One of the Most Dangerous Types of Accidents
While commonly labeled as “fender benders,” rear-end collisions are substantially more dangerous than this colloquialism would suggest. Cars are capable of traveling at extremely high speeds, and a rear-end collision caused by a negligent or reckless motorist can result in extensive property damage, injuries, and in some cases, death.
Unfortunately, the average driver’s odds of encountering a reckless driver at some point are almost a likelihood, making it important for drivers to know what to do following a rear-end collision. Read on to learn more from the experienced car accident attorneys at The Law Offices of George Salinas.
What to Do After a Rear-End Collision
Rear-end collisions can result in a chain reaction of injuries and property damage, especially when someone rear-ends one vehicle, then creates a secondary accident, as happened when a woman allegedly rear-ended a police officer. According to KLTV, the woman was speeding when she hit the back of a police officer’s car. Her vehicle, a Chevrolet Malibu, veered into traffic traveling the same direction and hit a motorcycle.
KLTV did not mention whether the woman was trying to avoid the police car when she hit the motorcycle, or if the force of the impact pushed her into the motorcycle. In many cases, this could have resulted in the death of the motorcycle rider, but in this case, the rider thankfully suffered minor injuries. The police officer suffered minor injuries, but the woman who hit them was taken to the hospital in serious condition.
What should you do first if you’ve been involved in a rear-end collision? If someone rear-ends you and you are able, contact emergency services. Check on others involved in the accident. When emergency services arrive, allow the emergency medical technicians to check you over. You should also go to the hospital for a more comprehensive checkup since injuries could manifest hours or even days later.
While still at the accident scene, take pictures of the accident. If you can, record or write down what you recall from the accident. Finally, get the contact information of any witnesses and others involved in the accident. Additionally, get registration and insurance information from the person who rear-ended you.
Settling With the Insurance Company
You might have the temptation to settle with the insurance company yourself to save money, rather than consulting an attorney. However, do not forget that insurance companies are in business to make a profit. That means that every claim they pay out decreases their bottom lines. Insurance companies, including yours, will find any reason to deny a claim or to pay the least amount possible.
When you contact an insurance company to let it know that you are filing a claim, you should only give them minimal information. Never talk about the accident. The representative may try to twist your words to assign fault to you to deny your claim—even in an accident where someone rear-ended you.
Give the representative your name, contact information, the date and time of the accident, and your car accident attorney’s contact information. The representative might try to get additional information from you. Refer any insurer or their agents to your attorney.
What Is My Case Worth?
The value of a rear-end collision case depends on several factors, including:
- The type of injuries you suffered;
- The severity of your injuries;
- Whether your injuries lead to long-term disabilities;
- Whether your injuries exacerbated a pre-existing condition, whether for the short-term or long-term; and
- Whether the court determines the defendant’s actions or inactions as grossly negligent or intentional.
Texas allows you to collect economic damages, non-economic damages, and punitive damages. Economic and non-economic damages are an attempt to make you whole again. While the money can’t erase your injuries or bring back a loved one lost in a fatal accident, it can significantly reduce financial stress.
The court orders punitive damages to punish the defendant in cases of egregious misconduct. The plaintiff—you—must show the court that the defendant’s actions were grossly negligent or intentional, and that his or her actions caused your injuries.
If you suffer from injuries from an accident, you could collect economic damages.
These damages have a specific dollar amount attached to them and include:
- Past and future medical expenses. If you suffer from long-term disabilities because of your injuries, you could collect medical expenses after you settle or win a trial award.
- Past and future lost wages. As with future medical expenses, if you cannot work or you can work, but your disabilities force you to take a job that pays less than what you made before the accident, you could collect future lost wages.
- Replacement or repair of destroyed or damaged personal property.
- Funeral, burial, and cremation expenses.
Long-term disabilities and the loss of a loved one often result in physical and emotional distress.
You can collect non-economic damages—money for items that you can’t put a price tag on—for certain things, including:
- Pain and suffering;
- Emotional distress;
- Loss of companionship;
- Loss of consortium;
- Loss of use of a body part;
- Loss of use of a bodily function; and
Determining Gross Negligence
When you have to prove that the defendant’s actions were grossly negligent or intentional, his or her actions or inactions must meet several elements:
- The defendant has to know that his or her behavior would cause injury to another person;
- The defendant continues with his or her actions or inactions, even knowing that he or she could injure or kill someone; and
- The defendant’s behavior caused the plaintiff’s injuries.
It is up to the court to determine if it will deem a particular action or inaction as gross negligence or intent.
Still, most courts consider certain actions to be negligent or intentional, including:
- Driving under the influence;
- Driving while distracted;
- Driving while using a cell phone; and
- Excessive speeding.
Injuries That Lead to Long-Term Disabilities
Some types of injuries that could lead to long-term disabilities include traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, some internal injuries, and back, neck, and shoulder injuries. Some traumatic brain injuries might seem to resolve quickly, but could cause issues later in life.
Because of this, your attorney, along with expert witnesses, may review your medical records to determine whether doctors believe your injuries could cause long-term or permanent disabilities. If your injuries do lead to long-term or permanent disabilities, a car accident lawyer will negotiate on your behalf or litigate on your behalf in an attempt to get you the compensation you deserve.