Often, those who have not experienced a rear-end collision tend to minimize the injuries a victim may suffer. However, even a minor fender bender can result in serious injuries.
Rear-end collisions violently thrust a driver and any passengers’ bodies forward. While at a complete stop, another car traveling a mere 15 to 20 miles per hour can cause severe injuries. When traveling at normal speed limits, a rear-end collision can cause even more serious injuries.
Speed and the role it plays in rear-end collisions
The faster you travel, the longer it takes to stop your vehicle. What is more concerning is the time it takes a vehicle behind you to come to a complete stop to prevent the car from colliding with yours. Keep in mind, a rear-end collision at low speed, say 30 miles per hour, can still result in serious bruising and other minor injuries. However, when you double that speed, the result can grow devastating.
Reasons for rear-end collisions
We always expect other drivers on the roadway to pay attention to what they are doing. We also expect they have complete control over their motor vehicles. After all, you take precautions, and you expect other drivers to do the same.
Some reasons why a rear-end collision may take place include:
- Distracted driving – when a driver behind you is not paying attention to what is happening around them, they can wind up rear-ending you. If a driver is on their cell phone, adjusting their GPS, or talking to someone in their car, they are not paying attention to the roadway.
- Driving under the influence – whether a driver is impaired because they are under the influence of alcohol, over-the-counter drugs, or illegal substances, chances are their reaction time can be slowed down. These drivers tend to be traveling a bit faster than they might otherwise travel, and a sudden stop can mean they hit the vehicle in front of them.
- Tailgating – while some drivers take precautions to remain a safe stopping distance from the cars in front of them, others are in too much of a hurry and drive too close to others. When this occurs, and a driver has to make a stop unexpectedly, the chances of a rear-end collision significantly increase.
There are other reasons for rear-end collisions, but these are three primary factors. Speeding, weaving in and out of traffic, failing to use signals are other potential reasons why rear-end collisions occur.
Injuries sustained in rear-end collisions
One should never forget that, regardless of what car accident you were in, you can suffer a serious injury. Even at low speeds, your age, physical condition, and size can have an impact on the severity of your injuries.
Some of the most common rear-end collision injuries include:
- Whiplash – many people are shocked to learn that even if a vehicle traveling only 10 miles per hour strikes you from behind, you can suffer whiplash. This painful condition results from the cervical area suddenly being jarred in a forward and often a resulting backward motion. These injuries can take weeks to heal as whiplash is considered a neck strain. Unfortunately, it can take upwards of three weeks for any symptoms to appear, so it is vital to make sure you are paying attention to the signals your body is sending you following any rear-end collision.
- Herniated discs – vertebrae in your neck and back help you maintain balance, help you stand straight, and help protect your spinal cord from injury. However, a disc can rupture during a car accident causing excruciating pain. For many people, a few weeks of keeping the disc stabilized and a brief round of anti-inflammatory medications will often provide the relief they need. However, in severe cases, victims of herniated discs will require surgery. In many cases, even after a minor disc rupture from a rear-end collision, the victim will miss work until they fully heal.
- Muscle strain and sprains – often, we don’t know the length our instincts go to protect our bodies from harm. We have all been in the position of slipping and our arms automatically reach out to prevent us from falling. Unconsciously, even if you think you are unaware of a pending rear-end collision, your brain senses the pending danger, and as a result, your body stiffens up. Unfortunately, this can result in sprains and strains that can take a few days to show up. More than that, they require several days or weeks of therapy to improve.
- Concussions – if you suffer from a headache following a rear-end collision, you may have suffered a concussion. Approximately 14 percent of all brain injuries stem from car accidents. Some victims may experience varying symptoms, including cognitive function issues, fatigue, and hearing or visual problems. In more serious cases, traumatic brain injuries can leave victims incapable of performing the most basic tasks.
- Arm and wrist injuries – you may not even think about the impact of a crash on your arms and wrists, but the fact remains, you are holding your steering wheel at the time of the collision. That could mean your hands, arms, and wrists are absorbing some of the impacts of the crash. While these injuries are not usually serious, they can cause you long-term pain and may require extensive treatment.
These are some of the most common injuries a victim could face after a rear-end collision. Keep in mind, the faster the car that strikes you is traveling, the more serious the injury you may be dealing with in the aftermath of an accident.
Medical attention following a rear-end collision
Any car accident victim should seek medical care as soon as possible. Our bodies have a natural reaction to fear and pain, sending adrenaline throughout our entire system after a traumatic experience. Because of that sudden rush, many rear-end collision victims will not realize they have been injured until hours or days following an accident.
When seeking medical care, you should always inform the treating physician that you have been involved in a car wreck. Make sure you tell them how fast you were traveling or whether you were at a complete stop. In some cases, a victim who was at a complete stop when they were struck will be more seriously injured than someone who was struck while traveling at usual speeds. While this may seem counter-intuitive, you should remember that when your body is stationary, the impact can thrust you forward and cause other injuries you may not have anticipated.
Broken ribs, bruised breastbone, and even damage to internal organs are possible from the seat belts you wear when you are driving. While there is little doubt that seat belts save lives, they can also contribute to your injuries. Exploding airbags can cause facial bruising or potentially broken bones in your face as well. Airbags are deployed in crashes involving speeds as low as 10 miles per hour, so there is a high chance your airbag will deploy in a rear-end collision.
Multiple vehicle rear-end collisions
Rear-end collisions can, and often do, involve multiple cars. The chain reaction can mean multiple victims and potentially multiple people at fault for the injuries a victim sustains in a rear-end collision.
Another lesser-known fact which the Insurance Information Institute (III) has studied shows that rear-end collisions are responsible for slightly more than seven percent of all roadway fatalities. With multiple vehicles, the chances of broken or crushed bones, skull and brain injuries, and facial injuries may greatly increase.
Insurance claims and rear-end collisions
Many of us have always believed that if a car hits us from the rear, they are automatically at fault for the accident, and therefore, insurance claims should be relatively simple to process. This is seldom the case.
Florida is a no-fault insurance state, which means every driver must carry personal injury protection coverage (PIP).
Here are some of the things you should understand about PIP:
- Minimum coverage – drivers are required to maintain at least $10,000 in coverage for personal liability per accident. This means the coverage extends to one person who is injured. There are other coverage requirements, but this is the one rear-end collision victims need to know.
- Liability limits – PIP coverage does not pay 100 percent of your claim. You can expect payment for about 80 percent of your medical bills assuming the insurance company considers them reasonable and customary.
- Limits on lost wages – you may only collect 60 percent of your lost wages from your PIP coverage up to a maximum of $10,000 or the maximum your policy includes if the amount is higher.
Compound this with the fact that your insurance rates may increase. Remember, you submit your initial claim to your insurer, regardless of fault for the accident.
Working outside the no-fault system
Some drivers are unaware they have alternatives when they are part of the no-fault insurance system, especially when they suffer a serious injury.
Some of the incidents that may allow you to bypass the no-fault system include:
- A victim suffers a permanent injury – this may apply in many cases, including when a victim has suffered permanent scars or disfigurement in an accident. Other injuries may disrupt the normal functioning of your body. For example, a TBI can cause life-long issues, or a deployed airbag may cause hearing or vision loss. These are considered permanent injuries.
- Cost of injuries – when a victim’s injuries from a rear-end collision require extensive medical treatment, it is feasible that treatment of the injuries can exceed the no-fault ceiling of $10,000. In these cases, you can go outside the no-fault system and file a claim against the other driver’s insurance.
- Out-of-state driver – Florida is known for tourism, and if you are in an accident involving a driver from another state, your insurance company will not cover your injuries or losses.
You should always notify your insurance company that you have been involved in an accident as soon as possible. However, it is important to use caution when notifying them of an accident. Make sure you do not give any sign you may have somehow been partially at fault for the accident. Simply report the date and location of the accident to them and contact a car accident lawyer as soon as possible to find out your legal rights.
Consider working with a rear-end collision attorney
Car accidents are life-disrupting events. Never take risks with your health, and you must spend time focusing on your physical recovery. Because of the no-fault laws in Florida, the claims process can be confusing for accident victims.
The best way to make sure you understand the limitations of your insurance coverage, and your legal options following a rear-end collision, you should speak with a lawyer who has experience handling these complicated cases. This is particularly true if there were multiple vehicles involved and if you can’t work for an extended time recovering from your injuries.
We have no crystal balls, and cannot anticipate a rear-end collision. You, however, do have rights following an accident caused by a negligent driver. If you are suffering the physical pain of a rear-end collision, call a car accident lawyer to find out your legal options.