Imagine this: you are driving home from work, enjoying a sunny Florida day, and listening to your favorite podcast on your car stereo when WHAM!
Out of nowhere, another driver hits you from behind, forcing your body violently forward and back, perhaps hitting the airbag or steering wheel. You have just been in a rear-ending accident.
Although the general rule of thumb is that the driver who runs into the vehicle in front of them is at fault for a rear-end accident, this is not always true. Determining who is at fault in a rear-end accident is the first step your Florida car accident lawyer takes when determining your legal options to file a suit for car accident compensation.
Facts About Rear-End Accidents
Rear-end accidents are one of the most common types of car wrecks, and despite being known by the lighthearted term “fender bender,” they can be one of the most dangerous types of collisions for both drivers. In fact, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, nearly 30 percent of roadway collisions are rear-end accidents.
Part of the danger of a rear-end accident is that the car in front may be stationary or moving slowly while the car behind impacts at a much higher speed. And because the danger is coming from behind, the driver in front usually does not notice it in time to get out of the way.
Rear-end accidents cause catastrophic injuries, most notably whiplash, a violent back-and-forth motion in the neck.
Facial injuries are also very common, as many people violently hit their car’s airbag, shattering a nose or eye socket. Rear-end collisions constitute more than 7 percent of all car crash fatalities, and 20 percent of those involve just two vehicles.
Who Is At-Fault in a Rear-End Collision?
Assigning responsibility for a rear-ending accident is important if you plan to hire a car accident lawyer and seek compensatory damages.
Florida is a no-fault car accident state, which means that each party’s personal injury protection (PIP) insurance policy pays for their own medical bills and car repair. However, you can still file a suit against the other driver for injuries and damages over your policy limit.
All drivers, when they get their Florida driver’s license, are obligated to follow the rules of the road and drive safely, which means that they obey traffic laws like staying a proper distance behind the car in front of theirs and concentrating on traffic (no texting and driving or other distractions).
When a driver fails to do so, a rear-end accident is possible. However, there are several reasons that the car behind causes a rear-end collision.
Not Slowing Down for Stopped Traffic
Morning and evening commuter rush hour can be among the highest-risk times for a rear-end collision. The heavier traffic flow and plenty of starts and stops mean drivers have a higher chance of hitting the car in front of them.
In addition, many people may be more distracted on their way to or from work, like taking an early or late phone call, eating, or even putting on makeup.
If drivers do not notice that traffic has slowed, they could run into the back of a stopped or slower-moving vehicle. The chance of a multiple-car crash is more likely in these situations, too, as one crash triggers another in a domino effect.
Failure to See a Turning Vehicle
Another common way rear-ending accidents happen is when the following driver fails to note that the car in front of them has slowed to make a turn. Like the example above, a distracted driver may not see a slowing vehicle until it is too late.
Trying to Beat the Light
If a driver tries to make it through a yellow light at an intersection, but the car in front of them slows to a stop instead of also trying to beat the light before it turns red, a serious rear-ending accident could happen. The rear car would be accelerating quickly, which means they hit the car in front at a higher, more dangerous, rate of speed.
Accelerating Too Fast After a Guided Stop
Once a red light turns green, if a car in the rear hits the accelerator too abruptly faster than the car in front of them they can run right into the back of it. Although these collisions are at a slow speed and, therefore, typically cause much less damage, someone can still get seriously hurt.
Painful whiplash can happen even at slower speeds, and the effects can leave the victim with permanent neck or spine issues.
In each case, it is usually apparent that the driver behind was at fault for the rear-end accident. But this is not always the case; there are occasions when the car in front is the one with most of the blame for the wreck.
Suddenly Slamming on the Brakes
A driver may slam on their brakes for many reasons they do not see traffic in front of them slowing, an animal or child runs out in front of them, or they almost miss their turn. Whatever the reason, when the car in front brakes suddenly, the driver could be to blame for a subsequent accident.
Even if a driver is following at a proper distance from the car in front of them, they still may not have enough time or room to stop if the car in front brakes suddenly.
The Lead Car’s Brake Lights Malfunction
If the lead car’s brake lights are not working, its driver is often liable for any rear-ending accident. Without the brake lights to signal following cars that the lead car is slowing or stopping, the trailing cars have difficulty determining that the car is moving slowly or has stopped until it is too late.
Florida drivers are required to keep their vehicles in good working order, including having functional tail lights. If the driver fails to do so, they could be held liable for the crash.
Failure of the Lead Driver to Properly Signal Their Intentions
When drivers slow to turn but do not use their turn signal, it may be difficult for the next driver to realize just how much the lead car is braking. Failure to signal a turn may earn the driver a traffic citation, and if it leads to a rear-end accident, it could be a reason that the driver in the front is assigned the majority of the blame for the collision.
In these situations, a rear-end accident lawyer would consider the driver in the lead vehicle to be the at-fault party and the driver in the car behind the victim.
Other Situations Where Both or Neither Driver Caused the Accident
Cities are responsible for keeping their roads safe for driving—large potholes or other poorly maintained roads pose safety hazards and create conditions where car wrecks are more likely.
Your rear-end accident lawyer may make a case that the city shares responsibility for the collision and name it as a defendant in your suit.
Assigning blame for a rear-end car accident may require considerably more work than it looks at first. Your car accident lawyer must thoroughly investigate the incident and scene of the crash to get an accurate picture of how it happened and where the fault lies.
Florida Laws Regarding Rear-End Collisions
Florida drivers who hit another car from behind may have recourse to defend themselves. Florida law permits drivers and their car accident lawyers to present evidence showing that the front car caused the crash.
Failure to keep their brake lights working or stopping suddenly for no reason may constitute negligence, and therefore, the lead driver may pay compensation to the second driver.
How a Car Accident Lawyer Can Help After a Rear-End Accident
If you were in a mild rear-end “fender bender,” call the police, exchange contact information, and call a car accident lawyer.
Your attorney is your advocate in negotiations with the other party and their insurance company, as well as your defender in a courtroom. They know traffic liability laws and defend your interests no one else’s.
The insurance companies want to pay as little as possible after a rear-end collision if they do not outright deny a claim. A lawyer properly values your claim and works to ensure the insurance company pays a fair settlement if their customer is the one liable for the wreck.
Attorneys often work with accident experts, like a reconstructionist, who describes how the collision occurred using evidence from the crash, and medical experts, who testify how you sustained your injuries based on how the crash happened.
These experts are integral to building a strong case for both economic (actual) damages and non-economic (pain and suffering) damages.
A lawyer also takes care of all of your legal matters, from filing your suit within Florida’s statute of limitations to communicating with the other party, their lawyer, and their insurance company. You can rest quietly and heal without many of the disruptions from the legal matter.
What Damages Can I Seek After a Rear-End Car Collision?
If you were not to blame for a car wreck, you might be able to recover compensatory damages to cover the cost of repairing or replacing your car and any medical bills that your own PIP policy does not cover.
People who were in serious wrecks may have large medical bills or require surgery and physical therapy to regain their independence and abilities.
These losses, plus other property damage or lost wages from time missed at work because of the accident, are considered economic damages. These are quantifiable financial losses that happened because of the other driver’s negligence.
You may also be eligible to collect non-economic damages or compensation for pain and suffering. Injuries from a rear-ending accident hurt, and many people suffer not just physically but grieve for their loss of abilities or enjoyment of life.
If you are one of the many rear-end car crash victims who suffered whiplash, you may have chronic pain in your neck and back that impacts your ability to enjoy life or even continue in your current job.
A rear-end accident lawyer values your claim and seeks to recover the maximum settlement to balance all these losses and anything else you may be entitled to.
Were You in a Rear-End Car Wreck?
If you have been hit by another car from behind, or if you are the one who accidentally hit a negligent driver in front of you, an ent lawyer can help. They protect your interests in court and can help you get compensation to cover your medical bills and repair your vehicle. Do not delay; contact our law firm in Tampa today to talk about your legal options.