end, there’s almost always property damage and medical bills to deal with.
For the liable party, there’s the added cost of possible traffic tickets and even steeper penalties if their insurance policy isn’t enough to cover the damages they’ve caused. Oftentimes, the most affected victims are the innocent drivers who follow the rules of the road and then are still struck by a careless driver, leaving them with painful or permanent injuries, outstanding medical bills, a damaged car, and possibly emotional distress. Unfortunately, a good handful of these accidents even take a victim’s life.
Whiplash describes pain and stiffness in the neck and shoulder area that occurs when an accident victim is suddenly and violently thrown forward by the force of a collision. The movement, sometimes characterized by a snap forward and then backward, forces the neck and spine well beyond their normal range of motion. This sudden movement of your neck, shoulders, and spine is the “whip” motion that forms the term “whiplash.”
According to the NHTSA, 20% of all people involved in rear-end collisions suffer a whiplash injury. Of those, almost 80% experience pain and soreness that lasts longer than a week. Additionally, 50% have pain and soreness that lasts more than a year.
When your car is hit from behind in a collision, the force of the impact can seriously injure your spine. That’s because the human spine is a delicate formation that wasn’t created to be able to withstand impacts that man-made machines can inflict. A rear-end impact can compress the spine, causing injury to your spinal discs (disc herniation), damage to the facet joint, and/or injury to the spinal cord and nerves. Since the spine and neck are so critical to the functioning of the human body, this can be a big deal. Likewise, the vast amount of nerves connected to the spine causes these injuries to be especially painful and distressing.
Head and Face Injuries
Almost every car on the road today is equipped with airbags that are designed to protect the head and face in the event of a motor vehicle collision. These devices are an extreme improvement in automobile safety that is credited with saving nearly as many people as the seat belt. However, just because you have an airbag does not mean that it will protect you from any injury.
In fact, most rear-end collisions occur at relatively low speeds. Since airbags usually only deploy at collisions around 20 mph, there is a chance that it may not show itself at all. If an airbag doesn’t deploy, your face may slam into the steering wheel or dash. The force of your face impacting one of these hard objects could break your nose, fracture your cheek or jawbone, damage your eye socket, or even cause serious traumatic brain injury.
In addition to these more serious consequences, impacting the steering wheel, dash, or even the airbag may cause cuts, bruises, and scrapes to your face and head. If the rear-end collision occurs at high speeds, and the airbag does deploy, it poses its own serious risks. This article from Medscape discusses some interesting facts about injuries caused by airbags.
Arm and Hand Injuries
Since most people are holding onto the steering wheel when they’re impacted by a rear-end collision, injuries to the arm, shoulders, hands, fingers, and wrists are a very real possibility. The force can cause these body parts to jerk violently, jam into something, get pinned, or even be fractured. These injuries may not sound as serious as other injuries, but going through life with a seriously disabled arm or hand can be extremely tough.
Seatbelts are no doubt our saving grace when it comes to safety in a motor vehicle, but nothing is foolproof. A rear-end impact causes your torso to thrust forward against the seatbelt. This may prevent your face from hitting the steering wheel or dash, but the strap itself may lacerate your skin, bruise your body, or contribute to whiplash.
For a free legal consultation, call 833-552-7274
How to Avoid Rear-end Accidents
- Leave a larger gap between you and the car in front of you. The more room you have in front, the more time you have to stop your car.
- Don’t drive while distracted since distracted driving is one of the most common causes of rear-end collisions.
- Be sure to check your mirrors just in case the driver behind you isn’t going to stop in time.
- Begin braking early so that the driver behind you can have enough time to stop safely.
- Check your safety features, like brake lights, since these are important in indicating to drivers behind you that you are stopping.
- Note the weather conditions and drive accordingly. Especially in Florida, wet roads can be a serious issue that often leads to rear-end collisions.
- Be aware of your surroundings since this is your best defense. While you are stopped at a light, continue to pay attention to your mirrors. While driving, watch the car in front of you for signs of distracted or impaired driving. Notice the road changes and conditions and drive accordingly. These tips may sound simple, but having an intense awareness of your surroundings can do wonders to keep you safe.
Potential Damages From Florida Rear-end Collisions
It is very possible to be involved in a rear-end collision in which there is little damage to the vehicle, yet the driver is seriously hurt. If you have been injured in a rear-end accident, contact a qualified and experienced auto accident attorney to speak about seeking compensation for your damages. Those damages can include:
Economic damages are those damages that can be easily proved and added up with a calculator, like lost wages, lost wages, medical bills, and damage to your car.
Non-economic damages are more general losses that are more difficult to calculate. These damages may stem from physical and mental pain and suffering. For a point of reference, general damages often equate to about 1.5 to 5 times the value of economic damages. However, this number can vary dramatically.
If a claim has multiple defendants represented by different insurance companies, it may increase the value of a settlement since there may be more coverage for your injuries. It might also complicate your case and take longer to resolve your claims because you must deal with several responsible parties. As described above, rear-end collisions often involve multiple cars, so this is a very real possibility.
[For more information on how much your case may be worth, read: How Much Is My Car Accident Lawsuit Worth?]
Settlements and Compensation in Florida Rear-end Collision Cases
No amount of apologies or car repairs can make up for causing serious injury nor replace the life of a loved one. Additionally, it can’t pay for your medical debt, which can drastically accumulate after your accident. However, even if you may never be quite how you were before the accident, there’s certainly help out there that can put you in the best position after a rear-end accident.
Medical recovery through your own Personal Injury Protection (PIP) will only get you so far. Any injuries that exceed the average $10,000.00 policy can meet the “serious injury threshold” to sue the liable party for damages.
With an experienced and determined lawyer, you could end up receiving significant financial compensation well over the cost of your medical bills and even recover for areas such as lost wages, emotional and mental distress, and more. The stress of your physical injuries and losses is hard enough to deal with as it is, so being stuck with a lifetime worth of medical debt and financial hardship is the last thing any rear-end collision victim wants.
Determining Fault in a Florida Rear-end Collision
Is the person at the back of a rear-end collision always at fault?
Remember that nine out of ten times, the person in the back of the collision is at fault? You may wonder about that remaining one time.
Florida law has almost always presumed that the rear driver in a rear-end collision is the negligent party, but recent cases presented to the Florida Supreme Court have helped to decide that this reasoning may need to change.
These decisions have opened up the possibility for the rear driver to pursue damages against the person they collided with in front of them. The other driver’s fault may be complete or partial.
In one case, the Florida Supreme Court said, “the presumption of negligence that attaches to a rear driver in a rear-end motor vehicle collision case can be rebutted or avoided by the production of evidence from which a jury could find negligence on the part of the front driver that contributed to bringing about the injury-producing collision.”
This is part of Florida’s comparative negligence law, which allows juries to determine the amount of fault each party should be responsible for. Damages are then based on the percentage of the fault assigned. For example, if a driver is 90% at fault, they would be responsible for paying 90% of the damages.
Remember the case of Driver C slamming into Driver B, causing them to collide with Driver A? Well, Driver B didn’t do anything wrong. They were just sitting at a stop light, waiting for it to turn green. They were forced to hit Driver A in front of them. In this scenario, they should not be held responsible.
Speak with an Experienced Florida Rear-End Collision Attorney
If you have any doubts or questions regarding how to go about tackling your personal injury case, you would benefit greatly by having an attorney on your side who deals with these cases on a daily basis. We offer free consultations that allow clients to get answers to their questions and make more informed decisions.
The Dolman Law Group works with local counsel in any jurisdiction outside Florida for the purpose of filing lawsuits in jurisdictions wherein we are not licensed. Thus, we will follow each State’s ethical rules to ensure a local attorney is involved.