A rear-end collision is one of the most common of all traffic accidents. Rear-end collisions have a reputation as relatively minor incidents—the typical fender bender, for example. There’s some truth to that stereotype, but it also fails to account for the numerous rear-end collisions that cause serious injuries, and even fatalities, every year in Albany and throughout the Capital Region.
Rear-end collisions can happen all over Albany: in stop-and-go rush hour traffic on I-787 and I-90, at stoplights on Central and Delaware Avenues, on the narrow streets in the Mansion District, and the winding roads of the University at Albany campus.
No matter what the setting of a rear-end collision, however, it virtually always has the potential to cause harm to the drivers and passengers in the vehicles involved, especially (but by no means exclusively) those in the lead car.
In this blog post, we examine the problem of rear-end collisions in Albany: how they happen, the injuries they cause, and what victims can do to obtain compensation for their injuries and losses.
Albany Rear-End Collisions by the Numbers
The Institute for Traffic Safety and Management (ITSMR), which is affiliated with the University at Albany, maintains a database of crash statistics for New York. According to ITSMR’s database, in each of the five most recent years for which complete data is available, following too closely constituted the single-most-commonly-cited contributing factor for a motor vehicle crash in the Albany area. Undoubtedly, the vast majority of those following too closely accidents constituted rear-end collisions.
What is more, at both the city and county levels, the number of following-too-closely (i.e., rear-end) accidents has seen a steady increase. Following-too-closely accidents rose by 8 percent in Albany over the same recent five-year period, and by a whopping 30 percent (from 1,760 reported crashes to nearly 2,300) across all of Albany County. The increase mirrored a steep statewide rise in accidents attributed to motorists following too closely, according to ITSMR.
Reduced traffic volumes during the pandemic will likely put a dent in the latest numbers once ITSMR has finalized them, but this will only constitute a temporary reprieve. As the economy rebounds and Albany residents emerge from the relative isolation and inactivity of the pandemic, we can expect local rear-end accidents to continue their climb.
If there is a tiny sliver of a silver lining in these figures, it’s that on average, about 1/3 of the accidents attributed to following too closely in and around Albany resulted in injuries to motorists or their passengers. Statewide, by comparison, the proportion of rear-end collisions resulting in injuries has historically been higher, reaching nearly 1/2 of all accidents in some years. However, that is still little consolation to the one-in-three victims of Albany region rear-end collisions who did suffer crash-related injuries, many of them debilitating and extremely costly.
How Rear-End Collisions Happen in Albany
To what factors and circumstances does Albany owe its troubling and steady increase in rear-end collisions in recent years? Here are some likely culprits.
For anyone who has commuted to and from work in Albany and its environs over the past decade or so, the cause of the rise in rear-end collisions will probably seem obvious. Over the past decade, traffic volumes have done nothing but rise in Albany and the greater Capital Region. Numerous reports have chronicled the ever-growing crowding on local highways and byways and the increasing share of Albany resident’s days spent sitting in traffic—up more than 10 percent over a decade ago.
Heavy traffic is a common contributing factor in rear-end collisions. On roads with high traffic volumes, the distance between vehicles tends to shrink, leaving drivers with less room and less time to avoid collisions when a car or truck stops unexpectedly or a driver loses focus for a moment or two. Heavy traffic also tends to heighten driver stress, which can lead to risky driving behaviors, such as speeding, that foster crashes.
Albany’s weather has not necessarily gotten worse over the past few years, but it also has not gotten better. Snow, ice, rain, and fog—all common features of the driving environment in the Capital Region—reduce road traction and visibility and can lead to rear-end accidents. According to ITSMR, police report slippery pavement as a contributing factor in hundreds of accidents per year throughout Albany County. The database does not identify which of those accidents were rear-end collisions, but it’s safe to assume that they make up a large proportion.
Driver Negligence and Recklessness
Even in heavy traffic and on wet roads, however, most Albany rear-end collisions are avoidable. It usually takes an added human element for an accident to happen.
Albany drivers make all sorts of poor decisions behind the wheel that can heighten the risk of a rear-end collision, including:
- They speed or drive too fast for road conditions, leaving themselves insufficient distance and time to avoid a rear-end accident.
- They follow too closely to the vehicle in front of them when feeling pressed for time or stressed about traffic.
- They engage in various types of distracted driving, such as sending texts while their vehicle is in motion or taking their hands off the wheel to eat or drink.
- They drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol, which impairs their reaction times and judgment of distance.
- They drive drowsy, which is just as dangerous as driving drunk.
These are just a few of the many types of avoidable human mistakes and bad choices that can end up causing a rear-end collision in Albany. Oftentimes, an accident results from a driver making multiple mistakes at once, each compounding the effect of the other and ultimately making a collision more or less inevitable.
Common Albany Rear-End Accident Injuries
As we mentioned earlier, despite their reputation as minor fender benders, rear-end collisions can inflict serious, debilitating injuries on drivers and passengers alike. Many of the worst injuries frequently happen to occupants of the lead vehicle (the one struck from behind), although that is not always the case.
Here is a summary of some common injuries resulting from an Albany rear-end collision.
- Shoulder and neck soft tissue injuries (a.k.a. whiplash). In the typical rear-end collision, a trailing vehicle in motion strikes a lead vehicle that is stopped or almost stopped. The impact jolts the bodies of the occupants in the lead vehicle in a whip-like manner, accelerating their torsos forward in their seats until their seatbelts (hopefully) stop them, at which point their head and neck snap forward and back. That whipping motion strains and tears soft tissue (muscles, ligaments, and tendons) in their neck and shoulder, resulting in an injury that can cause severe and chronic pain, among other debilitating symptoms.
- Back injuries. The same force of impact that can inflict a soft tissue injury also holds the potential to cause damage to the vertebrae and discs that make up the spine, as well as to soft tissue below the shoulders. Back injuries may require multiple surgeries to correct and may still leave rear-end accident victims struggling with chronic pain and limited mobility.
- Spinal cord injuries. A subset of back injuries, spinal cord injuries occur when the force of impact in a rear-end collision results in physical damage to or impingement on the spinal cord, the bundle of nerves running through the spinal column that transmits messages between the brain and body. A spinal cord injury commonly results in a loss of sensation and function (paralysis) in parts of the body below the site of the injury on the cord.
- Broken or crushed bones. Occupants of either vehicle in a rear-end collision face the risk of suffering severe bone fractures, the worst of which tend to occur when the force of an impact crumples the passenger cabin and pins an occupant’s limb between or under twisted metal. Many of these injuries rob rear-end accident victims of the use of their damaged limbs permanently.
- Traumatic brain injuries. Occupants of either vehicle may also suffer brain injuries, which occur when the brain twists, shakes, or temporarily deforms inside the skull due to a violent blow or jolt. A traumatic brain injury can cause lasting cognitive, motor, emotional, and social impairments, and in the worst cases, may result in a permanent loss of consciousness.
This list does not cover all types of harm a rear-end collision in Albany can inflict, of course. A rear-end crash can cause virtually any type of injury, especially if the initial collision leads to a secondary accident.
Seeking Damages for an Albany Rear-End Accident
Because most Albany rear-end collisions are preventable, in that they result from some form of human error, victims of those accidents usually have the right under New York law to seek compensation for their injuries and losses.
Who owes damages?
By law, anyone whose unreasonably dangerous decisions or actions caused a rear-end collision in Albany owes damages to injured crash victims.
- The driver of the trailing vehicle often owes damages to crash victims, for having failed to maintain reasonable control and crashing into the lead vehicle;
- The driver of the lead vehicle could owe damages, for having stopped unreasonably and without warning, making a rear-end collision by a trailing vehicle unavoidable;
- The employer of either of those drivers could owe damages if its employees crashed their work vehicles while on the job;
- An automotive manufacturer could face liability for damages, if it produced defective car parts, such as brakes or tires, that failed and caused a rear-end accident; or
- A government entity could owe damages to rear-end crash victims if it failed to correct an unreasonably dangerous road condition within its jurisdiction that led to an accident.
These are just a few examples. The best way to find out what parties may owe you damages for the injuries you’ve suffered in an Albany rear-end collision is to speak with a skilled car accident lawyer about what happened.
What damages are available?
By taking legal action against one or more parties that owe them damages, injured victims of Albany rear-end collisions can often obtain compensation for:
- Their medical expenses related to treating their injuries;
- Other expenses they have because of the accident and their injuries;
- Wages and income they lose due to missing work because of their injuries;
- Their pain, suffering, and diminished enjoyment of life stemming from their injuries; and
- When a court deems it appropriate, punitive damages punish the at-fault party.
The dollar amount of damages that a victim can seek to recover usually depends on the severity of the injuries caused by the rear-end collision and the impact of those injuries on the victim’s life. The actual amount the victim might receive after taking legal action will typically depend on the skill and experience of the victim’s lawyer, the strength of the evidence supporting the victim’s claim, and the funds available (usually through insurance) to pay damages to the victim.
Hurt in an Albany Rear-End Collision? Contact a Skilled Albany Car Accident Lawyer
The numbers do not lie. Rear-end collisions routinely inflict serious harm and cost on Albany residents and their families. Oftentimes, those accidents result from the careless or reckless actions of drivers and other parties, who should face accountability to crash victims. In the aftermath of a rear-end accident in Albany, injured victims need the guidance of an experienced, knowledgeable car accident lawyer to ensure that they receive maximum financial compensation.
Oftentimes, retaining an attorney will result in an immediate increase in the amount of an insurance company’s settlement, once it realizes that an experienced attorney is on the case who knows the law and understands how to properly value an Albany rear-end collision accident claim.
Connecting with that kind of attorney is easy. All victims or their families need to do is contact the office of an experienced Albany car accident law firm for a free consultation with a legal professional who can answer their questions about their rights and options.
Mr. Finkelstein is the Managing Partner of Finkelstein & Partners, LLP. He has become a noted consumer activist through his representation of injured individuals against corporate wrongdoers and irresponsible parties.
An accomplished litigator, Mr. Finkelstein has represented Plaintiffs in wrongful death and catastrophic personal injury cases. He has successfully handled dozens of multi-million dollar cases.