Being hit from behind in Massachusetts by another vehicle is probably the most common type of motor vehicle accident. The majority of these accidents are minor and occur during traffic jams or when a motorist gets too close to the car in front and taps it but numerous collisions do result in serious injuries or death. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, rear-end accidents account for 28% of all car collisions and 6% of fatal accidents.
If you are hit from behind at a high rate of speed, then the damage can not only be extensive but will likely result in catastrophic injuries. Most of these serious accidents occur because of the following:
- Distracted motorist—texting, calling or looking at a cellphone, or engaged in any other activity that directs attention away from the road
- Intoxication—under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs
- Car suddenly darted into your lane and stopped
- Freeway traffic ahead suddenly stops or slows down
- Motorist believed you were going to proceed through the yellow traffic signal but you stopped
- Brake lights of vehicle in front were out or failed to illuminate
- Car in front suddenly went into reverse
- Vehicle on freeway suddenly stops for no apparent reason
- A disabled motorist did not activate his emergency or hazard signals
In over 90% of rear-end accidents, the motorist in the trailing vehicle is deemed at fault since all motorists are required to maintain a safe distance between their car and the one in front of them. Even if that car suddenly slows for whatever reason, the trailing motorists are expected to be able to sufficiently slow down or be able to evade the car so long as they kept a safe distance behind it.
Massachusetts is a no-fault state, meaning that you can collect PIP, or personal injury protection, benefits such as medical expenses, lost wages, and household service expenses regardless of who was at fault. You can collect up to $8,000 in benefits. If you have private health insurance, your health care benefits max out at $2,000.
In order for you to bring a third-party claim against the at-fault driver and collect additional compensation including pain and suffering, you must have incurred medical expenses of at least $2,000, or your injuries resulted in death, serious and permanent disfigurement, a fractured limb to another major body part, amputation, or loss of hearing or vision.
For any motor vehicle accident where you are seeking compensation beyond your PIP benefits and you meet the threshold for making a third party claim, you must prove that the other motorist or some other third party was negligent and caused the accident. Most negligent driving behavior consists of speeding, driving while texting, making an unsafe lane change, running a red light, or failing to keep a proper distance from the vehicle in front. There are circumstances, though, where both motorists were at fault so that the person bringing the accident claim is considered to be comparatively at fault.
If there is evidence that you engaged in conduct that contributed to your being struck from behind in Massachusetts, then you might be found comparatively at fault. If you bring a claim for damages, your own degree of fault must be less than 50% or you cannot collect anything from the other responsible party. For example, If you failed to put on your hazard lights and were struck from behind but the other motorist probably should have seen your disabled vehicle, you might be found 40% at fault. Should your damages be $100,000, you would receive only $60,000 after deducting for your own degree of causal responsibility. If you are both 50% at fault, you recover nothing.
Injuries in Hit from Behind Accidents
You can sustain nearly any kind of injury in a rear-end accident if you are struck with any kind of force. At a high rate of speed, you might strike the steering wheel or your leg or knee torques with enough tension to cause serious leg injuries. Many rear-end injuries are of the whiplash type, also called acceleration/deceleration injuries. In a rear-end collision, your head and neck will move backward and then forward in a whipping motion. Injuries to your muscles and tendons occur because they are stretched beyond their normal range of motion. Although most of these injuries are minor and heal within a few days or weeks, a substantial number of victims suffer for months or even longer.
- Memory loss
- Neck and back pain
- Loss of range of motion of neck and back
- Tingling or numbness in arms
In severe cases, a victim will be unable to engage in routine physical tasks like driving, lifting, bending, or performing work tasks. Depression can set in that can lead to drug abuse. Typical treatments for whiplash consist of ice packs and rest, use of a neck collar, massage, heat treatments, spinal manipulations, TENS unit, and range of motions exercises. In some cases, a rear-end accident can cause a spinal disc to herniate that can require surgery.
Because these are considered soft tissue injuries and are not visible on diagnostic tests like an X-ray or MRI, insurance adjusters and defense lawyers are often skeptical of the nature and extent of any claimed whiplash injuries. This is one essential reason why you need a highly experienced hit from behind accident lawyer like Paul Tetzel.
Damages in Hit from Behind Accidents in Massachusetts
Damages in rear-end accidents depend on the nature and extent of the injury. They may include:
- Past and future medical expenses
- Past and future loss of income
- Pain and suffering
- Lost income capacity
- Permanent impairment or disfigurement
- Diminished quality or enjoyment of life
- Spousal claim for loss of consortium
Retain Paul Tetzel–A Hit from Behind Accident in Massachusetts Lawyer
Although many rear-end accident claims appear to be clear-cut, there may be issues of comparative negligence, delay or refusal in collecting PIP benefits, and proof of injuries and damages. You will need the legal representation of Paul Tetzel if you want to obtain the most compensation for your accident case. Call his office today at 617-933-3858 for a free consultation about your accident claim.