San Antonio’s highway systems are how people travel into, out of, and throughout the city. However, these are common areas of congestion, as travelers frequently find themselves waiting in traffic on the 410 at 35, I-35 in general, and the 1604 corridor. And where there is traffic congestion, there is a higher likelihood of certain types of accidents, including rear-end collisions. If a rear-end collision injured you in San Antonio, read on for more information about this type of accident and the process you can use to obtain compensation for the impacts and expenses of your accident.
About Rear-End Collisions
Rear-end collisions occur when the front of one vehicle collides with the rear of another vehicle. This is the most common type of accident involving more than one vehicle to occur, accounting for more than one-quarter of all accidents, around 2,000 deaths a year, and hundreds of thousands of injuries on U.S. roadways.
What Causes Rear-End Collisions in San Antonio?
The most common cause of rear-end collisions is a driver following another vehicle too closely, which is also known as tailgating. Tailgating reduces the distance the vehicle has to safely stop after a driver has perceived a hazard on the road—such as the driver in front of them slamming on the brakes. No vehicle can stop instantaneously. Instead, they continue traveling until the brakes stop the vehicle. The distance that the car travels at this point depends largely on the size and weight of the vehicle, with larger vehicles requiring more stopping distance. However, other factors can influence the distance the vehicle travels after braking, including the condition of the vehicle’s tires and brakes and the speed it was traveling. Other issues that can lead to a rear-end crash include:
- Speeding. As mentioned above, the speed at which a vehicle is traveling can be a factor in a rear-end collision as an increase in speed increases the stopping distance. It also reduces the amount of time the driver has to perceive a hazard and respond to it.
- Distracted driving. If you do not notice that the vehicle in front of you has stopped, or you are not prepared to stop your vehicle, there is a far greater chance of an accident occurring. There are three types of driving distractions that can cause accidents: manual distractions, which involve the driver taking their hands from the wheel; visual distractions, which involve the driver averting their eyes from scanning the roadway; and cognitive distractions, which involve the driver thinking about other things besides the task of safe driving. Texting while driving is of particular concern as it presents all three types of driving distractions.
- Alcohol impairment. Alcohol impairment erodes the skills a driver needs to drive safely, including those needed to prevent rear-end collisions, such as the ability to track moving objects, control one’s speed, brake effectively, and exercise good judgment.
- Poorly maintained or defective vehicle parts. This includes overly worn tires that fail to grip the road, resulting in a longer distance needed to come to a safe stop, or malfunctioning brake lights or turn signals in a lead car that could cause the driver of the following car not knowing the lead driver’s intentions.
- Inclement weather. Excessive rain or even ice can result in slippery road surfaces that can also increase the distance a vehicle travels after the driver has braked. A driver’s failure to understand how to drive on these surfaces or to slow down to accommodate slippery road conditions is a common cause of wintertime rear-end collisions.
The Types of Injuries Involved in Rear-End Collisions
According to the Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT), 42 percent of those involved in accidents on the state’s roadways were not wearing their seatbelt at the time of the crash. A rear-end car accident generally results in more severe injuries for an unrestrained vehicle occupant. The occupant risks ejection from the vehicle and a collision with obstacles inside the vehicle at a higher force. Rear-end collisions are often called “whiplash crashes.” Whiplash is a soft tissue neck injury that occurs because sudden acceleration and deceleration snap the neck back and forth violently, like the lashing of a whip. The symptoms of whiplash include:
- Pain and stiffness in the neck or shoulder
- Neck instability
- Pain or numbness in the palm, resulting from a spinal nerve becoming compressed or inflamed
- Ringing in the ears
- Blurred vision
- Sleep difficulties, including insomnia or fatigue
- Difficulty with concentration or memory
For some individuals, pain and instability in the neck can last for months or even years. Other common injuries from rear-end collisions include:
- Traumatic brain injuries, which result from a blow to the head or body and can cause permanent deficits due to the brain’s limited ability to heal.
- Spinal cord injuries, which involve damage to the nerves that extend from the base of the skull to the waist and relay messages from the brain to other parts of the body. Spinal cord injuries often result in permanent paralysis.
- Damage to the spinal vertebrae and discs, which can result in loss of mobility and instability in the spine. These damages often result in chronic pain and can require surgery to repair.
- Internal injuries resulting from the impact of the body against the seat belt or other objects in the vehicle. One common internal injury is a pneumothorax, when a broken rib punctures and collapses a lung.
- Facial abrasions and lacerations from contact with the airbag, the windshield, or other objects in the vehicle. Most airbags won’t deploy when the vehicle is hit from the rear, as they protect the driver and front-seat passenger from frontal collisions. Therefore, the driver in the lead car is at greater risk of head and facial injuries due to contact with the vehicle’s interior features.
Seeking Compensation for Your Injury
If a San Antonio rear-end collision injured you, you are among the nearly 300,000 people who will suffer injuries in a car accident on Texas roadways this year. You may seek compensation for your injuries through the personal injury claims process, which could include a lawsuit. The personal injury claims process begins when your attorney submits a demand package to the at-fault party’s insurance provider, detailing the accident and the expenses and impacts you have incurred as a result. Upon receiving your demand, the insurance provider has three options:
- They can accept liability for the claim as submitted and issue payment;
- They can deny liability for the claim and provide the claimant with a reason for the denial; or
- They can accept liability but offer a settlement, which is less compensation than what the claimant was seeking.
Often, insurance adjusters will take the third option, providing a settlement offer. This initial settlement can be far below what the claimant is seeking, but the offer begins the negotiation process, in which they will work with the attorney to reach an agreement. If the insurance provider fails to make a fair settlement offer, the claimant—with guidance from their attorney—then has the option to seek compensation for their injuries by filing their claim in court.
The Type of Compensation Available after a San Antonio Rear-End Collision
Texas allows individuals injured in San Antonio rear-end collisions to seek compensation for both the impacts and the expenses of their injury. Common impacts and expenses to appear on damage claims after this type of accident include:
- Medical expenses, such as the X-rays and other diagnostic tests to diagnose whiplash and other injuries sustained in a rear-end accident, emergency treatment, hospitalization, prescription medication, physical therapy, and rehabilitation. You can also recover costs associated with any assistive devices you need to accommodate your injuries, such as a wheelchair or crutches.
- Lost wages if you suffer an injury that requires you to miss work.
- Loss of future earning capacity if your injury results in permanent disabilities and you can no longer earn what you did before the accident. Rear-end collisions can produce catastrophic injuries such as traumatic brain injuries or spinal cord injuries, both of which produce permanent physical disabilities.
- Property damage resulting from the accident, such as the cost of repairing your vehicle.
- Physical and emotional pain and suffering.
Determining Liability for a Rear-End Crash
Contrary to popular belief, the driver in the rear doesn’t cause all rear-end accidents, though many do. The lead driver would bear at least partial liability for the accident in these scenarios:
- The lead driver suddenly slams on their brakes for no apparent reason, or to brake check a driver behind them who they feel is following too closely. Unfortunately, brake checking is a common feature of road rage, in which one angry driver becomes sets out to punish other drivers for perceived slights or lapses in driving ability. Brake checking also occurs when someone attempts to commit insurance fraud by deliberately causing another vehicle to collide with theirs.
- The lead driver places their car in reverse in the travel lane and strikes another vehicle. Putting a car in reverse on the road seems like the behavior of an alcohol-impaired driver (and it is sometimes). An innocent—albeit somewhat bad—reason for this includes a driver who missed a turn and attempted to back into a position that will allow them to turn.
- The lead driver’s brake lights do not work, or they fail to use their turn signal when slowing down to make a turn.
- The lead driver’s vehicle became disabled on the roadway and the driver failed to initiate the vehicle’s hazard lights, use flares, or otherwise warn other drivers that they were approaching a disabled vehicle.
Whether you were in the lead car or the following one when the crash occurred, to obtain compensation for the injuries you incurred in a rear-end accident, you must prove that someone else’s careless or reckless actions led to the crash. We understand you may be asking yourself: when do I need a lawyer for a car accident? The answer is when you want a legal representative to guide you. An experienced San Antonio car accident attorney can help you determine liability and fight for your right to the compensation you deserve. To learn more, contact a car accident attorney today.