Hit from behind car accidents are one of the most common crashes in the United States. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that upwards of 50 percent of all accidents involve a vehicle that was hit from behind. Speed is a major factor in more than half of all hit from behind collisions.
The Basics on Hit From Behind Accidents
According to the Washington Post, 1,700 individuals are killed in rear end accidents yearly, and roughly 500,000 individuals are injured each year. Recently, the National Transportation Safety Board called for collision avoidance systems to become standard equipment in all automobiles to prevent rear end accidents, pointing out that consumers do not pay extra for a seat belt. Let’s look at hit from behind accidents, the reasons they happen and the way liability is determined.
David Azizi – Hit From Behind Accident Lawyer
David has practiced personal injury law in Los Angeles for 22 years. In that time, he has been praised as one of the top personal injury lawyers in the city by such notable attorney ranking companies as Super Lawyers. David works with the understanding that each case is as important as another and treats his clients in a transparent, compassionate way. If you are hurt in an accident with a negligent party, turn to David for help by calling (800) 991-5292, or use his online contact form. You’ll find out what so many other Angelinos have already discovered – David is the one to turn to when you need an attorney.
Fault in a Hit and Run Accident
The general consensus is that if you are in a hit from behind accident, the driver to the rear is to blame. For the most part, this is true. However, in some cases, the fault is shared. Let’s consider a hit from behind accident where the driver to the rear slams into a car while moving at the speed limit. Nine times out of 10, the driver to the rear is wholly negligent. But what happens if the driver who hit the lead car was hit from behind themselves? In that case, the driver behind them precipitated the accident and might be considered at fault.
In another case scenario, the driver at the front of a three-car collision was hit by a vehicle with non-working brake lights that was hit from behind by a third driver. The lead driver can claim damages against both the driver at the end of the chain and the one with faulty brake lights since both were negligent.
California embraces the doctrine of comparative fault. This means that more than one party can be to blame for an accident. Since drivers are obligated to maintain a reasonable distance from the vehicle in front of them, even if the car in front of them lacks brake lights, the driver to the rear would still have enough room to stop in time. But what if the driver was speeding, and while he or she might have been able to stop at normal speeds within a certain distance, they would be unable to stop when exceeding the speed limit.
In this case, the court or the parties negotiating a settlement will have to decide how much each driver is at fault. The lead driver is responsible for making sure that his or her brake lights are working. So, you might be tempted to say that he was at least 50 percent responsible. Factor in that the rear driver was speeding, and the ratio may be different with a 40/60 split between the lead and rear drivers.
How Does Comparative Fault Affect My Settlement?
The way comparative fault affects what each driver will receive in compensatory damages also depends on the ratio. In the above example, the driver who is considered to be 60 percent at fault may receive 40 percent of the damages they suffered. Alternately, the lead driver who is 40 percent at fault may receive 60 percent of his or her compensation.
Common Reasons for a Hit From Behind Accident
Proving negligence in a car accident is essential if you intend to recover compensatory damages. In order to do this, it is necessary to investigate the crash looking for the cause. Some common reasons are:
- Distracted driving: Many hit from behind accidents happen during the day when the lead vehicle is stopped at a crossroads. This indicates that the driver to the rear was not focused on the road ahead but rather engaged in another activity such as texting, eating or looking at GPS. Alternately, the rear driver may be daydreaming or thinking about work or home. Whatever the specific distraction is, it led to a rear-end collision.
- Speeding: This is an important reason hit from behind accidents happen. The driver may be traveling above the speed limit or driving too fast for road conditions or weather. This affects his or her ability to stop.
- Failing to maintain a safe distance: Driving too close to the vehicle in front makes it almost impossible for the driver to stop in time if traffic conditions change.
- Driving recklessly: Drivers who are reckless on the road have more rear-end collisions. These can include not yielding the right-of-way, not using turn signals, being aggressive or trying to speed through a yellow/red light when another vehicle has slowed down or stopped.
- Fatigued driving: Drivers who doze off or fall asleep are a danger to everyone. In hit from behind collisions, even a few seconds of closing one’s eyes can lead to hitting a lead vehicle that has stopped.
- Not maintaining control: This is often linked to speeding or bad weather when a driver tries to avoid hitting another vehicle and swerves out of the way and into another lane.
- Hazardous roads: This usually happens when a driver encounters a hazardous road condition that leads to loss of control such as potholes. It can also result from foliage that hides a stop sign or a poorly functioning traffic signal. In such cases, the government agency responsible for road upkeep can share in the liability.
- Mechanical failure: This can occur when there is a defect in the auto that causes the accident such as defective brakes. This can involve a product liability lawsuit against the carmaker or auto parts manufacturer.
- Failure to maintain a vehicle: A driver is required to maintain his or her vehicle. If this is not done, a mechanical failure due to worn tires or brakes can precipitate a rear-end collision. This can be the fault of the driver or the mechanic who did not service the vehicle appropriately.
Injuries in Rear-End Collisions
There are an assortment of injuries commonly found in rear-end collisions. Some of the more common are:
- Whiplash: Commonly called whiplash, this injury involves cervical (neck) strain and sprain. It is caused by the rapid back and forth motion that the head and back undergo immediately after being struck. Symptoms are headache, blurred vision, dizziness, muscle/tendon tenderness to the neck and back and upper extremity pain.
While about 50 percent of those who develop whiplash are symptomatic within a few hours, many others take several days to feel pain from the injury. Treatment usually involves application of ice to the area, physical therapy and over-the-counter pain medication. Sometimes, severe symptoms last up to a year or more after the accident, and the individual has difficulty moving their head and neck without considerable pain. This can lead to chronic head and neck pain for several years.
- Concussion: The movement of the head when struck from behind can cause the brain to move within the skull, striking the rough surfaces of the bone. This results in a form of traumatic brain injury called concussion. Depending on the intensity of the impact, the concussion can be mild or serious. Mild concussions usually heal in a few months. However, the individual may experience chronic headaches and memory loss. More severe concussions can lead to extended damage, requiring extensive periods of rehabilitation.
- Fractures: Rib fracture is one of the most common types of broken bone injury in a hit from behind accident. This can be caused by the shoulder harness when the force of impact strains the hold it has on your chest. If a driver is not buckled up, he or she may be forced into the steering wheel, and fracture the collarbone or the ribs. Older people are more likely to incur a fracture since many have fragile bones that can break easily.
- Spinal injuries: Injuries to the spine can cause a great deal of pain, or change the way you live your life. They include:
- Compression fractures: Compression fractures are often seen in older individuals when the weakened bone collapses in upon itself.
- Herniated discs: The soft pliable discs that keep the vertebrae from putting pressure on the spinal nerves that run between the vertebrae can herniate or slip out of place. This can cause significant pain and may require surgery.
- Spondylolisthesis: This occurs when a vertebra falls out of alignment. This pressure on the nerves can be severe in some cases, requiring surgery. Other cases respond to rest, rehabilitation and medication to relieve the pain.
- Spinal cord injury: This causes an array of symptoms from muscle weakness to loss of muscle, bowel or urinary control to poor balance and paralysis.
Free Case Review With a Rear-End Auto Accident Law Firm
If you are injured in a hit from behind accident in Los Angeles or the surrounding area, reach out to David at (800) 991-5292. He can provide insight into the legal issues of your case in a free case review. He wins 98 percent of his cases and has 22 years of dealing with insurance companies and negligent drivers. From the negotiation table to the courtroom, David will work aggressively to bring you the compensation you deserve.