Protecting Your Rights in Florida: Steps to Take After a Rear End Car Accident in Tampa Bay
One of the most common types of motor vehicle crashes is a rear end car accident. This is when the frontend of one vehicle collides with the backend of a vehicle ahead of it. While most rear end collisions are nuisance fender benders, unfortunately some rear end collisions can result in serious personal injuries. What is worse is that many personal injuries from rear end accidents are soft tissue injuries that can take days, weeks, or even months to manifest themselves. This means that a victim may not immediately complain of the injury after a crash and the injury may not be documented until it is far enough from the collision that an insurance adjuster or defense lawyer will claim that it is not related. Our Tampa Bay rear end car accident lawyers have seen this scenario way too often.
This is why our lawyers at Dumas & Sanclemente want you to learn how to protect your rights to a claim after a rear end car accident in Florida. This is especially true if you do not believe you have suffered any personal injuries after a collision. Insurance companies train their adjusters how to minimize, undervalue, and outwards deny certain types of claims and rear end collisions are typically very defensible if injuries are not immediate. Learn what to do after a rear end car accident in Florida.
First Step is Understanding the Law
The first thing you should know about a rear end collision is that the following vehicle which hits from behind is usually at fault. There is even a presumption of that liability under Florida law. The relevant statute of Florida Statute section 316.0895 which governs “following too closely,” and provides under subsection (1) that “[t]he driver of a motor vehicle shall not follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent, having due regard for the speed of such vehicles and the traffic upon, and the condition of, the highway.” Therefore, if a defendant hits you from behind it is likely this statute has been violated and it is very difficult for a defendant to escape liability.
Liability Can Be Automatic in Certain Instances
If a defendant rear ends your vehicle and causes personal injuries, it is likely that the defendant will be found automatically liable under the doctrine of negligence per se. This legal doctrine allows a plaintiff to hold a defendant liable where the following elements are met:
- the defendant violated a statute
- the statute was meant to protect the class of persons that the plaintiff was in (i.e., another motorist), and
- the statute was meant to protect the plaintiff from the particular harm that occurred (i.e., injuries from a motor vehicle crash).
This is in addition to the common law principle of negligence, which is another viable cause of action or claim against a defendant. This principle requires all motorists to exercise reasonable care under the circumstances in the use or operation of their motor vehicle. A driver who rear ends another vehicle for following too closely is not operating a vehicle with reasonable care. While liability here is not automatic, it is still difficult to overcome.
How Insurance Adjusters Could Trick You
There are some defenses to rear ending another vehicle to escape liability or shift blame back to the plaintiff. And insurance adjusters know all of them and will try to get you to admit to each of them, sometimes right in order from a list. While you should not be talking to an insurance adjuster or defense lawyer without first hiring a Tampa Bay car accident lawyer, sometimes in particularly bad cases the insurance adjuster will reach out to you—sometimes even in the hospital—to pretend to be your friend, get incriminating statements, or even try to get you to settle for way less. Do not fall for that.
The most common defenses an insurance adjuster may try to get you to accept include the following:
- Slammed on the brakes
- Late directional signal to turn
- Avoiding an animal
- Braking or maneuvering to avoid a pothole or roadway damage
- Avoiding a pedestrian or cyclists
- Mechanical failure of your vehicle
- In a chain pileup, that you hit the vehicle in front of you too (which means you were following too closely or that it was impossible for the defendant behind you to stop), and
- Other tricky defenses.
Step Two is to Always Get the Accident Reported to Police
Whenever you are involved in a motor vehicle accident that is more than a little bumper tap, you should call the police. Whether or not you are injured, it needs to be reported to law enforcement. This allows for the creation of an official record of the accident, the parties involved, and the date and time. Police accident reports also allow you to indicate injuries. At this time if you have any minor pains or aches, even if vaguely, report it to responding officers. This creates a record of your injuries related to the crash.
Third Step is to Get Evaluated or Go to Your Doctor for Treatment
Even if you do not think you have been injured, any minor pain needs to be addressed and documented by a healthcare provider. This is particularly true of any head injury. Even a minor headache could be the early signs of a deadly brain bleed, disabling concussion, or other catastrophic traumatic brain injuries (TBI). Even if you do not believe your head injury is serious, know that brain injuries can occur even if you do not hit your head and can slowly worsen due to chemical changes in the brain (due to an impact or injury to the head).
Other types of soft tissue injuries like neck pain, back pain, and some forms of shoulder or hip pain could be very minor and slowly become disabling. But in a matter of weeks a victim may be unable to move, sit up comfortably, or use the joint. In some instances, a cervical fusion or lumbar fusion may be necessary to stop debilitating pain. These are very serious and life-changing surgeries that result in permanent disability and range of motion restrictions. And if you do not have it documented with your physician, an insurance adjuster or defense lawyer will argue that it is not causally related to the accident. Sometimes a judge or jury could believe it too, which could really hurt your case.
Final Step is to Contact a Tampa Bay Rear End Car Accident Lawyer
Before you begin to negotiate a claim or try to handle a claim on your own with a well-trained insurance adjuster, who is often supported by a defense lawyer, know that hiring a lawyer is easier and not as expensive as you may think. This is because great personal injury law firms like Dumas & Sanclemente accept cases on a contingency fee agreement. This means that do not get paid until we win your case, and we only get paid a percentage of what we recover for you plus reimburse for ligations costs (mailing, photocopying, expert fees). There is no upfront financial cost to hiring our law firm, and no out-of-pocket risk to owe us any money.
We also offer FREE consultations to review your case against the law and advise you whether you have a valid claim under Florida law. If you or a loved one have been injured in a rear end car accident in Tampa Bay or anywhere else in Florida, pick up the phone and call us today by dialing (844) 400-2667 to schedule your FREE case evaluation. You could also send us an email by using our message box at the bottom of our contact us page available here.