San Antonio Rear-End Collisions Lawyer
According to information provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, rear-end collisions are the most common type of car accident, accounting for 29 percent of all crashes. Although it is generally assumed that a rear-end collision is always the fault of the driver of the following car, Texas’ comparative fault standard may complicate matters some. If you have been injured in a rear-end collision in San Antonio, an experienced attorney from The Law Offices of George Salinas can help you further understand the legal options that are available to you.
What Types of Injuries are Caused by Rear-End Collisions?
Rear-end crashes are commonly known as “whiplash crashes” because that is the most common injury suffered in this type of accident. The Mayo Clinic explains that whiplash is a neck injury that is caused when the neck moves forcefully back and forth, in the motion of a whip being cracked. Victims of whiplash most commonly suffer symptoms such as neck pain, stiffness, and headaches, Mayo reports. Most of these symptoms resolve within a short period of time with the help of pain management medication and exercise. However, some people suffer symptoms for months or even years after the accident that caused their whiplash. More severe complications from whiplash are most often seen in those who have had whiplash before, have pre-existing lower back or neck pain, or who are older in age.
Other injuries that may be caused by a rear-end collision include:
- Concussions caused by the person’s brain being bumped around within the skull and other traumatic brain injuries that are a result of the vehicle’s occupants striking their heads on the steering wheel, dashboard, or other objects in the car.
- A herniated disc, which is caused when the outer fiber that surrounds a spinal disc tears or ruptures due to trauma.
- Broken bones. Often the bones in the hands and wrists get fractured from gripping the steering wheel upon impact.
- Internal organ damage due to the body being suddenly forced against the seat belt or steering wheel.
- Burns to the face or scalp caused by airbag deployment
- Facial disfigurement from the occupant striking his or her face against the steering wheel or other parts of the car.
What Causes Rear-End Collisions?
A 2015 article from the Washington Post reported that 1.7 million rear-end collisions take place each year in the United States, resulting in about 1,700 deaths and 500,000 injuries. But what causes these accidents? Some of the most common causes of rear-end collisions include:
- Following too closely, which is also known as tailgating.
- Aggressive driving
- Distractions, including texting, passengers or pets in the car, or external distractions, such as construction zones or a previous crash on the shoulder of the roadway.
- Driving while impaired by drugs or alcohol.
- Speeding, which makes it harder to stop.
- Poor visibility or poor road conditions.
- Failure of the lead car’s driver to use turn signals
- Parking lots or garages where vehicles make frequent or sudden stops.
- Fatigued driving, which alters a driver’s ability to judge distances between his or her car and other cars.
How Can a Rear-End Collision Be the Fault of the Lead Driver?
As previously noted, rear-end collisions tend to be the fault of the following driver. However, there are some exceptions to this rule, including:
- If the car in front stopped illegally
- If the car in front stopped abruptly
- The car in front suddenly changed lanes
- The following car unexpectedly suffered mechanical problems that prevented it from stopping.
- The lead car was traveling in reverse at the time of the accident.
Can Rear-End Collisions Be Avoided?
You might think there is nothing you can do to avoid a rear-end collision, and there are certainly factors beyond your control with this type of accident. However, these important steps can sometimes help to both avoid being rear-ended, as well as to avoid rear-ending someone else.
- Before you hit the road, be sure to inspect your vehicle. Make sure your brakes, brake lights, and turn signals are working properly, your tires have the proper thread depth of at least 4/32 of an inch, your windshields are clean and your windshield wipers are working properly, and your mirrors are adjusted appropriately for the person driving.
- Be sure you are well rested and free of alcohol or drug impairment so that you are able to react appropriately to hazards on the roadways. Avoid distractions such as cell phones and other items that can draw your attention away from the task of driving.
- Use your inside rearview mirrors to regularly scan what is going on behind you. Mirrors should be scanned every five to eight seconds, as well as when stopping, slowing, or changing lanes.
- If someone is following too closely and it is safe to do so, pull into another lane to allow them to pass by you.
- Do not follow too closely. The National Safety Council recommends allowing at least four seconds between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you during regular daytime driving conditions, and more at night or in inclement weather. You should also allow extra distance if you are traveling behind a vehicle that makes frequent stops.
- Keep a proper distance between your car and the car in front of you when stopped at intersections, as well. This allows space for the lead car to roll backward if it is stopped on a hill, or for you to maneuver around the vehicle in front of you if it stalls at the light.
- Always be as alert as possible when driving your vehicle, regularly scanning the traffic ahead, around, and behind you for potential hazards. Pay attention to the brake lights of the vehicle ahead of you, and anticipate potential situations that may cause the traffic in front of you to suddenly stop, such as a person walking into the roadway from between two parked cars.
- Be predictable for other drivers so that they know what your intentions are. Always signal when changing lanes or turning, and plan ahead when making a turn by being in the appropriate lane well in advance of the turn. Avoid making sudden lane changes.
- Brake early rather than stopping suddenly. Slow gradually when coming to intersections.
Can Both Parties Be Liable for a Rear-End Collision?
Negligence isn’t always one-sided, even when it comes to rear-end collisions. Let’s say you’re rear-ended and the accident investigation reveals that your turn signal wasn’t working properly at the time of the accident. However, the driver behind you was following too closely. Both drivers had fault in the accident, but you’re injured. Are you still eligible for compensation? As long as you didn’t contribute more than 50 percent of the fault, then yes.
Texas follows a modified comparative fault rule, also known as the “51 Percent Bar” rule. What this means is that you are eligible to pursue compensation for your injuries as long as you were less than 51 percent responsible for the accident. However, any award you receive will be reduced by your percentage of fault. So, in the above scenario, if you were found to be 40 percent responsible for the accident, your award would be reduced by 40 percent.
Depending on the facts of your case, additional parties may also be liable for the accident that caused your injuries, including:
- The owner of the other vehicle, if the driver was using someone else’s car at the time of the accident and the vehicle owner knew that the driver should not be driving.
- The owner of the company in which the driver worked, if the accident happened while the driver was working. Again, negligence would have to be proven on the part of the employer, which would likely involve negligent hiring practices in which the employer should have known that the driver should not be driving.
- The manufacturer or distributor of automotive parts, if a defective vehicle part was found to be a contributing factor in the accident.
- The mechanic who worked on the vehicle that caused the accident, if the work was found to have been deficient and a contributing factor to the accident.
- The driver of another vehicle, if that driver’s negligence led to the accident.
The fault percentage of each party is determined by the court, based on the evidence presented. Some evidence used to show fault in an accident includes:
- Photographs of the scene
- Witness statements
- Medical records
- Accident reconstruction
How Do I Receive Compensation for My Injuries?
In Texas, all vehicle owners are required to carry liability insurance to cover the damages that they cause to other people and vehicles in an accident. The amount of insurance required includes:
- At least $30,000 per person for bodily injury
- At least $60,000 per accident for bodily injury
- At least $25,000 for property damage
After a rear-end collision in San Antonio, injured parties have three ways of recovering compensation: through their own insurance policy if they have a policy to cover the damage to their own car, through a third-party claim against the at fault party’s insurance company, or through a personal injury lawsuit. An experienced car accident attorney can help you with all three methods of pursuing compensation by helping you to negotiate a settlement from your insurance company, the other driver’s insurance company, or through a lawsuit filed in the courts. The types of compensation that can be sought include:
- Vehicle repairs
- Lost earning capacity
- The cost of hiring someone to do household chores if the claimant is no longer able to do them
- Lost wages
- Past, current, and future medical expenses related to the accident injury
- Non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering, disability, or loss of companionship
- In rare cases of extremely reckless, flagrant, or wanton negligence, exemplary damages---also known as punitive damages---can be sought
Your personal injury attorney will help you to determine the amount of compensation that is fair based on the severity of your injuries, your future medical needs, and the impact that your injuries have had on your life.
When filing a personal injury lawsuit to recover damages in Texas, there are a few provisions to be aware of:
- Statute of limitations: The time that you have to file a personal injury lawsuit in court is two years from the date of the accident. If you do not file the suit within two years, your case will likely not be heard. If the claim is against a public entity, such as a city or a municipal bus line, then your time limit to file a lawsuit is much shorter---even as short as 60 days, in some cases.
- If you’re seeking exemplary damages, you are limited to the greater of $200,000; two times the amount of economic damages plus $750,000; or two times the amount of economic damages plus the amount of non-economic damages.
- If the at fault party was participating in a city or county community service program at the time of the accident, claimants are limited in the compensation they can seek against the city or county. These limits are $100,000 per person or no more than $300,000 per accident for personal injury or death, and $10,000 per accident for property damage.
Let Us Help With Your Rear-End Accident
Rear-end collisions are often regarded as “minor accidents.” However, anyone who has ever been injured or has lost a loved one due to being rear-ended can tell you that they can be quite serious. If you have been injured in a rear-end collision in San Antonio, it is important to have a skilled personal injury accident attorney on your side to help guide you through the often-complex claims and/or litigation process and to fight for you to receive the compensation you deserve.
The skilled legal team at The Law Offices of George Salinas can help you to understand your legal options and stands ready to help give a voice to the injured. Call us today to schedule your free consultation and case review at (210) 225-0909 or contact The Law Offices of George Salinas online.