If you’ve ever been rear-ended in traffic, you’re far from alone. Rear-end collisions make up nearly half of U.S. traffic accidents. In addition, rear-end crashes account for about one in five commercial motor vehicle accidents.
While many are minor fender benders, rear-end accidents can be serious. Annually, about half a million people are injured in rear-end collisions each year, and about 1,700 die. Even low-speed rear-end crashes can cause significant injuries. For example, rear-end collisions are one of the most common causes of whiplash injuries.
Other serious injuries associated with rear-end collisions include:
- Spinal cord injuries
- Head injuries
- Soft tissue injuries
- Broken bones
Often, those who are involved in seemingly minor rear-end traffic accidents begin to recognize or experience symptoms later. If you’ve been involved in a rear-end collision or any type of traffic crash and have new symptoms in the days following the accident, it is wise to seek medical assessment promptly. Some serious injuries may be initially invisible, or seem minor at the scene of the accident.
Following too Closely in New York
New York’s “tailgating” law places broad responsibility on the following driver to maintain a safe distance from the leading vehicle. Specifically, the statute says:
The driver of a motor vehicle shall not follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent, having due regard for the speed of such vehicles and the traffic upon and the condition of the highway.
Since the law puts the burden of adapting for factors such as speed, traffic congestion, visibility, wet pavement and other factors impacting road safety, a driver who hits another car from behind is generally responsible for the accident and any associated damages. Even if the driver in the leading car is negligent, the following driver is typically deemed at least partially liable, since maintaining a safe distance and remaining vigilant while driving would have allowed him or her to adjust and avoid the accident.
Other factors that commonly contribute to rear-end collisions include:
- Distracted driving
- Faulty vehicle maintenance or equipment
Exceptions to Rear Driver Liability
The presumption that the driver who rear-ends another car is responsible for the accident may be overcome under certain circumstances. For example:
- If the leading driver stops so abruptly and unexpectedly in traffic that the following driver would not be able to stop or avoid the collision even though he or she was exercising due care and maintaining a safe distance
- Equipment failure that could not have been avoided through proper vehicle maintenance, such as a defective part that the driver had no reason to be aware of
Note, however, that these circumstances are limited. If you were injured when the car you were driving or riding in was struck from behind, it’s in your best interest to consult an experienced New York car accident lawyer as soon as possible. Although every case is different, compensation I rear-end collision cases often includes:
- Compensation for property damage
- Reimbursement for medical expenses
- Compensation for lost wages
- Pain and suffering
- Compensation for projected future losses, such as ongoing medical care and diminished earning capacity
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