Rear-End Collisions – Injuries and How to Recover

According to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the most common type of car accident is a rear-end collision. In a recent survey, they found that rear-end collisions make up 32.3% of car accidents annually.

Rear-end collisions cause predictable damage and injuries. This can make it easier to prove that a rear-end collision caused your injuries. However, the injuries you receive from a rear-end collision can sometimes last for the rest of your life.

How Do Rear-End Collisions Occur?

A rear-end collision occurs when one vehicle strikes another vehicle from behind. These car accidents can occur when the lead vehicle is moving or stationary. 

Some of the circumstances in which a rear-end collision can happen include:

  • Heavy Traffic:  The following car can strike the lead car from behind when the lead car stops quickly in traffic. The risk of a rear-end collision increases if the rear car speeds or follows too closely.
  • Distracted Driving:  At 35 miles per hour, a car travels 100 feet during a two-second distraction. This means that a glance at a phone or a spilled cup of coffee can result in a rear-end collision with a car nearly seven car lengths away.
  • Road Rage:  Cases of road rage increased by nearly 500% over the ten years from 2006 to 2015. Road rage can include cutting other drivers off, abrupt braking, tailgating, and other aggressive maneuvers that can lead to a rear-end collision.
  • Driver Error:  Drivers who are drowsy, careless, or intoxicated can drive erratically and crash into other vehicles. They can also move unpredictably into other drivers’ lanes, causing rear-end collisions.

Unfortunately, the circumstances that create rear-end collisions will continue to increase. Having too many cars faced with too many distractions will result in a greater number of crashes in general.

Understanding Rear-End Collision Injuries

Rear-end collisions can happen at any speed. Even at low speeds, rear-end collisions can cause severe injuries.

How Injuries Happen in Rear-End Collisions

When a vehicle strikes another vehicle from behind, the front vehicle is pushed forward unexpectedly, and then comes to a stop. People in the front vehicle are usually unprepared for the collision and do not have time to brace themselves.

The forces on the driver and passengers of the vehicle that is rear-ended will push them back into their seats as the vehicles collide. They will then snap forward as the vehicles come to a stop.

In the rear vehicle, the opposite will occur. The driver and passengers may be able to brace themselves, since they will see the collision coming.  But the forces from the crash will cause the people in the rear vehicle to snap forward into their seat belts, and depending on their position in the car, they may also hit their airbags. As the vehicles come to a stop, they will whip backward into their seats.

A further danger from rear-end collisions is a chain-reaction crash. Cars traveling too closely, especially over wet roads, can cause a sequence of rear-end collisions. Each car plows into the vehicle ahead of it, leading to a pile-up.

Likewise, the severity of the injuries from a rear-end collision can be amplified if a semi-truck is involved in the crash. The energy from a crash depends on the speed and weight of the vehicles. This means that a truck accident will always involve more energy and cause worse injuries than a rear-end collision involving two cars.

Common Rear-End Collision Injuries

Rear-end collisions produce a common set of injuries. These injuries result from the drivers and passengers whipping back and forth. Depending on the speeds involved, injuries may also result from crushing forces as the vehicles collapse into one another.

Some common rear-end collision injuries include:

  • Whiplash:  Whiplash is the classic example of a rear-end collision injury. The muscles of the neck are strained as the head whips back and forth during the crash.
  • Bruises and Broken Bones:  Slamming into the seatbelt and airbag can cause bruises and cuts to the face, chest, and abdomen. At high speeds, rear-end collisions can cause broken facial bones, and impact the ribs, collar bone, and even arms and legs.
  • Back Injuries:  As your body whips back and forth during a rear-end collision, vertebrae can fracture and discs can rupture. Back injuries can lead to lifelong disabilities, particularly if the vertebrae or discs press on the nerves in the spinal column.
  • Brain Injuries:  When your brain rattles around inside your skull during a collision, it can be bruised or even begin to bleed. These brain injuries can result in permanent brain damage that manifests through cognitive or behavioral changes.

Some of these injuries may require substantial treatment and long-term therapy. You may need substantial financial compensation to cope with these injuries and their consequences.

Recovering Compensation for Rear-End Collision Injuries

Florida is an at-fault state. This means that people who are injured in a rear-end collision must file an insurance claim against the driver responsible for causing the accident.

Proving Negligence

A driver is at fault for causing an accident if that driver was negligent. 

Negligence requires four elements:

  • Duty:  Drivers must operate their vehicles in a reasonably safe manner.
  • Breach:  This duty is breached when a driver fails to drive in a reasonably safe way.
  • Injury:  The victim must suffer an injury.
  • Causation: The breach of duty must have caused the injury.

In a rear-end collision, the driver of the trailing car usually causes the accident. In other words, the trailing driver usually does something to cause the accident, such as speeding or following too close.

Occasionally, the leading driver contributes to the accident. For example, if the leading driver pulled out in front of the other vehicle or cut off the other vehicle, they may have shared some portion of the fault.

Damages Recoverable

The at-fault driver is responsible for the damages incurred by the victims of the rear-end collision. The damages that can be recovered from the at-fault driver and their insurance company include:

  • Medical Expenses:  Out-of-pocket expenses for medical treatment, physical and mental therapy, and prescriptions.
  • Lost Wages:  Pay that was lost due to work missed
  • Diminished Earning Capacity:  Reduction in earnings because of a job change caused by the injuries
  • Pain and Suffering:  Diminished quality of life and decreased ability to participate in activities due to injuries

These damages are recoverable if you can prove a causal link to the accident.

Moving On After a Rear-End Collision

The injuries from a rear-end collision can remain with you for the rest of your life. In many cases, recovering fair compensation from the at-fault driver’s insurance company can provide you with the money you need to move forward.