While big crashes get all the attention in the movies and on TV, vehicle occupants are actually more likely to sustain injuries and property damage in rear-end collisions. The injuries and stress caused by rear-end collisions are just as severe as from other car accidents, and victims deserve to recover compensation for their losses. Read on to learn more about how often rear-end collisions occur, the damage they can cause, and what you should do after an accident.
Understanding Rear-End Accidents
National Rear-End Accident Statistics
There are approximately 1.7 million rear-end collisions on the roads in the United States every year. These accidents are the cause of nearly 1,700 fatalities and 500,000 injuries. Studies by the Insurance Information Institute show that rear-end collisions account for more than 7 percent of fatal vehicle collisions.
A study performed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) performed an intensive analysis of rear-end accidents. The study determined that rear-end crashes account for approximately 29 percent of all crashes and are the most frequently occurring type of collision.
Causes of Rear-End Accidents
The most common scenario in a rear-end accident is when a driver fails to sufficiently brake or steer in response to a vehicle ahead slowing down. This failure to respond appropriately is most commonly due to driver distraction. In the NHTSA study, 87 percent of accidents where a driver rear-ended a vehicle in front of him or her involved some degree of distraction.
Many believe that following too closely is the predominant cause of rear-end collisions, but driver distraction seems to play a much bigger role. Common distractions include using a smartphone, setting a GPS, interacting with passengers, and even daydreaming.
Other causes of rear-end accidents include:
- Road rage
- Mechanical problems
No matter the cause, it is clear that rear-end collisions occur much too often and cause too many serious injuries.
Rear-End Accident Injuries
A rear-end accident is often thought of as a minor inconvenience, but the truth is that painful and life-altering accidents occur from rear-end accidents.
Victims of rear-end accidents can suffer from a variety of injuries, including the following:
- Whiplash: Whiplash is an injury caused by forceful, rapid back-and-forth movement, and is a common result of rear-end accidents. Severe whiplash occurs most often when a vehicle occupant is unprepared for an impact and thus lacks an opportunity to prepare or brace for impact. Victims of whiplash suffer from pain, soreness, limited range of motion, headaches, fatigue, and dizziness. Some people also experience blurred vision, memory problems, ringing in the ears, and depression. Whiplash can be difficult to diagnose, as symptoms are often delayed.
- Neck and back injuries: High-speed impact is not necessary to cause serious back and neck injuries. Neck and back injuries often result in lifelong pain for the victim and may require physical therapy and additional rehabilitation.
- Spinal cord injuries: The spinal cord is the bundle of nerves that communicates between the brain and body. Spinal cord injuries result in a variety of symptoms, including numbness, muscle weakness, and paralysis. The extent and nature of the injury depend on which areas of the spine are affected in the crash, and whether paralysis is partial or complete.
- Head and brain injuries: Head and brain injuries are likely if a rear-end accident causes a passenger to strike his or her head on a surface, such as a dashboard. The likelihood is increased if the vehicle does not have airbags or if they do not deploy properly. A rear-end accident victim may suffer from a concussion, skull fracture, or severe traumatic brain injury (TBI). The effects of a TBI vary widely and can include physical and cognitive disabilities, a comatose state, and brain death. Like with whiplash, the symptoms of TBI may take time to fully manifest.
- Internal injuries: If an individual’s torso suffers impact during an accident, the victim might experience internal damage to organs. Internal organ damage is difficult to diagnose, and the symptoms are often delayed.
- Dental and facial injuries: If your face strikes an object in the vehicle, dental and facial injuries are likely. Facial injuries may include lacerations, broken bones (like nose, cheek or jaw), and detached retina. Dental injuries include cracked or chipped teeth. If the injuries are serious, the victim may require surgery or facial reconstruction.
- Wrist and arm injuries: At the time of a rear-end impact, the driver is likely to have his or her hands on the steering wheel. If drivers anticipate an accident, they may brace their arms on the steering wheel. A passenger’s instinct is often to throw his or her arms out to brace against the dashboard. While an instinct, this response can cause serious injuries to the wrists and arms, including broken bones and a dislocated shoulder.
- Cuts, sprains, and bruises: These injuries seem minor, but they still disrupt the day-to-day existence of a victim. If victims work physically demanding jobs, these injuries might keep them from working.
If another party was responsible for the accident, that party should also face responsible for your injuries.
Responsibility for a Rear-End Accident
If any party’s negligent action caused the rear-end accident, that party is responsible for your injuries. Work with your attorney to analyze the facts of your case and to determine what parties bear fault for your accident.
Some of the most common responsible parties include:
- Negligent Driver: If the driver of another vehicle acted negligently and caused the accident and your injuries, that party is responsible. Any act outside the normal standard of care can constitute negligence, and some of the most obvious negligent acts include violation of traffic laws and regulations. As discussed above, distracted driving is a common cause of rear-end collisions. Many states have laws against distracted driving, making this a clearly negligent act.
- Employer: If the negligent driver was acting in his or her scope of employment, the employer may face liability for any accident that the employee causes. Employers generally have more insurance coverage, but they often try to argue that the driver was not acting in the scope of his or her employment or is an independent contractor.
- Vehicle manufacturer: If any vehicle in the accident malfunctioned in a way that contributed to the accident, the manufacturer may face liability for the resulting injuries. Common malfunctions include brake issues, defects in tires, or engine issues. Also consider the potential malfunction of safety features, like airbags or seat belts. Failure of important safety features can significantly contribute to injuries, even if they don’t actually cause the accident. It’s often difficult to determine whether a malfunction occurred, so work with your attorney to coordinate review by vehicle experts as needed.
One critical piece of information to support your recovery is a police report. A police report will document the scene of the accident, witness statements, witness contact information, and any citations issued for violations of traffic laws or regulations. If you cannot secure a police report, make sure to take your own pictures of the accident scene and to collect witness information. Your attorney will work with you to analyze the strength of your case based on the available evidence and develop a plan to secure additional supporting evidence as needed.
Once you have determined that another party acted negligently, you will need to catalog your damages to secure recovery.
In general, negligent defendants are responsible for any injuries caused by such negligence. If you’ve sustained injuries in a rear-end collision, your damages likely extend well beyond your medical expenses. A crash can upend the victims’ entire lives, and they deserve compensation for these impacts.
Work with your attorney to evaluate your suffering and calculate how much compensation you should seek.
Some of the most commonly recovered damages include:
- Medical expenses: Your medical costs are the responsibility of the negligent party, including doctors’ bills, hospital stays, prescription medicine, emergency transportation, and assistive devices. Make sure to consider long-term care needs, like physical therapy and in-home care. Your attorney can help coordinate input from medical experts to estimate these future costs.
- Lost income: Many injuries necessitate that a victim miss work, work a reduced schedule, or perform lighter work responsibilities, resulting in lost wages. The negligent defendant is responsible for these lost wages. Many injuries limit victims’ long-term abilities to perform their jobs or advance in their careers. An economic expert can help evaluate the future impact of the injuries for inclusion in your damages demand.
- Property damage: If your property was damaged as a result of an accident, the defendant is responsible for repair or replacement. The most commonly damaged property is a vehicle, but make sure to consider other property, like electronics.
- Emotional distress: There is no doubt that car accidents are often jarring and traumatic for those involved, and many accident victims suffer from emotional distress as a result. Common emotional responses to a car accident are anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Work with your attorney to include the effects of your emotional distress in your damages demand.
- Loss of enjoyment: Physical injuries affect victims’ lives in many ways, including the ability to participate in activities that once brought them joy. Examples of these types of activities include music, athletics, and outdoor activities. While difficult to quantify, you should work with your attorney to include these damages in your compensation claim.
- Punitive/exemplary damages: Punitive damages punish defendants for egregious behavior rather than compensating plaintiffs for their injuries. The requirements around the behavior of the defendant vary from state-to-state. Some states, including Texas, also cap the punitive damages that a jury can award.
While the damages you have suffered might feel obvious, it is your job to prove your suffering to the court. You should avoid taking any actions that may hinder your recovery. One important step is to avoid posting on social media.
Consider the following scenarios:
- You post a picture of the accident on Instagram with the caption: “I guess I didn’t have my head on straight today.” The defendant will use this as evidence that you weren’t paying attention and thus bear responsibility for the accident.
- Your damages claim includes lost wages because your job requires you to be on your feet for long periods of time, a feat you can’t accomplish due to your injuries. You post a picture at the top of a mountain with the caption: “I really needed this five-mile hike today!” The defendant will use this picture to contest your claim that you can’t spend significant time on your feet.
Avoid any social media posting about your accident. Even if your social media accounts are private, a defendant can request the production of certain documents during discovery. Work with your attorney to develop a social media strategy throughout the progression of your case.
You should also consult with your attorney before accepting any settlement offer. A settlement offer may seem like an expeditious way to resolve the case, but don’t sell your injuries and your case short. Expect any early settlement offer from the defendant or his or her insurance provider to be much less than your requested damages amount. Your attorney can work with you to weigh the settlement amount against the strength of your case and to propose a counter-offer as appropriate.
Contact an Experienced Car Accident Attorney for More Information
One of the most helpful things that you can do for your case is to work with an experienced attorney. If possible, you should select an attorney with a long history of securing results for car accident victims. You want an attorney who is committed to helping his or her clients through each aspect of their cases, from initial case analysis and evidence gathering to preparing a damages claim and assessing settlement offers.
Contact an experienced car accident attorney in McAllen with experience handling cases that stem from rear-end collisions today to discuss the details of your case and determine your eligibility to seek compensation.
Patino Law Firm
1802 N 10th St
McAllen, TX 78501