Proving Fault in Rear-End Collisions
Accidents happen every day. Nowhere is this more prevalent than when operating a vehicle. Further, more car accidents involve rear-end collisions than any other category. Unfortunately, being involved in a rear-end collision is never a good experience. Whether the victim of the accident or the vehicle operator being held responsible, both parties are likely to be faced with at least some stressful bills, paperwork, pain, suffering, and/or emotional distress. Accordingly, regardless of the outcome, it is safe to say that there is nothing good that comes out of a rear-end collision. For reimbursement of the costs involved with recovering from any injuries suffered as a result of the rear-end collision retaining the services of an experienced personal injury attorney is crucial. Recently, a Florida man was awarded nearly $2 million when he was rear-ended by an employee of a Fort Pierce automobile dealership. The injured individual, who has not been able to work since the December 2014 accident, sustained neck injuries and is still in need of medical care. A discussion of the legal theory for personal injury, as well as how responsibility is determined in rear-end collisions, and some common rear-end collision injuries, will follow below.
Negligence is the legal theory used in personal injury claims. Generally, negligence is an assertion that the other party has acted irresponsibly or improperly. In other words, to be successful in a negligence action, an injured plaintiff must prove the following elements:
- The Defendant had a duty to act in a specific manner so as not to cause harm to other individuals;
- The Defendant failed in this duty;
- This failure directly caused injuries to the Plaintiff; and
- The injuries to the Plaintiff can be quantified, and are recoverable, as damages.
Responsibility for Rear-End Collisions
The general rule, in the majority of cases, is that the driver of the vehicle who hit the vehicle in the back is liable for the damages caused. This is because, in the majority of cases, it is the rear vehicle who actually makes contact with the front vehicle. However, there are some instances in which the rear vehicle will not be held liable for the rear-end collision, even if he/she was the driver who initiated the collision. For example, if the front driver was driving recklessly and needlessly stopped without allowing the rear driver proper time to react, the rear driver may not be at fault.
Common Injuries from a Rear-End Collision
- Whiplash describes pain and stiffness in the neck and shoulder area that occurs when an accident victim is suddenly and violently thrown forward by the force of a collision. The movement, sometimes characterized by a snap forward then backward, forces the neck and spine well beyond their normal range of motion.
- Back Injuries. When a vehicle is hit from behind, the force of the impact can seriously injure the spine. The impact from a rear-end collision can compress the spine, causing injury to spinal discs (disc herniation), damage to the facet joint, and/or injury to the spinal cord and nerves.
- Head and Face Injuries. Although most vehicles are equipped with airbags, most rear-end collisions occur at low speeds, when airbags may not deploy. In such a case, the driver’s face may slam into the steering wheel or dash. In addition, impacting the steering wheel, dash, or even the airbag may cause cuts, bruises, and scrapes to the face and head.
- Arm and Hand Injuries. Since most people are holding onto the steering wheel when involved in a rear-end collision, injuries to the arm, shoulders, hands, fingers, and wrists are a very real possibility.
- Seatbelt Injuries. Although seatbelts are obviously a safety device, in a rear-end collision, the torso is thrust forward against the seatbelt, which may lacerate the individual’s skin, bruise his/her body, or contribute to whiplash.
Seek Legal Advice
If you have been involved in a rear-end collision, and are curious as to what your rights and responsibilities are, contact the experienced personal injury attorneys at Pita Weber & Del Prado as soon as possible. We will be able to explain the consequences of the collision and determine who should be held responsible for your injuries. Our knowledge can help you get the compensation you deserve. Contact our Miami office today for an initial consultation.