When you are injured in a rear-end collision, it is natural and most logical to assume that the driver who rear-ended you is at fault. Rear-end collisions are among the most common types of car accidents in California. Close to 120,000 drivers are involved in rear-end collisions with about 400 fatalities. 

While rear-end accidents are usually less severe, they still pose a high risk of injuries. Therefore, you can sue the negligent party to recover the expenses or losses you suffer due to the injuries. The Personal Injury Attorney Law Firm represents clients from all over California as they fight for their rightful compensation after a rear-end collision accident. 

We help you in establishing who is responsible for the accident and represent you during the settlement negotiations. In case you do not settle outside court, we will represent you in a personal injury lawsuit.

Rear-end Collisions Overview

About thirty percent of car accidents are rear-ended collisions, according to the NHTSA. A rear-end collision accident occurs when the tailing vehicle crashes into the back of the leading vehicle. Rear-end accidents are usually the fault of the tailing driver. However, circumstances vary with every accident, and both drivers might be responsible for the accident. Determining fault in a rear-end accident can help you determine whom to sue and the possible damages you can recover. 

The seriousness of a rear-end collision depends on the size and weight of the leading and tailing vehicle. For example, if a truck rear-ends a small car, the impact is likely to produce severe injuries and fatalities. If, on the other hand, two vehicles of similar sizes are involved in a rear-end accident, the injuries are likely lower. 

Rear-end collisions occur due to several reasons, including:

1. Distracted Driving

Distracted driving causes the death of more than 3,000 people annually. Distractions on the road occur due to:

  • Talking or texting on the phone
  • Eating or drinking
  • Fiddling with the navigation or entertainment system
  • Holding conversations with people inside the car
  • Daydreaming

Texting while driving is the most common and riskiest distraction for drivers of all ages. Driving and texting require attention. Therefore, the driver must divert attention to the phone and away from the road. It takes a few seconds of distraction to cause an accident.

2. Following Too Closely

Traffic laws require that drivers maintain a reasonably safe distance between vehicles. The safe distance depends on the weather conditions, the road conditions, and the speed at which cars are moving. A reasonable distance is one that will allow you to stop safely without bumping into the lead vehicle.

 3. Panic Stops

Panic stops are those that occur due to the sudden braking of the car ahead of you. Panic stops causes rear-end accidents, especially if the tailing vehicle is also following too closely. If the driver behind is distracted, then he or she will not have sufficient time to react and prevent a rear-end accident.

4. Weather

Weather contributes to 22% of road accidents and causes more than 6,000 fatalities. Poor weather conditions affect the visibility and safety of the road. For instance, a storm or fog will affect visibility, increasing the chances of cars rear-ending.  Some of the weather conditions that cause accidents include:

  • Snow
  • Sleet
  • Rain
  • Fog
  • Winds 

The weather affects the road in different ways, depending on the element involved. Snow and debris from winds decrease the roadway capacity. Rain can also reduce the friction between the road and the car tires. With such reduced friction, braking becomes hard, especially when the car is at high speeds. 

While weather conditions are uncontrollable, drivers must be vigilant to prevenient accidents. Therefore, you can still recover damages for a weather-related accident if the at-fault party was negligent.

5. Poor Road Conditions

The condition of the road influences the safety of the cars thereon. Some of the conditions that lead to car accidents include:

  • Potholes
  • Ridges on the road
  • Missing guardrails
  • Poorly done roads 
  • Uneven road surfaces
  • Exposed rebar
  • Sinkholes

Poor road conditions can cause even the most careful driver to crash into another vehicle. When such accidents happen, the injured can sue the party responsible for the construction or maintenance of the road.

6. Speeding

High-speed rear collisions are common where the tailing driver has to stop suddenly due to an emergency. When a car is moving at high speeds, the time it takes to stop it increases. If the distance between the tailing and leading car is insufficient, then the tailing vehicle will crash into the leading vehicle.

Speeding also increases the risk of losing control of a vehicle, especially when negotiating turns. With lesser control of a car, you can easily rear-end another car. Some cars lose their braking power when moving at high speeds. 

The impact of high-speed rear collisions is likely to cause severe injuries to the occupants of both vehicles.

7. Drunk Driving

Drunk driving impairs the driver's mental functions. A drunk driver is more likely to cause an accident compared to a sober driver. Drowsiness, poor concentration, reduced control, and poor discernment can affect the driver's ability to identify or avoid hazards while on the road. 

Drunkenness on the road also impairs the driver's ability to correctly estimate the distance between the vehicle, increasing the chances of causing a rear-end accident. A drunk driver is more likely to disobey traffic rules, which increases the risk of crashing into another vehicle.  

 8. Mechanical Failure

Some rear-end accidents occur to failure in the mechanical systems of a vehicle. A car can experience mechanical failure for several reasons, including:

  • Faulty tires or wheels
  • Faulty brakes
  • Problems with steering and suspension
  • Faulty hazard lights 

Mechanical failures arise due to poor maintenance and manufacturing defects.

Common Injuries in Rear-End Collisions

Rear-end accidents have less fatal injuries compared to head-on collisions. However, you should never downplay the significance of the injuries you sustain. Any soreness or problem you feel could be a sign of a more serious injury. 

Visit a doctor if you are involved in a car accident, even though you feel the accident is a minor one. Early detection and treatment of accident-related injuries increase the prospects of your recovery. In addition, your insurance company can compensate you for these injuries. 

Most insurance companies will questions injuries reported days after the accident. The company could even assert that you had injuries before the accident or that those injuries are unrelated to the accident.

Here are some of the common injuries in rear-end collisions:

1. Whiplash

Whiplash is a common injury in rear-end accidents. When the tailing car collides into the leading vehicle, the driver experiences a sudden and forceful movement of the neck. As the car settles down, the driver's head may move back and forth, causing symptoms such as:

  • Neck pain that worsens with movement 
  • Stiffness in the neck
  • Losing the neck's range of motion
  • Headaches that start at the base of the skull
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Numbness in the arms
  • Blurred vision
  • Problems with sleep 
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Memory problems
  • Difficulties in concentrating 

While most people recover fully from whiplash, you may develop chronic complications, including headaches and chronic pain.

 2. Broken Bones

Fractures and broken bones are common in rear-end accidents due to the following causes:

  • Being thrown off a vehicle especially if you were not wearing a seatbelt 
  • Reaching forward to protect yourself which leads to fractures and broken bones of the hands 
  • The impact of the airbag on your face 
  • The forward and backward jerking movement that causes spinal injuries

Some of the bones that break include the spinal vertebrae, clavicle, and pelvic bone, bones of the leg, cranial bones, ribs, and facial bones. 

The severity of the broken bones depends on the impact of the collision. Avulsions are the most painful. They occur when the bones separate from their tendons and ligaments. Broken bones can be hard to detect, especially if the bone does not break through the skin or cause immobilization. 

Some of the signs that you might have broken a bone include:

  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Extreme pain
  • Bones fragments protruding through the skin 
  • Deformity of the affected limb
  • Inability to bear weight on the affected limb

Some broken bones can be hard to detect. Therefore, you must have an evaluation immediately after your accident. Notify the doctor that you are there for a checkup as you were involved in an accident. If you have additional symptoms that could indicate broken bones, notify your doctor.

3. Injuries to Internal Organs

The force a car releases after a collision is sufficient to cause injuries to your internal organs. Internal injuries are hard to detect, especially without external symptoms. These types of injuries require immediate treatment. 

The typical internal injuries from a car accident include:

  • Fractured ribs 
  • Internal bleeding which arises when the blood vessels are injured. Internal bleeding is a serious condition that could lead to death quickly. If your blood clots, it can lead to problems with blood circulation. 
  • Bleeding in the brain due to open or closed head wound. The blood can cause excess pressure in the brain leading to brain damage 
  • Abdominal aorta aneurysm or rapture of the abdominal aorta, which occurs upon compression of the stomach. The condition is a serious one and leads to death in a majority of the cases. 
  • Rupture of the spleen
  • Pneumothorax which occurs when the lung gets punctured and collapses
  • Kidney damage (often accompanied by back injuries)

The severity of internal injuries often goes unnoticed, especially if you do not have any external injuries. Some of the signs of internal injuries include:

  • Confusion
  • Blood in urine
  • Pain in the abdomen 
  • Tenderness  
  • Cold and sweaty skin
  • Discoloration
  • Rapid pulse
  • Unconsciousness 
  • Low blood pressure

4. Knee Injuries

Knee injuries in rear-end collisions occur when the knee hits the dashboard during the accident. Some of the common knee injuries include:

  • Dislocation of the knee
  • ACL tears 
  • Meniscus tears
  • Knee fractures

Knee injuries can have long-term effects, including chronic pain and difficulties when walking or driving. The common symptoms of knee injuries you should look for include:

  • Pain and swelling 
  • Difficulties in bending the knee or moving 
  • Grinding or a popping sound in the knee
  • Loss of sensation below the knee

Doctors diagnose knee injuries through physical examination of the knee. The doctor can also conduct x-rays to pinpoint the exact cause and extent of your knee injury. Some knee injuries can heal with self-care. However, other injuries, such as meniscus tears may need several months to heal.

6. Closed Head Injuries

Closed head injuries are common due to car accidents. They cause damage to the inside of the head without breaking the skull. Closed head injuries occur when the head hits an immobile accident. 

Rear-end car accidents are a leading cause of mild to severe traumatic brain injury. The severity of the injuries depends on the speed the cars were moving at as well as the impact. Some of the symptoms of head injuries include:

  • Loss of consciousness 
  • Blurred vision
  • Headaches 
  • Swelling 
  • Nausea 
  • Memory loss 
  • Seizures

Closed head injuries can have lasting effects, including constant headaches. These injuries can also lead to permanent loss of cognitive function and the risk for degenerative neurological diseases such as Alzheimer's. Other long-term effects of closed head injuries include:

  • Sleep disorders
  • Poor concentration
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Problems with balance and stability
  • Social disturbances
  • Dependence on others for care

Recovering Damages After a Rear-End Collision

Recovering damages from a rear-end collision accident begins with establishing who is at fault for the accident. Fault in California depends on the person who owes the duty of care. 

Generally, every motorist owes other road users a duty of care. Therefore, he or she should remain vigilant to prevent injuries to another party. However, some drivers breach their duty of care by engaging in negligent actions. 

Negligence could arise from distractions, such as texting while driving, drunk driving, speeding, road rage, and ignoring traffic rules. 

In most cases, the tailing vehicle is usually at fault for rear-end accidents. This is due to the requirement that tailing cars maintain a reasonable distance between them and the leading vehicle. The distance allows sufficient braking space in case of an emergency. Often, however, cars fail to maintain this distance, especially in traffic jams. 

Other forms of negligence responsible for rear-end car accidents include:

  • Failing to stop 
  • Failing to control the vehicle
  • Failing to signal another driver before making lane changes
  • Failing to yield 

The leading vehicle could also be at-fault for the accident if:

  • The driver reverses suddenly
  • The driver stops to make a turn then fails to make the turn
  • The driver fails to turn on hazard lights in case of an emergency 
  • The driver's brake lights are not working. Therefore, the tailing driver does not know when the leading driver brakes 

Sometimes, both drivers can be at-fault for the accident. In this case, the court will use the comparative negligence law to determine the percentage of comparative negligence of each driver. The court will then reduce the damages depending on the comparative fault of each driver. 

Once the court establishes the at-fault party, the negotiations begin to determine the most appropriate compensation. The value of your settlement will depend on factors such as:

  • Your role in causing the accident
  • The severity of your injuries
  • The skill of your attorney
  • Your willingness to settle

If you choose to settle the case with an insurance claims adjuster, the likelihood of a low settlement is high. However, with the involvement of an attorney who has superb negotiation skills, your settlement can increase, whether you settle out of court or at trial. 

Some of the damages you can recover include:

1. Medical Costs

Most rear-end accidents lead to incurring medical costs even for minor injuries. Your healthcare or car insurance can cover some of these costs. However, you might also need to pay from your pocket any expenses that your insurance does not cover. 

Medical costs are relatively low for minor injuries, such as bruises. However, more serious injuries such as head injuries, spinal and neck injuries require hospitalization and, in some cases, therapy. They also have more extended recovery periods meaning that you will have to spend on hospitalization and medication for several months or years. 

Other injuries, such as fractures, broken bones, and traumatic brain injuries, require different forms of therapies to help you handle some activities. Treatment and rehabilitation can be expensive and time-consuming. 

Medical costs from rear-end accidents are unplanned for and can, therefore, affect your finances. Medical damages allow you to recover the expenses you have spent or will spend in the future to treat the injuries you sustained. 

Note that you can recover medical costs for existing injuries that the collision made worse. Often, your attorney will have to call an economic expert, especially if you need future medical treatment to help you cope with the injuries.  

You can also recover the medical costs of your loved one who died from the injuries after incurring any medical expenses.

2. Lost Wages

After a car accident, you may have to miss work for several days or months, depending on the severity of your injuries. If you are lucky, your employer might still pay you while you are recovering. 

However, in most cases, you will lose income along the way to recover from your injuries. You might also lose your job or be unable to return to your current job. Lost wages damages restore the wages you lost from an accident caused by the negligence of another party.  

You can also recover damages to compensate for the wages you may lose in the future due to the injuries. This compensation will include your lost earning potential as well as the wages you lose while recovering.

3. Property Damage

Rear-end accidents cause damage to the cars involved. In some cases, the property inside the car may be damaged. Such property includes phones, laptops, and jewelry. The at-fault party will have to compensate you for the value of the property damaged. 

The damages will include the cost of repairs or buying a similar model of the damaged property. The value of the property damage settlement will depend on:

  • The costs of repair
  • The fair market value of the car (if it is beyond repair)
  • The costs you incur in renting a car
  • Recovery for upgrades you made to the car

4. Pain and Suffering

Pain and suffering damages compensate you for the physical and emotional pain you suffer after a car accident. Pain and suffering are non-economic damages whose value depends on your ability to display the level of your pain and suffering. 

Your attorney can call upon a doctor or medical expert who understands the level of pain associated with the types of injuries you have. Some of the damages that you will recover for pain and suffering include:

  • Temporary and permanent disability 
  • Depression
  • Disfigurement
  • Loss of a loved one 
  • The size of your settlement will depend on:
  • The severity of the injuries
  • The type of treatment you receive 
  • The long-term effects of the injuries
  • Physical pain

5. Wrongful Death Damages

If a loved one dies from a rear-end collision, you can sue the negligent party for wrongful death damages. These damages will compensate you for any medical expenses you incurred, burial and funeral expenses, damages for emotional suffering, loss of consortium, and loss of parental care. You can recover wrongful death damages if you are the kin of the deceased. 

Find a Car Accident Attorney Near Me

Rear-end car accidents are among the leading causes of injuries in California. They cause extensive damages to property and your well-being. Fatalities are also common in severe accidents. Rear-end accidents cause disruptions to families as they learn to cope with injury or loss. 

When these accidents are the result of another person's negligence, the law allows you to recover damages to cover for the financial, emotional, and other tangible and intangible losses you suffer due to the accident. 

The Personal Injury Attorney Law Firm provides services to people who are injured in car accidents throughout California. We have represented thousands of clients in recovering millions of dollars in compensation. Visit our offices today or call us at 619-625-8707 for an evaluation of your case.