Big crashes get all the attention in the movies and on TV, but there’s another type of car accident that can be just as dangerous: rear-end collisions.
In these accidents, drivers and passengers can sustain severe injuries, often through no fault of their own. We look at the rear-end collision statistics to find out just how prevalent these accidents are, how they happen, the damage they cause, and who’s at fault.
National Rear-End Collision Statistics
Approximately 1.7 million rear-end collisions happen on roads in the United States every year. Rear-end collisions account for just 7.1% of fatal crashes, but at a total level, they’re incredibly common.
In 2019, rear-end collisions caused 595 thousand injuries and just under 1.6 million instances of property damage. In total, there were 2,194,000 documented rear-end collisions, accounting for 32.5% of all auto collisions involving another motor vehicle.
What Causes Rear-End Collisions?
A rear-end collision happens when one vehicle runs into the back — or rear — of a vehicle in front. These can happen in several ways, with the most common involving driver error:
- The car in front suddenly decelerates (for example, to avoid hitting a pedestrian who suddenly darts across the road), and the vehicle behind doesn’t have time to brake.
- The car behind rapidly accelerates into the leading car, such as after leaving an intersection.
- The car behind is following a leading car too closely (tailgating).
Most rear-end collisions happen because of distracted driving, which impedes a driver’s reaction time. Because drivers take their eyes off the road, they aren’t aware of vehicles around them, which means they can’t brake or steer away to avoid a crash.
Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows that 87% of accidents of rear-end collisions involve some degree of distraction.
Common distractions include using a smartphone, setting a GPS, interacting with passengers, and even daydreaming.
However, distraction isn’t the only cause of rear-end accidents. Collisions are also commonly caused by:
What Are the Most Common Rear-End Collision Injuries?
A rear-end accident is often considered a minor inconvenience. In many cases, a driver will have some vehicle damage, but it’s nothing that an insurance claim can’t fix.
However, rear-end collisions can be as devastating as multi-vehicle crashes, resulting in painful and life-altering accidents.
Victims of rear-collisions accidents can suffer from numerous injuries, including the following:
Whiplash is an injury caused by forceful, rapid back-and-forth movement. It’s a common rear-end collision injury because being hit from behind happens suddenly and unexpectedly. As a result, drivers are often unprepared and unable to brace for impact.
People with whiplash after a rear-end collision often suffer pain, soreness, limited range of motion, headaches, fatigue, and dizziness. Some people also experience blurred vision, memory problems, ringing in the ears, and depression. Whiplash can be hard to diagnose, as symptoms are often delayed.
Neck and Back Injuries
A high-speed impact is not necessary to cause severe back and neck injuries. Neck and back injuries often result in lifelong pain for the victim and may require physical therapy and additional rehabilitation.
Spinal Cord Injuries
The spinal cord is the bundle of nerves that send signals between the brain and body. Spinal cord injuries cause several symptoms, including numbness, muscle weakness, and paralysis. The extent of a spinal cord injury depends on where damage is and the severity of the paralysis.
Head and Brain Injuries
Head and brain injuries can happen if a passenger strikes their head on a surface, such as a dashboard. This is an even more common rear-end collision injury if the vehicle lacks airbags or has defective airbags that don’t deploy properly.
A rear-end accident victim may suffer from concussion — itself a mild traumatic brain injury (TBI) — a skull fracture, or a severe traumatic brain injury. The effects of a TBI vary widely and can include physical and cognitive disabilities, a comatose state, and brain death. Like with whiplash, the symptoms of TBI may take time to fully manifest.
If a driver or passenger sustains an injury to their torso during a rear-end collision, there may be internal damage to organs. Internal organ damage is difficult to diagnose, and the symptoms are often delayed.
Dental and Facial Injuries
If your face strikes an object in the vehicle, you’ll likely experience dental and facial injuries. Facial injuries range from lacerations and broken bones (such as in the nose, cheek, or jaw) to a detached retina. Dental injuries include cracked or chipped teeth. If the injuries are severe, the victim may require surgery or facial reconstruction.
Wrist and Arm Injuries
A sudden shunt from behind often causes us to throw our arms out to brace for impact. It’s a human instinct, but it can cause serious injury to the wrists and arms, including broken bones and a dislocated shoulder.
Cuts, Sprains, and Bruises
These injuries may seem minor — and compared to other rear-end collision injuries like traumatic brain injuries and spinal cord damage, they certainly are — but they still disrupt the day-to-day existence of a victim. If you work a physically demanding job that requires you to be on your feet all day and you have an ankle sprain, you likely won’t be able to work without being in intense pain.
Who’s at Fault for a Rear-End Collision?
Rear-end collisions can be caused by multiple parties, from the leading vehicle or the vehicle behind to another third party. Regardless, if another party was responsible for your accident, you can hold them liable and claim compensation for your damages.
Some of the most common responsible parties include:
The Negligent Driver
If the driver of another vehicle acted negligently and caused the accident and your injuries, that party is responsible. Any act outside the usual standard of care can constitute negligence. Some of the most obvious negligent acts include violating traffic laws and regulations, such as texting while driving or tailgating. Many states have laws against such behavior, making this a negligent act.
If the negligent driver was acting within the scope of their employment at the time of their rear-end collision, their employer might be liable for the accident. A typical example is a delivery driver on their way to a drop-off. Employers generally have more insurance coverage, but they often try to dispute that a driver was acting under employment during the accident or argue that they are an independent contractor.
If an auto defect causes a rear-end collision, the manufacturer of the defective part may face liability for the resulting injuries. Common malfunctions include brake issues, defects in tires, and engine issues. Safety features such as airbags and seat belts can also malfunction and cause significant injuries, even if they don’t cause the accident itself. For example, if the airbags don’t deploy, a driver may hit their head and sustain a traumatic brain injury. It’s often difficult to determine whether a malfunction occurred, so work with an experienced car accident lawyer, who can coordinate with vehicle experts to prove liability.
Regardless of who is responsible for your rear-end collision, it’s vital to request a copy of your crash report. When the police arrive at the accident scene, an investigating officer will document the accident, collect witness statements and contact information, and issue citations for violations of traffic laws or regulations. This is critical evidence for seeking compensation and can help prove who is at fault. Our McAllen and San Antonio car accident lawyers can request a copy of your crash report and also contact the police on your behalf if you believe there is a genuine error.
What If I Contributed to My Rear-End Collision?
In a rear-end collision, the driver of the vehicle that rear-ended the leading vehicle will almost always be partially responsible. However, both drivers may be somewhat at fault, so what happens if you contributed to your accident?
For example, take the following scenario:
You’re driving behind a vehicle. The driver of the car in front of you suddenly goes into reverse and you don’t have time to react. You end up rear-ending the vehicle in front. The police investigate the accident and find that the driver of the leading car was under the influence of alcohol.
Even though you rear-ended the vehicle, the other party could also be deemed negligent because they reversed the vehicle and were intoxicated.
This isn’t the only way the leading driver could be negligent. They might have:
- Brake lights that do not function properly
- Brake-checked the tailing driver
- A flat tire or mechanical issue and fail to pull over.
Just like the other driver can be at fault despite you rear-ending them, you can be rear-ended and also be partly responsible.
The other driver will be at fault for crashing into the back of your car, but if you were going too slowly because you were eating while driving, you might also be found negligent.
Either scenario can affect who’s at fault and, therefore, how much compensation you’re entitled to. This depends on the negligence laws in your state.
Texas has modified comparative negligence laws, meaning you can claim compensation after your rear-end collision providing you were no more than 51% at fault. A court hearing will determine the percentage of responsibility of each party involved. If you are found partially liable for your accident, your total compensation will be reduced by your fault. For example, if you are awarded a settlement of $100,000 but you were 20% responsible for your rear-end collision, you would receive the remaining 80%, leaving you with $80,000.
Either way, once you have determined that another party acted negligently, you will need to catalog your damages to recover compensation.
Calculating Your Damages After a Rear-End Collision
If you’ve sustained injuries in a rear-end collision, your damages likely extend well beyond your medical expenses. A crash can upend your entire life, and you deserve compensation for the impact.
Every claim is unique and you should work with a car accident lawyer to evaluate what your claim could be worth, but some of the most commonly recovered damages include:
Your medical costs are the responsibility of the negligent party and can include doctors’ bills, hospital stays, prescription medicine, emergency transportation, and assistive devices. Make sure to consider long-term care needs, like physical therapy and in-home care. Your attorney can coordinate with medical experts to help estimate these future costs.
After a rear-end collision, you’ll likely need time off work to recover. Even when you return, you may have to work a reduced schedule or perform different responsibilities. This can result in you earning less income compared to working at full health.
Fortunately, you can claim lost wages from the party responsible for your accident.
If your property was damaged due to an accident, the defendant is responsible for repair or replacement. In a rear-end collision, any significant damage will most likely be to your vehicle, but make sure to also consider other property, such as electronics.
Car accidents are often jarring and traumatic for those involved, and many accident victims suffer from emotional distress as a result. Common emotional responses to a car accident are anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). If you’ve suffered emotional distress after your accident, a personal injury lawyer can ensure you’re compensated for it in your settlement.
Loss of Enjoyment
Physical injuries affect victims’ lives in many ways, including the ability to participate in activities that once brought them joy. Examples might include music, athletics, and outdoor activities. While difficult to quantify, you should work with your lawyer to include these damages in your compensation claim.
Also called exemplary damages, punitive damages are designed to punish defendants for egregious behavior. For example, if you were in a rear-end collision and the other driver was intoxicated, a jury might decide to award you punitive damages to deter the defendant from drink-driving again and send a wider message to the community that such behavior won’t be tolerated. Some states, including Texas, cap the punitive damages that a jury can award, so speak to a personal injury lawyer in Texas to determine what punitive damages you might be granted.
While the damages you have suffered might feel obvious, it is your job to prove your suffering to the court. You should avoid taking any actions that may hinder your settlement. One crucial step is to avoid posting on social media.
Consider the following scenarios:
- You post a picture of the accident on Instagram with the caption: “I guess I didn’t have my head on straight today.” The defendant will use this as evidence that you weren’t paying attention and thus bear responsibility for the accident.
- Your damages claim includes lost wages because your job requires you to be on your feet for long periods — something you can’t do because of your injuries. You post a picture at the top of a mountain with the caption: “I really needed this five-mile hike today!” The defendant will use this picture to contest your claim that you can’t spend significant time on your feet.
Avoid any social media posting about your rear-end collision. Even responding to loved ones or friends letting them know you’re okay can be used against you.
You should also consult with your lawyer before accepting any settlement offer. An offer may seem like a fast way to resolve your case, but don’t sell your injuries and your case short. Expect any early settlement offer from the defendant or their insurance provider to be much less than you deserve. Your attorney can work with you to weigh the settlement amount against the strength of your case and to propose a counter-offer as appropriate.
Contact an Experienced Car Accident Lawyer for More Information
One of the most helpful things you can do for your case is work with an experienced lawyer. If possible, you should select a firm with a long history of securing results for victims of rear-end collisions. You want an attorney committed to helping you through each aspect of your case, from initial case analysis and evidence gathering to preparing a damages claim and assessing settlement offers.
Patino Law Firm
1802 N 10th St
McAllen, TX 78501