Rear-end crashes are among the most common collisions occurring throughout North Carolina and the U.S., according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA).
The agency found that about 87% of rear-end crashes involved distracted driving on the part of the at-fault driver. And in 81% of those crashes the lead vehicle was stopped.
A rear-end collision can change your life forever. Consider the story of Tony, one of our clients. He was living the dream and simply driving home from work one day when his life was forever changed. Here is Tony’s story.
Living the Dream Before “All of This Happened”
Imagine you’re working in your dream job, things are going well for you and your family. You’re healthy and physically fit. Life is good. And then one day, one moment, through no fault of your own, your world implodes. A car accident. A diagnosis. All outside your control.
Such was the case for Tony who, by simply routinely driving home from work, was at the wrong place at the wrong time and thrust into a terrible situation. A situation that left him with a debilitating medical condition and little or no means of generating or receiving income.
Life spiraled downhill quickly.
“Something Said ‘Check Your Six”’
Tony was employed in a job he loved and living the dream before “all of this happened.” On his way home from work he was rear-ended by another vehicle that was going approximately 70 mph. He recounted the incident:
“I was on the I-77 when I got rear-ended at 70 mph, and I was in stop and go traffic. We were just stopped and something said ‘check your six!’ So I look behind me and I see this guy not looking where he was going, so I tried to get out of the way, but he caught up and he hit me hard. My rear windshield came out in one piece. That’s how hard he hit me.”
The severe impact resulted in multiple bodily injuries, which included a severe concussion and spinal injuries. The injuries left him with headaches so intense that they can make him cry. The pain wakes him up at night and he often can’t go back to sleep. And he now has photosensitivity so severe he won’t go outside on a sunny day, even to his mailbox. His pain is so intense that he has minimal appetite, and when he does have an appetite, he is often unable to keep food down.
“For a year and a half I couldn’t keep food down on a regular basis. I went down from 155 lbs. to 123, and I’m 6’2!” he said.
Before the accident, Tony was physically fit, “155 was my fighting weight – all muscle. I had pecs, I had a six pack, nice biceps. That all went away to 123 lbs.”
Clearly Disabled, Denied Disability Twice
Despite these circumstances his Social Security Disability case was denied. Twice!
Things were indeed very different before the accident.
Tony enjoyed his job – and anything physical. He worked as a high-tech technician, where he looked forward to getting up in the mornings to go to work and working 10 hours a day. Before that, he was a motorcycle and auto mechanic, which he says was a physically demanding job. He enjoyed physical fitness and was into muscle building – he even enjoyed muscle cars, and is the proud owner of a 1971 Plymouth Roadrunner he had been restoring to its original ‘curious yellow’ color – a special color made for that model and year only.
“I was in a Mopar magazine …three times,” he recalled. (Mopar is short for motor parts, and mopar magazines are for high-performance muscle car enthusiasts.) “Mopar or no car – that’s all we wanted to drive,” he kidded.
Frankly, Tony used to love driving. “I drove 250 miles a week,” he said.
Not anymore. This muscle car enthusiast has been so traumatized by the car wreck, and so affected by his photosensitivity, he only drives “to the store and back.”
He also used to enjoy working outside on his one-acre property, tending to his yard, shrubbery, and foliage. Yet due to his photosensitivity, that enjoyment has been stolen from him.
What does he do with his time now that he is no longer able to drive, go outside for long periods of time, and must deal with the constant headaches which interrupt sleeping and eating?
“I’m a couch potato,” he said half-jokingly.
“They’re going to take care of you, man”
When attorney Rick Fleming and the Social Security Disability team learned that Tony – clearly disabled from that rear-end crash – had been denied twice they were relentless. Fleming was eventually able to persuade the Social Security Disability administration to find Tony disabled and award him benefits*.
5 Ways to Try to Avoid a Rear-End Collision
Rear-end accidents can often be avoided! And prevention is up to each of us. We can start by practicing five simple things every time we get behind the wheel:
- Don’t tailgate. Tailgating or following too closely behind someone else is just plain rude and inconsiderate, not to mention unsafe. If you don’t leave enough distance to stop, there’s a very real chance you will end up hitting another car – and likely blamed for the crash. Remember: one car length for every 10 mph.
- Don’t stop short or cut people off. If you slam on your brakes suddenly and unexpectedly or suddenly changes lanes or pull in front of another car, cars around you may not have time to react. Look ahead and plan ahead.
- Go the speed limit and try to maintain a steady speed. Drivers who slow suddenly can cause a car following them to hit them. A driver who goes too fast also faces an increased chance of hitting the car in front.
- Don’t drive distracted. Pay careful attention to what is going on in front of you, behind, you and all around you – but not to your phone or that last cold French fry at the bottom of your fast food bag.
- Avoid drunk or drowsy driving. Both drunk and drowsy driving make it harder to pay attention to what is going on around you and can cause delayed reaction time. This makes rear-end accidents much more likely. Stop to rest if you are too tired to drive safely. And if you have been drinking alcohol, call a North Carolina designated driver service, Uber, Lyft or a taxi.
And remember this: It’s nearly always the driver who strikes the vehicle in front of him who is assumed to be at fault. That may mean facing liability in a civil suit in addition to dealing with the accident and injuries.
North Carolina Injury Lawyers Evaluate Your Claim FREE
If you’ve been injured in any kind of car wreck or if you’ve been denied for Social Security Disability, call us at 1-866-900-7078 or click here for a free case evaluation.
* Cases or matters referenced do not represent the law firm’s entire record. Each case is unique and must be evaluated on its own merits. The outcome of a particular case cannot be predicated upon a lawyer’s or a law firm’s past results.