Many people have experienced a tap on their rear bumper by a car that couldn’t stop in time. As a result, we tend to think that rear-end collisions are relatively minor motor vehicle accidents. The data show otherwise, however. These car accidents can leave people seriously and sometimes permanently injured, and fighting to pay mounting medical bills. If you’re one of them, you may need a car accident lawyer to help you recover compensation.
Rear-end Collisions Are Serious Accidents
According to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), 819 car accident fatalities took place in Virginia in one recent year. In addition, vehicle collisions caused roughly 66,623 injuries. The most common type of car accident is a rear-end collision, and they occur in many ways.
How many accident fatalities were caused by rear-end collisions? The Insurance Information Institute reports that rear-end collisions are the initial contributing factor in more than 7 percent of all fatal crashes across the United States. The Washington Post estimates that across the nation there are 1.7 million rear-end crashes each year.
Unfortunately, the assumption that rear-end collisions are minor accidents is incorrect. Rear-end collisions frequently cause serious injuries, and, as mentioned, are often a contributing factor in fatal car accidents. When the rear of a car experiences a forceful impact, occupants can be thrown forward and make contact with the dashboard or windshield. When an individual’s head experiences a violent blow, they may suffer a head wound or a traumatic brain injury (TBI).
If a smaller vehicle is rear-ended by a larger one, such as a commercial cargo truck, the damage can be devastating. Oftentimes, the sheer size and weight of the larger vehicle will completely crush the smaller ones. Occupants in the smaller vehicle may suffer the loss of a limb, crush injuries, or even decapitation.
Victims of a rear-end collision may endure the following injuries:
- Soft tissue injuries (whiplash)
- Spinal cord injuries
- Damage to internal organs
- Loss of a limb or body part
- Broken bones
Who Is Responsible for a Rear-end Collision?
Who is responsible if you are injured, or a loved one dies, in a rear-end collision?
Generally, the driver who caused the accident may be held legally liable for accident-related damages. Drivers are required to leave ample space between their vehicles and the vehicles they follow. They should maintain enough space to safely stop their vehicles if another one should come to an abrupt halt.
There are circumstances, though, in which the driver who caused the rear-end collision may not be responsible. For example, brake failure may contribute to a driver’s inability to stop even though they were driving responsibly. In this scenario, the manufacturer of the brakes, the car, or a brake repair shop (if involved) may be responsible. However, the driver would have to prove that the brakes failed before the collision.
Another scenario that may relieve a driver’s liability occurs when the driver safely stops a vehicle, but a third vehicle strikes them from behind. If the rear impact causes the stopped driver’s vehicle to hit the car it is following, the third driver may be liable for those damages.
Finally, some accidents may initially look like rear-end collisions, but in actuality the crash mechanisms are different. Let’s say a vehicle backs up suddenly out of a parking space without looking and strikes your car. The damage to the vehicle’s rear-end doesn’t indicate you struck that car, but rather that they struck you.
Who Pays for My Injuries After a Rear-end Collision?
Identifying potentially responsible parties is highly pertinent to receiving damage compensation for injuries and losses from a rear-end collision in Virginia.
Under Virginia law, the at-fault party is liable for damages suffered by accident victims. To be at-fault, a driver or other party must be negligent. For a driver, careless, imprudent, or unlawful driving will be considered negligent if it results in an accident. Negligent driver behaviors can lead to a rear-end collision.
In Virginia, injured victims may be entitled to pursue compensation from a negligent driver for the following damages:
- Medical bills, including emergency care such as ambulance transportation, doctor’s office visits, surgeries, hospitalizations, prescription medications, and physical therapy.
- Future medical bills for any treatment required for recovery.
- Lost wages for missed time from work.
- Future lost wages, if you are unable to return to your previous position or unable to work at all.
- Pain and suffering.
How Do I Receive Compensation for These Damages?
Injured victims may receive compensation for damages from negligent parties in one of two ways. First, injured victims may file a third-party claim by contacting the at-fault party’s insurance company. If you are able, at the scene of the accident, you should collect and record the other drivers’ insurance information.
Insured Virginia drivers are required to carry the following coverage minimums:
- $25,000 liability coverage for bodily injury or death of one person in an accident caused by the owner or driver of the vehicle.
- $50,000 liability coverage for total bodily injury or death in an accident caused by the owner or driver of the vehicle.
- $20,000 liability coverage per accident for property damage caused by the owner or driver of the vehicle.
The proceeds of a third-party claim are paid from the other driver’s insurance carrier directly to the injured parties.
However, Virginia law does not require every driver to obtain insurance coverage. Drivers may choose to pay a $500 Uninsured Motor Vehicle fee to the DMV rather than purchasing an insurance policy. If an uninsured driver causes a rear-end collision, injured parties will not be able to file a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company.
Second, you can discuss filing a personal injury lawsuit with an attorney. Typically, personal injury attorneys offer free consultations for potential clients to evaluate the facts of their case.
A personal injury lawsuit allows injured victims to seek compensation by filing a claim in court. Claimants may seek compensation for the same damages (medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering). However, the determination of the amount of damages is made by a judge and jury, rather than an insurance adjuster.
A personal injury lawsuit may be useful in a variety of circumstances. Insurance companies may attempt to discredit the value of your claim and offer an unfair settlement amount. A personal injury suit may be more likely to result in a just award.
A personal injury lawsuit may also be advantageous if the state-mandated insurance minimums do not cover the extent of your injuries. On the other hand, if a driver is uninsured, a personal injury claim may enable victims to receive the compensation they deserve.
Frequently, personal injury claims are settled outside of court. The defendant (the at-fault party) and the plaintiff (the injured victim) will agree on a suitable settlement amount. The settlement agreement will specify the amount of damages, and a check will be issued for that amount.
Rear-end collisions can be devastating and legally complex. For more information, contact an experienced vehicle accident attorney.