Rear-end collisions are some of the most common road accidents in the United States. The National Highway Traffic Administration (NHTSA) estimates that 23-30 percent of accidents are rear-end collisions, resulting in 500,000 injured motorists and 17,000 deaths. Unfortunately, driver distractions such as GPS controls and cell phones are often the cause of rear-end collisions.
A rear-end collision can cause a wide array of injuries, from minor ones to the most severe. However, victims are particularly vulnerable to neck and back injuries. Depending on the angles and speed of the accident, a neck or back injury could lead to limited mobility and chronic pain, which could last just a few weeks, or it could leave someone suffering for the rest of their life.
If you have been injured in a rear-end collision in Florida, then you should contact an experienced personal injury lawyer who has experience dealing with road accident cases in Florida. That is precisely what you will find at The Law Firm, contact us at any time of day and arrange a free consultation. Our phone lines are manned 24/7 so call us on (888) 224-6114.
How Does a Neck or Back Injury Happen During a Rear-End Collision?
Rear-end collisions are different from other types of crashes in that they often occur at low speeds. Although airbag deployment and seat belts reduce passenger movement in an accident, the upper back and neck still endure an unnatural force, especially for those in the front seats. When a rear-end collision happens, bodies move forward and back quickly during impact. This jolting motion, as well as the extra force of the seatbelt pulling a person back, is the main reason why neck and back injuries occur.
Facet joints connect the vertebras in your spine, which enables you to twist and bend your back. Many neck injuries are caused by the facet joints colliding with each other when the neck moves quickly during an accident. The impact also causes your middle and lower back to move forward and back, which disturbs the natural curve of the spine.
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Types of Neck and Back Injuries That Result from Rear-End Collisions
Depending upon the speed and the angle of a rear-end collision, different types of neck and back injuries can occur. Neck pain or upper or lower back pain can be symptoms of various kinds of injury. You must seek medical advice, preferably within 24 hours. Some of the most common types of back injury from this kind of car accident include,
- Whiplash is the most common injury resulting from a rear-end car accident. When the neck and head move sharply upon impact, the victim sustains soft tissue injury in the back and neck. This can cause back and neck pain and stiffness. A whiplash injury can be mild, lasting just a couple of weeks, or it can be severe, with a much longer-lasting impact. Some people report neck and back pain years after an accident. However, the majority of whiplash cases will heal within six weeks.
- Spinal fractures most commonly occur in rear-end car accidents that happen at high speed. The victim’s head and torso get tossed around while the lower back is held in place by a seat belt. This results in compression fractures or breaks in the vertebrae. Stress fractures can also push vertebrae out of place, resulting in Spondylolisthesis, a condition where the nerves and spine are compressed, causing numbness and back pain.
- Slipped discs, also referred to as herniated discs, is a condition where the discs between the vertebrae shift out of place. This also results in numbness and back pain. This commonly occurs in the lower back but can happen anywhere along your spine.
- Spinal cord injuries can occur in rear-end car accidents at any speed. Small spinal cord injuries could cause temporary paralysis that will heal over time. However, sometimes the cord is severed, which leads to permanent paralysis, either partial or total. The higher up that this injury occurs, the more likely it is that the victim will experience loss of functions.
Delayed Symptoms of Back and Neck Injuries
Following a rear-end car accident, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible, preferably within 24 hours. While you could have immediate symptoms of back or neck injury, it is also common to feel reasonably un-injured following the accident. It may not be until your muscles relax or the adrenaline lessens that you feel the full extent of your injuries and pain.
Under Florida law, you must seek medical attention within 14 days to claim.
You should seek immediate medical care for two reasons. Firstly, your symptoms might not show up for days or weeks after an accident, so just because you initially feel ok, doesn’t mean that you weren’t injured. Secondly, your medical records could be used to provide evidence of your injuries and pain, the sooner you get treatment, the more substantial the evidence that your injuries were caused as a result of the rear-end car accident.
Here are some lesser-known symptoms that you could have a back or neck injury following a rear-end collision.
- Shoulder and neck stiffness.
- Lower back pain.
- Upper back pain.
- Numbness or tingling.
- Abdominal Pain.
If you suffer from any of these symptoms following an accident, even if it is days later, see your doctor as soon as possible, these symptoms could indicate that you have a neck or back injury.
Bear in mind that even if you experience no symptoms, you should seek medical attention after any rear-end collision. Due to swelling and stiffness, it might be hard for a doctor to diagnose you right away, and they may also ask you to come back at a later date. Nevertheless, you should still try and get medical attention within 24 hours.
Neck and Back Recovery Following a Rear-End Car Accident
If you sustain a back or neck injury in a rear-end collision, you could need a lot of time to heal properly. Depending on how severe your pain and suffering is, treatments vary, but they could include,
- Wearing a brace – You may need to wear a back or neck brace to stabilize your body. This could prevent further injury and pain as they limit your movement. However, if your injuries and pain are minor, then you might be better off moving your muscles, as a brace could cause them to become stiffer.
- Ice packs or heating pads – Heat can ease muscle tension and relieve pain, while ice packs can help to reduce swelling.
- Pain medication – If your pain is severe, then your doctor might prescribe pain killers. You should only take prescription pain killers when over the counter pain relief is insufficient. Prescription pain killers can be addictive, so this shouldn’t be a long-term solution if possible.
- Physical therapy – A physical therapist will assess your injuries and pain and put a plan in place for you. Their treatment may include gentle exercises that you do yourself from home. Neck and back injuries can reduce your range of motion, and physical therapy helps to rebuild muscles and restore you back to health. In the event of a severe injury that left you bed-bound for an extended period of time, you may need physical therapy to help with muscle loss in all parts of your body.
- Chiropractic care. Your primary goal after a rear-end collision is to get back to your former health. Some victims find that a chiropractor helps with recovery. However, this treatment may not be covered, so you should speak to your personal injury lawyer first.
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What If My Pain After a Rear-End Collision in Florida Was Delayed
It is not uncommon for an injury to show up in the days or weeks after an accident—especially back pain, which can become increasingly worse as your muscles relax. That is why it is so important to see a doctor even if you feel ok. In Florida, you are required to seek medical attention within 14 days of the incident in order to make a claim.
It is customary for the injured party to sign a release of liability after a crash, which will stop you from filing a lawsuit. You should avoid doing this until you have had an opportunity to assess the extent of your injuries and back pain.
As long as you haven’t settled your claim, you can still fight for compensation for delayed injuries and pain. The general rule is to wait until you have your “maximum medical improvement” (MMI). This refers to the point at which you have reached as full of a recovery that can be expected.
The best thing to do after a car accident is to contact an attorney who can help you to make the right decisions. If you are unsure about what you should do, then don’t hesitate to call us, that is why we offer a free consultation.
Causes of Rear-End Collisions
As a result of the high number of rear-end accidents in the United States, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) researched the causes of rear-end collisions, the 2003 report found,
- 85% of rear-end accidents are caused by distracted driving, such as cell phone use, eating, and daydreaming.
- Young make drivers cause most of the rear-end collisions, especially those under 18.
- Most rear-end crashes occur when the vehicle in front has stopped in traffic.
- Most rear-end accidents occur on days with clear weather.
How to Avoid Rear-End Car Accidents
Most rear-end collisions are avoidable. Whether you are the vehicle in front or behind, you can take steps to avoid this type of accident with the following tips,
- Avoid all distractions while driving, including reaching in the back, personal grooming, and cell phone use. These cause any kind of car accident.
- Keep at least a four-second space between you and the vehicle in front. This gives you enough distance and time to react if they suddenly stop.
- Increase this distance if it is raining as wet roads can make it more difficult to stop quickly.
- Check your rear-view mirror frequently to watch cars behind you, especially before you turn, slow down or stop.
- Make sure your turn signals and brake lights work and that you use them correctly to let other drivers know of your intentions.
- If someone is driving too close to you, then pull to one side and let them pass.
- Make sure that your brakes are working correctly.
- Don’t slam your brakes at the last second, instead break slowly and early.
If You get Rear-Ended, Is It Your Fault
In the vast majority of rear-end accidents, the driver who gets rear-ended is not at fault. Even if you brake, suddenly, you may still not be at fault. Whether or not you were in front, it is always best to speak to an attorney after any road accident so that they can clearly establish liability. Initially, you may be unsure of who is at fault, another reason why we offer a free consultation.
Liability in Rear-End Collisions in Florida
Florida is a no-fault state when it comes to car insurance companies. In a no-fault state, your own insurance company is initially responsible for your damages following a car accident, whether or not you were at fault.
In Florida, in accordance with Florida Statute 627.7407, you are required to own Personal Injury Protection (PIP). However, PIP will only cover around 80 percent of medical expenses and 60 percent of lost wages up to a particular amount. The minimum amount of personal injury protection is 10,000 dollars. This means that if your medical bills are more then 10,000 dollars, then your policy may still only cover you for 80 percent of 10,000 dollars, which is 8,000 dollars.
Although PIP is designed to cover some of the cost of your pain and suffering, in a severe car accident, you are likely to exceed your policy limit. When this happens, you will need to take legal action with help from a personal injury lawyer to recover the compensation that you deserve for your accident case.
Following an auto accident, the fault will not be a factor in your PIP claim. However, if you decide to take legal action with help from a personal injury lawyer, then the fault will become a contested issue. In the majority of rear-end collisions, the rear vehicle will primarily be at fault. However, this is not always the case, and the defense may argue that you have some liability for the accident. They could argue that you were distracted, driving under the influence or driving when fatigued. It is, therefore, important that you get help from an experienced attorney quickly so that they can guide you through the process and stop you from being taken advantage of.
If you were partially at fault for the rear-end collision, then Florida law still allows you to seek damages in civil court. A court may reduce your compensation based on the extent to which you contributed to the crash. This is called pure comparative negligence. For example, they could decide that you were 30 percent at fault, so you only receive 70 percent of the damages. You have a right to seek compensation so long as you were less than 50 percent at fault for the auto accident.
Will My Car Insurance Go up If I Am Rear-Ended?
Accident victims are sometimes reluctant to make a claim, even if they are suffering from back pain because they are concerned that their insurance will go up. However, if you are not at fault, then your insurance rates should not go up.
What Affects the Amount of Money I Will Receive in Florida?
The money that you receive for a neck or back injury after a rear-end accident in Florida will be dependent on the severity of your injuries and pain, the state of your vehicle, and how much money you have lost or a likely to lose in wages.
The highest amounts of money received are for severe injuries such as paralysis. Fortunately, these injuries are rare. Big amounts can also be justified by fused vertebrae or compression fracture.
The length of your treatment and the amount of time it takes you to recover after the accident will also have a significant impact on how much money you receive.
Recovering compensation in Florida isn’t always easy. You need to prove the extent of your injuries and pain, and insurance firms can play hard-ball to try and minimize how much they payout. The insurance company could argue that your neck or back injury was not a result of the car accident; for example, they could argue that any extra weight put unnecessary strain on the back.
That is why it is important to have a lawyer on your side. Big insurance firms have experienced lawyers whose only job is to save them money. By hiring a lawyer yourself, you are leveling the playing field. People who have the support of an attorney generally end up receiving more in compensation than those who don’t.
When just two cars are involved in a rear-end collision, the driver in the back vehicle is usually found to be at fault for driving too close, being distracted or speeding. The law generally assumes that a reasonable person driving under similar circumstances would have been able to avoid the accident.
However, in a crash involving more than two vehicles, the driver behind you may have been pushed by another vehicle. Therefore the fault may go to the person in the vehicle at the very back.
What Steps Should You Take After a Rear-End Collision in Florida
Check for injuries: After a rear-end collision, the first thing to do is to check for pain and injuries. If you are suffering from immediate back pain, then you may need to stay in your car until an ambulance arrives. Even if you do not feel pain, you should still seek medical attention as the adrenaline may be covering your pain. You must seek medical treatment within 14 days in order to make a claim, however the sooner, the better. We recommend seeing a doctor within 24 hours of the crash.
Contact the police – Next, in accordance with Florida Statute 316.062, you should contact the police, even if the damage appears minor. A police report will help your claim and may also help to keep the interactions with you and the other driver peaceful.
Contact your insurance company – You are required to speak to your own car insurance company after an accident. Your car insurance policy might require you to inform them within 24 hours in order to receive any compensation.
Document information – Make sure you document all the information you can regarding the rear-end collision. Get the full name and address of the other driver as well as their vehicle information. You should also take pictures of all vehicles involved as well as anything else that could be relevant such as skid marks or traffic lights. You should keep all information with regards to your car accident, including medical and police records, as you may need these to fight for compensation.
Be careful about what you say – Be very careful about what you say to the other driver or the police. It is a natural response to say that you are sorry or that you feel ok. This could be brought against you at a later date if you do decide to make a claim. Even if you initially believe that you could be at fault, it is important to have some time to process what happened.
Contact The Law Place After a Rear-End Collision in Florida
If you have suffered a severe back or neck injury because of a rear-end collision and have exceeded the limits of your PIP, Florida Personal Injury Protection Laws, entitle you to sue for damages. Those damages could include the costs of current and future medical treatments and lost wages. It could also compensate for less tangible costs related to your pain and suffering, such as any emotional distress caused.
When another drivers’ carelessness leads to a rear-end collision causing you harm, you deserve full compensation for the emotional, physical, and financial hardship. Allowing an experienced personal injury lawyer in Florida can help to guide you through the process so that you can focus on your recovery.
Don’t negotiate with car insurance companies or fight for compensation alone. We are here to help. At The Law Place, we have over 70 years of combined experience in car accident cases. We deal with road accidents throughout Florida and have knowledge of the intricacies of Florida law. Call us on (888) 224-6114 today for a free consultation.