There are roughly 1.7 million rear-end collisions every year. They are one of the most common types of car accidents. They represent just under one-third of all accidents. Injuries after this type of crash are very common, and they can be severe.
Thankfully, most rear-end collisions are only minor fender benders, but even those can have long-term physical and mental consequences for car accident victims.
Understanding the mechanics of rear-end crash, including what causes them and the most common types of injuries, may help you avoid a rear-end crash.
If you or a loved one has been involved in a rear-end accident, knowing some of the basic legal concepts can also help you with your legal claim—and help you determine how much your case might be worth.
Causes of Rear-End Collisions
Driver error and simple carelessness will often lead to rear-end collisions. Inattention is one of the most common reasons that this type of car accident occurs. Other common causes include the following examples.
If you are traveling too fast for the conditions, you may not be able to stop as quickly as necessary. Sudden stopping frequently causes accidents when you do not have enough time to react because of high rates of speed. Be aware of speed limitations, weather, and the flow of traffic to help avoid a rear-end crash.
Aggressive or Reckless Driving
When drivers are aggressive, they sometimes follow too closely, speed, or drive in a way that generally makes it less safe for those around them. Sudden braking or swerving can easily lead to a motor vehicle accident.
Following Too Closely (Tailgating)
You should always have enough room between you and the car in front of you so that you can stop quickly if necessary. Keep mind just how long it takes to stop your car at whatever speed you are traveling. As the speed increases, the distance between you and the car ahead of you should too.
Inattention is one of the main reasons that rear-end crashes occur. Texting and driving is a common culprit, but virtually anything could distract you long enough to cause an accident, including:
- Altering your radio or music selection
- Programming your navigation
- Passengers, including children
- Eating while driving
- Social media, email, or anything else on a phone or other device
You should always keep your mind focused on driving, hands on the wheel, and eyes on the road. Doing these three things will help you avoid rear-end crashes.
Poor Weather Conditions/Bad Visibility
You should only travel as fast as it is safe to go under the current weather and traffic conditions. If you cannot see because of heavy rains, for example, pull over until the weather passes.
At the very least, you should slow down. When you cannot see the car ahead of you, it is easy to understand why rear-end crashes occur.
Common Injuries After Being Rear-Ended
You may be surprised just how much a rear-end crash affects your body. Even low-speed crashes can result in personal injuries that may haunt you for the rest of your life.
Below are some of the most common injuries that occur after a rear-end motor vehicle accident.
1. Back Injuries
Back injuries are extremely common after a rear-end crash. The force that pushes you forward puts pressure on your back, which can lead to things like
- Spinal compression
- Ruptured/herniated discs
- Spinal cord damage
- Lumbar sprains
- Spinal stenosis (narrowing)
- Damage to the facet joints
Some of this damage may require surgery, medications, and nerve block therapies. Chronic back pain, particularly in the lower back, is common after a rear-end crash.
2. Neck Pain and Whiplash
Whiplash has some unfortunate negative stigma. The truth is that whiplash really is a prevalent injury following a car accident. Most cases of whiplash occur because of a rear-end collision.
The force of your body moving forward while your head stays in place causes the neck to stretch and then contract as your head catches up. This type of movement is unnatural, and often leads to soreness and decreased mobility.
In most cases, whiplash will resolve on its own after a few days, weeks, or months. In rare cases, however, it can result in long-term problems. It is a soft tissue injury, so it can be difficult to diagnose.
Other types of neck injuries, including the same disc and joint problems that occur in the lower spine, also happen frequently.
3. Head and Brain Injuries
It is relatively common for both drivers and passengers to hit their head on the steering wheel or dashboard. Those can both caused head and brain damage. In fact, the forward movement of the head, even if you do not hit anything, can also lead to brain damage in some situations. Even an airbag can cause head injuries.
Brain damage may be very severe. In cases that involve brain bleeds, getting to the hospital as soon as possible could mean the difference between life and death. Keep an eye out for the warning signs of traumatic brain injury, including:
- Feeling extremely tired
- Loss of consciousness
- Changes in mood or behavior
- Difficulty with speech, walking, or balance
Keep in mind that someone does not have to lose consciousness to have a traumatic brain injury. It is always a good idea to seek medical attention after any type of car accident.
4. Wrist and Arm Injuries
When you are rear-ended, it is a natural reaction to stick your arm out to attempt to stop your body from moving forward. However, the pressure applied to your arms and wrists may end up being too much—and they may break or fracture. Dislocated shoulders are also somewhat common for the same reasons, too.
5. Seat Belt and Soft Tissue Injuries
Soft tissue injuries are things like bruising and cuts. These are common in any type of accident. But, in rear-end collisions, they are more likely to occur on the face and where the seat belt is located. Bruising along the shoulder and abdomen is common.
If you are rear-ended hard enough, however, a seat belt can cause more than just visible bruising. It could also lead to bleeding and bruising of your internal organs as well, including the kidneys.
Getting Medical Treatment After a Car Accident
Regardless of what kind of accident you suffered through, you should see a doctor to get checked out. You may not realize just how badly you are hurt until long after the crash when the adrenaline wears off.
Talking to a doctor is not only a good idea for any potential legal claim, but it is also something that you should do for your health as well.
If children are involved, it is especially important that they see a doctor because they may not always be able to express how they are feeling or whether they are in pain.
Understanding the Legal Implications of a Rear-End Accident
In most rear-end accidents, the person that hit you (the rear driver) will be at fault for the crash. You may have been simply sitting at a stop sign or stop light when the incident occurred. However, legal liability or fault is not automatic under Arizona law—but it is close.
Drivers are required to keep a safe distance from those in front of them. That means that even if you brake quickly to avoid a hazard, the person behind you should be far enough away that they see you braking and can come to a complete stop without harming you.
When people are not paying attention, following too closely, or speeding, it often leads to a rear-end crash in that type of situation.
One common exception is that the person who was hit was not following the rules of the road. For example, if the driver brakes suddenly because they were texting and driving, they will likely be at least partially at fault for the collision injuries.
Three-car rear-end collisions can be much more complicated as well. It is especially important that you review this type of fact pattern with a car accident lawyer.
Rear-End Collision Settlements
If you have been involved in a rear-end crash, the other driver’s insurance company may end up contacting you virtually immediately.
Because fault is so clear-cut in most of these cases, the insurance company may attempt to settle with you right away—before you even realize how injured or damaged you may be.
Do not fall for this tactic! Talk to a car accident lawyer about your options and how much your case might be worth.
Every case is different, and the unique facts of your situation will set out what a good settlement for your lawsuit may be.
The Litigation Process for Rear-End Crashes
You can get a rear-end settlement by either starting a lawsuit or settling with the other driver or their insurance company before filing.
Many cases are settled before they are actually litigated. However, some insurance companies will not take your claim seriously unless you get a claim on file.
If a case proceeds all the way to a jury, it could take months to years to complete. You can, however, settle at any time if you and the other driver or their insurance company can agree on what your case is worth.
In general, your legal claim for a rear-end crash will follow this general outline.
The first thing that your attorney will do is review the facts of your case. He or she will:
- Consider how the accident happened
- Get more information about your injuries
- Review the treatment that you may need to recover from those injuries
- Investigate your property damage
- Gather and examine medical records
The insurance company also does the same type of factual investigation as well. As part of this process, they will determine who was at fault for the crash.
In rear-end accidents, it will almost always be at least partially their insured’s fault.
If the insurance company determines there is a legal liability, they are likely to reach out to you or your lawyer to talk about settling your case.
Reviewing Insurance Policies
As part of the investigation, both the insurance company and your attorney will review the other driver’s insurance policy to be sure that there is coverage for the accident.
If there is no insurance coverage, then the driver could be individually liable for your injuries and vehicle damage.
The insurance adjuster will often let you know if they do not think there is coverage as part of their investigation. This is usually done via letter.
Many legal cases will require consulting with experts. In fact, you may have already talked to expert after your rear-end crash and didn’t even realize it.
This person is your treating doctor! He or she not only has medical training and opinion, but they are also going to be very familiar with your injuries, and the required follow up treatment.
Other types of experts, such as engineers and accident reconstructionists, might also be necessary. However, they are less likely to be involved in a rear-end accident case compared to other types of car accidents.
Negotiating with the Insurance Company
Once you and the insurance company have done an investigation, you will both have a better idea of what a reasonable settlement number may be.
Negotiations can take place at any point in the investigation process, but the insurance company will often conclude their investigation before they will have a meaningful conversation with your Arizona car accident attorney.
Filing a Lawsuit
All of that prep work that is described above occurs long before you file a lawsuit. If you cannot reach a settlement ahead of time, then getting your claim on file with an Arizona court is your next step.
After you file your claim, you can still work with the other driver or insurance company to settle your case. In fact, upward of 90 percent of all lawsuits settle before they are presented to a jury or jury.
How Much is My Case Worth? What is the “Average Settlement”?
There is no clear-cut answer to this question. Every case is different, and there is no mathematical formula or settlement calculator to tell you what your settlement value may be. It will depend on things like:
- The severity of the accident
- Whether you went to the emergency room after the rear-end collision
- Whether you were at fault in any way for the car crash
- The extent of your property damage
- How much medical care you have had to get
- How much your medical bills are
- The number of people involved in the crash
- The type of severity of the injuries
- Whether you are going to need long-term medical care
- The extent of your missed work or ability to go back to work
- The amount of pain and suffering that you had to endure during after the rear-end accident
- How the accident occurred and whether the other motorist was drinking, speeding, texting, etc.
In general, the more severe your injuries, the more your case is worth. This is because the damages in a lawsuit are designed to put you back in the place that you were before the accident.
If your injuries and damage are severe, then you need more funds to help you get back to where you started.
For example, someone who has a traumatic brain injury that is likely to cause long-term damage and cannot return to their employment is likely going to get a higher settlement compared to someone who went through the same accident but only broke their wrist.
A person with brain injury is more likely to have significantly higher medical expenses, as well.
Getting Legal Help After a Rear-End Crash
Even if the insurance company is calling you after a rear-end collision, do not settle right away. Get your case evaluated by the team at Skousen, Gulbrandsen & Patience PLC.
Our law firm can examine your situation and help you decide if the insurance company is trying to give you a low-end settlement offer that does not make sense for your situation. Call today for a free consultation.