It only takes a moment to change your life forever. One second you are stopped at a red light on Cambridge Street, a fresh cup of hot coffee in your cup holder and a dozen donuts in the passenger seat for the team at work. The next, you feel a sharp jolt from behind, and suddenly steaming coffee is running down the inside of your windshield, your airbags have deployed, and you hear ringing in your ears. You look in your rearview mirror, and the back window is shattered. You see the grille of another vehicle almost sitting in the back seat. The sweet smell of antifreeze from a punctured radiator is so strong you can taste it. You have just been involved in Boston’s most common type of motor vehicle accident: a rear-end collision. Many rear-end collisions could have been avoided, were it not for someone else’s careless or reckless actions. In this blog post, we explore rear-end collisions in Boston—how they happen, who’s to blame, and what a Boston lawyer can do for you if you get hurt in one.
What Is a Rear-End Collision?
In a rear-end collision, as the name suggests, the front of one car hits the rear of another. It typically happens when the driver of the trailing vehicle fails to recognize that the leading vehicle has slowed or stopped, and cannot stop in time to avoid a crash.
Boston Rear-End Collision Statistics and Facts
Every year, millions of motorists around the United States get into rear-end collisions. Half a million of those result in injuries and around 2,500 result in death. Boston is no stranger to rear-end collisions. According to MassDOT, over three years in Boston, the city saw over 4,500 rear-end collisions, about a quarter of which resulted in injuries. Rear-end collisions happen throughout Boston, but some locations see a concentration of them, according to MassDOT data. It will come as no surprise to Boston drivers to learn that many of the highest-volume locations for rear-end accidents in the Hub are found at highway interchanges (especially in the tunnels) and heavy-traffic roads, such as:
- Exits and interchanges along the length of I-93, especially the Big Dig portions, from TD Garden to the Mass Pike.
- Storrow Drive, especially at the intersection with Mass Ave
- The Mass Pike, especially near the Copley and Mass Ave exits
But don’t be lulled into complacency by assuming rear-end accidents only happen on major thoroughfares. Anywhere you drive in Boston, a moment’s inattention could result in a rear-end collision.
Common Causes of Rear-End Collisions in Boston
This list is by no means exhaustive, but if you have been involved in a rear-end collision any number of these may sound familiar. Road conditions: Boston is one of America’s oldest cities and home to some of the most intricate streets, expressways, and country roads. There are thousands of miles of paved motorways that crisscross Boston, and hundreds of thousands of vehicles share these roads every day. Traffic is a major contributing factor to rear-end collisions, with people changing lanes, driving too quickly on their commute, and even just the quantity of cars sharing the road can lead to rear-end collisions.
Weather: As a northern, coastal city, Boston is no stranger to changing weather. Rainy conditions, snow, ice, and other conditions can affect traction. When a vehicle stops suddenly, just about any weather condition of this kind can limit a vehicle’s ability to react to a vehicle that stops in front of them, resulting in a collision.
Visibility: Fog, snow, and rain limit a driver’s ability to see and react to a situation up ahead. Any type of wet or icy weather is a perfect recipe for a rear-end collision. Driving too fast: Many of us are in a hurry to get where we are going, which only makes things worse when something goes wrong. Driving too fast limits your reaction time to any situation (not to mention the people driving behind you). When split seconds count, your chances of being involved in an accident increase exponentially at higher speeds.
Driving while impaired: Driving while intoxicated or under the influence of drugs (even prescribed medication) hinders your judgment as well as your situational awareness. Every year, thousands of people die because of accidents involving drunk or impaired drivers. Rear-end collisions are very common, since oftentimes someone who is impaired may become fixated on the vehicle in front of them and have no time to react if they suddenly stop.
Texting and driving: According to recent studies, the technology that everyone seems to enjoy because of its convenience can often be deadly. Drivers distracted while texting have almost more of a chance of a serious crash than intoxicated drivers.
Faulty vehicle: Regular maintenance is an important responsibility when it comes to operating a motor vehicle. Brakes are critical to motor safety as are warning devices such as taillights, brake lights, and turn signals. Communication is key when sharing the road with others, or else you risk being injured in an accident.
Heavy traffic: Rush hour, construction zones, bottlenecks, and other conditions which make traffic suddenly more congested are big contributors to rear-end collisions. When cars are changing lanes and jockeying for position to maneuver, you can expect a greater chance of a collision.
Injuries are common in a rear-end collision. When you are in an accident, your body is at the mercy of physics, with incredible amounts of force being exuded on your vehicle from another at just about any speed. Your seatbelt, airbags, and even crumple zones of your car are designed to lessen the severity of an impact if possible, but only a little force is needed to render these less effective. Not all injuries are as minor as they seem, especially in a rear-end collision. No matter the severity of the impact, seek medical attention! Here are just a few ways you might have sustained an injury in a crash.
- Whiplash: When the force of the impact causes your head to move in one direction suddenly and then back again, this is known as whiplash. Massive amounts of force are focused on one of the most vulnerable parts of your body—your neck. Whiplash can be as minor as sore muscles or hairline fractures, or as major as damage to your brain or spinal cord.
- Facial abrasions: Your body is at the mercy of incredible forces during a collision, and it isn’t uncommon to sustain facial injuries from broken glass, impacting the dashboard or steering wheel. Due to the nature of the impact, some airbags might not deploy, leaving you vulnerable to hitting any number of solid objects during a crash with your face. Many of these injuries can be life-threatening or permanently disfiguring.
- Fractures: Not only is your neck vulnerable to an impact of this kind, but also your ribs, collarbone, limbs, and other bones. Some of these breaks are extremely serious and may require surgery or extensive recovery times.
- Airbag injuries: Airbags deploy at incredible speeds, with a lot of velocity to soften the impact of your body against harder substances in the car, such as the dashboard, steering wheel, or windshield. Airbags may cause burns, abrasions, or even contusions.
- Death: Some impacts result in the death of drivers, passengers, and other bystanders. Those who survive are left with the pain and suffering of loss for the rest of their lives.
Traumatic Brain Injuries
Worthy of its own section, traumatic brain injuries (TBI) commonly result from rear-end collisions. As we learn more about the human brain and nervous system, we are beginning to understand that something as minor as a concussion may result in permanent damage. When a body in motion stops suddenly and changes direction, such as your head during a crash, the brain is very susceptible to damage because of the soft tissue contained in your skull. The bones in your skull do a fine job of protecting it from external forces; however, when it comes to inertia, the brain is highly vulnerable. Blood vessels, arteries, and other soft tissue in the brain can shear, resulting in bruising of the brain, pressure from cavities inside the skull and brain itself filling with blood, and only emergency surgery can limit or remedy these injuries when done immediately. A slow brain bleed that has been undetected can lead to permanent brain damage and even death. Any TBI is potentially life-changing, with the possibility of lingering effects such as vertigo, memory loss, loss of motor function, migraine headaches, loss of hearing or vision, and the potential to impair cognitive function. Long-term rehabilitation is often needed, but in many cases these injuries may become permanent disabilities, affecting someone’s ability to live a comfortable life.
Those surviving a rear-end collision are often left with a lot of problems to attempt to solve—many of which are detrimental to their quality of life indefinitely.
- Loss of time at work: If you are injured, there is a good chance your hospitalization or recovery is going to impact your job. Depending on your vocation, it might even mean that your ability to perform that job will be limited or completely ruined.
- Loss of income: With the loss of time at work, your income will decrease immediately, if not permanently. Most people cannot sustain life on disability pay. With only a percentage of your paycheck available during short and long-term disability, your quality of life will decline.
- Medical bills: Even with health insurance, the cost of surgeries, rehabilitation, and even long-term care are extremely expensive. Without compensation, you could be facing a personal economic crisis.
- Pain of suffering: Many survivors of a rear-end collision experience the long-term effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. This can result in problems sleeping, anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, and other health problems associated with trauma. Especially if the collision resulted in the death of another person. You should be compensated for injury done to your mental health as well as physical.
- Permanent and long-term disability: Putting your life back together after a serious rear-end collision is something many people will face. You may need to endure disabilities such as paralysis, TBI, disfigurement, or loss of a limb for the rest of your life.
What Does a Car Collision Lawyer Do After a Rear-End Accident?
A rear-end collision lawyer will help you navigate the legal system to protect your rights and to make sure you are fairly represented during the process. If you are involved in a rear-end collision, do not assume responsibility for the accident at the scene of the crash. You might not be accurate in this assessment. Allow your attorney to help make that call. In addition, a Boston car collision attorney: Investigates claims: Your attorney will review any evidence of the collision to help determine fault, as well as gather evidence to use in settlement or court proceedings. They are also critical in communicating with insurance companies to get you proper compensation. Acts as a liaison with insurance companies and other parties involved. Insurance companies often act with the best interests of their bottom line at heart. Despite paying years of premiums to protect your quality of life and property, you might find it difficult to be compensated fairly for a rear-end collision. With so many factors contributing to the continuing quality of life, or even a permanent life change, insurance companies should have a responsibility to award payouts to help their customers. This isn’t always the case. Your attorney will work to ensure you get the maximum compensation from your insurer. You have just been through a traumatic event, and your attorney will also work with other parties involved to take that weight off your shoulders and operate as objectively and knowledgeable as they can during these times. The legal system: Your attorney is trained extensively on how to navigate the confusing and often intimidating legal system. They can gather information to use as leverage during the settlement phase with other parties and insurers, as well as represent you zealously in a court of law if it comes down to a trial. Statute of limitations: In Massachusetts, you have three years to litigate a rear-end collision. This might sound like a lot of time, but to the court system, it will pass by quickly. In that time, you risk losing quality evidence, eyewitness accounts, and even more accident expenses.
Talk to an Attorney Today
If you are involved in a rear-end collision, there are a few things to keep in mind. First of all, seek immediate medical attention! Your injuries may be more severe than you think. Also, never assume fault for a rear-end collision. You’ve just been through a traumatic event and might not be thinking clearly. Talk to a lawyer to protect your rights and investigate the accident. A lawyer will also help make sure that insurance companies pay out fairly, without low-balling you to save a little bit of money. After all, this is your life, and you cannot put a price on it.