According to the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration, nearly one-third of all traffic accidents are rear-end collisions. That means that 1 in every 3 car crashes happens in this way. This statistic shows just how common these collisions are, leading one to wonder what they need to know about this type of accident.
It’s always unfortunate to be involved in a rear-end collision. Whether you’re the victim of the accident or the driver being held responsible, you’re likely to be faced with at least some stressful bills, paperwork, pain, suffering, and/or emotional distress. Regardless of the outcome, it’s safe to say that there is nothing good that comes out of a rear-end collision. They are inconvenient, stressful, and can be, painful.
Fortunately, Florida has a pretty good grasp on who should be held accountable for rear-end car accidents, which makes recovery for victims much less of a hassle. In virtually every standard rear-end car accident case, the driver in the back is liable for the damages caused. You may have heard this statement in some form before and questioned its validity. In fact, it is safe to say that (most of the time) this is true. That’s because rear-end collisions can only happen in a handful of unique ways. Likewise, 9 out of 10 of those unique ways would deem the driver in the rear at fault.
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.
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 driving much slower 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 so as to have enough time to stop in the event they need to.
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 rulings, since they did perform a somewhat erratic movement.
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.)
On occasion—almost always at intersections or in heavy traffic—there will be a case where more than 2 vehicles are involved in a rear-end collision. This scenario causes a domino effect; a chain reaction where multiple vehicles are involved in a rear-end collision. Basically, Car B slams into the back of the Car A in front of them. Car B’s sudden stopping without slowing down or brake lights causes Car C to slam into the behind of Car B. This forms a chain reaction, multi-car accident.
Applying the same rear-end collision 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-end 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.
For the most part, there’s not much good that can come out of a rear-end collision. Generally, the most positive aspect of any automobile accident is getting out of it 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. But my sympathy goes to the innocent drivers who follow the rules of the road down to a “T” and then are still struck by a careless driver, leaving them with painful and/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 a accident victim is suddenly and violently thrown forward by the force of a collision. The movement, sometimes characterized by a snap forward 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 hasn’t developed to be able to withstand impacts that man-made machines can inflict. The impact from a rear-end collision 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 connect to the spine causes these injuries to be especially painful and distressing.
Almost every car on the road today is equipped with airbags that are designed to protect the head and face in the event of 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 it’s own serious risks. This article from Medscape discusses some interesting facts about injuries caused by airbags.
Since most people are holding onto the steering wheel when they’re impacted from 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 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 full proof. 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.
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 damages. Those damages can include:
Special Damages which includes lost wages, lost earning capacity, medical expenses, and property damage.
General Damages are non-economic losses. Instead, these damages 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 the special damages. However, this number can range dramatically.
Multiple Defendants represented by different insurance companies may increase the value of a settlement since there will naturally be more coverage for your injuries. As described above, rear-end collisions often involve multiple cars, so this a very real possibility.
For more information on how much your case may be worth, read: How Much Is My Car Accident Lawsuit Worth?
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 will begin to 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 10k 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.
Remember when I mentioned that 9 out of 10 times, the person in the back of the collision was at fault? Well what about that other 1 out of 10 times.
Florida law has almost always presumed that the second driver in a rear end collision is the negligent party, but recent cases presented to the Florida Supreme Court has helped to decide that this may need to change a little.
This decision has opened up the possibility for the rear driver to pursue damages against the person they collided with in front of them. This fault may be complete or partial.
In this 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 bring 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 of this ration. For example, a driver may be 90% at fault, making them reliable 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.
If you have any doubt or questions regarding how to go about tackling your personal injury case, it would be greatly beneficial to have an attorney on your side that 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.
For a free consultation and case evaluation regarding all of the above, feel free to contact Dolman Law Group today by calling 727-451-6900.