Rear-End Collisions: Compensation & Fault (2024)

Tamara Armstrong


Reviewed By Adam Ramirez, J.D.


Read in 5 mins

The aftermath of a rear-end crash can be painful, exhausting and expensive. Even low-speed rear-end accidents can cause injuries, resulting in chronic pain and medical bills.

If a driver failed to pay attention, leading to a rear-end collision, you shouldn’t have to pay for their mistake. Fill out the form on this page or reach out to us today to find dedicated car accident lawyers who can help you recover a car accident settlement.

What Is a Rear-End Collision?

A rear-end accident occurs when one vehicle crashes into the back of another. Many rear-end crashes amount to little more than car damage. Hence, they are often referred to as “fender benders.” However, when a car slams into another at high speed, the impacts can be more severe and include catastrophic injuries and even deaths.

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Who Is At Fault in a Rear-End Collision?

Establishing fault is crucial for recovering compensation if another driver rear-ended you. In such accidents, the vehicle in the back is usually considered at fault, as drivers must maintain a safe following distance and pay attention to the road.

In some rare cases, the front driver may be responsible. For example, if the front driver’s brake lights were broken or they suddenly stopped for no reason, they could be liable for the rear driver’s damages. The same applies if the driver in front reverses without looking and hits the rear vehicle.

Sometimes, it can be tricky to establish and prove who was to blame for an accident. An attorney can determine whether another was responsible for your crash and clarify your legal options.

When Is a Driver Negligent in a Rear-End Accident?

Other drivers owe you a duty of care. If another driver breaches their duty and engages in negligent or reckless driving, they could be responsible for your accident injuries and financial losses. Negligent behaviors of drivers in accidents include the following:

  • Distracted driving. Distracted driving refers to any actions that take a driver’s attention away from the road, such as eating and drinking, playing loud music or using their phone.
  • Following too closely. Drivers must keep a reasonable distance. Failing to do so means they don’t have enough time to respond to cars slowing down or stopping in front.
  • Speeding. Driving too fast for weather and road conditions can also result in rear-end crashes.
  • Driving intoxicated. Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs can cause reduced reaction time and lead to severe accidents and injuries.

These are just some of the negligent driving behaviors that can cause rear-end collisions. If someone else negligently caused your crash, a car accident lawyer can help you move forward with a claim.

What Percentage of Crashes Are Rear-End Crashes?

Rear-end accidents account for over 29% of all motor vehicle crashes in the U.S., according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). This makes them the most frequent type of accident.

Rear-end crashes can be downplayed as “fender benders” by insurance companies. While many rear-end crashes may only involve car damage and minor injuries, 3600 deaths occurred in such accidents nationally in 2021 alone.

Common Rear-End Collision Injuries

Depending on their severity, rear-end accidents can cause various injuries. Whiplash is an injury commonly associated with rear-end crashes. It occurs when the head forcefully jolts back and forth during impact, causing injury to muscles and tendons in the neck. Severe whiplash is far from harmless and can cause chronic pain and other health issues.

Other injuries that may occur in rear-end crashes:

  • Back injuries
  • Spinal cord damage
  • Sprains and strains
  • Rotator cuff injuries
  • Internal bleeding and organ damage

If you’re injured in an accident, seeing a doctor is crucial, even if your symptoms initially seem minor. Early diagnosis and treatment can prevent complications and speed up your recovery. In addition, a medical report provides you with evidence of your accident-related injuries, which you’ll need for an insurance claim or lawsuit.

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What to Do After a Rear-End Accident

Protecting your legal rights may not be the first thing that comes to mind at an accident scene. However, together with safeguarding your health, protecting yourself can be essential when someone rear-ends you. Here are your next best steps:

  • Seek medical help. Even if you feel fine and refused medical attention at the accident site, visit your doctor within the next few days. Some injuries, such as whiplash or traumatic brain injury (TBI), may not show symptoms for days or weeks.
  • Contact your car insurance. Call your insurer promptly to report the accident. Starting a claim as soon as possible can help speed up the settlement process.
  • Document the crash. Take photos of the accident scene, vehicle damage and injuries if possible. Exchange contact details with other drivers and eyewitnesses.
  • Collect proof of your expenses. Make sure to keep receipts and bills for your accident-related costs, such as medical bills, car repair estimates, wage loss and others.
  • Consult a car accident lawyer. Speaking to an attorney after a collision can be a crucial step, as you may be entitled to compensation. Most car accident lawyers offer free consultations during which you can learn about your legal options.

Rear-End Collision Settlement Examples

If you were hurt in a rear-end accident caused by another person, you may be entitled to a settlement. The average car accident settlement in 2022 amounted to $35,516. However, amounts can vary from one accident to another and depend on your injuries and damages. Here’s what you could receive with a claim or lawsuit:

Economic Damages

Economic damages are intended to reimburse you for any financial losses due to the accident. Examples include medical expenses, lost income, property damage and other accident-related expenses.

Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages are awarded for intangible, non-monetary losses you experience due to an accident. Non-economic damages can be tricky to quantify as they don’t come with receipts. Depending on your injuries, you could qualify for pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of consortium (impact on personal relationships), reduced life quality and other damages.

Get Help with Your Rear-End Claim

Rear-end collisions aren’t always clear-cut. Getting what you deserve even when another negligently or recklessly causes your accident can be challenging. However, you don’t have to struggle with an accident claim or lawsuit alone.

Working with a dedicated and experienced lawyer can be crucial for getting what you need to put your life back together. Fill out the form on this page or contact us here to discover car accident lawyers who can advise you on your options.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Yes, a car can be totaled in a rear-end crash, especially if the accident occurred at high speed. Cars may also be totaled when a commercial truck, bus or other large vehicle rear-ends them, even at lower speeds.

    Generally, whether a car is declared a total loss depends on the extent of the damage. The insurance company typically assesses the repair costs compared to the car’s actual cash value. If the repair costs exceed a certain percentage of the car’s value, it is usually considered a total loss.

  • You may be able to get compensation for a whiplash injury. However, there can be differences between no-fault and fault states. For example, in no-fault states, your personal injury protection (PIP) insurance typically covers your medical bills, regardless of who was responsible for the crash. In fault-based states, you can seek compensation from the at-fault driver’s insurance company, providing you can prove that they are responsible for the crash.

  • Whether or not you need a lawyer depends on the circumstances of your accident, the severity of your injuries and the extent of your monetary losses. For example, if the accident didn’t involve injuries, you could probably handle the insurance claim alone. However, getting legal advice and guidance can still be useful.

    If you suffered severe injuries, a loved one died in a crash, or you have high damages, hiring an attorney is essential. Insurers fight hard to deny or minimize claims when the stakes are high. If you go it alone, you may not be able to recover the compensation you deserve.

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