Spending a sunny day at the beach, or a rainy day browsing the stores at the Palm Beach Outlets or Rosemary Square, sounds like a fun way to get out of the house; however, you’re not the only one thinking about doing that.
Unfortunately, with the traffic in this populous city, you’re more likely to get into a wreck than you would in a smaller city. You might be sitting at a light, minding your own business, when someone rear-ends you. Some people are lucky enough to get off without severe injuries, but others might suffer whiplash and other severe injuries.
Palm Beach County Accident Statistics
While the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles does not show rear-end accidents, it does show how many car, pedestrian, and motorcycle accidents happen in the county. In a recent year, Palm Beach County saw a total of 22,095 wrecks that caused 186 fatalities and 12,841 injuries.
However, in a recent year, the Insurance Information Institute counted 2,346 rear-end crashes in the United States—7.1 percent of all car accidents in the country.
The NHTSA found that driver distraction caused 87 percent of rear-end crashes. Additionally, the study found that 64 percent of the drivers had their eyes off the road for more than two seconds when they crashed.
Someone can rear-end you while you are sitting at a stoplight or driving down the road if they are speeding and get too close to you. Common rear-end crashes include those where people have slowed down or stopped on a highway and someone not paying attention plows into them.
Common Causes of Rear-End Accidents
In addition to distracted driving, other driver behaviors and events also cause rear-end wrecks, including:
- People following too closely often ram into the person in front of them if the front vehicle has to stop quickly. In some cases, the front vehicle slows down, and the tailgater rams into the rear of the front vehicle because he or she notices the brake lights too late. The distance between the tailgater and the vehicle in front is just too short for the tailgater to stop safely.
- If people are speeding, they might not slow down quickly enough to avoid hitting a slower vehicle in front of them. Even slamming on the brakes could cause a crash—either the speeder will slide into you, he or she could lose control of his vehicle and crash into you and others.
- Fatigue and tiredness. If someone closes his or her eyes just for a second while driving, that person could run right into the back of the vehicle in front of him. Additionally, being tired makes a person less perceptive. He or she could misjudge the distance between her and the vehicle in front of her and rear-end a slowing or stopping vehicle.
- Rain, snow, fog, ice, sleet—all can cause a rear-end accident because of decreased visibility and/or sliding on slippery roads.
If you believe someone is following you too closely, whether the person is tailgating you on purpose or because that person should be further back due to the weather, you can turn your hazards on. It will draw attention to your vehicle, and most people will back off.
Injuries Caused by a Rear-End Accident
As with any other accident, you can suffer minor to severe injuries, or even death, if someone rear-ends you. The severity of your injuries depends on several factors, including speed, the angle at which the person hits you, whether you have your seatbelt on, and the size of the vehicle that hits you.
If the rear-end crash causes your vehicle to ram into the person in front of you or causes it to flip, you have a higher risk of suffering severe injuries that you might not usually see in a rear-end wreck.
Injuries might include:
- Whiplash and other neck injuries.
- Head and shoulder injuries.
- Face and eye injuries.
- Cuts, scrapes, bruises, scratches, and bumps.
- Traumatic brain injuries.
- Back and spinal cord injuries.
- Simple and compound fractures.
- Strains and sprains.
- Pulled muscles, torn muscles, and other soft tissue injuries.
- Chemical and thermal burns.
- Road rash if the crash throws you from the vehicle.
- Internal injuries.
You could also suffer secondary injuries, such as infections, if you have underlying conditions, such as diabetes and immunodeficiencies, or take medications that lower your white blood count.
If any secondary injuries manifest, the at-fault driver is responsible for compensating you for them because you would not have suffered from them or had the medical expenses to treat them if the defendant had not rear-ended you.
What to Do After a Rear-End Wreck
Because rear-end wrecks often cause neck, shoulder, and back injuries, it is best to move as little as possible after a crash if you feel any soreness. Once emergency medical technicians check you out, then you can move around. If you can move around, you can take several steps that will help protect your financial, medical, and legal interests.
Document the Accident
You can document the wreck in several ways. For example, you can do a voice recording or take notes. You can also take pictures of the crash. If you do take photos of the crash, be sure to get it from all angles. Also, take pictures of skid marks and other damage to the road and surrounding property.
As with any other accident, obtain the driver’s contact information, registration information, and insurance information. In addition, obtain contact information for any passengers in the involved vehicles and any witnesses. Then, you can ask passengers and witnesses what they saw. Be sure to take notes if anyone tells you what they witnessed.
Obtain Medical Care
When the emergency medical technicians arrive on the scene, allow them to check you over. You could have injuries that you do not know you have. As soon as the police release you from the accident scene, seek medical attention at the hospital. Let medical professionals know that you were in a rear-end wreck and that you need a comprehensive checkup for hidden injuries, including concussions, internal injuries, and neck, shoulder, and back injuries.
Speak to the Police Officer
The officer will ask you for your statement. Tell the officer exactly what happened, including whether you were stopped or moving, and if you were driving, at what speed you were traveling.
Once the officer finishes his or her report, ask to see it before he turns it in. Make sure that the officer interpreted what you told him correctly—and that the other driver told the truth.
After a Rear-End Wreck
In addition to seeking medical attention, call a car accident lawyer experienced in rear-end crashes for your free case evaluation. If possible, bring a copy of the police report and medical records for the wreck with you.
The last thing that you need to do—or you can let your attorney do it—is to notify your insurance company of a wreck. Since Florida is a no-fault state, you’ll most likely collect from your own insurance company, but you can also collect from the at-fault driver’s insurance company.
All insurance companies, including yours, are in business to make money. They don’t care that you paid your premiums for 20 years and that you paid them on time. They are only looking out for their best interests—not yours.
If you do notice either insurance company yourself, only give it your name, contact information, insurance policy numbers, the date and location of the wreck, and your West Palm Beach car accident attorney’s contact information. The insurance company will pressure for a statement or to sign a medical release. Continue referring it to your attorney. If you start talking about the accident, you could inadvertently say something the insurance company will twist to make the wreck look as though it’s your fault. This is an attempt to deny your claim or to offer you much less than you deserve.
If you prefer your car accident lawyer to notify your insurance company of the accident, you need to schedule a free case evaluation as soon as possible. While Florida allows for two years to file an accident claim in most cases, insurance companies could give you as little as 15 to 30 days to notify them that you will file a claim.
Always check your policy to see how long you have to file a claim. However, do not depend on just that. For example, if you have to sue the at-fault driver’s insurance company, you do not want to miss out on notifying it of your wreck. For example, your insurance company might give you 60 days to file a claim, but the at-fault driver’s insurance might give you 30 days.
In Florida, you can recover two types of damages: Compensatory damages and punitive damages. The court orders compensatory damages in an attempt to make you whole again. It orders punitive damages to punish the defendant’s negligent actions or inactions.
When you get compensatory damages, you could receive economic and non-economic damages, depending on the severity of your injuries. The court orders compensatory damages in an attempt to make you whole again. While the money does not remove pain and suffering or bring back a loved one, it does reduce the financial stress caused when you can’t work or you lost a loved one.
Economic damages. Special damages, often referred to as economic damages, have a monetary value and include:
- Past medical expenses for those incurred because of the rear-end accident and during the time before a settlement or a trial award.
- Future medical expenses for those incurred because of a rear-end wreck and after a settlement or a trial award. Medical expenses include surgeries, follow-up appointments, therapy appointments (physical, occupational, and cognitive, and other psychological therapies), ambulatory aids, medications, and more.
- Past lost wages for the time you could not work from the time of the wreck until you settle or win a trial award.
- Future lost wages for the time you cannot work after a settlement or a trial award. If you can work, but your injuries preclude you from making the same hourly rate or salary as before the wreck, you could collect partial future lost wages.
- Replacement or repair of destroyed or damaged personal property, including your vehicle and anything in it, such as cell phones, computers, or clothing.
- Funeral, burial, and/or cremation expenses if you lost a loved one in a rear-end accident.
Non-economic damages. General damages, often referred to as non-economic damages, do not have a monetary value, and include:
- Pain and suffering, including emotional distress.
- Loss of quality of life.
- Loss of companionship.
- Loss of consortium.
- Inconvenience if you have to hire someone to do the chores you usually do, such as lawn maintenance, house cleaning, home repair and maintenance, and grocery shopping.
- Loss of use of a body part, such as a finger or hand.
- Loss of use of a bodily function, such as your eyesight or bladder function.
- Amputation of a digit or limb.
- Excessive scarring and/or disfigurement.
You can also recover punitive damages if you show that the defendant committed grossly negligent or intentional actions. In Florida, you can only collect punitive damages if the court awards you compensatory damages. Thus, the trial is bifurcated—in two parts. Once the jury awards compensatory damages, you then have to go through a second trial—usually with the same judge and jury—to determine whether you should recover punitive damages.
The court does not hear all of the other testimony from the first part of the trial. It only looks at the defendant’s actions and inactions to determine if they were grossly negligent or intentional. The court also looks at the defendant’s financial situation to decide whether or not he or she can pay punitive damages.
If you suffered injuries or lost a loved one in a rear-end accident in West Palm Beach, a car accident lawyer can provide a free case evaluation and determine what damages you can seek.