In a rear-end traffic crash, the point of impact is where the front end of the tailing motorist’s car meets the rear end of the leading car. In most rear-end collisions, the leading car slowed down or stopped, and the tailing motorist failed to notice or react to the leading driver’s action to avoid a crash.
Rear-end wrecks can be negligible, low-speed collisions with no visible vehicle damage and no injuries. However, violent collisions can severely damage and injure numerous drivers and passengers.
The motorist who rear-ends the leading vehicle is generally responsible for damages resulting from the crash. However, that’s not always the case, such as when the lead motorist’s negligence caused or contributed to the crash.
The best way to know who should pay for a rear-end accident is to have a car accident lawyer evaluate your situation.
Proving Fault for Rear-End Collisions
The driver who rear-ends a leading car will almost always be at least partially negligent. Negligence is the legal doctrine that determines fault for a car accident and other personal injuries. Every driver must follow other cars at a safe distance that changes depending on car speed, highway conditions, and many other elements.
Car Accidents and Negligence
Negligence defines conduct that injures others and falls below a basic standard of care. You are negligent if you don’t act reasonably and someone else suffers harm. What comprises reasonable conduct hinges on the events surrounding the crash.
To establish that a driver was negligent concerning a car crash, you must first establish that a duty existed. All drivers owe a duty to other motorists on the highway to not do something that might cause a wreck.
Second, you must establish that the other motorist breached this duty.
Motorists in rear-end crashes can breach their duty of reasonable care in several ways; for instance, by failing to:
- Pay attention to the road and look out for dangers
- Brake within a reasonable time
- Drive at a safe speed (based on posted speed limits and highway/weather conditions)
- Keep control of the car
- Yield the right of way
- Use turn signals, and
- Follow at a safe distance.
You must establish the other driver’s breach of duty was the cause of the crash. You also must prove that you suffered damages due to the crash. This includes accident injuries and vehicle damage.
Getting Payment After a Rear-End Collision
In most rear-end crashes, the driver of the tailing vehicle will be legally liable for paying for the lead driver’s economic damages. The repair expenses for the lead vehicle are generally easy to compute, so many car insurance companies are swift to pay for those expenditures. But a difficulty often occurs when paying for a victim’s medical bills.
Common personal injuries from rear-end crashes are back and whiplash injuries, which are usually hard to quantify as they don’t always show up on diagnostic tests.
Were You In a Rear-End Wreck?
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), rear-end collisions are the most common type of car accident, making up around 30 percent of traffic accidents every year.
It might seem like determining the at-fault motorist is easy after a rear-end collision, but little details can shift the liability determination. Even if fault is no longer in question, how much cash the claimant can receive might be in dispute. It’s essential to have an initial consultation with a car accident attorney, whose service can be important to all phases of the car crash lawsuit process, including establishing fault and damages. Even if there’s no need for a lawsuit, an attorney can ensure a favorable outcome for the car insurance settlement process.
Other Common Causes of Rear-End Car Collisions
A rear-end crash can happen in almost any driving scenario, but the bulk of these crashes result from:
- Inattentive driving on the part of the tailing motorist: Texting, other gadget use, eating, or doing anything else that takes concentration from the highway
- The tailing motorist following too closely/tailgating behind the lead motorist: Motorists are lawfully instructed to keep a minimum safe space between their car and the car in front of them; and
- Driving inappropriately for the weather: Ice and snow on the highway can make it more difficult for the tailing motorist to come to a stop. Rain, condensation, and even the sun’s glow can impact motorists’ visibility, so if the lead motorist slams on the brakes, the other driver might not have adequate time to stop, particularly if they’re following too closely for the present conditions.
Typical Injuries Stemming From Rear-End Car Collisions
Because of the circumstances of most rear-end collisions—the leading motorist’s car gets struck from behind, and there’s no chance to brace for impact— typical injuries suffered by motorists and passengers in the leading car often include:
- Whiplash neck injuries from the instantaneous backward-and-forward movement of the impact
- Back and spine injuries, including slipped discs and other kinds of damage to the upper (cervical) vertebrae (C1 to C7)
- Head injuries or concussions from a jolt of the head or the head hitting the steering wheel, dashboard, or something else.
Is Someone Automatically at Fault in a Rear-End Crash?
Whatever the cause of the accident and resulting injuries, it usually doesn’t get more straightforward than a rear-end collision when it comes to fault. Except in rare cases, the motorist who rear-ends another car is almost always going to be negligent and at fault for the car crash.
The determination of accident liability in rear-end collisions is a critical legal issue in a car crash case that you want a lawyer to resolve.
Another significant issue is figuring out how much your rear-end collision injury claim is worth and making sure you come away from your insurance claim or lawsuit with a proper result. This is where things can get problematic, particularly if your injuries don’t show up on an X-ray, MRI, or another diagnostic imaging tool.
Your Compensation Opportunities For Injuries After a Rear-End Collision
Suppose you’re making a car accident injury claim as the leading driver (the one who was hit from behind) after a rear-end crash. In that case, the first thing to know is that car insurance coverage will mainly dictate how your claim proceeds and how much you’ll obtain.
If the at-fault driver has enough liability coverage to pay for your injuries, car damage, and other accident-related losses, your car accident case will probably begin with a claim under that coverage. An insurance claim you file with the other driver’s insurance company is called a “third-party” claim.
Remember that filing the claim is just the beginning of the insurance process. The insurance adjuster will analyze the accident and how it happened, speak to any witnesses, and request and study your medical records to understand your car accident injuries.
They might come back with a quick settlement offer, which is usually far lower than you deserve. They hope you will accept the offer to wrap up the process and save the insurance company money. They do not want you to have an attorney handling this process.
With a car accident attorney on your side, you can avoid accepting a lowball offer, which will leave you covering many of your losses. Never handle this process alone.
Rear-End Crashes in No-Fault States
If you live in one of the handfuls of states that observe some variation of a no-fault car insurance system, you won’t be making any insurance claim or filing a lawsuit against the at-fault driver – at least not initially. You’ll first turn to your personal injury protection car insurance coverage for rear-end collisions, regardless of who caused the crash. You can only step outside of the no-fault system and file a claim against the at-fault driver in certain cases involving serious injuries.
Filing a Rear-End Accident Lawsuit
You and the insurance company might be too far apart on the appropriate value of your car accident claim, and things are at a halt settlement-wise. Your lawyer may need to escalate things by filing a car wreck lawsuit in court. Always remember there is a statute of limitations deadline for filing the case in court, and you want an experienced car accident attorney on your side once things move to the litigation stage.
Whether your car crash case resolves in or out of court, getting payment for injuries can get complex. This is more than a little frustrating, particularly if the severity of your injuries is in dispute.
Whiplash Injuries After a Rear-End Car Crash
Whiplash is a typical neck injury that results from rear-end crashes. When a motorist is rear-ended, it can cause the head to jolt backward, causing damage to the neck, shoulders, and upper back.
Usually, these are soft tissue injuries in the form of strains and sprains to the muscles and tendons in the neck. Soft tissue injuries are notoriously challenging to establish and quantify. Unlike a torn muscle or fractured bone, it’s not always straightforward to pinpoint a strain or sprain injury. And even when strains and sprains are clear in medical tests, such as an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), it’s difficult to establish the extent of the injury.
Much of the time, the preliminary measure of the whiplash injury will be personal complaints of pain and discomfort. Injuries such as headaches, neck discomfort, blurred vision, shoulder and back discomfort, and trouble focusing. However, the effect on a claimant’s life can be substantial with whiplash injuries. That impact is a recoverable part of pain and suffering in a car crash injury claim.
Drivers who get hit from the rear have the chance to recover financially for their injuries. However, car insurance adjusters will be wary of claimed whiplash injuries and often try to minimize these claims.
What to Do After the Crash to Hold the At-Fault Driver Responsible
After any car accident, including a rear-end impact crash, defend yourself and any claim you make over the crash.
- Exchange info with the other motorists involved in the collision (names, addresses, insurance coverage details, driver’s license numbers).
- Get the names and contact details of anyone involved in the wreck (passengers) and any witnesses who might have seen all of the crash.
- Take pictures of the accident scene. Be sure to grab the position of the cars to show it was a rear-end accident. Please take photos of all car damage, any stop signs or other signage, and anything else that might be pertinent to the crash and how it occurred.
- If a police officer came to the accident scene, get a copy of any police report generated about the collision.
- Seek medical treatment at the first sign of pain or discomfort.
The next thing you should always do is consult with a car accident lawyer who can protect your rights.
What About Car Damage After a Rear-End Collision?
Getting payment for vehicle damage after a rear-end car accident is usually straightforward. If everyone agrees on liability (who was at fault for the accident), and the costs of repairs are reasonably objective, most insurance companies will quickly pay a rear-end accident victim’s car damage claim. You still want legal help if you have any disputes or injuries.
Do You Need to Contact an Attorney After a Rear-End Collision?
If you suffered injuries in a rear-end collision, having an experienced car accident lawyer on your side can be the difference between getting a profitable outcome or not. If your injuries are of the soft tissue type, but they’re having a significant impact on your life, and the insurance company won’t come to the table with a valid settlement offer, hiring a lawyer is the best thing you can do for your claim.