According to the National Safety Council (NSC), approximately 38,800 people lost their lives in car accidents in 2019, and an additional four million people were seriously injured. Despite major advances in safety technology, including automatic emergency braking, blind-spot detection, and lane departure warning, serious car accidents continue to occur. Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) recently introduced a package of bills that would address some of the most dangerous safety issues that affect motorists in this country, including auto recalls, defect investigations, distracted driving, and seat back safety. These four pieces of legislation are calling for action where it is critically needed. Ultimately, they have the potential to prevent millions of injuries and save thousands of lives.
What are the Key Elements of the Legislative Package?
According to Senator Markey, thousands of people lose their lives in car accidents each year. There are proven strategies and technologies that can prevent these devastating tragedies from continuing to occur. These safety bills identify the issues that contribute to serious and fatal car accidents and present viable solutions for protecting motorists and passengers. The four auto safety bills include the following:
- Promoting Auto Recalls Towards Safety (PARTS) Act: This authorizes the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to offer grants to states to help notify registered drivers about manufacturer-issued safety recalls. The Act would also monitor how effectively auto manufacturers are completing product recalls. This will ultimately help increase the speed and effectiveness of product recalls and avoid future incidents such as the disastrous Takata airbag recall.
- Early Warning Reporting Systems Improvement Act: This addresses the low number of defect investigations launched by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The legislation will require auto manufacturers to make fatality and injury information available to the public. In addition, the NHTSA will be required to make the information it receives easily available and in a user-friendly format so that consumers can access the information and evaluate potential safety defects.
- Stay Aware for Everyone (SAFE) Act: This addresses the issue of distracted driving, which was responsible for over 2,800 fatal car accidents in 2018. This problem is only getting worse as the number of driver assistance technologies cause drivers to become more complacent. The SAFE Act will require the DOT to look at driver-monitoring systems and determine how they can prevent driver distraction, complacency, disengagement, and the misuse of advanced driver-assist technology. The Act will also require the installation of driver-monitoring systems based on the study results.
- Modernizing Seat Back Safety Act: Too many preventable accidents occur because of seat failure during a car accident. This will require the NHTSA to update its standards for seat back integrity in all new cars. Unfortunately, the NHTSA has not done this in over 50 years, despite tragic fatalities, including the following:
- In 2010, a 17-month-old child was killed in a car accident after the car in which she was a passenger was struck from behind by a vehicle that was travelling at 55 miles per hour. The front seat broke and collapsed on top of her, causing fatal injuries.
- In 2016, a 12-year-old girl was seriously injured when the family’s vehicle was rear-ended. The driver’s seat collapsed, causing catastrophic injuries to the girl. She suffered a traumatic brain injury and was placed in a medically induced coma. After four years of trauma, pain, and intense physical therapy, she has made significant progress. However, it is unclear whether she will ever be able to walk, talk, or live independently.
- In 2016, a couple was struck from behind, causing their seat backs to collapse. The impact of the accident caused them to slip through their seat belts and launch into the back seat where their two children were seated. Their children suffered serious head trauma and brain injuries. Both children will face a lifetime of serious health challenges.
Each of the four bills have been endorsed by the following organizations:
- Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety
- Center for Auto Safety
- Consumer Reports
- Consumer Federation of America
- National Consumers League
- Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety
- Safety Research and Strategies
- Safe Roads Alliance
What Makes Rear-End Car Accidents Dangerous?
Rear-end collisions are the most common type of car accident in this country. Although many rear-end accidents are minor fender-benders that cause minimal property damage and only minor injuries, others can cause serious injuries, particularly if the vehicle was traveling at a high speed. The following are common injuries caused by rear-end accidents:
- Whiplash: This is the most common injury that is caused by rear-end collisions. It occurs when the impact of the collision causes the head and neck to move suddenly back and forth. In some cases, the resulting injury is fairly minor, and the victim may experience temporary muscle soreness. However, more serious cases, or those that are left untreated, can cause debilitating pain. Approximately 80 percent of motorists who suffer whiplash injuries experience pain and soreness for a week or more, while 50 percent suffer pain and soreness for over a year.
- Back injuries: Rear-end accidents can cause serious back injuries, even if the vehicle that rear-ended the car was traveling at a low speed. The force of impact puts significant pressure on the vertebrae, which can cause soreness and, in some cases, severe low back pain.
- Spinal cord paralysis: Depending on the location of the injury, a rear-end accident victim can suffer partial or complete paralysis from a rear-end accident. Spinal cord injuries can cause a range of symptoms, including loss of movement, loss of sensation, loss of bowel or bladder control, and muscle spasms.
- Head and brain injuries: All head injuries require immediate medical attention because symptoms may not appear immediately. Rear-end accidents can cause concussions, head lacerations, loss of consciousness, and swelling. In more serious cases, the victims can suffer a traumatic brain injury. Common symptoms include the following:
– Abnormal changes in behavior
– Chronic fatigue
– Impaired speech
– Loss of consciousness
– Reduced cognitive performance
- Airbag injuries: Airbags are meant to protect vehicle occupants from injuries in the event of a car accident. However, when airbags deploy, the force of impact can cause broken ribs, nose, or other bones, depending on where the airbag hit. They can also cause bruising or slight burns to the face or scalp.
- Wrist and arm injuries: When a rear-end accident occurs, the driver who is hit often has his or her hands on the steering wheel. If the driver is gripping the steering wheel when hit, it can result in injuries to the hand, wrist, and arm. Common injuries include broken or sprained wrist and dislocated shoulder.
- Facial disfigurement: If the impact of a rear-end accident causes the driver to strike the steering wheel, windshield, or any other hard surface, it can cause facial injuries, including a broken nose, cheekbone, or jaw. It can also cause detached retina injuries.
- Seat belt injuries: Although seat belts are effective at saving lives and reducing the severity of injuries caused by car accidents, rear-end accidents can cause seat belt-related injuries. The impact of a rear-end collision will cause the seat belt to tighten. When the body is thrust forward, the seat belt can cause bruising or lacerations to the chest.
- Collapsing seat backs: When the front seats break or collapse on impact during a rear-end accident, it can cause devastating injuries to the occupants of the back seat, particularly if they are young children.
Who is Liable for a Rear-End Accident?
In most cases, the person driving the vehicle that rear-ends another car is considered at-fault for the accident. However, there are certain instances in which the driver of the vehicle that was hit may be liable, including the following:
- The driver slammed on the brakes without a valid reason
- The driver reversed suddenly
- The motorist had a mechanical issue without pulling over or turning on the hazard lights
- The driver failed to repair a broken taillight or other piece of faulty equipment
If the above scenarios do not apply, it is likely that the driver who rear-ended another car will be responsible for any property damage and injuries resulting from the accident. Obtaining compensation for certain injuries, such as whiplash, can be challenging because drivers have exaggerated their injuries in the past and insurance companies tend to be skeptical about these claims. An experienced personal injury lawyer will protect clients’ rights and hold the negligent party liable for all injuries.
Freehold Personal Injury Lawyers at Ellis Law Seek Maximum Compensation for Car Accident Victims
If you or a loved one was seriously injured in a rear-end collision or any other type of car accident, do not hesitate to contact the Freehold personal injury lawyers at Ellis Law. We will determine who is responsible for causing the accident and ensure that you receive the maximum financial compensation you deserve. To schedule a free consultation, call us today at 732-308-0200 or contact us online. Located in Freehold, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout East Brunswick, Toms River, Middletown, Jersey City, Neptune, Hudson County, Union County, Essex County, and Ocean County, as well as Brooklyn and New York, New York.