Rear-end collisions are the single most common type of auto accident in the United States. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), over 40 percent of traffic accidents are classified as rear-end collisions. If you've been injured in a rear-end accident, it's vital you understand what injuries may result and how to protect your legal rights to compensation for the damages you've suffered.
Injuries Caused by Rear-End Accidents
The severity of injuries in a rear-end accident will depend upon how fast you're traveling, how fast the other vehicle is traveling, and whether you were wearing a seat belt. The injuries generally fall into one of four categories:
- Whiplash – A sudden jerking motion of the neck, shoulders, and head, whiplash is the most common injury in rear-end auto accidents. About 20 percent or more of people involved in rear-end collisions will experience whiplash with pain lasting anywhere from one week to a lifetime. These injuries are sometimes called sprain or strain injuries. Some of these injuries will heal or their own while others require medical care.
- Back injuries – The force of impact in a rear-end accident can cause a herniated disc, even if you're traveling at a relatively low speed. A back injury of this type can be very painful, making it hard to perform physical labor or enjoy the activities of daily living.
- Wrist, finger, hand, and arm injuries – A sudden impact can cause your arms to jerk violently on the steering wheel, hitting the steering wheel or becoming wedged between the airbag and the dashboard. These injuries can require from mild strains to broken bones to torn ligaments requiring surgery.
- Face and head injuries – Although there's no doubt that airbags save lives, the force at which they deploy can cause cuts, bruises, and scrapes. In more serious cases, drivers will end up with a broken nose or fractured jawbone.
- Brain Injuries – The sudden movement of the head forces the brain to bounce back and forth within the skull which can cause trauma and either a concussion or serious trauma.
If you've been involved in rear-end accident, you should seek immediate medical attention even if you feel fine. Many symptoms don't appear for several days and it's crucial to establish a link to the cause of your injuries in order to be properly compensated.
Common Causes of Rear-End Collisions
Rear-end accidents can be caused by a number of factors. The following are the most common causes:
- Tailgating – Drivers who follow other vehicles too closely can't stop in time, resulting in a collision. Tailgating is dangerous at any time, but poses special risks on high speed highway construction zones or school zones due to the likelihood of changing traffic conditions and the need for quick stops.
- Distracted driving – Distracted driving encompasses a wide range of behaviors, from texting and talking on a cell phone to eating or putting makeup on while driving. Passengers can also cause distracted driving accidents, if a parent is tending to young children while driving or a teen driver has rowdy friends in the car.
- Drunk driving – Intoxicated drivers have impaired judgment and slower reflexes, making them more likely to cause a collision.
- Drowsy driving – Shift work, busy schedules, and medication that causes fatigue has led to an epidemic of drowsy driving. A fatigued driver can easily collide with another vehicle when traffic is heavy, even if he doesn't fall asleep at the wheel.
Liability for Damages
In about 90 percent of cases, liability for a rear-end accident lies with the driver striking a vehicle from behind. Possible exceptions to this liability include:
- The driver of the first car is intoxicated or otherwise driving erratically, making it impossible for a reasonable person to predict his actions.
- Poor weather conditions made it impossible for the driver to stop in time to avoid a collision, even though he was following at a safe distance.
- The driver was struck from behind by a third vehicle, which pushed him into the first vehicle.
- The driver of the first vehicle had faulty brake lights, providing no indication of his intent to stop.
In a case where both drivers are found to have contributed to the accident, eligibility for compensation is reduced by percentage of fault. This means that if you're found to be 50 percent at fault for the accident, you'll receive only half of the damages you'd be entitled to if the other driver was found to be 100 percent at fault. However, there is no standard formula for determining comparative fault in California personal injury claims. A skilled attorney can often negotiate a lower percentage of fault on your behalf, thus increasing your financial recovery.
Pursuing a Personal Injury Claim
If you’re injured in a rear-end collision caused by another driver’s negligence, you’re legally entitled to compensation for accident-related medical expenses, loss of income, and pain and suffering.
The legal team at Inland Empire Law Group has extensive experience assisting California residents in obtaining personal injury settlements. Please call (888) MY IE LAW to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation at either our Rancho Cucamonga or Victorville offices.