Driving a car is a big responsibility. Even the best drivers can be distracted, tired or driving an unsafe vehicle. Weather conditions, construction, and traffic can all make driving tricky for new and experienced drivers alike. The National Safety Council reports that there are more than 6 million car accidents each year. 2.5 million of these are rear-end auto accidents. It is estimated that well over 20 million people are injured in car accidents each year, and over one million are killed. If you are the victim of a rear-end collision in Alabama, chances are that the driver of the vehicle that rear-ended your car caused the accident. You may be entitled to recover compensation from an insurance company or the other party involved in the crash. Contact our experienced rear-end collision attorneys at Farris Riley & Pitt to find out how to proceed.
What Causes Rear End Auto Accidents?
Rear-end car accidents are often the result of negligence. A rear end collision occurs when a car slams into the back of the car in front of it. The following situations commonly cause rear-end accidents. When reading about them, consider how negligence may play a role in your specific personal injury situation.
Tailgating – Tailgating occurs when a car follows the car in front of it too closely. The 2013 Alabama drivers’ manual states that drivers should adhere to the two- second rule when determining how much space to leave between their car and the car in front of it. The Alabama Center for Advanced Public Safety reports that tailgating causes over 12% of all traffic collisions in Alabama. When a driver fails to adhere to this rule, he or she often cannot stop quickly enough when the driver in front comes to a sudden stop.
Driver inattention of distraction- There are too many activities to list that cause drivers to be distracted. Using cell phones to talk or text, eating, applying makeup, talking to passengers, listening to music and even changing the radio stations are some examples of things that can distract a driver. A driver, who is not paying 100% attention to the road and surrounding cars, can easily rear-end a vehicle.
Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol- Alcohol or drugs in any amount can slow a driver’s reflexes and response time. If a driver is intoxicated or “high”, the results can be devastating. A driver under the influence of drugs or alcohol may have trouble judging proper distance or speed. The driver may fall asleep or have trouble focusing. An intoxicated driver may have trouble hitting the brakes in time to avoid hitting the car in front of him.
Weather – All kinds of weather conditions can affect driving and stopping ability. Bad weather including rain, sleet, snow, fog, and wind can impair a driver’s ability to see what is in front of him and react to avoid a collision. Even sunshine can get in the way of visibility, making it difficult judge the proper distance between a car in front of you or stay in your lane.
Road conditions – Potholes, improperly functioning traffic signs and obscured road signs can contribute to a rear-end accident.
Pedestrians, animals, and foreign objects – Many things can force a driver to stop unexpectedly. Pedestrians who are crossing against a light or not in a crosswalk, children running into the road after a ball and even animals can cause distraction or the need to stop suddenly. If there is little room between you and the car in front or behind you, the result will be a rear-end crash.
Construction equipment and vehicles – the unexpected, sudden appearance of construction signs, workers and trucks often cause unanticipated stops. Maintaining a safe distance behind construction vehicles that makes frequent stops is necessary to avoid an accident.
Police cars and radar guns – Seeing police on the side of the road during a police stop or speed trap is a significant distraction for drivers. Sudden stops or decreases in speed are common when a driver spots the police nearby.
Accidents and breakdowns – On the highway or other heavily traveled roadway, car accidents in front of you can cause everyone to stop quickly. This sudden need to stop also occurs when cars break down on the side of the road. Emergency vehicles trying to get through also cause sudden stops and lane changes.
Non-working brake lights – Cars with faulty brake lights give no notice to cars behind them that they are slowing or stopping. Even an attentive driver needs some warning, so they have time to slow and stop accordingly. Without working brake lights to notify a driver that a stop is imminent, a collision may be unavoidable.
Rear-end Accidents and Common Injuries
Any car accident can result in injuries to a driver or passengers. The National Safety Council reports that approximately twenty percent of all people involved in rear-end crashes experience a whiplash injury. Nearly eighty percent of these people have pain and discomfort that lasts over one week. Half of them have soreness and pain that lasts over a year. Let’s take a look at some common injuries suffered in rear-end collisions more closely.
Whiplash – “Whiplash” is an injury that essentially means pain and stiffness in the neck and shoulder area. The pain and stiffness results when the neck, shoulders, and spine suddenly “snap” beyond their usual range. The snapping happens because of the violent impact of a vehicle. Whiplash can also be called hyper-flexion or hyperextension. The sudden snapping of the neck and spine is likened to the motion of a snapping whip, which is where the origin of the word “whiplash”.
Back pain and injuries – Back injuries are also a common result of rear-end collisions. The force of impact of a vehicle, even when at low speeds, can cause spinal compression. Compression puts stress on or herniates the disks in your lower back, which can cause tremendous pain and discomfort. The sudden impact on your back in a car crash is similar to, but far more serious than, when an elevator stops unexpectedly and quickly. In the elevator, you may feel the force of gravity knock you off balance or buckle your knees. The force of gravity in a rear end crash is far greater and the pressure it puts on your vertebrae is equally greater. The pain that results can be unbearable.
Injuries to the head and face – Airbags commonly deploy at 20 miles per hour or higher. When an air bag does deploy, you can sustain burns, cuts, and other impact injuries to your face and scalp. Believe it or not, many rear-end collisions occur when cars are going less than 20 miles per hour. In a slower speed crash, when airbags do not deploy, your face can easily smash into the steering wheel. This force can break your nose, cause fractures in your jaw, cheekbones or orbital bones. The impact can even detach your retinas.
Seatbelt injuries – While a seatbelt may ultimately help you avoid severe injury and may even save your life, it can cause injury during a rear-end collision. A Seatbelt is designed to quickly and firmly hold your body, so it does not hit the steering column, dashboard or other parts of your car’s interior. When a car crashes into yours from behind, and the seatbelt locks your torso in, the seatbelt itself may cause lacerations and bruises to your body.
Who is at Fault?
All drivers have an obligation, or duty, to drive in a reasonably safe manner. Drivers must follow traffic laws, drive responsibly, and keep their automobiles in good condition. The rules of the road exist to keep our drivers as safe as possible.
When an automobile driver breaches his duty of care or does not live up to his or her responsibility, it may be an act of negligence. Some examples of actions that may be deemed negligent in a rear-end collision are: a driver taking his eyes off the road to send a text message, a driver failing to have her brake lights fixed or a driver not maintaining proper distance from the car in front of it.
When negligence causes someone to hit your car from behind, you have legal rights to compensation for your costs including medical expenses from injuries you suffer. These costs and injuries are called damages. Before you file a claim against the driver’s insurance company, you will need to have proof that the driver was negligent and that the negligence caused your accident. You also have to prove that the accident caused your injuries.
It may help to review your case with experienced attorneys. The Alabama law firm of Farris Riley & Pitt can help you analyze your case, gather evidence and provide expert testimony to present to the insurance company. If needed our attorneys can help file a lawsuit, and set you on the path to receiving fair compensation for your injuries.
Whether you have a claim against an insurance company or a case in a court of law, need evidence of the other driver’s negligence and evidence about the extent and cause of your injuries. The more proof you can gather, the better your chances of full compensation.
Here are some steps to take after you have been in a rear-end automobile accident in that will help substantiate your claim:
Call the police and wait for them to arrive.
Take pictures if possible – Take pictures or video of whatever you can, including the other driver, all passengers and the cars, including impact points. Take shots of traffic signs, stoplights and street conditions. Take a picture of anything you think may be important to your case.
Collect the incident or police reports – If the police respond to the accident scene, make sure to get the information needed to get a copy of the report. The report will include the police officer’s opinion of the cause of the accident. It will also show the police issued any traffic citations to the driver.
Witness statements – Write down the names and contact information of anyone who witnessed your accident. This contact information is especially important if they have information demonstrating the fault of the other driver. For example, maybe a witness noticed the driver talking on a cell phone or drinking beer. A witness may have heard the driver admit fault or apologize for causing the accident.
Medical records – you must not only prove the other driver caused the accident, but also that the accident caused your injuries. Your need your medical records in order to do so. It is important that your doctor and medical records confirm that your injuries were directly caused by the accident. For example, your doctor might say that because of the impact, your face hit the steering wheel, breaking your nose. It is also helpful if the doctor can make a reasonable prediction of any future medical care or treatment you may need.
You should know that Alabama is a state that follows the contributory negligence rule. Contributory negligence means that if the driver in front even slightly contributes to the accident, the law completely and bars him from recovering any compensation from the driver behind.
Contact our Attorneys
Regardless of your situation, it may be helpful to speak to an attorney. If the liability is clear and your injuries are minor, you may be able to handle your insurance claim by yourself. But if you have broken bones, herniated spinal disks or severe whiplash, you may benefit from some expertise. The attorneys at Farris Riley & Pitt can help gather and present your evidence to large insurance companies. If your injuries are serious, we have access to expert witnesses who can provide valuable information. While you recover from your injuries, we can help you recover the monetary compensation to which you are entitled. If you have been hurt in a rear-end collision in Alabama, contact our attorneys today.