​Rear-End Accidents: How They Occur and What to Do Afterward

HutzlerLaw May 31, 2022

Rear-end collisions can cause serious injuries. Often, rear-end collisions result in whiplash due to the abrupt back-and-forth motion of the head during the accident. They may also result in broken bones, brain injuries, and back and neck injuries that can linger for months or even the rest of the victim’s life.

Unfortunately, the front car in a rear-end collision may have few options to avoid an accident. The front driver may not even know that a rear driver is traveling too close or driving dangerously.

What should you do if you get hurt in a rear-end accident caused by another driver? Contacting an experienced car accident lawyer should be your first step. A lawyer can explain your legal options and help you pursue compensation for your injuries.

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Liability in Rear-End Collisions: The Rear Driver

Most of the time, the rear driver is liable for a rear-end collision. The rear driver may commit many errors that could cause a dangerous crash.

Tailgating

A tailgating driver may get extremely close to a vehicle in front of them, making it impossible for the front vehicle to stop or slow down without crashing. Tailgating drivers may think that they can force the front driver to speed up, enjoy the challenge of increased reaction times, or fail to notice that they are driving too close to the vehicle in front of them, particularly in heavy traffic. Tailgating drivers are usually liable for accidents they negligently cause.

Distracted Driving

A distracted driver may not notice when a driver in front of them slows down. The distracted driver may not see a stop sign, turn signal, or a changing yellow light indicating that the front driver will stop soon. Distracted driving behaviors include checking a smartphone, looking down to change the radio station, or eating. Unfortunately, these distracted behaviors cause countless accidents and serious injuries.

Speeding

A speeding vehicle needs more room to stop and more time to slow down in response to changing traffic. Often, speeding drivers have difficulty controlling their vehicles, causing wrecks. Unfortunately, speeding increases the odds of a rear-end collision. A speeding driver may tailgate or may not realize that they do not have adequate time to stop.

Intoxication

Drunk drivers are dangerous to everyone around them. A drunk driver may struggle to focus on the road or have tunnel vision. Drunk drivers may also lose the reasoning skills necessary to remember that they need to slow down and leave space between vehicles. Furthermore, drunk drivers may lack the reflexes required to stop their car if the vehicle in front stops abruptly. An intoxicated driver may worsen a rear-end collision, causing more significant injury.

Fatigued or Drowsy Driving

Tired driving can sometimes be just as dangerous as drunk driving. Frequently, drowsy drivers struggle with impaired reflexes. Some drowsy drivers may fall asleep behind the wheel, allowing the vehicle to drift out of control. If a driver in front of the sleeping driver stops, the sleeping driver cannot hit the brakes. Rear-end collisions may also happen because a drowsy driver suffers from decreased visual perception or because they cannot keep track of nearby drivers.

Aggressive Driving

Aggressive drivers may swerve in and out of traffic. They may think they have time to move behind another vehicle, only to discover that the front vehicle moves more slowly than anticipated and that they do not have time to stop their car. Aggressive drivers may tailgate to force the vehicles in front of them to travel faster. Furthermore, aggressive drivers may even deliberately ram the vehicle in front of them in road rage. The aggressive driver will be liable for accidents they cause.

Liability in a Rear-End Collision: The Front Driver

In rare cases, the front driver in a rear-end collision may be liable for a crash. You cannot easily establish that the front driver caused a rear-end collision since the police and insurance companies generally assume that the rear driver did. Working with a lawyer may make it easier to establish liability in a rear-end collision when the front driver caused the accident.

Reversing Into the Rear Vehicle

Sometimes, the front vehicle may reverse back into the rear vehicle, causing a collision. In some cases, the car might roll backward: the front driver might take their foot off the brake too quickly at a stop sign on a steep incline, for example. In other cases, the front driver might put the vehicle in reverse instead of in drive. An aggressive driver might even deliberately put the vehicle in reverse to cause an accident. In cases where the front driver reverses into a rear driver, the front driver may be liable for the accident.

Damaged Tail Lights

If the front vehicle has no tail lights, the driver of the rear vehicle cannot know if the front driver has started to slow or plans to stop, causing an accident. Sometimes, the driver of a car with damaged tail lights may be liable for a rear-end collision caused by their non-functional lights.

Deliberately Slamming on the Brakes

In some cases, the front driver might slam on the brakes to cause a collision on purpose. While the rear driver should leave enough room to stop safely in the event of a sudden stop, if the front driver slams on the brakes maliciously to cause a collision, the front driver may be liable for the accident.

What to Do After a Rear-End Collision?

After a rear-end crash, whether caused by the driver in the front car or the rear one, you may need to protect your right to compensation. As with any car accident, you should call 911 to report the accident immediately and seek medical attention if you have any injuries. Then, consider taking these steps:

Get a copy of the police report.

Ensure the police report accurately reflects what happened during the accident, includes the right date and time, and has the correct information about the parties involved. In some cases, you may need to contact the police department to have any inaccurate information fixed.

The police report may also identify who caused the accident. In some cases, the accident report may reflect an inaccurate view of who caused the accident, particularly if the front vehicle backed into the rear one. Talk to a lawyer about your next steps if the police report inaccurately names the liable party.

Keep up with all your medical needs.

Following a car accident, including a rear-end collision, you must keep up with your medical needs. You should:

Track Your Medical Bills

Track and keep records of all medical expenses associated with the rear-end collision. You may receive multiple bills from the same hospital visit, especially if you went to a hospital or needed surgery. Retaining copies of bills as they come in can make it easier to compile an injury claim.

Follow Your Doctor’s Instructions

Your doctor may prescribe physical therapy or instruct you to avoid certain activities while healing from your injuries. For example, if you sustained a concussion in the accident, your doctor may recommend avoiding any sport or activity that could cause further head trauma.

If you broke a bone, your doctor might recommend avoiding bearing weight on the injured limb while you recover. Follow your doctor’s instructions carefully so the insurance company cannot argue that you made your conditions worse.

Talk to a lawyer about your right to compensation after a rear-end collision.

Following a rear-end collision, you may question your right to compensation and how to pursue a claim. A lawyer can offer vital assistance as you move forward with an injury claim.

Get Help Establishing How Much Compensation You Need

You may have sustained substantial injuries and have a long road to recovery. A lawyer can help you figure out how much compensation you should expect from a car accident claim to cover your medical bills now and in the future, in addition to your other losses. When you know how much compensation to expect, you will be in a better position to negotiate with the liable party’s insurance company.

Establish Liability

Establishing liability for a rear-end collision can sometimes be tricky. If you suffered injuries in a rear-end collision when another driver backed into you, you might deserve compensation for those injuries. To file a claim, however, you must establish liability for the accident. A lawyer can help gather essential evidence, from talking to witnesses about the likely cause of the accident to evaluating video footage of the accident. Photos from the accident scene, including photos showing the two vehicles’ locations, can help establish liability.

Notify your insurance company about the accident.

Many insurance companies have policies requiring you to notify them within a set number of days after the accident, even if you did not cause it.

You may also need to talk to your insurance company if:

  • You need to cancel your vehicle policy because the accident totaled it
  • You need to use uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage to help cover some of the costs associated with the accident

You may want to talk to a lawyer before you report the accident to your insurance company since a lawyer can help you plan your next steps. A lawyer can also help relieve your stress by communicating with the insurance company on your behalf, keeping you from having to deal with more paperwork alone.

Contact a Lawyer After Your Rear-End Collision

If you sustain injuries in a rear-end collision, having a lawyer on your side can help you pursue the compensation you deserve for your injuries.

Contact a lawyer to learn more about your rights and plan your next steps after an accident.