We all know tailgating is annoying, but it can also be dangerous. Most drivers understand that maintaining a safe distance from the vehicle in front of them is critical in preventing a deadly crash. However, many motorists misjudge what actually constitutes a safe distance. When these drivers get too close, devastating rear-end accidents can occur as a consequence.
To better help you understand what these safe distance practices entail, we have created this blog. In it, we will discuss what it takes to maintain a safe distance between cars, why this distance is so critical for motorists, and what you can do if you or a loved one has been injured because another motorist refused to keep this safe distance while driving.
The Grim Statistics of Rear-End Collisions
According to traffic studies, rear-end collisions account for:
- About 29% of all traffic-related accidents that result in serious injuries
- Over 7% of all traffic-related deaths
- About 20% of all fatalities that involve a two-car collision
Yet what makes these statistics even sadder is that the majority of these accidents are entirely preventable with safe driving practices.
Texas Laws—What Is the Minimum Driving Distance
Under Texas law, drivers are required to provide “assured clearance distance” when driving. What does this mean exactly? Motorists must give enough space between vehicles so that if an automobile suddenly stops moving, the car behind them will have enough time to stop as well.
Sounds good in theory, right? Unfortunately, in Texas, there are no specific factors that clearly define what “assured clearance distance” actually is. Consequently, the Texas Department of Safety created a best practices guide to explain what this distance means.
According to the guide, it takes an individual about 1.5 seconds to react to a road hazard and apply the breaks.
As a result, drivers should give each other:
- Two seconds between vehicles if they are traveling under 30 miles per hour
- A minimum of four seconds if automobiles are going faster than 30 miles per hour
However, it is essential to remember that these guidelines should be considered general rules that motorists should follow. If situations change, the distance between vehicles may need to increase beyond the two- to four-second standard. For instance, if traffic is thick, the weather conditions are bad, or there is low visibility, drivers need to provide each other with much more than four seconds of stopping time.
How to Measure a Safe Following Distance?
To help ensure that you are maintaining a safe distance between you and the car in front of you, it is recommended that you apply the time-lapse method. With this method, you will need to find an object between you and the other motor vehicle, such as a corner, overpass, fixed object, or even sign, and count how long it takes for you to reach that specific object after the other automobile has passed it.
If you reach this mark before you have counted off the appropriate amount of seconds (depending on your speed and conditions), you are most likely following too closely and will need to slow down and increase the distance between you and the other car.
What Happens When Someone Follows You Too Closely?
When an individual follows another motor vehicle too closely, it significantly increases the motorist’s likelihood of rear-ending the car in front of them. This is often called tailgating and it increases the chance of a deadly motor vehicle accident.
Tailgating accidents can lead to a variety of horrific injuries. Some of the more common injuries that result from this crash include:
- Head injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Back injuries
- Broken or fractured bones
- Crushing injuries
- Knee and foot injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Internal bleeding
- Soft tissues injuries
- Internal organ damage
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
What makes these crashes so dangerous is that even if a tailgating accident occurs at a low speed, the risk of suffering a devastating injury remains high. That is why if you have been involved in a rear-end collision, you need to have a trusted car accident law firm on your side. These attorneys can diligently investigate your crash, ensure you get the proper medical treatment, and fight for the compensation you deserve.
Involved in a Tailgating Accident—What Are Your Legal Options?
Texas is considered a fault insurance state for auto insurance and requires motorists to carry minimum amounts of liability insurance. When a car accident occurs, the victim can file a claim against the wrongful party’s insurance to recover accident-related losses such as medical expenses and property damage, and/or they may file a car accident lawsuit against the liable motorist.
However, before you can collect compensation for your injuries following a rear-end collision, you need to prove that the other driver was at fault for this accident. Without a thorough investigation, it can be quite challenging to figure out who was responsible for a crash. Fortunately, when you work with a knowledgeable car accident lawyer, they can take care of this investigation for you and ensure they fight hard to secure the compensation you need for your recovery.
Damages Available Following a Tailgating Accident
If you have been involved in a rear-end car crash because another person was following too closely, you may be entitled to certain types of compensation.
This compensation typically includes:
Economic damages: Economic damages represent the amount of money necessary to make the victim financially whole after an accident and usually includes these measurable losses:
- Medical bills including past, present, and future medical expenses (such as physician bills, hospital stay, medication costs, surgeries, and rehabilitative therapy)
- Lost wages
- Lost earning capacity
- Personal property repair
- Other out-of-pocket expenses
Non-economic damages: These damages typically include subjective losses that are not easy to quantify, such as:
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Loss of relationships with family
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of reputation
- Loss of a limb
Punitive damages: Unlike the other compensatory damages, which compensate the victim for their losses, punitive damages exist to punish the wrongdoer for their egregious acts and deter them and others from committing this act again. However, these damages are only awarded by the Texas court if the victim can prove the wrongdoer’s actions were intentional or grossly negligent.
How Much Time Do You Have to Bring an Injury Claim Following a Tailgating Accident?
Texas imposes a limit, referred to as the statute of limitations, that sets the maximum amount of time an individual has to bring a lawsuit against a party for an alleged offense. If they do not bring this suit within that allotted time, they can be barred from collecting compensation for their injuries. If you’ve been hit, act fast; don’t miss out on the money you need!
When it comes to personal injuries, the time limit in Texas to bring a claim is two years from the accident date. However, there are numerous exceptions to this rule that can lengthen or shorten the applicable time to file. As a result, to protect your rights to receive the compensation you need, it is advised that you speak to an experienced automobile accident attorney as quickly as possible. These lawyers can promptly determine how much time you have to file your claim while helping to ensure that your legal motions and documents are prepared accurately and filed before time runs out.
Actions to Take After a Tailgating Collision
Tailgating accidents are often chaotic, overwhelming, and stressful for everyone involved. Still, it’s imperative to understand that the actions you take after this crash are not only vital for your health and safety but your legal rights as well. If you are ever involved in a tailgating collision, you need to make sure you take the following steps:
Following a rear-end car accident, you must contact 911 as soon as possible. This is the quickest way to notify emergency medical services that you or someone at the scene needs help. This also allows you to get your crash on record and generate important evidence for your claim.
In addition, when the police arrive, they can investigate the accident and write down their findings in their police report. If you decide to file a claim for your injuries, this police report can provide you with necessary details regarding the accident and what happened.
Get Medical Help
Even if you do not think your injuries are serious, you still need to get examined by a doctor after your accident. Quite often, serious injuries such as head and brain trauma can take days to even weeks to manifest. However, the longer you wait to seek treatment, the more deadly the injury can become. Don’t delay; get checked out by your doctor immediately.
Additionally, seeking medical treatment after your collision can be vital for your claim. If you do not get checked over by a doctor following your car crash, the insurance company may try to argue that your injuries are not that serious or are a result of a pre-existing condition. Fortunately, when you get your injuries examined, your medical provider will write down their assessment of your injuries in their medical report. Providing a direct link between the harm you endured and the accident can prove the insurance companies wrong.
If the area is safe, make sure you use your phone camera to collect as much evidence from the accident scene as you can. Include pictures and videos of your visible injuries, the position of the vehicles involved in the crash, skid marks on the road, the weather conditions at the time of the accident, and any other evidence that can help show what happened.
Get Witness Statements
If individuals at the scene saw what happened, make sure to get their name and contact information. Witness statements are incredibly vital for an accident claim as they can provide you with critical details regarding the incident and help back up your claims.
Obtain Driver Details
Make sure you exchange specific information with the drivers involved in the accident, including names, driver’s license numbers, contact details, addresses, and insurance information. However, as you discuss these details, be careful what you say. Do not discuss the specifics of the accident with the other drivers, do not make any definitive statements, do not take the blame for anything that happened, and do not apologize. These types of statements can hinder your claim and the amount of money you receive.
Keep a Journal
After a rear-end car crash, we recommend writing down everything that happened in a journal. Over time, memories of the incident can fade, but if you jot down all the crash details, you can help ensure that critical facts are properly preserved. In your journal, include everything that transpired, including the harm you endured, the extent of your pain and suffering, and how this crash affected your life.
Contact an Experienced Car Accident Attorney Today
Car accident claims are tedious, complicated, and challenging to prove. Fortunately, with an experienced motor vehicle accident lawyer on your side, you do not have to endure this legal battle on your own.
Car accident attorneys can:
- Discuss your questions and concerns, decide if you have a viable case, and figure out the legal options you can pursue.
- Investigate the accident thoroughly and secure vital evidence needed to show what happened and who was at fault.
- Negotiate your settlement with the insurance companies, making sure to go after fair compensation on your behalf.
- Bring in the experts such as accident reconstructionists, engineers, economists, and doctors to substantiate your claims.
- Take your case to trial, if required, and fight for the maximum possible financial recovery.
Do not wait any longer to seek legal help if a tailgating accident turned your life upside down. Contact a skilled car accident attorney today for a free case review, and let them show you what they can do for you and your claim.
Since starting his firm in 1999, Stewart J. Guss has had the honor of representing clients from all over the world, helping them recover from even the most catastrophic injuries.
Today, thanks to a strong belief in those values of compassion, respect, and approachability, the firm has grown to employ over 120 legal professionals in numerous offices across 4 states, with nationwide reach.