Being involved in any type of car accident is stressful enough. It can be even more difficult if you rear-ended the car in front of you and don’t believe it’s your fault. This is because the party who caused the rear-end collision is typically presumed to be at fault.
But is this always the case? As with all other types of accidents, many factors go into determining fault. This guide will help you better understand the law around rear-end collisions and how a lawyer can help your case.
What does the law say about rear-end collisions?
Florida law requires that all drivers keep a safe distance from the car in front of them. Although there isn’t a specific number of feet to keep between cars, Florida Statute 316.0895 requires that a vehicle not follow another vehicle more closely than is “reasonable and prudent.”
This law is established to give you enough time to react if the car in front of you suddenly stops. This is why if you rear-end the car in front of you, there’s generally a presumption that you are at fault.
When Drivers Aren’t At Fault After a Rear-End Collision
In a rear-end collision, the burden of proof is on the rear driver. Drivers can overcome the presumption of fault by presenting evidence that the other driver was negligent. This can include witness testimony, surveillance video, or other means to prove that the front driver was at fault.
Additionally, the rear driver can present evidence that both parties shared fault, and any damages that the other driver is suing for should be diminished by their degree of negligence. This is because Florida is a comparative negligence state, where judges can hold both parties partially at fault depending on the circumstances.
For example, in a case where the front driver has $15,000 in medical bills and property damage and the judge holds them 50% at fault for the accident, the rear driver would only be liable for $7,500. This is also significant because Florida is a “no-fault state” that requires all insurance companies to provide Personal Injury Protection (PIP) to all drivers.
This means that regardless of who was at fault, the policy will cover 80% of medical bills and 60% of lost wages up to a maximum of $10,000. So the front driver can file a claim for PIP coverage, substantially reducing your liability.
Common Injuries from Rear-End Collisions
Regardless of who was at fault for the accident, rear-end collisions are a common source of injuries that require treatment and can incur significant expenses. This is why it is so important to ensure you are being fully and fairly compensated. Frequent injuries caused by rear-end collisions include:
- Whiplash. Whiplash is a neck injury that occurs when the head suddenly moves backward, then forward, as is the case in rear-end collisions. The abrupt force can cause muscles and tendons around the neck and shoulders to stretch or tear, resulting in pain, tenderness, stiffness, decreased range of motion, and headaches.
- Concussion. When a person is exposed to forceful trauma, the brain can move back and forth inside the skull. This can cause chemical imbalances in the brain, as well as nerve, cell, and tissue damage. Depending on the severity of the accident, the person may feel dizzy, confused, or lose consciousness immediately after the incident. However, sometimes, symptoms can take days to appear. They include headaches, blurred vision, slurred speech, behavioral changes, and nausea, among others.
- Spine injuries. The first few vertebrae at the top of the spine are called cervical vertebrae. They are responsible for head movement and often become misaligned when someone experiences whiplash. This results in back and shoulder pain.
- Herniated discs. Between each vertebra, there are flexible discs that cushion the spine. Getting rear-ended can cause some discs to slide out of place or rupture. Either scenario places undue stress on the spinal cord or other nerves, resulting in back pain.
- Paralysis. This is by far the most serious injury associated with rear-end collisions. It often occurs in this type of car accident because most injuries are typically directed to the spine or spinal cord. Paralysis can be partial or full, and it can be temporary or permanent. Regardless of the circumstances, it significantly impacts a person’s quality of life, both physically and psychologically.
What if there was a rear-end collision, but no damage?
Even if there was no visible damage to your car, you should speak to an experienced personal injury attorney after a rear-end collision. This is because there are time limitations to filing claims, and you may discover later that you have a medical issue arising from the accident. To file a PIP claim with your own insurance company, you have 14 days from the date of the accident. Waiting longer means that you’ll have to pay for your expenses out of pocket.
Additionally, the longer you wait, the higher the likelihood that the opposing party can blame any injuries on an event after the accident occurred, such as work, exercise, or household chores.
Determining Settlement for a Rear-End Collision
There are many factors considered when determining a fair settlement for a rear-end collision. This includes:
- Current medical bills of the injured party or parties
- Future medical bills
- Lost wages
- Loss of earning capacity
- Car repairs
- Property damage
- Loss of consortium
- Pain and suffering
To ensure a fair settlement and proper judgment of fault or comparative negligence in your case, there needs to be a proper investigation into the facts of the collision.
How a Lawyer Can Help
Every car accident is different, especially for rear-end collisions. A seasoned car accident lawyer will know which questions to ask, the most common mitigating circumstances, and which documents to request from the other party.
Your lawyer also knows how to interview and depose the other party, medical providers, witnesses, and accident reconstruction experts. Having a lawyer means having a strategy to watch out for your best interests and ensure that you are not automatically assumed to be at fault after a rear-end collision. An experienced attorney can mean the difference between being found totally at fault, partially at fault, or not at fault in your case.
Call Clark Law for Rear-End Collision Attorneys in Tampa Bay
When you get into a car accident, the first thing to do is seek medical attention. The second thing is to consult with a personal injury attorney as soon as possible to discuss the details of your accident and determine the best course of action.
Disclaimer: This blog is for informational purposes only and does not create an attorney/client relationship.