Following another vehicle too closely can have deadly consequences. It can take the length of a football field to stop a vehicle traveling at 60 mph. The required distance could be longer in adverse weather conditions. More than 3,000 people a year lose their lives in motor vehicle accidents on Florida roads and highways. A significant number of these deaths can be attributed to a tailgating accident or rear-end collision. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that 23 percent of fatal traffic accidents involve rear-end collisions caused by tailgating.
What is tailgating?
Florida law defines tailgating as following too closely. It is unlawful for a motorist to follow another car, truck or motorcycle closer than is “reasonable and prudent.” What may be considered reasonable and prudent in a particular situation depends upon a number of factors, including:
- Weather conditions and visibility
- Speed at which the vehicles are traveling
- Traffic conditions, including traffic volume
- Conditions affecting the road surface, such as potholes, gravel or sand
The purpose of the statute is to avoid collisions caused when an emergency situation, such as a pedestrian, an animal or another vehicle suddenly enters the roadway forcing oncoming vehicles to quickly slow down or stop. Being too close to the vehicle ahead of you might not give you enough time to slow your vehicle without hitting the rear of the car or truck ahead of you.
Types of injuries usually seen in a tailgating accident
Rear-end collisions cause 85 percent of the neck injuries suffered in car accidents. Neck injuries from rear-end collisions are commonly called “whiplash.”
There is a sudden acceleration and deceleration when a vehicle is struck. The head and neck respond with a rapid and extremely violent movement forward and then backward. That jolt places strain on both the the head and neck.
A person suffering a whiplash injury could experience headaches, pain, limited motion and dizziness. Symptoms may diminish with time, but victims should seek a medical evaluation because some people injured in this manner have pain, stiffness and limitation of motion for years following the accident.
Because the occupants of both vehicles involved in a rear-end collision precipitated by tailgating, several other types of injuries may also occur, including:
- Trauma to the head
- Bone fractures
- Traumatic brain injury
Someone who is injured in a tailgating-related accident should be evaluated by a doctor as soon as possible.
Who is responsible in a tailgating accident?
Liability for causing an accident is usually based upon the existence of evidence proving that one or more of the individuals involved in the accident acted or failed to act in such a manner as to cause the accident to occur. The victim of a motor vehicle accident usually must prove each of the following elements to establish negligence:
- The person to be held responsible owed a duty to exercise reasonable care;
- There was a breach of that duty;
- The breach caused the victim to suffer an injury;
- The injuries suffered by the victim resulted in actual damages; and
- The breach of duty was the proximate cause of the harm or injury.
Decisions from the courts in Florida have made it easier to establish responsibility in a rear-end collision through the creation of a rebuttable presumption. The presumption is that the driver of the vehicle in the rear is the person legally responsible for causing the accident. This presumption is made without the victim having to prove negligence.
The driver of the rear vehicle can defend against a claim. To do so, they must offer evidence proving the negligence of another person caused or contributed to the accident. If that happens, it will be up to the jury to decide the degree of fault of each person. They then apportion liability accordingly.
What to do if injured in a tailgating accident
If you or a loved one is injured in a tailgating accident, immediately call 911 for assistance. Do not leave the scene or move your vehicle until the police arrive.
Get the name, address, telephone number and insurance information of the other driver along with the plate and identification number of the other vehicle. If you have been injured and are unable to obtain this information, you can also find it in the police report.
If you have not been transported to the hospital by emergency personnel, seek a medical evaluation and treatment. Keep in mind that you might not immediately realize the full extent of your injuries, so refrain from making any statements or discussing your injuries with anyone at the accident scene.
Obtain legal advice from an experienced Tampa personal injury lawyer
When you or a loved one suffers an injury in an accident, you could be entitled to compensation. Protect your right to compensation in a tailgating accident by seeking the advice and guidance of a personal injury lawyer as soon after the accident as possible. Contact our team for immediate help with your personal injury case today.