The variations in the ways that car crashes occur are endless. Rear-end
collisions are among the most common types of car accidents our attorneys
see. While rear-enders are normally perceived as inconsequential accidents,
the truth is many of these types of accidents result in serious injury
to the driver and passengers in the car that was struck from behind. These
type of accidents frequently result in major back and neck injuries which
can be debilitating and adversely affect victims for the rest of their lives.
These accidents are also unique from a legal standpoint, as they almost
always involve a negligent driver. Consequently, individuals who have
suffered serious injuries causing economic damages or had their car suffer
serious damage typically have grounds for a lawsuit. As a result, it is
crucial that anyone who suffered an injury while being in a car that was
rear-ended seek out a rear end accident lawyer to help determine whether
they have grounds for a claim. For a free evaluation of your potential
lawsuit, give us a call at 212-406-1700 or
contact us through our website.
How Rear-End Accidents Happen
This type of vehicular accident is self-explanatory. One vehicle has struck
another from behind, perhaps causing serious injury to one or more persons
occupying the vehicle in front. There are several ways this type of accident
typically occurs, including but not limited to:
- The victimized car or truck is stopped at a red light or a stop sign when
another inattentive driver slams into them from behind.
- A car is rear-ended in "stop and go" traffic. In such instances,
the driver of the offending vehicle can be inattentive for as little 1
or 2 seconds and fail to notice the vehicle in front of them stop due
- The rear-end hit can also take place when traffic is merging onto a highway
or other major roadway. A merging vehicle may "inch up" while
looking behind them to see if it is safe to merge onto the main roadway.
Sometimes the vehicle in front decides that it is not safe to merge at
the last moment, and stops. The next vehicle in line, thinking the vehicle
in front of him has proceeded onto the main roadway now is looking behind
him at the oncoming traffic gauging whether to merge himself, and while
looking behind him/her crashes into the stopped vehicle ahead.
All of these scenarios are examples of negligence, or the failure to use
reasonable care, by a driver that failed to drive in the manner that a
reasonable prudent vehicle operator would drive under similar circumstances.
Despite the appearance of simplicity, there are many nuances specific to
a rear-ender that an experienced
New York car accident lawyer should know. First, your lawyer needs to be aware that in New York State,
he/she may bring a motion before the Court asking the Court to grant summary
judgment on the issue of liability (fault) to the victim of the car accident.
Since winning a trial entails proving liability and damages, bringing
and winning a motion for summary judgment allows you to win half the battle,
without the danger of an adverse liability verdict-meaning the defendant
was found by a jury to have no fault in causing the accident-by an unpredictable
jury. Winning a motion of summary judgment also leaves your case in an
enviable position to negotiate a favorable settlement. When the only issue
left in your case is how much money you are entitled to for your injuries,
an insurance company faces increased risk and exposure, and is more likely
to offer a fair resolution of your case.
However, just because your vehicle was struck from behind does not mean
you will automatically win summary judgment on the issue of fault or liability.
In fact, the Defendant in the lawsuit will often dispute the Plaintiff
victim's claim that their vehicle was struck from behind, or at least
deny the facts regarding how the contact from the rear of their vehicle
occurred. This may happen even in the face of damage to the rear of your
vehicle. Such denials often occur in a way designed to defeat the anticipated
motion by the victim's attorney asking the Court to declare that the
defendant is liable for the accident. For example, the defendant will
often claim that the contact from behind happened due to a sudden lane
change by the vehicle in front, whereby the vehicle in front quickly turned
or swerved into his lane, and then stopped suddenly. While accidents do
on occasion happen in this manner, it is astonishing how often this claim
is made in hit in the rear vehicular accidents. These claims occur because
defendants have a tendency to tailor their testimony, or even outright
fabricate such claims, in a concerted and premeditated plan to lay the
groundwork to defend a future motion for summary judgment, by creating
a question of fact for a jury on the question of negligence. The reason
defendants tend to claim that the victim crossed-over lanes, rather than
that they stopped short, stems from the fact that in New York State, case
law has held that the mere fact that the vehicle in front may have stopped
short is not an adequate defense to what is, in effect, automatic liability
against the defendant driver. If your lawyer does not know this, it may
be best to retain one who does.
Regardless of the veracity, or lack thereof, of a claim that the plaintiff
actually caused himself to get hit in the rear by swerving in front of
the defendant's vehicle, the plaintiff must deal with this defense
as a serious matter. It takes a skilled and experienced attorney to question
the defendant at deposition and explore the believability of such claims.
There are numerous techniques your lawyer can employ when questioning
the offending driver to attempt to expose any false claim that you caused
your own accident. These questions primarily relate to a series of carefully
worded and sequenced inquires that relate in one way or another to time,
speed, and distance. Asking such questions at the highest level is an
art form that may be developed only after many years of practicing law,
and unfortunately for many lawyers, is a skill never acquired at all.
Who is at Fault in a Rear-End Accident Involving Three or More Vehicles?
Accidents involving 3 or more vehicles can also occur when a driver has
his car rear-ended. This type of accident is often referred to as a "chain
link" type of accident. This type of accident typically occurs because
the second vehicle in line stops short as a result of striking the vehicle
ahead of it, resulting in a chain reaction where each succeeding vehicle
in line strikes the vehicle ahead of it. One should be cognizant of the
fact that merely because car #2 stopped short as a result of striking
car #1, does not necessarily absolve car #3 of liability for striking
car #2 in the rear. Car #3 may still be liable because, generally speaking,
driving with reasonable care requires each vehicle to drive a sufficient
distance behind the vehicle in front of it so that if the vehicle ahead
of you stops short for any reason, the trailing vehicle should still be
able to stop in time without striking another vehicle in the rear. Loosely
stated, if one strikes a vehicle that was travelling directly in front
of it in the rear, then that vehicle either was following too closely
(also known as tailgating), or if not following too closely then was negligent
in failing to be attentive enough and failing to react as a reasonably
prudent (non-negligent) driver would have reacted under the circumstances.
A safe driving distance is generally thought to consist of at least one
car length for every 10 miles per hour that one is travelling. Therefore,
if you and the driver ahead of you are driving on a highway at 60 MPH,
you should be sure to leave at least 6 car lengths between the front of
your vehicle and the rear of that vehicle. This safe driving distance
is not set in stone but it is a formula often cited by engineers and accident
reconstruction experts while testifying in Court during jury trials. The
distance takes into account human factors such as normal reaction times
in reacting to events, and actually may include discussion or analysis
of the relationship between brain recognition and the time it takes for
the body to physically react. Of course, even what is considered a safe
driving distance is only going to be sufficient to prevent an accident
involving an attentive driver. A second lost glancing at a cell phone,
radio, or car passenger can and will change the equation completely.
How are Rear-End Collision Cases Involving Three or More Vehicles Differen?
The sequence of contact may be an important consideration for the victim's
attorney in a chain link type of collision. This is most easily explained
by using the example of a 3 vehicle chain collision whereby the seriously
or catastrophically injured plaintiff was the driver or passenger occupying
vehicle #1, in a line of 3 vehicles. The issue involves the claim by the
driver of vehicle #2 that although vehicle #1 may have stopped short,
vehicle #2 actually came to a complete stop without striking vehicle #1.
Vehicle #2 further claims that after coming to a complete stop, he/she
was hit in the rear by vehicle #3, which pushed an otherwise harmlessly
stopped vehicle #2 into the rear of vehicle #1. If the claims of vehicle
#2 are true, then vehicle #2 is likely faultless. Indeed, in that circumstance,
the operator of vehicle #2 was attentive and careful, and was able to
come to a complete stop without contacting any other vehicle. It would
be no fault of vehicle #2 that he was pushed into vehicle #1 causing injury
to the occupants of that vehicle. However, once again, the believability
of such defenses must be thoroughly tested. It would be difficult to even
count the number of times we have come across a dubious claim by car #2
that he was completely stopped and then pushed into car #1, when in reality
it was car #2 that violently smashed into car #1 from behind before then
being rear-ended by car #3. Again, it is the experienced attorney that
must examine such defenses by investigating the facts with his client
and other witnesses, as well as through skillful and artful questioning
of the defendant at the time of his deposition. Important considerations
include the number of contacts to the rear of the plaintiff's vehicle,
and who heard and/or felt what, how many times, and when. Is this really
that important? The answer is a resounding yes. Consider the situation
that an occupant of car #1 is seriously injured or killed, and while car
#2 has 1 million dollars or more of insurance coverage, car #3 has the
minimum New York State liability insurance limits of $25,000 per person.
It is imperative that the plaintiff's attorney not merely be satisfied
that some vehicle behind the victim caused the accident. The determination
of which vehicle, or whether both vehicles, were responsible, can be the
difference between fair compensation and the ability to provide for oneself
and one's family, and almost no compensation at all.
What is the "Mechanism of Injury" In Rear-End Accidents?
Finally, the mechanism of injury is unique to rear-end collisions, and
is something that any
personal injury attorney handling such cases should be familiar with. Without question,
the types of injuries caused by rear-end vehicular accidents are limited
only by the number and types of bones, muscles, tissues, body members
and functions that are part of the human condition. Injuries can range
from various types of fractures,torn ligaments, herniated cervical, lumbar
or thoracic discs, paralysis, or death. The importance of being familiar
with the mechanism of car accident injuries becomes an issue when a defendant's
attorney or insurance company claims that a traumatic injury was either
pre-existing or degenerative in nature, and thus not caused by the accident.
This defense is most commonly used in instances where an accident caused
the plaintiff to suffer a herniated cervical disc or herniated lumbar
disc. We have even seen defendant's and insurance companies make such
"causation" defenses where the plaintiff had no history or symptoms
of back injury or treatment prior to an accident, and required surgery
after an accident including the necessity to fuse discs together in a
lumbar or cervical fusion or other operation. The mechanism of the body
being first violently thrust back, and only then snapping forward, is
often an important factor in the hit in the rear case. It is relevant
to the plaintiff's testimony at deposition, and must be discussed
with doctors called by the plaintiff and in cross-examination of doctors
called by the defense.
An Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer is Essential to Litigating Your Accident Case
In order to receive the maximum compensation available for your injury,
it's important you retain a personal injury lawyer with experience
in car accident cases. Due to the complexities described above, it's
of the utmost importance that your attorney have experience litigating
each type of rear-end collision. At Queller, Fisher, Washor Fuchs &
Kool, our New York car accident attorneys have been litigating car accident
cases for over 50 years. We understand all of the complexities involved
in a case where someone is injured after their vehicle has been struck
in the rear by another car. In addition to our attorneys' personal
experience and knowledge, we employ forensic experts at the forefront
of their fields to help prove our clients' cases. As a result, our
firm has recovered well over $100 million in compensation for our clients.
If you've suffered an injury after your vehicle has been rear ended,
don't hesitate to seek the counsel of an experienced auto accident
attorney. To see if you have grounds for a claim, give us a call at 212-406-1700
or fill out our
case review form online. All consultations are free of charge.