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Rear End Car Crashes

Rear end car accidents are the most common car accidents that we encounter on a day to day basis. The statistical data from the State of Texas confirms our belief that rear-end car crashes are the most common type of car crash it Texas. In Texas, the two most common contributing crash factors are:

  • Failure to Control Speed: 146,884 Crashes in Texas in 2016; and
  • Driver Inattention: 96,847 Crashes in Texas in 2016.

Failure to control speed and driver inattention are the most common citations that are given when a person causes a rear-end crash. Because rear-end car accidents are responsible for a majority of the car accidents that we handle, it is important for us to study the laws and safety rules that govern rear-end crashes.

What are the Safety Rules that Govern Rear-End Collisions?

Texas Transportation Code Sec. 545.062 provides that a driver following behind another vehicle shall maintain an assured clear distance between the two vehicles. The driver must safely stop without colliding with the other vehicle considering the speed of the vehicles, traffic, and the conditions of the highway.

The Supreme Court of Texas has also stated that a driver following another vehicle must maintain an assured clear distance between the two vehicles. In Louisiana-Pacific Corp. v. Knighten, 976 S.W. 2d 674, 675 (Tex. 1998) the Texas Supreme Court held, “The driver of a motor vehicle shall, when following another vehicle, maintain an assured clear distance between the two vehicles, exercising due regard for the speed of such vehicles, traffic upon and conditions of the street or highway, so that such motor vehicle can be safely brought to a stop without colliding with the preceding vehicle, or veering into other vehicles, objects or person on or near the street or highway.” Another case that also states the duty of a driver to maintain an assured clear distance is Smith v. Central Freight Lines, Inc., 774 S.W. 2d 411 (Tex. App.—Houston 1989, writ denied).

What Are The Most Common Types of Injuries in a Rear-End Crash?

Whiplash

Whiplash is a neck injury caused by forceful and sudden back-and-forth movement of the neck. It is called whiplash because the mechanism is similar to the rapid cracking of a whip. This motion can cause injury in the bones of the spine, the discs between the bones in the spine, and the ligaments, muscles, nerves and other neck tissues.

The symptoms of whiplash may include severe neck pain, tenderness, headaches (most often starting at the base of the skull), stiffness, fatigue, dizziness, soreness, decrease of range of motion in the neck, and pain, tingling or numbness spreading into the arms.

People may also experience blurred vision, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), sleep problems, irritability, difficulty with concentration, memory problems and depression as a result of a whiplash injury.

Spinal Injuries

All areas of your spine may be injured in a rear-end car accident. Most injuries occur to the spine (like the lumbar spine (low back) and thoracic spine (mid back)) when the driver or passengers in the vehicle do not have time to brace for impact. This can occur when the occupant either is unaware of the impending collision or does not have time to react to brace for impact given that a rear-end collision can literally occur in less than one second. When a person is unable to brace for impact, the spine does not have a chance to stabilize and protect itself from the force of impact.

Head Injury

There is a significant transfer of energy in a rear-end crash which may cause the brain to twist in the skull. As a result, brain cells may be damaged or stretched in the accident as a result of the unnatural twisting or jarring of the brain in the crash. A traumatic brain injury (TBI) may result. TBI is an injury to the brain caused by an external physical force. TBIs are not the result of not of degenerative (from the process of aging) or congenital (from birth) causes. TBI may cause a diminished or altered state of consciousness, which results in an impairment of cognitive abilities or physical functioning. TBI may be diagnosed with the use of imaging equipment such as computed tomography (CT) or Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). Other standardized tests are useful to diagnose TBI such as an Acute Concussion Evaluation (ACE), Glasgow Coma Scale and neuropsychological evaluation.

Broken Bones or Ribcages

Broken or fractured bones are common rear-end accident injuries. A person may suffer a broken rib or collarbone as a result of the sudden engagement of the seatbelt stopping mechanism. Broken bones, like arms, legs and ankles, may occur because of the body striking the inside of the vehicle.

Shoulder Injuries

The force of impact coupled with the sudden stopping movement of the seatbelt can oftentimes lead to shoulder injuries. Such injuries can include dislocation, torn rotator cuffs, labral injuries, SLAP injuries, Acromioclavicular Joint (AC Joint) problems, and bicep tendon injury.

Lacerations and Puncture Wounds

A rear-end car accident may cause glass to shatter and other objects to become projectiles. When that happens, lacerations and puncture wounds can occur. An airbag may also result in severe facial lacerations. A laceration is tearing of the skin (a cut) that results in an irregular wound. Lacerations may be caused by injury with a sharp object or by impact injury from a blunt object or force. Facial lacerations caused by shattered glass is the most common type of injury we encounter. Lacerations may result in the need for sutures or reconstructive surgery in the most significant cases. A laceration wound is often contaminated with bacteria and debris from whatever object caused the cut and may lead to infection.

A puncture wound is a deep penetrating injury caused by a flying object striking a person in an accident. A puncture wound usually does not bleed excessively and may appear to close up. Puncture wounds are prone to infection and proper medical attention should be given to clean and treat the puncture wound.

Paralysis

Damage to the spinal cord after a car accident can cause severe nerve damage. Victims may experience reduced or loss of sensation or control over their legs, feet, arms or other body parts. In the most serious circumstances, spinal cord damage can lead to permanent paralysis.

What are Important Factors that Contribute to Rear-End Car Accidents?

The following factors determine the nature and severity of a rear-end car accident:

  • Vehicles Involved: A vehicle’s weight, size, and shape may work to minimize or maximize damage in a rear-end crash.
  • Speed: The greater the speed, the more likely an injury will result. With that said, injuries oftentimes occur in minor “fender bender” accidents because of the force exerted on the other vehicle and occupants.
  • Location of Impact and Direction of Impact: For example, a straight-ahead blow generally will produce more damage than a glancing blow.
  • Head Restraint Location: A properly placed headrest is the best protection in a rear-end collision
  • Seat failure: A seat failure during a rear-end collision may amplify the injuries and damages suffered.
  • Seat angle and back height.

If you have been involved in a rear-end car accident, please contact the personal injury attorneys at Harmonson Law Firm at (915) 228-4140 for a free consultation. We represent car accident victims in El Paso, Texas and Las Cruces, New Mexico and the surrounding communities.