Should I File a Lawsuit for My New Orleans Rear-End Collision?

Should I File a Lawsuit for My New Orleans Rear-End Collision?

Rear-end crashes are common crashes that cause severe injuries and even death. They could range from a fender bender to an incident where a vehicle ends up under the vehicle in front of it. Rear-end accidents could happen on New Orleans highways, rural roads, surface roads, and at traffic control signals. A rear-end wreck could occur when a driver drives under the influence, is distracted, has a medical emergency, or the brakes fail.

Where Do Rear-End Crashes Happen?

A rear-end accident happens when one driver hits the driver directly in front of them from the rear. While rear-end wrecks can happen anywhere, they are more common at stoplights, stop signs, and where traffic is congested, including highways. A rear-end wreck can occur at high and low speeds. In some cases, a rear-end crash causes a chain reaction that could involve more than the two initial vehicles.

How Do Rear-End Accidents Happen?

One vehicle hits another from behind, often causing injuries to those in both vehicles. Depending on the vehicle's speed, the accident could injure or kill someone.

A rear-end wreck could occur when:

  • The rear driver ran into someone who stopped at a stop sign, light, or crosswalk.
  • The rear driver was driving at or above the speed limit and ran into a vehicle that stopped on the road because of traffic congestion or another accident.
  • The rear driver was speeding or traveling faster than the vehicle in front of them and neglected to slow down.

Significant damage happens when the rear driver is driving at higher speeds or when either vehicle is significantly larger than the other. A driver who rear-ends a tractor-trailer could end up quite far under the rear of the truck before the vehicle stops. A truck driver who rear-ends a passenger vehicle could run over the top of the vehicle instead of just smashing into the rear of the vehicle.

Common Rear-End Crash Causes

Rear-end wrecks are common on all types of roads.

Some of the common causes of rear-end crashes include:

  • Distracted driving.
  • Driving under the influence of drugs, alcohol, legal and illegal prescription drugs, and other illicit substances.
  • Aggressive and reckless driving, including speeding, tailgating, cutting off another vehicle, following too closely, and stopping suddenly.
  • Fatigued drivers.
  • Weather conditions, including driving into the sun and driving through standing water, slippery roads, and heavy rain.
  • The driver has a medical emergency.
  • Brake failure could happen because a driver neglects to repair the brakes, something in the brake system is defective, or the brake installer installed the brakes incorrectly.

When a Rear-End Wreck Is Not the Rear Driver’s Fault

In many cases, when a person rear-ends you, it is that person’s fault. However, a rear-end accident might not be the rear driver’s fault when the front driver brake checks the rear driver. Depending on the investigation, authorities could find that only the front driver is at fault or both drivers are at fault.

When a driver brake checks someone, the front driver suddenly hits the brakes because the rear driver follows too closely. Brake checking is a dangerous practice. If the rear driver is not paying attention or the front driver is in the rear driver’s blind spot, the rear driver could hit the front driver. When the front driver brake checks at higher speeds, the resulting accident could send both vehicles spinning into other vehicles. Or, it could cause the front vehicle to rear-end the car in front of it.

In another case, a driver could run into the vehicle behind you. That vehicle then rear-ends you. In this case, the driver of the vehicle behind you is as much a victim as you. Unless an investigation determines that the driver of the vehicle behind you in some way contributed to the wreck, you could recover damages from the driver that hit the vehicle behind you.

Avoiding Rear-End Crashes

In most cases, you cannot avoid being rear-ended by someone else.

However, you can ensure that you do not rear-end someone else if you:

  • Do not drive while you are tired.
  • Obey all traffic laws.
  • Remove all distractions.
  • Drive carefully when the weather is bad. Remember that the speed limit is only safe when conditions are perfect.
  • Do not tailgate.
  • Do not drive recklessly or aggressively.
  • Never check your phone when you are driving.
  • Do not eat while driving.

Do not participate in other activities while driving, including reading, putting on makeup, or keeping eye contact with those in the rear seat.

If someone does rear-end you, you can minimize injuries by ensuring that all of the safety equipment in your vehicle is working properly, including the seatbelts.

Injuries a Rear-End Crash Could Cause

If a rear-end crash is a fender bender, you might not suffer injuries at all, but you should still seek medical attention. Even a light tap could cause your head to slam forward. Some injuries, including whiplash, might not manifest for hours or even days.

Common injuries in a rear-end wreck include:

  • Cuts, scrapes, bruises, and bumps.
  • Head and neck injuries, including whiplash.
  • Back and spinal cord injuries, including the upper and lower back.
  • Traumatic brain injuries, including mild and severe concussions.
  • Face and eye injuries.
  • Thermal burns, such as from a seatbelt rubbing too hard on your body.
  • Chemical burns if the rear-end accident causes one or both vehicles to catch on fire.
  • Simple and compound fractures.
  • Crushed bones.
  • Sprains and strains.
  • Pulled and torn muscles and other soft tissue injuries.
  • Internal injuries.

You could also suffer from secondary injuries, including ear injuries, if the crash causes a loud explosion or infections of open wounds. If you have a compromised immune system, the risk of developing an infection in a wound you sustained during the accident or during surgery to repair accident injuries significantly increases. The at-fault driver can be held responsible for these secondary injuries, as you would not have suffered from them if not for the at-fault driver’s actions.

What to Do After a New Orleans Rear-End Collision

After a rear-end collision, you might not be able to move without doing additional damage to yourself. If you feel your injuries are severe enough, wait for the emergency medical technicians to check you over before you move.

Otherwise, you can help your case if you:

  • Call first responders and check on other drivers.
  • Take photos of the accident scene. Be sure to take pictures from all angles. You should also take photos of any damage to the road-including skid marks-and nearby property.
  • Obtain the other driver’s contact, license, insurance, and registration information.
  • Obtain contact information from any witnesses, including passengers in the vehicle that hit you. You could also ask witnesses what they saw. Be sure to take notes as to what they say.
  • Allow the emergency medical technicians to check you over, even if you believe your injuries are minor. This starts a paper trail for your case against the at-fault driver.
  • Give the police officer your statement. Review the police report before you sign it.
  • As soon as the police release you from the scene, seek medical attention. Let the doctors and nurses know that you were in an accident and need a thorough checkup.
  • Contact a New Orleans car accident attorney as soon as possible, even if you are still in the hospital recovering from accident injuries.

The best thing you can do is to document the accident. When it is time to relate the facts to your attorney, it will help if you forgot something.

Do I Have to Retain a Car Accident Lawyer?

It is recommended that you retain a car accident attorney after a New Orleans rear-end collision. While some believe that they can negotiate with the insurance company and save money, that is not necessarily the case.

Keep in mind that insurance companies are in business to make money. Every claim they pay decreases their profit. Insurance companies might do anything to deny a claim or, at the least, offer the lowest amount to make the accident victim go away. People who settle their own claims rarely get enough to cover medical expenses, let alone lost wages and other damages they might have recovered.

Additionally, if you do not believe the insurance company sent a fair and reasonable offer, your car accident lawyer already knows the facts and can file a lawsuit against the insurance company.

Just because you file a lawsuit does not mean that you end up going to court. Lawsuits are expensive, and the insurance company must pay its lawyer, and most likely, your attorney. Instead of putting out that money, the insurance company could reopen settlement negotiations and offer a fair and reasonable amount any time after you file a lawsuit.

If you still do not believe the offer is fair and reasonable, you do not have to take it-you can continue getting ready for trial.

Recovering Damages After a Rear-End Accident

You could recover damages after a New Orleans rear-end collision, including compensatory damages and punitive damages. The court orders compensatory damages to make you whole again and rarely orders punitive damages except to punish the defendant’s gross negligence or intentional behavior.

You could recover two types of compensatory damages. Economic damages have a monetary value, while non-economic damages do not.

#1. Economic Damages

Most accident victims recover economic damages, including:

  • Past and future medical expenses, including doctor’s appointments, surgeries, physical therapy, occupational therapy, cognitive therapy, psychological therapy, ambulatory aids, prescriptions, and updates to vehicles and homes, including hand controls for the driver, wheelchair ramps, widened doorways, and grab bars.
  • Lost wages for the time you were out of work for your injuries.
  • Loss of future earning capacity. Even if you work part-time or have to take a job that pays less than your previous salary because the injuries caused limiting disabilities, you could recover partial loss of earning capacity.
  • Replacement or repair of destroyed or damaged personal property, including your vehicle and personal items of value in the vehicle.
  • Funeral, burial, and/or cremation expenses. You could also recover certain expenses related to a loved one’s death, including filing fees for probate court.

#2. Non-Economic Damages

Not everyone can recover non-economic damages. In most cases, your injuries must lead to long-term or permanent disabilities, or you must have lost a loved one in the accident.

Non-economic damages include:

  • Pain and suffering, including emotional distress.
  • Loss of quality of life if you have to take prescriptions or use ambulatory aids for the rest of your life.
  • Loss of companionship if you can no longer enjoy or participate in family events and activities.
  • Loss of consortium if you can no longer enjoy a physical relationship with your spouse.
  • Loss of use of a body part, such as a hand or a leg.
  • Loss of use of a bodily function, such as your eyesight or bladder.
  • Inconvenience if you have to hire someone to do the chores you usually do, such as grocery shopping, lawn maintenance, house cleaning, and home maintenance and repair.
  • Amputation of a digit or limb.
  • Excessive scarring and/or disfigurement.

#3. Punitive Damages

Louisiana allows accident victims to recover punitive damages as long as the victim can prove that the defendant’s actions or inactions were grossly negligent or intentional. Instead of making the accident victim whole again, punitive damages are a punishment for the defendant. The court uses this punishment to hopefully deter the at-fault driver and others from taking the same actions that caused the accident.

If you suffered injuries or lost a loved one in a New Orleans rear-end collision, contact a car accident attorney as soon as possible for a free case evaluation.