A rear-end collision is an accident that occurs when one vehicle hits another from the rear. Such an accident can happen when vehicles move on a highway or when one car is stationary. If a collision occurs when vehicles are traveling at high speed, the resulting injuries could be fatal. Most of these injuries take a while to recover from, which can take a toll on your personal, professional, and financial life.
Fortunately, all victims of a rear-end collision may be entitled to compensation for their injuries. You can recover your damages by filing a claim from the fault parties’ insurance company or a lawsuit in court. Before you recover for your damages, you must establish liability for the accident and link a defendant’s actions with the accident.
Navigating a personal injury claim is challenging, especially when nursing your injuries. Therefore, seeking legal guidance is critical. At Foos Gavin Law Firm, we offer competent legal advice representation for all our clients seeking compensation for a rear-end collision in Sacramento, CA.
An Overview of Rear-End Collisions
There are many types of accidents that you could suffer while you operate a vehicle on the roads in California. A rear-end collision occurs when one car hits the other vehicle from the rear side. With up to 1.7 million accidents reported yearly in the United States, rear-end crashes are prevalent. Although this type of accident is less catastrophic than rollover and head-on collisions, it does not come without some risks.
In addition to the assumption that rear-end collisions do not cause substantial injuries, most people believe that the following driver is always liable for the accident. However, this is not true since there are instances where the lead driver can be held fully or partially responsible for the accident.
If you are involved in a rear-end collision, you are entitled to compensation for your injuries. By establishing liability, you can seek compensation from the at-fault party's insurance company or file a claim against all individuals who contributed to the accident.
Common Causes of Rear-End Car Collisions
Rear-end collisions can cause serious injuries or death to the victims. Understanding the cause of your accident is crucial to identifying the liable parties and seeking compensation. Common causes of rear-end collisions include:
A distracted driver is a driver whose physical and mental concentration is away from vehicle control or the road. Several forms of distractions could result in one vehicle hitting the other from behind, including:
- Texting or use of a cell phone
- Snacking while driving
- Grooming behind the wheel
- Checking directions from the GPS
- Visual distractions from outside the vehicle
If you can prove that another driver’s distraction caused your accident, you can file a claim against them and recover compensation.
Driving under the drug or alcohol influence is a common cause of many traffic accidents in California. While drunk driving is a crime that attracts severe penalties, some drivers still engage in this behavior. When drivers are under the influence, their judgment and perception of distance and speed are impaired. Additionally, an intoxicated driver cannot promptly react to emergencies. This makes it easy for such a driver to hit another vehicle from the rear or stop suddenly, causing another driver to crash behind their car.
A tired driver has a level of impairment that of a drunk driver. When a driver operates a vehicle after long working hours or fails to sleep enough, they can fall asleep behind the wheel and lose control of their vehicle. Other factors that could result in driver drowsiness include listening to music or drinking caffeine.
Speeding is a leading cause of accidents and fatalities on the roads in California. Especially in heavy traffic, speeding can result in a rear-end collision. When a vehicle is at high speed, the driver's control over the car is limited. Therefore, when a speeding driver approaches a part of the road where vehicles have slowed, the driver can cause a series of rear-end collisions. Sometimes, speeding means exceeding the limit, while other times, driving too fast, given the weather and traffic conditions.
We all have felt some frustrations with other drivers at one point. However, when our frustration translates to uncontrollable rage, unsafe situations can arise on the road. If another driver slams their vehicle on yours from the rear, you can build a personal injury lawsuit citing road rage as the cause of your accident.
Sometimes, an accident may be caused by factors other than driver error. When a vehicle part fails while a driver operates, the possibility of an accident may be inevitable. Some vehicle part defects that could result in rear-end collisions include a defective tire, brake failure, and steering wheel defendants. When these parts are faulty, the driver could lose control of the vehicle and hit other cars.
California law has set rules on the distance drivers must keep with the vehicle in front of them. Tailgating, which involves following closely, is a dangerous behavior. Tailgating can be caused by aggressive driving behavior, heavy traffic, or driver distractions. If a driver followed too closely and hit you from the rear, they can be liable for your accident and injuries. However, the court may need you to prove this fact.
The most reliable way to prove that the defendant was following is through camera footage. Sometimes, cameras delete footage after a while. Therefore, if a tailgating driver caused the rear-end collision, you must obtain this evidence as soon as possible.
Injuries Common to Rear-End Collisions
While some rear-end collisions are dismissed since they cause little or no harm, rear-end car accidents that occur when vehicles move at high speed can be deadly for everyone involved. Some of the most common injuries you could suffer in a rear-end crash include the following:
Whiplash and Other Neck Injuries
Whiplash is a neck injury caused by forceful or rapid back-and-forth neck movement. Rear-end car collisions are a common cause of this type of injury. However, you may feel better a few weeks after the accident. There are cases where whiplash can cause more severe complications. If you are involved in a rear-end collision, you need to look out for the following symptoms of whiplash:
- Neck stiffness and pain
- Pain and tenderness on the upper back and shoulders
- Dizziness and fatigue
- Numbness and tingling sensations on the arms and back
- Severe headache
- Blurred vision
- Sleep disturbance
When a rear-end collision happens at high speed, the probability of being thrown around the vehicle increases. Impact with vehicle parts and other objects in the car could cause broken bones. While any bone in the body can break from excessive force, the most common areas you could suffer a fracture from a rear-end crash include:
- Fractured arm bones. Your arms have the ulna, radius, and humerus as the main bines. An attempt to brace yourself from an accident can cause fractures to these bones.
- Fractured wrist bones. When your vehicle is shaken from the accident impact, you can be compelled to use your arms for balance. The wrist contains small, fragile bones which could break from such action.
- Fractured femur. The femur is one of the strongest and longest bones in your body. However, the impact may be too much for the bone to absorb in a severe collision.
- Fractured ribs. An impact from the airbag and pressure from your seatbelt are common causes of broken ribs in car collisions. When a fractured rib bone is severe, the broken parts can cause injury to the internal organs under the ribcage.
Although broken bones are not catastrophic injuries, they take a while to recover. This could cause you to spend significant time in the hospital and undergo painful reconstructive procedures.
A brain injury is among the most catastrophic injuries you can suffer from a car crash. Often, a brain injury occurs from blunt force trauma to the head. Additionally, penetration of sharp metals from the collision can cause damage. Brain injuries affect victims not only physically but also socially and mentally. You could suffer memory loss, mood shifts, and a decline in cognitive abilities. Therefore, you may be eligible to recover compensation for these injuries from the person liable for your accident.
If you experience the following symptoms of brain injury after a rear-end collision, you should not hesitate to seek medical care:
- Blurred vision
- Nausea and vomiting
- Difficulty coordinating
- Severe headaches
- Loss of consciousness
Back and Spinal Cord Injuries
The spine is a critical part of your body that serves many functions. An injury to this part could significantly affect the quality of your life. In a rear-end collision, a spinal cord injury begins when an object strikes your back, causing damage to the spinal cord bones or nerves of the spine. A spinal cord injury could be complete or incomplete, depending on the severity of the impact.
If your spine is completely severed, your ability to control your limbs, bowel, and bladder could prove challenging. Treatment for spinal cord injuries can take a toll on your finances. Additionally, your ability to return to work becomes limited.
Liability in Rear-End Collision Accidents
You will want to seek compensation if you suffer an injury in a rear-end collision. You can do this through the fault party's insurance company or by filing a personal injury claim. When you file a claim for your injuries, allocating fault for the accident is crucial. Unlike popular belief, fault in rear-end collision is not automatic. Although the rear driver may be at fault for tailgating and dialing to keep the correct distance, the lead driver could also shoulder liability for your accident and injuries.
Additionally, drivers moving in opposite directions or even pedestrians can contribute significantly to these accidents. In California, liability for car accidents is based on negligence. Negligence is acting in a manner that disregards the safety of other people or property on the road. Before you recover compensation for your injuries and losses, you must establish the following elements of negligence:
Duty of Care
Each driver must ensure the safety of other road users. California law requires drivers to use reasonable caution when operating their vehicles. Some of the actions that exhibit reasonable care includes:
- Driving at a reasonable speed. A vehicle driver or motorist must operate within the recommended and safe speed. Sometimes, driving at the recommended speed limit could be dangerous, especially in poor weather or poor road conditions.
- Vigilance and proper lookout. Drivers have the responsibility to be alert at all times. This can be achieved by avoiding conduct like drunk driving or distracted driving.
- Proper vehicle maintenance. Vehicle parts failing while the drivers operate is a common cause of accidents. Therefore, drivers have to ensure that they use road-worthy vehicles.
Breach of Duty
Proving that a liable party owed you a duty of care is not enough to prove that they caused your accident or are responsible for your injuries. You must provide further evidence that the defendant breached the duty. A breach of duty involves acting in a way that places you in danger of severe bodily injury or harm. Actions like following too closely or stopping the vehicle suddenly can constitute a breach of duty in your lawsuit.
After you establish that a defendant breached their duty of care towards you, you must show the link between their actions and your accident or injury. While a defendant’s actions must not be the only factor in your accident, they must be significant.
The last element you need to prove when establishing liability for a rear-end collision is that the accident caused you damages. Although a physical injury is not necessary to recover compensation from an accident lawsuit, you must show how the accident has affected your life. Some of the evidence of damages that you need to prove includes your medical bills, evidence of lost wages, and future earning capacity. If your loved one lost their life in the accident, you could show how it impacted your life.
Is the Rear Driver Always at Fault in a Rear-End Car Accident?
In California, there is an assumption that the rear driver is responsible for a rear-end collision. However, this is not the case. There are many instances where the lead driver can shoulder liability for this type of accident, including:
- Pulling out suddenly in front of another vehicle
- Unsafe lane changes in front of another vehicle
- Braking without reasonable cause
- Reversing into another car at a parking lot
- Road rage, which results in actions like slamming brakes unnecessarily
- Failure to execute a turn after stopping
- Failure to pull over to the side after a vehicle breakdown
- California is a comparative liability state
California is a comparative negligence state. Therefore, you can still recover compensation even when you are partially at fault for the accident. Therefore, if you feel that you contributed to the rear-end collision, you should not shy away from seeking compensation from the insurance company or filing a lawsuit.
Compensation Benefits in a Rear-End Collision Accident Lawsuit
When you are injured in a rear-end collision, you can seek compensation by negotiating with the insurance company or filing a civil lawsuit in court. For either suit, you have the liability to present evidence showing how the liable party's actions resulted in your accident and injuries. Some of the benefits you can recover from your Lawsuit include:
Depending on the seriousness of your accident, the injuries resulting from a rear-end collision can cost you a fortune in medical expenses. Your medical bills accumulate when an ambulance arrives at the accident scene to take you to a medical facility. You may incur additional costs in surgical procedures, diagnosis of injuries, and medications.
Since most fault parties will not accept liability for the accident before it is proven in court, you may have to pay the medical bills. You can cover the bills using medical insurance or consulting physicians who provide care on a lien. When a party breaches their duty of care towards you, the court will hold them responsible for your medical expenses. When your lawsuit is settled, you can reimburse your insurance company.
Before you receive compensation for your medical bills, you must provide evidence of your injuries. You can do this by obtaining your medical records, which indicate all the procedures you have undergone and how much they cost you. If you had an underlying condition worsened by your accident, you could still recover compensation.
Some injuries from a rear-end crash make it impossible for you to return to work for weeks or even months. The amount you lose when you cannot work due to your injuries is known as lost wages. In a successful claim, you can recover lost wages that may be:
- Monthly salary
- Income from self-employment
Since you must back your claim with evidence, you must prove the amount you lost in wages. A common way to prove lost wages is by obtaining a letter from your employer. Often, this approach is applicable when you have a regular or permanent job. The letter from your employer will indicate the number of hours you work in a day and the amount you earn each hour. If you are self-employed or cannot obtain the employer's letter, you can use your pay stubs or tax return documents to prove lost earnings.
Lost Future Earnings
Lost earning capacity is the loss of your ability to work and make money in the future owing to accident injuries. Some injuries from a rear-end crash may leave you with permanent injuries that take a long time to recover. If your injuries have not recovered when you receive your settlement from the lawsuit, you are entitled to the lost earning damages. Although lost earnings are challenging to determine, the court can consider the following factors:
- Your age and life expectancy
- Your health before the accident
- The number of working years you have left
- Your long-term career prospects
- Your performance and reviews
- The terms of your employment
Pain and Suffering
Injuries from a rear-end crash can cause severe physical pain and mental anguish. Although there is no dollar value for pain, receiving damages for pain and suffering helps lessen the financial burden of the accident. There is no exact way to calculate your pain and suffering. However, having high medical bills and evidence of permanent injury can increase the amount you stand to recover for these damages.
Loss of Consortium
The lost consortium is the loss of moral support, companionship, or intimacy from a wrongful injury. If your spouse or domestic partner suffers serious injury from the rear-end crash, you can claim compensation for loss of consortium. However, you will only recover these damages if you prove to the court that you are legally married or registered as a domestic partner of the victim.
The worst outcome of a rear-end crash is losing a loved one. While the victim is not alive to seek compensation for their injuries, you can file a wrongful death lawsuit against the liable parties. A wrongful death claim allows you to recover for burial and funeral expenses.
Find a Reliable Personal Injury Attorney Near Me
Involvement in a rear-end collision is a traumatizing experience. Often these accidents occur when a distracted, drunk, speeding or fatigued driver hits another vehicle from behind. Sometimes, sudden stops or pulling up in front of another vehicle could cause an accident. If you are injured or lose a loved one in the accident, you will want to recover compensation from the at-fault parties.
The severe injuries from rear-end collisions complicate dealing with insurance adjusters and proving your lawsuit in court. Therefore, hiring and retaining a personal injury attorney is wise for your case. Your attorney will help you gather the necessary evidence for your claim. Additionally, the lawyer understands the tricks used by insurance adjusters to downplay your claim.
In a successful lawsuit, you can recover compensation for your medical expenses, lost wages, lost earning capacity, and emotional suffering resulting from the accident. You would require the top-notch guidance we offer at Foos Gavin Law Firm if you or a loved one battles a personal injury lawsuit in Sacramento, CA. Contact us at 916-779-3500 to discuss your claim.