Thanks to year-round mild weather, Fort Lauderdale is a great place to live, work, and play. All the things that make the area perfect for the nearly 200,000 residents also attract more than 13 million overnight visitors on an annual basis. With the high traffic congestion all of these drivers create, it can be hard to avoid rear-end collisions on our roadways.
Many institutions and sites in Fort Lauderdale can contribute to the problem of high traffic and the likelihood of rear-end accidents. Our three colleges, Broward College, Keiser University, and City College bring students’ families and friends from far and wide for welcome and graduation days which can create bumper-to-bumper traffic. Mega shopping centers like The Galleria, home to more than 100 retail outlets as well as many restaurants, and Las Olas Boulevard, which houses more than 200 tenants, ensure there is always a steady stream of traffic, with many who are unfamiliar with our roadways and traffic flow.
Traffic patterns in and out of large shopping centers and colleges are challenging for long-time residents to navigate—when you have hundreds of people daily who are unfamiliar with the area, the chance for accidents only multiplies. In such a busy, often frenzied driving environment, many rear-end collisions occur.
Fort Lauderdale Shopping Centers and Rear-End Accidents
A common scenario that can lead to a rear-end collision happens when a driver is distracted as they look around to find a specific location, like one of our shopping centers. If a driver is unfamiliar with the Fort Lauderdale area and is traveling behind you as you are entering or leaving a shopping center, you could be a victim of a rear-end accident. These accidents can result in serious injuries—many associate rear-end collisions with mere fender benders, but the speed at which the cars are traveling can turn them into very serious accidents. If you have come to a full stop and the person behind you is not paying attention because they are looking for a destination while traveling 30 or 40 miles per hour, you could suffer serious injuries.
People often fail to consider the length needed to bring their vehicle to a full stop. In fact, a car traveling only 30 miles per hour needs the equivalent of six car lengths to come to a full stop. The faster they are traveling, the longer the distance needed to come to a stop. Of course, we’ve all been tailgated by cars at much closer distances going at much higher speeds. When you need to make an abrupt stop and someone has been following too close, the chances are high you will be the victim of a rear-end collision.
Data presented by Florida Highway State and Motor Vehicles (FHSWV) tell us that, during an average year, there are more than 40,000 accidents across Broward County. If you review data offered by the FHSWV further observes that rear-end collisions are almost always caused by drivers following too closely.
Distracted Driving on Fort Lauderdale Roadways
High stop-and-go, bumper-to-bumper traffic is just one feature of Fort Lauderdale traffic contributing to high rear-end collision rates. Distracted driving compounds the issue. With tourists and students who are unfamiliar with the area, you’re almost certain to be driving around distracted drivers on Fort Lauderdale roadways.
Stop and think about what people do when they are unfamiliar with the area they are traveling in—they pay attention to their GPS to make sure they know where the next turn is. If they are meeting someone at a specific location, they could be texting them despite Florida’s rules against this type of distraction. In stop-and-go traffic, boredom drives some to pick up their phones and become distracted in other ways, such as scrolling through social media. Distracted driving is driving while your attention is focused on something else. It only takes a driver looking away from the roadway for a couple of seconds for someone in line to slow down or stop without the distracted driver noticing.
In dry weather conditions, you need a full four seconds from when you apply brakes to bring your car to a full stop. If the person behind you is trying to find the location of a specific store, restaurant, or street, they are likely not paying attention to what you are doing leaving you vulnerable to injury.
Injuries Common in Rear-End Collisions
While some rear-end collisions occur at low speeds and only cause property damage, in other cases these collisions occur at higher speeds, resulting in serious injury and even death. Some injuries a victim of a Fort Lauderdale rear-end collision may experience include:
- Disfigurement and other facial injuries - Broken noses, lacerations, broken jaws, and broken teeth are just a few of the issues a victim of a rear-end collision may have to deal with. When you are struck from behind, your entire body is thrust forward and depending on the speed the car that struck you was traveling, your face may hit the steering wheel or passengers may hit the dashboard. These injuries are painful and can take weeks or longer to heal. Victims may have life-long scarring due to a serious facial injury.
- Brain and head injuries - When your head is forced forward from the back, your brain moves around in your skull. There is an increased risk of traumatic brain injury (TBI) when you are involved in a rear-end accident.
- Broken ribs and other bones - Airbags are designed to save lives. While they are there to protect us, they can unfortunately also cause some harm. When you are struck from behind, chances are your airbag will deploy. In such a case, the airbag blowing up in your face can cause facial bone breaks, broken ribs, and potentially broken arms or collarbones. The severity of these injuries varies, but victims may need surgical intervention to have them repaired.
Anytime you are injured in a Fort Lauderdale rear-end accident, you should seek medical care, even if you don’t feel any immediate pain or symptoms. Make sure the doctor seeing you following a rear-end collision knows the circumstances of your accident. Let the doctor know if your airbag deployed and, if so, whether your head was forced backward by the airbag.
Remember, these are not the only injuries a victim can suffer following a Fort Lauderdale rear-end collision. Victims could face weeks or months of treatment and healing to recover from injuries. Some victims, particularly those who have TBI or whiplash, may face weeks or months of intense pain, while others may have life-long impediments to contend with.
No-Fault Insurance and Rear-End Collisions
Since Florida is a no-fault insurance state, there is often confusion regarding how to go about handling an insurance claim. Florida being a no-fault insurance state means you will report the accident to your personal injury protection (“PIP”) insurer first, and they will start the claims process. However, this does not mean you cannot file a personal injury lawsuit for injuries you have suffered. But, to file a lawsuit, your damages will need to exceed your PIP policy limits and you will need to be able to show you have suffered “serious injury.” Many drivers, understandably, may not know what serious injury means because the term is so broad. Under Florida law, it means:
- The injury is permanent - Any injury you suffer which you will not heal from is considered permanent;
- Scarring or disfigurement - This is further defined as significant and unlikely to go away. For example, scars on your face from your face striking your steering wheel; or
- Bodily function loss - Some victims lose some or all vision or hearing due to the damage caused in a rear-end collision. These injuries would rise to the serious injury level.
Chances are that an insurance company may make an offer in the days or weeks following an accident that you report. Before you accept an offer, consider first having an attorney review it. Keep in mind, accepting the first offer may limit your other options and this could be a costly mistake. Once you have accepted a settlement, your options for further recovery could be limited.
Insurance Adjusters and Rear-End Accidents
It may seem as soon as you start recovering your phone starts ringing, with an insurance adjuster on the other end. This will probably be the first of many calls you receive from the insurance company. Remember, never give a recorded statement, stick to the facts and leave emotion out of whatever you tell. And, be careful with every question you are asked. Too many people believe that because they have a contract with an insurer: Consumer pays premiums, insurance company agrees to pay claims—their insurer is working in the best interest of the customer. Not so. Insurance companies are not in business to serve the best interests of their customer; they are in business to make money. Because paying out your claim impacts their bottom line, they will try to avoid it, or minimize the amount they have to pay out.
The job of a claims adjuster is to find out what happened during the accident, assess the monetary costs of repairing your vehicle, and estimate your overall medical costs. Before answering questions about your expenses and impacts, it is best to talk with an attorney. In fact, you might just have a claims adjuster to work with your attorney directly, saving you time and frustration so you can focus on healing and tending to other matters.
Rear-end collision victims don’t always realize every cost they may demand compensation for. For instance, beyond medical expenses, many victims of Fort Lauderdale rear-end collisions lose weeks and, in some instances, months from work. Victims who suffer a TBI may never be able to return to their original occupation, jeopardizing their family’s entire financial future. The loss of wages, current and future, the necessity for ongoing care and treatment for some issues associated with TBI, and when appropriate, the rehabilitation therapy which may be required to enable a victim to care for themselves can take months. TBI treatments require money—money you probably do not have. These are among the expenses and impacts for which you should be able to demand compensation, and which an experienced rear-end accident attorney will know to demand.
Protect your Family—Work with a Fort Lauderdale Car Accident Lawyer
After a Fort Lauderdale rear-end accident, you have questions, and you need answers. You might wonder what rights you have, and how you can vindicate them. This is why you should speak with an experienced car accident attorney as soon after your accident as possible. In fact, the sooner, the better. When you work with a lawyer who is knowledgeable about Florida personal injury law, they can be an extremely effective advocate and recover the compensation could not recover on your own. Their job is to make sure you are treated fairly by the insurance company and that you have an opportunity to be reimbursed for all costs you incur because of your injury.
A car accident lawyer will take the time to hear your story and understand the circumstances of your accident. They can help you understand your rights, make sure you know what options are available, and serve as an advocate at all stages of the claims and legal process. You should not take chances on this and try to negotiate on your own—that is exactly what the insurance company wants you to do because they know you may not be 100 percent up to speed on what options you might have.
If you have suffered a serious injury in a rear-end collision in Fort Lauderdale, or you lost a family member, contact an attorney today and find out what options you have to recover financially. A rear-end collision might not be avoidable in Fort Lauderdale; but, if you do end up injured in one, you have legal options to be compensated for your injuries.