A driver who is paying attention should see a car that is stopped or driving slowly on the road. A driver who follows other vehicles at a safe distance and drives at a safe speed should be able to stop in time to avoid a collision if the vehicle ahead of that driver stops suddenly.
Rear-end collisions are almost always caused by a driver who speeds, chats on a cellphone, applies makeup, drinks before driving, falls asleep at the wheel, tailgates, or engages in a similarly careless act. While juries occasionally attribute some fault to a driver who is struck from the rear, that usually happens only when the driver stops suddenly, unpredictably, and for no good reason.
Most of the time, juries (and insurance claims adjusters) understand that rear-end collisions are caused by the negligence of the driver who crashes into another vehicle. The injuries caused by rear-end collision can be devastating. This article explores some of those injuries and the impact they have on accident victims.
There is no word in the English language that claims adjusters and insurance defense attorneys love more than “whiplash.” The word conjures images of greedy plaintiffs who make false claims of neck injuries to line their pockets by cheating insurance companies.
That myth was promoted by insurance companies before medical studies confirmed that serious whiplash injuries can result from collisions at very low speeds. Since the word "whiplash" continues to have a negative connotation, personal injury attorneys usually refer to whiplash injuries as neck injuries.
Neck injuries are the most common result of a rear-end collision. When a car that is stopped at an intersection is struck from the rear at a high speed, the car rockets forward at up to ten times the force of gravity. Seat backs push the bodies of the driver and passengers forward at the same speed but their heads, lacking the same support, snap backward. The head then quickly moves forward as the vehicle decelerates.
If the collision pushes the car into another vehicle, the head will snap forward and back again, producing a second opportunity for injury. Hyperextension of the neck after a rear-end collision causes muscles and ligaments to stretch and tear. High shear forces that result from rear-end crashes can also damage the cervical spine, nerves, and discs. Serious neck injuries can result even when little damage is done to the car.
Although insurance adjusters will try to persuade injury victims otherwise, medical studies have established that a 10 mph rear-end collision can produce serious neck injuries to occupants. Even a rear-end collision of 2.5 mph can produce symptoms of neck injury. The headrests in newer cars may help minimize injury, although they provide less protection to taller occupants.
Rear seat passengers often receive little protection from headrests, particularly if they are sitting in the center position. It typically takes a few days after a rear-end collision for a full range of symptoms to develop. Accident victims commonly experience chronic neck pain, stiffness, and headaches.
They may also feel pain that radiates into their back and shoulders. Pain may limit an accident victim’s range of motion as the victim tries to look to the left or right or moves the head up and down. Neck pain can also cause sleep disturbances. Symptoms may take months to resolve. In some cases, they lead to long-term or permanent disabilities.
A rear-end impact can lead to compression of the spine and herniation of discs in the lower back. Those injuries can be intensely painful, particularly when bending or twisting.
Head injuriesAs the car begins to decelerate after a rear-end collision, occupants are thrown forward. If they are not wearing a shoulder harness, their faces may strike objects within the car. Drivers suffer from broken noses when their faces hit the steering wheel. Fractured cheekbones and jaws, in addition to cuts and scrapes, are other facial injuries that may result from rear-end collisions.
When a motorcycle rider is struck from the rear, a variety of injuries can occur. Head injuries are usually the most serious. Head injuries can result in death or permanent brain damage. Neck and spinal injuries can lead to paralysis. Less serious injuries, including broken bones and twisted joints, may take months to heal. Sometimes the injuries never heal completely.
If you were the driver or passenger in a car that was struck from the rear, you may not feel pain right away. It is common for the symptoms of a neck injury to develop two or three days after the collision. You should not wait for those symptoms to appear. Seeing a doctor immediately is your best insurance against a long-term or permanent injury.
What to do after a rear-end collision
Neck injuries usually worsen if left untreated. A doctor can advise you of warning signs and can tell you what to do if you begin to experience symptoms of a neck injury. You will probably be contacted by an insurance adjuster who will want you to accept a quick settlement, before you know the full extent of your injuries.
Never settle a claim until you receive advice from a personal injury attorney. In fact, when the adjuster asks you to give a statement, your best response is "I need to get legal advice so that I understand my rights before I answer your questions." If you are injured in a rear-end collision, you are entitled to compensation.
How Much is a Rear End Accident Worth?
The amount you should receive depends on the severity of your injuries. It also depends on whether you can prove your injuries, which means telling your doctor about your symptoms and following your doctor’s instructions regarding follow-up care. An Orange County auto accident lawyer can give you advice that will help you maximize the compensation you receive for your injuries.