The last thing you want to do is get into an accident, but sometimes you just don’t see it coming. People rarely see rear-end crashes unless they happen to be looking in their rearview mirrors, and even then, if you’re stuck in Houston traffic, you might not be able to take evasive measures.
Because Houston is a large metropolis, the roads see thousands of vehicles during rush hour. Additionally, because the city has Space Center Houston, the Houston Grand Opera, a Historic District, and is home to NASA’s astronaut training center, it sees a lot of traffic in non-rush-hour times. This increases the risk of car accidents, including rear-end wrecks.
Types of Rear-End Collisions
When most people think of a rear-end collision, they picture their car being rammed into while stopped at a light. However, you could also suffer a rear-end crash while moving.
If the driver behind you is not paying attention and is speeding, they could run right into the back of your car. Depending on the speed of the driver that rear-ended you, you could sustain significant or even catastrophic injuries.
If someone rear-ends you on the highway, your injuries are more likely to be severe or catastrophic because of highway speeds. These accidents happen when someone travels at highway speeds—or faster—and comes upon a traffic jam where the vehicles in front of that person are significantly slower or at a stop.
If someone rear-ends you square on, that person could push your vehicle into others in front of you. However, if the person hits the left or right side of your rear bumper, they could spin you around, causing you to hit several vehicles. If those vehicles are moving, you could cause them to spin out of control when you hit them, causing a multi-car pileup.
Weather can also cause rear-end collisions. If traffic slows down because of sudden heavy rain or fog, the person who comes upon the inclement weather could ram right into the rear of the slower cars because they did not see those vehicles through the weather.
Injuries You Could Sustain in a Rear-End Collision
The injuries you could sustain if someone rear-ends you range from minor injuries to catastrophic injuries and even death, depending on speed and other circumstances when the driver hits you.
Injuries that heal within a few weeks or less include bumps, scrapes, scratches, and cuts. Strains, sprains, pulled muscles, and other soft tissue injuries often heal in six to eight weeks. Torn muscles often require surgery and heal within six to eight weeks, but they often need additional physical therapy to build up the muscle.
Severe injuries take at least six to eight weeks to heal, and sometimes longer, or they cover more than a certain percentage of your body. These include simple and compound fractures, burns, road rash, and internal injuries.
Severe injuries could also include certain head, neck, and shoulder injuries, as well as face and eye injuries.
Some injuries significantly change your life or result in death. These catastrophic injuries include:
- Certain head, neck, and shoulder injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries, including mild and severe concussions
- Certain internal injuries
- Crushed bones
- Amputation of a digit or limb
- Injuries that cause excessive scarring or disfigurement, including road rash and burns
Your initial accident injuries could lead to secondary injuries, which could be minor or severe. Open wounds sometimes lead to infections, which could be minor or major, especially if you have underlying conditions such as diabetes, or you have a compromised immune system because of immunodeficiencies or because you are taking medications and/or treatments that destroy your white blood cells.
Another example of a secondary injury is amputation because a doctor cannot repair crushed bones or gangrene. After all, an open wound from the accident may refuse to heal.
Accident injuries could also exacerbate underlying conditions. In either case, the defendant is responsible for the extra medical care and pain and suffering because of secondary injuries and the worsening of pre-existing conditions. If it were not for the defendant’s actions, you would not have these medical expenses at all.
In some cases, a rear-end accident is traumatic enough to cause the victim to develop post-traumatic stress disorder. Even if the accident does not cause severe or catastrophic injuries, the accident victim could believe the accident was traumatic. For example, if a parent has a child in the vehicle when the defendant rear-ends them, all they can think about is that their child suffered severe or catastrophic injuries. Those first thoughts—before the parent and doctors can check the child—could cause the parent to suffer emotionally.
In other cases, severe and catastrophic injuries could cause depression when injuries take months to heal or in cases where the injuries are permanent. The accident victim, who most likely cannot work, becomes depressed when the recovery time is extensive or they never fully recover and cannot go back to work.
Depression could set in because the accident victim cannot work and is worried about providing for their family, or because they feel like a burden on their family.
Sometimes accident victims suffer from anxiety—they are afraid to get into a vehicle or they might be afraid to drive near the location of the accident. The accident victims who suffer emotional distress because of a rear-end wreck, regardless of the cause, might benefit from cognitive and other psychological therapies. Should an accident victim require psychological therapy, the court could hold the defendant responsible for the financial cost of the sessions.
After sustaining injuries in a rear-end collision, you can pursue damages from the at-fault driver or drivers. The value of your case depends on the severity of your injuries and whether you lost a loved one in the accident. In some cases, you could collect damages from more than one person.
Who Pays My Damages?
In most cases, the at-fault driver is responsible for your damages. However, in some circumstances, you might collect damages from others.
- If a vehicle owner lent the vehicle to a friend, you might recover from the driver and the vehicle owner.
- If the at-fault driver crashed because of poorly maintained roads, you might collect from the driver and the municipality. If evidence shows that the municipality was 100% at fault, you and the other driver could recover damages from the municipality, too.
- If Driver A wrecked into Driver B, who then crashed into you, you might be able to recover damages from both drivers.
- If a commercial vehicle hits you, you could recover damages from the driver, the owner of the company, and several third parties, including maintenance and repair techs, dispatchers, cargo loaders, the owner of the truck if the driver leased the truck, a municipality, inspectors, and others. Only an attorney can know for sure!
Types of Recoverable Damages
You might be able to recover three types of damages if you sustained injuries because of a rear-end accident.
Economic Damages. Special damages, often called economic damages, have a monetary value. The court orders economic damages awarded in an attempt to make you financially whole again.
Economic damages can include:
- Past medical expenses for treatment of injuries incurred because of the accident and before a settlement or trial award. Medical expenses include physical therapy, occupational therapy, and cognitive and other psychological therapy expenses.
- Future medical expenses incurred because of the accident and after a settlement or trial award.
- Replacement or repair of destroyed or damaged personal property, including your vehicle and anything in it, such as cell phones, clothing, and computers.
- Past lost wages for the time you are not able to work from the time of the wreck through the time of your settlement or trial award.
- Future lost wages for the time you expect to be out of work after a settlement or trial award. If you can return to work, but your injuries and/or disabilities do not allow you to make the same hourly rate or salary, you could recover partial future lost wages/lost earning capacity.
- Funeral, burial, and/or cremation expenses, in the event of a wrongful death from a rear end collision.
Non-Economic Damages. General damages, often referred to as non-economic damages, do not have a monetary value. The court may order the defendant to pay non-economic damages in an attempt to make you whole again. While the money does not remove long-term injuries and disabilities, nor does it bring back a loved one you lost in a rear-end accident, it would help reduce the financial stress from not working. As with economic damages, non-economic damages are compensatory awards.
Non-economic damages can include:
- Pain and suffering, including emotional distress.
- Loss of quality of life if you have to take medications, use ambulatory aids, or make other life-altering changes after a rear-end wreck.
- Loss of companionship if your injuries do not allow you to spend quality time with your family.
- Loss of consortium if your injuries do not allow you to have a physical relationship with your spouse.
- Loss of use of a body part, such as a finger or a hand.
- Loss of use of a bodily function, such as your eyesight or bladder control.
- Amputation of a digit or limb.
- Excessive scarring and/or disfigurement.
You may be able to collect exemplary damages in Houston, which includes punitive damages. However, you would have to prove that the at-fault driver’s actions were grossly negligent or malicious. The court only orders punitive damages as a punishment for the defendant in the hopes that the defendant and others do not repeat the actions or inactions that caused the accident.
For example, a defendant who drove under the influence or was texting while driving might face punitive damages. You could only collect punitive damages if the court awards compensatory damages first. You would have to attend a bifurcated trial, where you would produce the evidence that the defendant was grossly negligent during the first part of the trial. However, because you can only collect punitive damages if the court orders compensatory damages, you would have to have the second part for the jury to determine the punitive damages the defendant deserves to pay. A car accident attorney can help you build your case.
Retaining a Car Accident Lawyer for a Houston Rear-End Collision
Some people prefer to attempt settling with insurance companies on their own. However, we don’t recommend pressing your luck. In most cases, those who do not work with an attorney end up leaving money on the table. This is because the insurance companies are in business to make a profit, which means they’ll try anything to deny your claim. If your claim isn’t denied entirely, the insurance company may only be giving you insultingly low offers that won’t even begin to cover your bills.
People have walked away from a settlement with so little that the settlement did not cover all of their short-term medical expenses. One of the tricks the insurance companies can use is to twist what you tell them, trying to place blame for the wreck on you! Houston car accident lawyers know all of the tricks the insurance companies use, and we can help you avoid them.
When you contact an insurance company to notify them of a wreck, you should only give your name and contact information, the location and date of the wreck, and your attorney’s contact information. If you do not feel comfortable even speaking with the insurance company, an attorney can do that for you, too. However, you would need to retain a personal injury attorney as soon as possible. Many insurance companies give you very little time to file a claim—sometimes as little as 20 to 30 days.
Typically, personal injury attorneys do not charge for an initial consultation, and they offer legal services on a contingency fee basis. If you suffered injuries or lost a loved one in a rear-end collision, contact a car accident attorney as soon as possible for a free consultation. You have nothing to lose, but everything to gain!