Over 1.7 million rear end collisions occur each year in the United States. The congested roads of New York and New Jersey create conditions particularly ripe for rear-end crashes and the serious injuries that result from them.
In this blog post, we explore the facts about rear-end collisions: how they happen, the serious injuries they cause, and how a lawyer can help you get the compensation you deserve if you suffer harm because of one. To learn about your specific rights after a rear-end collision, contact an experienced motor vehicle accident injury attorney today.
Causes of Rear End Collisions
Rear end collisions happen when the front end of one vehicle collides with the rear end of another. They usually take place at locations where traffic gets congested: at stop signs and intersections, on crowded highways, and even in shopping center parking lots.
These accidents happen for many different reasons, including:
- Distracted driving, such as when a driver loses focus by texting and driving, and does not see traffic stopped ahead;
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, which slows reaction times and impairs drivers’ ability to judge speed and distance;
- Poor maintenance on a vehicle that makes it difficult to control or stop;
- Drowsy driving, which can impair a driver’s abilities just as much as driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol;
- Speeding, which on its own shrinks reaction times and expands stopping distances necessary to avoid a collision; and
- Following too close, a reckless driving behavior that puts all motorists at risk.
Rear end collisions have a reputation as somewhat minor accidents. When someone uses the term fender bender, a rear end crash often comes to mind. The truth is, however, that no matter the cause of a rear end collision, it can cause injuries that forever impact a victim’s life.
Rear End Accident Injuries
Experienced motor vehicle accident injury lawyers know all-too-well the severe and devastating harm rear end accidents can inflict on drivers and passengers of all vehicles involved. Here are some of the serious, life-altering injuries a rear end crash may cause:
- Traumatic brain injury. The impact of a rear end collision frequently causes vehicle occupants to sustain a jolt or blow to the head. The sudden force can inflict damage to the brain in the form of tearing, bleeding, swelling, and bruising. Depending upon the severity of the damage, this traumatic brain injury can leave a victim with a host of physical and mental impairments.
- Neck and shoulder soft tissue injury. The same force of impact that can cause traumatic brain injury also frequently strains, sprains, and tears soft tissue in a person’s neck and shoulders. These injuries leave victims in severe pain, limiting mobility and frequently leading to chronic headaches and stiffness.
- Spinal cord injury. Any vehicle impact sends shock waves through a vehicle passenger cabin, wrenching and twisting occupants’ bodies at unnatural angles. Sometimes, those shocks cause damage to the structures of the spinal column and, in turn, to the bundle of nerves within it known as the spinal cord. Spinal cord injuries, depending upon their location on the spinal and the severity of the damage, can leave victims permanently paralyzed.
- Back injuries. Even if a vehicle occupant escapes a rear end crash without a spinal cord injury, sustaining damage to the spinal column and soft tissue in the back remains a severe risk. Back injuries cause debilitating pain and frequently require long-term care and treatment.
Make no mistake: rear end accidents cause severe, life-changing injuries. Even a minor rear end crash can inflict major suffering, not to mention large financial cost. No matter how a rear end collision injured you, an experienced motor vehicle accident injury attorney can help you recover the compensation you deserve.
Rear End Drivers Usually Deserve Some of the Blame
To obtain compensation for clients’ rear end collision injuries, lawyers must first identify who has legal liability for the crash.
Motorists have a duty to drive in a manner that allows them to avoid a collision. A rear end collision usually represents a prime example of the driver of the trailing vehicle failing to follow that rule. That is why lawyers will typically look to the driver of the trailing vehicle as a potential party with legal liability for damages in a rear end collision.
However, lawyers also know not to pin all of the blame on a single driver. Other factors can contribute to the causes of a rear end collision, which means that other individuals and entities might also come in for some of the blame. For example, if a rear end collision results from brake failure on the trailing car, then that car’s regular mechanic or its manufacturer could shoulder some of the blame. If the collision happened because the leading vehicle’s tail lights burned out, then the driver of the leading car could share blame, too.
After a rear end collision, experienced attorneys know to investigate the facts and circumstances to identify all of the parties who may have made decisions or taken actions that contributed to the collision. Each of those parties may have legal liability for any injuries the accident caused.
Proving Legal Liability
How does a lawyer prove who has legal liability for injuries caused by a rear end collision? As a general matter, the lawyer seeks to identify any individual or entity (such as a business) that made poor decisions or engaged in careless, reckless, or intentionally harmful actions that led to the crash. The lawyer will look not just at the events immediately leading up to the crash, but also to the longer chain of events that may have preceded it.
So, for example, the lawyer may dig into a vehicle’s maintenance history to learn when it last had its brakes serviced. The lawyer may investigate whether the driver of the trailing vehicle had previously received tickets for reckless behavior behind the wheel. The lawyer may ask to see cell phone records to figure out if a driver sent a text moments before the impact.
Every case has its own facts and circumstances, which means lawyers will approach each one differently in identifying the information needed to prove legal liability. However, in every rear end accident matter, experienced lawyers aim to obtain the most money possible for a client’s injuries, and that almost always starts with digging into the facts.
Monetary Damages for Rear End Crash Injuries
With hard work, lawyers can hope to identify all of the parties who may have a legal liability to their clients for monetary damages, and to collect evidence that proves just how much money their clients should receive. The amount of money a client might seek varies from case-to-case, depending upon the circumstances of a rear end crash.
However, as a general matter, persons injured in a collision may have the right to receive compensation for:
- Medical expenses associated with the accident injuries;
- Lost wages resulting from missing work because of injuries;
- In-home services and other expenses incurred because of the injuries;
- The toll taken by physical pain and emotional struggling; and
- Harm done by the injuries to personal relationships and enjoyment of life.
No one can guarantee that rear end accident injuries will entitle you to these, or any, damages. However, working with an experienced attorney represents the most reliable way to give yourself the best chance possible of obtaining every dollar of compensation you deserve under the law.
The Role of Insurance Companies in Rear End Collisions
Drivers in no-fault states, including New Jersey and New York, must carry personal injury protection (PIP) auto insurance to protect themselves and others against the financial consequences of a crash. PIP insures them against the costs of their own injuries up to a limit set by the policy, without regard to who was at fault for an accident. PIP coverage pays for medical and other injury-related expenses first, before any other coverage applies.
New Jersey and New York drivers must also carry liability insurance, which covers others against harm a driver causes in a crash. The circumstances under which someone can seek compensation from someone else’s liability insurance, and the nature of the damages a person can seek payment for, vary under a somewhat complex set of auto insurance laws. Speak with an experienced car accident injury attorney about what effect any auto insurance policy that covers you may have on your ability to take legal action for damages against someone else.
Complexities aside, however, it is safe to say that nearly all rear end collisions that cause any kind of property damage or personal injury will trigger insurance coverages. This leads to complications when, as is often the case, the injuries from a rear end crash make it likely that someone’s liability insurance will need to pay compensation to accident victims, but the parties dispute who caused the accident or how much money insurance should pay. Fortunately, experienced motor vehicle accident lawyers handle these sorts of disputes on a routine basis.
One other unfortunate circumstance that can occur involves insurance companies scrambling to minimize their financial exposure to a rear end accident by offering quick settlements to injured parties. Their hope in these cases is to get someone to agree to take money before that person realizes the extent of damage an accident has caused. Do not fall for this tactic. If someone else’s insurance company calls you after a rear end collision and offers you compensation, you can bet their offer would not give you the amount of money you deserve. Say no, and refer them to your attorney instead.
What to Do After an Accident
Realistically, no one can plan for an unexpected rear end crash. However, it can help to follow these three easy-to-remember tips in the immediate aftermath of a collision to protect your health, safety, and legal rights:
- Call the authorities. Do not leave the scene of the accident. That will only get you into trouble. If another vehicle slammed into yours from behind, then summon the police to the scene of the accident right away.
- Exchange information. Make sure you get the other driver’s name, contact details, and insurance information. The easiest way to do this is to take a picture of the driver’s license and insurance card with your camera phone. While you are at it, also take pictures of your vehicle, the other car, and the accident scene. These images may prove useful to your attorney in seeking compensation on your behalf.
- See a doctor. Always visit a doctor as soon as possible after an accident, even if you do not feel injured. Some rear end accident injuries do not show symptoms right away, but a medical examination can detect them and put you on the path to recovery as soon as possible. As an added benefit, seeing a doctor generates important medical records that can prove useful in enforcing your rights to compensation.
Then, contact a lawyer. The sooner you seek experienced legal counsel, the higher your chances of obtaining the compensation you deserve for your injuries. If you wait too long, evidence could go missing and, in some cases, you might lose your legal rights altogether. Protect your personal and financial interests by speaking with an attorney who knows how to gather important evidence, navigate the complex issues surrounding insurance coverage, and enforce your legal rights in court if need be.
Speak With a Lawyer Today
Rear end accidents may sound minor, but they cause major harm every day. The severe, even life-threatening injuries caused by a rear end crash can inflict lasting physical, emotional, and financial pain on victims and their families.
Victims can hold the party responsible for causing that pain accountable by calling on the services of an experienced motor vehicle accident injury attorney. If you find yourself the victim of a rear end collision, contact an experienced car accident attorney today for a free consultation.