Rear-end collisions can happen almost anywhere, from parking lots to traffic lights, and even on the highway. But, do you know how to protect your legal rights if you’re involved in a rear-end accident?
The repercussions of getting rear-ended can be quite overwhelming and extensive. You may be dealing with injuries, vehicle damage, and trying to prove you’re not the at-fault driver. Then there’s also the matter of financial compensation. Navigating the various legal ins and outs is not only complicated, but it can also be overwhelming. If you’re involved in a rear-end collision, here are some things to know.
Steps To Take After A Rear-End Collision
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration states that rear-end collisions make up an estimated 23% of vehicle accidents [PDF], which equates to around 950,000 injuries and 2,000 fatalities each year.
If you’re involved in a rear-end collision, there are some steps you should take to protect your legal rights. Even if the vehicle accident does not result in noticeable injuries or property damage, it’s still a good idea to think about your legal rights.
To help you out, here’s a quick look at the steps you should take:
● Report the accident to the authorities: If neither vehicle suffers noticeable damage and both drivers and passengers do not sustain injuries, you can probably wait to file a police report. However, it’s a good idea to contact the authorities within 24 hours of the wreck. If you or the other driver files a personal injury lawsuit, you will need a copy of the police report to support your case. Your insurance company will also request a police report before agreeing to any compensation amount.
● Document the accident: Documenting the accident does not mean turning into a crime scene technician. Instead, talk to any witnesses and get their information. Your attorney and insurance company may want to speak with them. You also want to exchange information with the other driver, which typically includes getting their insurance information and giving them yours. Take photos of any damage to the vehicles.
● Get a physical exam: You may not have visible injuries, and you feel fine, but you still want to see a physician for a check-up. Not only will this ensure you do not have any soft tissue injuries, but your medical report may also be required by your insurance adjuster. If you have injuries, you will need the documentation to prove your personal injury claim.
● Contact your insurance carrier: You will need to let your insurance provider know about the accident. The only time you skip any of these steps is if the rear-end accident is only a slight tap on your bumper and both drivers agree to go on their way. If no information is exchanged, locating the other driver is all but impossible, which also applies if the other driver is trying to find you. However, if you give your information to another driver after a rear-end collision and get theirs, let your insurance company know they may get a call.
● Keep all documentation: You want to keep every scrap of paper relating to the rear-end accident, which includes repair estimates, medical reports, and any bills you pay out-of-pocket. Without this documentation, it’s extremely difficult for an attorney to prove your personal injury case. You may still receive compensation, but it may not be enough to cover all of your expenses.
You may also want to consult an attorney if you’re injured or have vehicle damage.
What Can You Claim In A Rear-End Collision Lawsuit
Before you start making a list of things you want to include in your rear-end accident case, there are limitations. State law also varies on what you can include in your lawsuit. Your attorney will explain what is allowed in your state, but most accept the following items.
● Medical bills
● Property damage
● Lost income due to the accident and/or injuries
● Pain and suffering
Settlement amounts will vary on a case-by-case basis. Some states may also have caps on award amounts. However, most read-end collision case settlements are based on the severity of the injuries and property damage.
Common injuries often included in rear-end collision lawsuits can include neck and back injuries caused by whiplash, strains, or sprains. Sometimes, the impact on the vehicle can result in more serious injuries like a spinal fracture or damaged disc.
Who Is The At-Fault Driver In Rear-End Collisions
The law is pretty clear when it comes to determining which driver is at fault in a rear-end accident. Typically, the driver who hits the vehicle’s back end in front is the one at fault. This even applies if the lead driver suddenly brakes for no reason.
Some states even have what’s known as a ‘four-second law,’ which requires drivers to keep a four-second distance between their vehicles and the one in front of them. In other words, count to four seconds before pulling behind another vehicle.
Since you’re trying to figure out if you have four seconds to stop before hitting the vehicle in front, it’s recommended that you try to leave a distance measuring the length of a car between you and the other vehicle. This way, you should have enough time to stop without tapping the other vehicle’s rear fender. Proving which driver is at fault in a rear-end accident often comes down to showing negligence.
So, what is negligence? Along with keeping a safe distance, drivers also must obey all traffic laws. Negligence can also be failing to pay attention while driving. For example, texting or talking on the phone instead of concentrating on the road. Drivers that go over the speed limit and accidentally rear-end another vehicle can also be found negligent.
Talk To An Attorney After A Rear-End Collision
Did you know there are strict deadlines in place for filing a personal injury lawsuit after a rear-end collision? The time frame varies by state, but most give you one year from the initial date of the accident.
Don’t miss out on receiving the compensation you deserve for your injuries and property damage. Make sure to talk to an attorney about your case to learn more about your legal options, and determine the best route for you.
Disclaimer: The information provided here is for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. If you have been involved in a traffic accident and require legal assistance, it is advisable to consult with a qualified attorney who can provide guidance tailored to your specific situation. This content is not a substitute for professional legal counsel.
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