The Basics of Rear-End Collisions

Six Steps You Can Take Toward Recovery

Rear-end collisions occur when one car strikes the back of another vehicle. Often, rear-end collisions come with just a minor bump: one car failing to stop fast enough for a red light or stop sign. In other cases, however, the responsible driver may go barreling through traffic, plowing into the back of the other vehicle and causing substantial injuries. Understanding rear-end collisions can both help you avoid them and increase your ability to seek compensation following an accident.

Determining Fault in Rear-End Collisions

In a rear-end collision, most often, the rear driver bears fault for the accident. Typically, the rear driver either follows too close to the front driver or fails to pay appropriate attention, causing them to crash into the driver. In some cases, however, the front driver may bear partial or full responsibility for the accident. Consider some of these scenarios:

  • The front driver reversed into the rear driver. In some cases, the front driver may put his vehicle in reverse and hit the gas, causing the vehicle to slam into the car behind it. The front driver at a red light, for example, might realize that he has allowed his vehicle to creep too far into the lane of oncoming traffic, increasing the potential for accidents. Failing to look for adequate space behind him before reversing, however, can lead to a rear-end collision in which he bears fault.
  • The front driver deliberately pulled over too close in front of the other vehicle. Often, when traveling at a high rate of speed, one driver may pull over in front of the other without leaving adequate room for the other driver to slow down. Slamming on the brakes as soon as he completes the lane change may then cause the rear driver to slam into the front driver. Some drivers have used this method as a ploy to gain insurance money, while others may pull over in front of drivers around them as a result of road rage.
  • The front driver’s brake lights fail to come on, signaling a stop. To respond to a rapidly slowing or stopping vehicle, the rear driver needs to see brake lights that indicate that stop. Especially at high rates of speed, the rear driver may fail to notice that the vehicle has stopped moving forward or has slowed significantly. Typically, brake light absence on the part of the front vehicle results from the driver’s lack of knowledge, rather than deliberate negligence on the part of the front driver; however, a lack of brake lights does place some of the responsibility for the crash on the front driver.
  • The front driver experienced car problems but failed to pull off the road. When a car stops, its brake lights signal to others on the road that it remains stopped, rather than in motion. A car with mechanical problems, however, may sit at the side of the road, parked, without brake lights showing. A driver who fails to move a car with mechanical issues, including a flat tire, out of the traffic lanes in the road may share some of the responsibility for the accident.

Did the front driver’s negligence contribute substantially to the accident? To determine the extent of each driver’s fault in the accident, you may need to negotiate with the insurance company. Having a lawyer on your side can help you better determine who bears fault in the case of your rear-end accident. An attorney can also help collect evidence that may help prove that the front driver helped contribute to or caused the accident, helping you seek more compensation for your injuries.

What Compensation Can You Seek After a Rear-End Accident?

After a rear-end accident, you may find yourself wondering what compensation you can seek for your injuries. Typically, the damages you receive will vary based on a variety of factors:

  • The severity of your injuries. Often, compensation includes covering medical expenses for the injured party. If you suffered severe injuries, you may have higher medical bills, which may result in higher rates of compensation. Insurance companies may also deem your pain and suffering more severe following serious injuries.
  • The limits of the insurance policy. In a rear-end collision claim, you will usually deal with the other driver’s auto insurance company. The company will not pay out beyond the maximum limits of the policy, so the limits of that policy will determine the maximum compensation you can receive regardless of the severity of your injuries.

While the amount of compensation you receive will vary, many people claim:

  • Medical expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Pain and suffering
  • Lost income potential, in the case of permanent injuries

What Should You Do After a Rear-End Collision?

A rear-end collision can leave you reeling, especially if you suffered a traumatic brain injury or other serious injuries at the time of the accident. However, following the right steps after the accident can help you protect your financial future and prove fault in the accident. Consider these important steps.
Step one: Summon medical attention. Seeking medical care following any type of auto accident should remain your first priority. If you or the other driver suffered severe injuries in the rear-end collision, you should summon medical attention to the scene of the accident as soon as possible. Typically, a call to 911 will summon both paramedics and police officers. If it takes time for an ambulance to get to you, make taking care of your injuries, your first priority at the scene of the accident. If you cannot move around the scene of the accident without increasing your injuries or causing pain, remain in your vehicle and wait for help to arrive.
Step two: Collect evidence. If you can physically move around the accident scene to collect evidence, that evidence may help you later. Take photos of the scene of the accident, including damage to either vehicle. If you have a dashcam, make sure you offer the video of the accident to the police officer. You may want to take photos of:

  • Your injuries
  • The other driver’s license and insurance information, to keep it readily accessible
  • Any features of the area you feel contributed to the accident
  • Both vehicles, especially if you must move them off the road while waiting for help to arrive

Step three: Talk to the police. When the police arrive, give them your statement about the accident. Recording this statement yourself can also help you look back and refresh your memory later. Offer an honest assessment of the accident, but avoid admitting fault or accepting a portion of the responsibility if possible.
Step four: Keep track of additional evidence. When you go to the hospital, you will receive reports about your injuries. You may have X-rays or the results of tests. Keep this information in a file about the accident so you can access it if needed.
Step five: Report the accident to your insurance company. Let your insurance company know that you suffered injuries in an accident. Give the company access to the police report or any evidence about the accident. Depending on your coverage, your insurance company may pay out immediately for damage to your vehicle, then seek compensation from the other driver’s insurance company.
Step six: Consult a motor vehicle accident lawyer. Any time you suffer serious injuries in an accident, talking to a lawyer can help you better assess the compensation you deserve from the accident. Contact a lawyer as soon as possible after your rear-end collision to allow the law firm to start collecting evidence and working on your behalf.

Common Causes of Rear-End Collisions

Rear-end collisions occur for a variety of reasons. These may include:

  • Wet or icy roads. On wet or icy roads, many drivers struggle to maintain traction, which may increase the odds of many types of accidents. In a rear-end collision, the driver may fail to leave adequate room to stop the vehicle, sending it straight into the back of the other car.
  • Driver inattention. In many cases, a driver distracted by other factors—a cell phone; other people in the vehicle; rummaging around to take care of another task while driving—will fail to realize that the car in front of him came to a stop. He may then fail to stop his own vehicle in time to prevent an accident.
  • Following too close. On the road, leaving enough following distance can help keep all driver safer. Unfortunately, many drivers choose to tailgate or to drive too close for the current conditions on the road. Then, if the other driver needs to brake, the driver in the rear does not have time to stop.
  • Fast stops from the front car. In some cases, the front car may stop abruptly, giving the rear driver no time to respond. While allowing adequate following distance may help prevent rear-end collisions even if the lead vehicle stops too fast, on some roads, the rear driver may have inadequate time to respond.

The Most Common Injuries From Rear-End Collisions

Injuries from rear-end collisions may vary based on the speed of the rear vehicle at the time of the accident, the protection offered by the vehicle in front, and the front driver’s response. However, common injuries may include:

  • Traumatic brain injury. Often, traumatic brain injury has far-reaching implications for accident victims. Traumatic brain injury may show initial signs in loss of consciousness or confusion at the scene of the accident. Some victims of traumatic brain injury lose normal brain function for a period of time or, in more serious scenarios, for the rest of their lives. Traumatic brain injury may leave victims struggling to regulate emotions, remember events that took place around them or handle normal cognitive processing. Some victims of traumatic brain injury cannot return to their former professions following their injuries.
  • Spinal cord damage. Depending on when it occurs and the severity of the damage  Spinal cord injuries can cause some difficulty in mobility or full paralysis. The extent of paralysis often depends on the location of the damage: damage low on the spinal cord may cause paralysis or mobility issues from the waist down, while higher damage may prevent the victim from moving their neck and shoulders. Depending on the severity of the damage, spinal cord victims may regain some mobility with time; however, regaining mobility happens only rarely in the case of a full break.
  • Broken bones. In any car accident, the force associated with the wreck can cause broken bones. Broken limbs can decrease mobility or, in some cases, lead to long-term complications.
  • Disfigurement. In some rear-end collisions, the force from the accident may cause airbags to deploy. In others, the driver of the front vehicle may strike the steering wheel or the windshield with extreme force. In these cases, extreme facial disfigurement may result.
  • Whiplash. In a rear-end collision, the head, and neck jerk forward abruptly, then come back with equal force. In many cases, this places a great deal of strain on the neck, which can leave the driver and any passengers of the front vehicle suffering from whiplash. Typically, whiplash resolves itself over time. In some cases, however, whiplash may continue to cause problems for accident victims long after the initial accident. Whiplash typically causes pain and stiffness in the neck and difficulty moving the neck freely.

A rear-end collision can leave your head spinning. By better understanding what causes a rear-end collision and how to handle things at the scene of the accident, however, you can seek a better resolution after your accident.

September 19, 2019

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