Laws To Support Victims Of Rear End Accidents
In California, there are two general laws that are used to help determine fault in an incident. They are the Basic Speed Law and the law of Following Too Closely. The Basic Speed Law states that “No person shall drive a vehicle upon a highway at a speed greater than is reasonable or prudent having due regard for weather, visibility, the traffic on, and the surface and width of, the highway, and in no event at a speed which endangers the safety of persons or property.” Therefore, if a person was speeding, he would not be able to adequately stop if he came upon a slowed or stopped vehicle. The law of Following Too Closely states that “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 vehicle and the traffic upon, and the condition of, the roadway.“As a result, there should be an acceptable distance between two vehicles, and if the individual is tailgating, he can be found at fault if the victim sues. Other laws are more related to safe driving, and violation of them in a rear end accident can lead to harsh punishments from both civil action and criminal charges. For instance, a great number of accidents are caused due to drunk driving, texting while driving, and lack of attention to the road. You could be punished for these actions if you are involved in a crash.
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Lawsuit Information For Rear End Accidents
The old adage is that the individual who was in the car that struck the rear of another vehicle will most likely be held at fault. This is true in many cases, but there are some situations in which the driver of the rear vehicle is not responsible or could not have done anything to prevent the crash He may only be held partially accountable in some situations, such as:
- The car in front had broken tail lights or brake lights
- The driver who was hit was operating a broken or faulty vehicle without his hazard lights flashing and was not actively trying to exit the road
- A driver changed lanes unsafely by not signaling, by turning and slamming on his brakes, by hurrying across multiple lanes, or changed without looking in his mirrors or blind spot
- Driver suddenly stops to avoid the vehicle in front or to turn but does not make the turn
There will be ample investigation by numerous parties to determine who was at fault and who was not. In order to file a lawsuit, the driver who was struck must be able to prove that the other individual was negligent. All personal injury claims are based on negligence and establishing four points as true. These points are as follows:
- The plaintiff was owed a duty of care by the defendant
- The defendant breached this duty of care
- The breach of duty resulted in an accident
- The accident led to physical injuries
Each point must be established as true for the claim to succeed. If even one is false, the entire lawsuit will unravel. For example, if a plaintiff were not physically hurt, he will not be able to pursue certain damages that you can only receive in a personal injury claim. Instead, he will only be able to collect some compensation for the damage done to his vehicle or for the income he would miss at his job if he could not make it to work. In the event that you were rear ended by a driver, you may wish to take legal action against the party. Filing a lawsuit is no easy feat, though, and there are many precedents that have been set that could affect your case.
Examination Of Previous Cases
Lawsuits are always different. There may be nearly identical injuries present on victims and the facts may be very similar, but the judgments could go completely opposite directions. Every case is weighed differently and there are many factors that will determine whether or not a lawsuit t will be successful. Some plaintiffs choose to accept settlements ahead of time instead of letting the case go to trial, even if they have airtight cases. The following are examples of rear end accident lawsuits that resulted in different outcomes. In all the cases, a jury made a final decision with respect to the outcome of the case:
Rincon-Balbuena v. Terzyan
In Jorge Rincon-Balbuena v. Silva Terzyan and Anahit Poturyan, a California jury declared that Terzyan’s negligence was heavily responsible for Rincon-Balbuena’s harm. Rincon-Balbuena was in his cargo van and stoppe on the 101 Freeway in Los Angeles when his vehicle was struck from behind by Terzyan. Directly after the incident, Rincon-Balbuena abstained from going to the hospital for evaluation and treatment. It took a few days for him to go to the chiropractor, complaining about back and knee pain. He eventually visited an orthopedist, who discovered that he had a severe tear in his meniscus. The orthopedist performed surgery on the knee and testified that the injury was likely related to the accident in question due to no previous knee complaints or injuries. The defense countered that the MRI and other tests showed a degeneration of the knee and its parts; therefore, an acute event such as the accident would not have caused the damage, but only aggravated a pre-existing condition. The jury awarded Rincon-Balbuena $28,000 of the demanded $200,000 for past medical bills and pain and suffering. Terzyan admitted liability. Poturyan owned the vehicle but was not driving it at the time; the party was subsequently dismissed from the case.
Padua v. Lee
In Christina Padua v. Heidi Ji Huang Lee, Padua was struck from the rear by Lee while Padua was stopped at an intersection while a crossing guard helped pedestrian across the road. It is important to note that Lee admitted liability during the discovery process. Padua claimed numerous physical injuries and even more mental traumas, such as PTSD, depression, mood changes, suicidal intensions, and more. She stopped treatment for any physical damages soon after the accident but continued to pursue emotional counseling. Prior to the trial, Padua waived her claim for previous medical bills, previous loss of earnings, and was willing to waive the total amount for all physical injuries. She sought damages for psychological treatment, totaling over $400,000. It was revealed that Padua had previous complaints about a thyroid issue, many of the damages of which matched those she complained about after the accident, including the mental troubles. The defending counsel claimed that both the mental and physical traumas could be traced to the history of thyroid troubles. The jury agreed, and ultimately, the defense won the case.
Ruiz v. Sanders
In Eduardo Martinez Ruiz v. William Louis Sanders, Block Island Remodeling, Inc., Martinez was planted in traffic in San Diego. He was hit from behind by a car that was also struck from the rear. The chain reaction caused Ruiz to suffer back and knee damage. Sanders admitted fault in the accident. After the incident, Ruiz went to the doctor for epidural injections and other treatments. He was still able to go to work to complete his activities, though, choosing to work through the pain as he needed to pay his bills. When he sought restitution, it was noted that there were large gaps between his injuries and his treatment. Instead of the $100,000 he sought, though, he was granted nearly $700,000 for the lengthy pain and suffering he endured due to having to live with such perpetual trauma. The jury saw the accident as primarily causing his injuries.
Soukhoundian and Sinani v. Nassos
In Mikael Soukhoundian and Peeyoneh Sinani v. Frank Lepore and Georgios Nassos, a couple was rear ended by a car driven by Nassos. Lepore owned the vehicle and was dismissed from the case as he was not responsible for the incident. The couple was driving along when they slowed down behind traffic; Nassos rear-ended the couple and admitted fault. The couple complained of various damages to their neck and back. However, they did not go to the hospital after the incident; instead, they waited a week and saw a chiropractor. After treatment, the plaintiffs received three different epidural injections to lessen their pain and help the injuries. During the trial, the defense hired an accident reconstruction expert who stated that the physics of the accident did not indicate that their injuries were caused by the impact. The accident was purported to be minor. Further, medical experts were called in to testify, who stated that the epidural injections were not medically necessary. In the end, the jury voted that the negligence of Nassos was not the cause of the injuries, and that the damages were exaggerated and capitalized on.
All of these cases featured rear-end accidents and similar injuries to the back and knee. Many of the plaintiffs complained about lasting damage and constant psychological trouble. However, only two of the cases resulted in success. Statistics have shown that over 90% of personal injury lawsuits are settled before the date of the trial. Insurance companies want to offer settlements so as to avoid potentially paying off the maximum value of a claim, but they want to offer very small sums to protect their profits. The risk of going to trial is also present for the plaintiff, though. Not every jury will be in agreement with your case or even feel sympathy, especially if you were partially responsible. A trial is a risk for both parties, and you should ensure that you are properly prepared to present everything before the judge and jury.
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Rear End Accident Injuries
In more than 2,000,000 rear end accidents, 6% of the crashes result in fatalities. Another 500,000 are injured, while over 1,500,000 crashes result only in property damage. It is extremely common for individuals to suffer back damage due to the sudden jerking impact, knee damage because of the closeness of the knee to other parts of the car and the angle your leg is at during driving, and whiplash or neck damage because of the unexpected jerking motion. There is a whole slew of injuries you can suffer, and in some cases, you may need extensive treatment to recover. It is always recommended tht you get expert medical treatment immediately after the accident to ensure that the procedures you receive are necessary and will further your recovery. Some of the injuries resulting from rear end accidents may include:
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Brain damage
- Closed head injuries
- Neck and cervical spine damage
- Herniated or bulging discs, requiring spinal fusion
- Broken bones
- Torn muscles and ligaments
- Nerve damage
- Internal organ damage
- Knee injuries to the LCL, MCL, and ACL
- Hip damage
- Paralysis of body parts
- Severed limbs and digits
In the worst cases, victims of accidents can fall into comas, suffer severe or lasting brain damage, or may pass away due to the extent of their injuries. To ensure that you receive a settlement or verdict from your accident, though, you must be able to show that the accident caused or greatly contributed to the injuries you suffered and that you received adequate and necessary medical treatment. A case may not go your way if you receive a lot of treatment that ultimately helped nothing.
Recommended Procedure after a Rear End Crash
The majority of people on the road will not be involved in an accident. For those who do, it is important that you get as much evidence as possible and that you stay safe. You should not run the risk of potentially suffering additional harm and not having adequate proof for your lawsuit. The first action you should take is seeking medical treatment. You may need to call the paramedics or go to the hospital where they can evaluate you and see how hurt you are. Some victims do not go to the doctor, which is a huge error. It is very likely that the injuries you did suffer are masked somewhat by adrenaline. In many cases, victims of accidents will complain days after the fact about neck pain, for example, and will then go to be treated. The issue with waiting so long to get treatment is simple. It risks your health, as the damage may worsen in the time you wait, especially if you are more active or place yourself at risk for additional damage. Further, if you are not immediately seen and get help, the opposing insurance agent or defense can claim that the damages were not caused by the injury. They could make a claim that you were likely hurt elsewhere, especially if the impact were minor, as we saw in one of the above cases. You will need to have adequate evidence of the incident and the consequences, as well. This can include photos of your injuries, surveillance footage from nearby businesses, dashboard camera footage if available, pictures of the scene of the accident, photos and estimated repair costs for the damage to your vehicle, and more. It will also be in your favor to collect statements from other parties. The most common form is pedestrian and bystander testimonies, but you can also see if passengers and other drivers would be willing to give their statements. Further, the police may show up to the scene of the accident to conduct an investigation. If they do, you could request a copy of the police report. Although the police report is inadmissible in court, it can come in handy if you are pursuing a civil case and you actively seek a settlement.
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There is possibility that you were struck by an individual who was working at the time. Some vans and trucks have drivers who are making deliveries and are in the scope of employment, which can cause their businesses to be held accountable for the incident as well. It is recommended that you write down the company info in addition to the driver’s insurance information and contact details. You should not leave the scene of the accident prior to any resolution, as this can greatly impact your claim. If you are confused or unsure of how to proceed after an incident, you can reach out to a lawyer who will walk you through the legal process. By hiring an attorney, you will also have access to additional resources for your claim, such as expert witnesses, accident reconstruction specialists, medical professionals, and more.
Valuing a Rear End Accident Lawsuit
Victims of accidents are often confused on how to value their claims; they may not know the worth of their damages and they may not want to pursue legal action if it will cost them more than what they could receive. In truth, there is no way to accurately determine the value of a case. The insurance agent responsible for handling the lawsuit will make an offer based on several factors, for one, or the attorney representing you will request a value that is the sum of all your damages. The primary factors used to weigh your lawsuit include your injuries (the severity of the damage, the extent of the damage, the impact the injuries had on your life and career, and more), the treatment you received, your career type, and your level of fault in the accident. If you were partially responsible for the crash, your case value will likely greatly decrease. The common damages pursued in a rear end accident include compensation for the following:
- Medical expenses for surgery costs, physical therapy fees, medication, injections, and future treatments and procedures
- Lost income due to absent days at work
- Property damage for reimbursement of repairs to your vehicle or for loss of personal items
- Pain and suffering for noneconomic damages that mentally or emotionally traumatized you
In some cases, plaintiffs can pursue additional damages. For example, drivers who were grossly negligent or who intended to harm plaintiffs could be tagged with punitive damages, which are handed out in civil cases as replacements for jail time. They are additional forms of monetary compensation and simply punish the defendant. However, juries usually view these damages as excessive. Further, if a family member or loved one passed away in the accident, the surviving plaintiff could seek wrongful death expenses. These damages could pay off the funeral costs, loss of expected inheritance and savings, pre-death medical bills and pain and suffering of the deceased, loss of consortium and relations, and more. You could receive coverage from your own insurance agency in some instances, while the responsible party’s insurance provider could cover the rest. You may need to reach your deductible (the amount you pay out of pocket) before your own agency starts to cover the expenses. The lower your monthly payments and the more accident-prone you are, the more likely it is that your deductible will be quite large. As such, it is highly desired that the responsible party cover the expenses. If you have to pay off numerous debts by yourself, you may find yourself owing a ton of money to various parties. You also will likely have trouble acquiring additional damages if you pursue compensation purely from your own provider. You will have a better chance of success if your intended target is the negligent party.
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Statute of Limitations on Rear End Crashes
In the State of California, a rear-end accident lawsuit would fall under personal injury law. Your lawsuit must be filed based on negligence, as stated above. You will only have 2 years from the date of the injury to take legal action. It is important to differentiate between the date of the injury and the date of the accident, as some may mix the two up and potentially miss the deadline. The statute of limitations exists so that claims will be filed in a timely manner. Plaintiffs will have ample time to gather evidence; it will not get corrupted as easily and all necessary witnesses will have clearer memories. After two years, you will not be able to sue. The defendant should not be held responsible after an inordinate amount of time; for one, he may not have the funds to pay for any damages, and additionally, the damages themselves may have been paid off and recovered from. It is important to note that there are a few exceptions to the statute of limitations, though. If you were in an accident, it could pay to ask your attorney about these exceptions. The most common is granted to minor; because minors cannot file a lawsuit, their statute of limitations is essentially suspended until they turn 18 years old. In other cases, you may have been left physically or mentally incapacitated after the incident. If you are not in your right mental state, or if you are severely injured or comatose, you will not have to adhere to the statute of limitations. Moreover, if the defendant or intended target of your lawsuit is not present in the state, you will not be able to file a claim against him. He may have vacated the state in an attempt to escape punishment or he may have gone on a long vacation or trip. The statute of limitations will be put on hold during that time and will resume once he returns. Many individuals miss their deadlines because they are unsure of their dates and do not pay close enough attention to the calendar. Further, many victims are left injured after rear end accidents and are preoccupied with repairing or replacing their vehicles or with recovering from their injuries.