You’re stuck at a red light in a typical New York rush hour when—BAM! A texting driver slams the back of your car, injuring you as the impact jars your unsuspecting body. Some may quip that it’s “just a fender bender,” downplaying the seriousness.
After all, rear-end collisions are the most common type of auto accident, caused by everyday occurrences like distracted driving and tailgating. But don’t be misled: Rear impacts can result in serious long-term injuries, and can even claim lives.
Rear-End Accidents in the US
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), rear-end accidents caused 2,456 fatalities in 2017, amounting to 7.2 percent of the 13,416 deadly crashes with moving vehicles reported in that year. The top offender proved to be angle impacts (6,354 deaths), followed by head-on accidents (3,471 deaths).
And while fatal accidents declined for the second consecutive year according to the NHTSA, with 36,560 lives lost in 2018 (down 2.4 percent from 2017’s death toll), rear-end accidents are still the most frequent cause of collision in the US, and continue to plague our roadways.
Non-Fatal Injuries from Rear-End Accidents
Most rear-end crashes do not prove fatal, but lead to injuries too numerous to factor for the resulting impacts alone. Rear-end impacts of all types resulted in ER visits for more than 2.5 million Americans and nearly 200,000 hospitalizations in 2012, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). They also totaled $18 billion in lifetime medical costs, reports the CDC, so it’s easy to see why more serious cases end up in court.
The top non-fatal injuries that landed victims in the ER were open wounds, fractures, internal injuries, contusions/superficial, and strains/sprains, reports the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System.
Whiplash Injuries from Rear-End Accidents
One of the most common non-fatal injuries associated with rear-end accidents is whiplash. According to Mayo Clinic, “Whiplash is a neck injury due to the forceful, rapid back-and-forth movement of the neck, like the cracking of a whip. Whiplash most often occurs during a rear-end auto accident…”
If you’ve seen any number of TV comedies where a scam artist snaps on and off a foam cervical collar faking a neck injury in hopes of a hefty lawsuit, you probably realize that whiplash has a bad rap. But underestimating the seriousness of whiplash, as car makers did when first developing anti-crash devices, would be a mistake.
How Long Do Whiplash Symptoms Last?
According to the Mayo Clinic, whiplash can injure bones, ligaments, and discs, causing pain for months to years after the accident. And New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital adds, “Accidents or falls can cause severe neck injuries, such as vertebral fractures, whiplash, blood vessel injury, and even paralysis.”
Steps to Take Following a Rear-End Injury
Step 1: Seek Immediate Medical Attention
If you have any kind of post-accident pain, Mount Sinai recommends seeing a doctor or urgent care without delay. (It should be noted that because this pain usually sets in within 24 hours after the crash, it may not be evident during your initial ER visit.)
If pain does kick in, the doctor may order an imaging test such as an MRI or X-ray to rule out aggravating conditions before deciding on treatment that could include injections, muscle relaxants, and/or physical therapy. And, as we pointed out, whiplash is not the only injury that can result from a rear-ender.
At this point, you are probably thinking, “Who is going to pay for all this?” You are not alone. According to The New York Times, rear-end accidents are responsible for most of the $2 million insurance claims a year with minor neck injuries.
Step 2: File an Insurance Claim
Filing an insurance claim with your provider is the first major step taken towards recovering the cost of your doctors’ bills, car repairs, and other accident-related issues. If you live in New York—one of 12 states with no fault car insurance and accident compensation laws—filing a claim should be your top priority, as soon as you are able to.
By law, each insured motorist must carry $25,000 to $50,000 in case of injuries such as this, and you will be filing with your own insurance company initially.
Step 3: For Those with Severe and Permanent Injuries
For injuries more severe or permanent, such as disability, disfigurement, or broken bones, the next step will be to file a claim against the other driver’s insurer, or building a lawsuit. Doing so opens the door to monetary awards for your pain and suffering, as well as medical expenses, lost wages, vehicle repair, and more. New York doesn’t limit these awards, as some states do, which means it’s not rare for a jury to award a few million for those who experience significant pain and suffering after a severe rear-end accident.
But since New York is a “pure comparative fault” state, you must expect that the judge will heavily consider who was at fault for the accident before reaching a settlement. Your accident may seem like a very open-and-shut case on the surface. After all, you were just sitting at a red light when suddenly, you were thrust into a life-changing series of events. However, there are other variables that a court will consider in a rear-end crash before coming to a settlement.
Step 4: Consider Who Would Be at Fault for the Accident
If the accident occurred due to even the smallest amount of negligence on your part, blame may be thrown your way in court. For example, if the collision was caused partly due to your brake lights failing, or if you reversed suddenly, or made an abrupt turn without a signal, these issues could result in your settlement being lowered, or the case being turned completely in the other driver’s favor. Same, too, if you got a flat tire and failed to pull to the side or use hazard lights. You may receive a percentage of the fault, reducing your compensation chances.
In any case (but especially ones where you may be even partly at fault), you will want to ensure that you have experienced rear-end auto accident lawyers backing you up in court. Make sure to contact a car accident lawyer that has years of experience with defending victims of rear-end accidents. If a crash drastically changes life’s course, there is some relief in the fact that New York does not limit or cap awards like many states do.
Take the First Step with Sobo & Sobo
If you or someone you know were injured in a rear-end accident, call the car accident attorneys at Sobo & Sobo for a free consultation at 855-GOT-SOBO. The Sobo team has helped hundreds of clients across New York’s Hudson Valley, and the Bronx.