How the Best Accident Attorneys Can Help if You are Injured in a Rear-end Collision
A rear-end car crash is a stressful and emotional experience, but it is even worse when you are injured. You may not have even realized the other vehicle was fast approaching and there was no warning or time for you to protect yourself before they crashed into the rear of your car. It is a nightmare.
The sad fact is rear-end car wrecks are a common form of car crash, and sure some are just basic fender benders. But:
A rear-end crash can be serious and result in severe injuries.
When the worst happens and you are injured in a rear-end accident, you should take immediate action to protect your rights and any potential reimbursement due to make you whole. If you have been injured in a rear-end accident, do not wait to act. There are time limitations as to when you can file a claim and retaining an experienced personal injury lawyer may maximize your chances of receiving a fair settlement.
The attorneys form the Law Offices of Joel J. Kofsky are experts in rear-end accidents and they may be able to help. The offer a no obligation, free initial consultation, so call to review your case. You have nothing to risk, but you may gain a valuable resource.
Who is Liable?
Just about everyone knows the rule-of-thumb, the car in the back of a rear-end crash is always guilty. But is this really the case? Almost, there are a few times where the liability is shared, or the fault lies with the driver in the front of the rear-end collision. In instances like:
- a driver reverses suddenly
- a driver stops suddenly to make a turn but fails to perform the turn
- a driver’s brake lights malfunction, and
- a driver gets a flat tire, but does not pull over and does not engage the vehicle’s hazard lights.
The most obvious exception would be if the car in front backs into the car in the “rear.” So, while the majority of rear-end collisions are caused by the car in the rear, do not assume that the front car is always free from guilt. There are exceptions to the rule of thumb.
Common Rear-End Accident Injuries
The term whiplash was once commonly associated with rear-end car crashes. It was used to describe just about any neck injury resulting from an occupant in a car that was rear-ended. And because of the nature of a car being hit from the rear, many occupants in a car that is rear-ended have their necks violently jerked, resulting in various neck injuries. So, it was almost expected to hear someone who was in a rear-end wreck incurred “whiplash.”
But the term whiplash is no longer used like it once was. It is a nonmedical, general term that has been overused and is not very accurate. So, today you will not hear it used much by doctors, lawyers, and insurance company representatives. Instead, they will use more precise terms like cervical sprain or strain, and cervical hyperextension injury.
But cervical sprains and hyperextension are not the only type of injury that can result. There are other injuries one can receive as a victim of a rear-end car crash like:
- Broken bones.
- Back injuries.
- Brain trauma.
- Head and neck injuries.
- Facial disfigurement.
- Wrist and arm injuries.
- Seat belt injuries to the neck, chest, and torso.
To make matters worse, many of the injuries suffered in rear-end accident often do not show up until hours or days after the accident. If you are offered medical care at the accident scene, take it. You may be hurt worse than you know since shock and adrenaline can mask pain and swelling will often not show up immediately after the strain or sprain. You need to be aware of the “symptoms” that may be present after you have been rear-ended. Watch for things like:
- Tenderness in the back of the neck and shoulders
- Neck swelling
- Muscle spasms in the back of the neck, the front of the neck, or in the back of the shoulders
- Distress while flexing, extending, or rotating the head
- Loss of concentration or focus
- Jaw tightness or difficulty chewing
- Signs of nerve damage like impaired or blurry vision and ringing in the ears
Variables in A Rear-end Accident that Affect the Type and Severity of Injuries
The type and severity of injuries resulting from a rear-end car crash are more diverse than many people think. They range from minor bruises and sprains to death. So, what why do the injuries vary so widely? Because there are many variables in a rear-end car crash and they will all impact the injuries that result, like:
- Make and Size of Involved Vehicles
- Location of Impact
- Seatbelt type and whether or not was used properly
- Airbag Deployment
- Seat Back Angle
- Seat Back and Headrest Height
Some variables are more obvious than others. For example, the faster another vehicle rams into the back of your car will affect how much force, and resulting violence is delivered from the impact. Or, if you are on a motorcycle that is rear-ended by a pickup truck, you are likely to be seriously injured.
But other variables, like was your seatbelt shoulder strap adjustable and was it over the right part of your torso, are not so obvious. But whether obvious or more obscure, these variables and others will determine what injuries result, and the severity, when a rear-end wreck occurs.
So, whiplash (e.g. neck sprains, strains, or hyperextensions) is far from the only injury that may happen. And some of the injuries can be severe and are often life-changing. If you have been injured in a rear-end accident caused by the carelessness of another driver, first see your doctor immediately. You need to get the proper medical treatment so your injuries can heal. After that, you may want to consider retaining the best car crash attorney you can, as the medical bills and other expenses may be the basis for an insurance claim.
Causes of Rear-End Accidents
It is common for those who were rear-ended while stopped, sitting at a light for example, to ask how could someone ram the back of their car. You were not even moving and the other driver must have seen you. Right?
Well, not necessarily. Police officers learn to be cautious when stopped on the side of the road with their lights flashing. Even with the bright warning lamps flashing, it is not uncommon for another car to ram into the rear of a cruiser while the police conduct a traffic stop or tend to another accident. Drivers do manage to hit the back of other cars every day and some of the most common causes include:
- Distracted driving (e.g. texting, putting on make-up, eating, etc.)
- Drug or alcohol abuse
- Failure to observe traffic signs and signals
- Impatient driving
- Weather and/or poor visibility
If you are involved in a rear-end accident, proving the driver who hit the rear of your car is critical for a successful claim. You must show there was negligence on the part of the other driver. While it is easy to assemble a list of why people cause rear-end collisions, it is much harder to prove that a driver is responsible for causing a rear-end collision for one, or a combination, of these reasons.
To pursue an insurance claim resulting from your injuries, you must prove negligence on the part of the other driver(s). An established car crash attorney is a valuable resource when trying to prove negligence. They have the years of training and experience, as well as the resources, to handle rear-end claims. A knowledgeable personal injury lawyer knows how to present evidence and facts in a professional manner to make a sound argument and verify your claims.
Types of Rear-End Collisions
The stereotypical image of a rear-end accident is two mid-sized sedans tapping bumpers. But there are many types of vehicles on the road and not all rear-end wrecks are the same. Some examples include but are not limited to:
- Fender Bender (car to car)
- Car bumper to car bumper at high speeds with injuries
- Car rear-ends motorcycle
- Motorcycle rear-ends car
- Underride (car rear-ends a commercial truck)
- Override (commercial truck rear-ends a car)
The rear-end crashes involving motorcycles, as well as override and underride rear-end wrecks involving commercial trucks are some of the most dangerous types of rear-end wrecks. Beyond the obvious large size and weight of a commercial truck compared to an average car, the trucks “bumpers” are also higher and different, frequently causing serious and/or life-threatening injuries. And obviously, a motorcycle rider has little protection when involved in any wreck.
Commercial trucks are a special case when it comes to rear-end crashes. Trailers are required to have a special “bumper”, called an underride guard, which is intended to keep a car that rear-ends a commercial truck from sliding under the trailer. But these guards are not always effective, and depending on how the car hits the underride guard, it may crush the car and it can become pinned far under the truck. Many occupants of a car that rear-ends a truck receive serious head or neck injuries or are killed.
The other way around, where the truck rear-ends the car, can result in the truck riding up and over the rear of the passenger car. This is called override and it too can result in extensive damage to the car, crushing it under trucks weight causing serious injury to passenger vehicle occupants.
The lack of proper over or underride guards is the responsibility of the commercial operator, so if you were hurt in a rear-end accident involving a commercial truck, you may want to review the matter with an experienced rear-end attorney to see if there was negligence on the part of the truck operator and/or company.
How Long Will It Take to Resolve My Rear-end Accident Claim?
If you have been hurt in a rear-end accident, you will likely need to file an insurance claim for your losses. That leads to a simple question, but one that is hard to answer:
- How long does it take to complete the process?
You should have collected the other driver’s information at the accident scene. If you can prove they were negligent, you may be able to file and collect on a claim with their insurance company. But it may be more complicated, you might even have to file with your own insurance company. An experienced personal injury lawyer knows how to handle the filing process and you may want to consider retaining a good car accident attorney to help you.
Once the insurance claim is filed, if it is clear the other driver is liable, the insurance company may choose to settle early and avoid stringing out the process. This is often the case with rear-end car crashes. If the claim is not abnormally large, and the negligence is obvious, they might decide to settle quickly in just a couple of months. If after thirty to ninety days they have not offered a settlement, then things become more complicated and the process will take longer.
If the insurance company denies your claim or is difficult, you may need to file a lawsuit after it becomes clear they are not willing to settle early. This will escalate the process and you will now need to start to build your case for trial or arbitration.
Arbitration is a streamlined way to have disputes settled, compared to the tradition courtroom trial. It is also sometimes agreed to as part of your insurance policy. However, there are pros and cons to arbitration and you may want a conventional trial, so things can become complex. You would be best to retain a lawyer if you are involved in arbitration. An experienced accident attorney can help you manage the arbitration, or work around the arbitration if it is better to go to court. If your case is complex and there is a lot of information that needs to be collected, you may want to go to trial and an attorney will know how to file a lawsuit and avoid arbitration.
To prepare for a trial, you will need to start your discovery (or expand it if you were preparing for arbitration). Discovery is the legal world’s procedure for collecting all the information regarding your claim. This can be answers to interrogatories, pertinent documents, captured testimony, phone records, photographs, or anything that is considered evidence in the case. Discovery takes time, and all the parties will assemble and review the collected information. During this time, about six to twelve months, the arguments each side will make start to become clear. It is not unusual for the insurance companies to try and settle during discovery as the facts make the picture of what happened a little clearer.
If there is no settlement through discovery, then it’s time to get ready for trial, right? Well, maybe not. Your insurance company may include a provision for disputes to be settled through arbitration. And it is common for the court to schedule a mediation. All the parties meet with a third-party mediator, and the goal is simple, reach a settlement. This mediation process can be a bit usual to the uninitiated, but it is not that complex. It just takes some patience. One of the things the mediator will do is present the likely outcome to all the parties in an attempt to reach an agreement.
If the mediation fails, then you are headed for trial. Trials are unpredictable and long, stressful affairs. For this reason, a low percentage of cases go to trial. But if you do, expect it take longer than two years.