Rear-end collisions are one of the most prevalent accidents happening on our roads today. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that approximately 29% of all car crashes are rear-ended crashes. Thirty-percent of all car accident injuries and 29.7% of car accident property damage results from rear-end crashes. Drivers who are under 18 years old have the most rear-end collisions, followed by the 18-24-year-old age group. Male drivers cause around 60% of rear-end crashes, with young males being the most likely.
A 2007 NHTSA report states that rear-end crashes are characterized by:
- A decelerating lead vehicle (45% of incidents)
- A stopped lead vehicle (38% of incidents)
The report stated that a full 87% of rear-end crashes were caused by distracted drivers; wireless devices were at the top of the list of distractions due to talking on the phone, checking messages, and texting. Common sense provides that the reason wireless devices are so dangerous is because they remove the attention from the road and surrounding drivers completely. To prove this, studies have shown that texting while driving is at fault for 1.3 million crashes each year.
The legal liability (fault) for rear-end accidents is nearly always on the driver doing the rear-ending. Following a car too closely, not leaving enough distance between cars as you drive or stop, and/or lack of attention are all causes of these types of crashes. Of course, there are exceptions, and one notable exception is when someone backs into another car – typically in parking lots – or when a driver stops too far into a red light and needs to back up but isn’t paying attention and keeps the car in reverse when the light turns green.
There are no specific laws in California that state implicitly that the vehicle rear-ending another vehicle is at fault, but there are two California Vehicle Code Sections that mention it:
- Vehicle Code Section 21703 states that: “The driver of a motor vehicle shall not follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent, having due regard for the speed of such vehicle and the traffic upon, and the condition of, the roadway.”
- Vehicle Code Section 23350 states that: “No person shall drive a vehicle upon a highway at a speed greater than is reasonable or prudent having due regard for weather, visibility, the traffic on, and the surface and width of, the highway, and in no event at a speed which endangers the safety of persons or property.” This statement is also referred to as the California Basic Speed Law.
What these collectively mean is that anyone who rear-ends another car is usually at fault for speeding or tailgating.
Damage Caused in Rear-End Collisions
Rear-end collisions usually result in property damage to the cars, as well as injuries to the occupants of the car being hit. Typically, the property damage happens to the back end of the front vehicle, and the front end of the back vehicle. The damage to either car will vary depending on the type of vehicle it is, and how hard the crash is.
For instance, a smaller car hit by a large truck is going to see a lot of damage to the car, but probably not a lot to the truck. The car’s driver and passengers will likely sustain injury whereas the driver of the truck will have minimal injuries, if any. Likewise, if a truck is hit by a car, the front end of the car will see a lot of damage, but the truck’s rear bumper might not have any. There are also cases where the visible damage is very minimal, but structural damage may have occurred within the vehicle frame itself. Cases like these are best handled by an experienced attorney, as insurance company adjusters will likely claim that if there are no injuries, the property damage can’t be significant. An attorney will know exactly how to document this information, with reports, inspections, and photographs, which will lead to a stronger case when dealing with the insurance adjusters.
Injuries Caused by Rear-End Collisions
There are many different injuries that can result from a rear-end collision, and there are many factors involved in each situation, because no two accidents are alike. The more common injuries in these types of accidents include:
Whiplash – The most common injury arising from a rear-end crash, whiplash results in severe neck pain due to the damage to the soft tissues involved. Pain isn’t limited to the neck though, as many whiplash victims experience pain into their shoulders, and down their back.
Broken Bones – In rear-end collisions, broken bones are frequently seen in the spine, ribcage, hands and feet, and skull. If the collision is forceful enough, even modern safety equipment can’t stop broken bones completely.
Brain Injury – Traumatic brain injuries may not be immediately apparent after a rear-end collision. Warning signs to look for include impaired speech, dizziness, loss of consciousness, abnormal behavior, and reduced ability to think. The NHTSA states that “1.7 million people sustain a TBI annually, of them 52,000 dies… among all age groups, motor vehicle-traffic (MVT) was the second leading cause of TBI (17.3%) and resulted in the largest percentage of TBI-related deaths (31.8%).” Brain injuries are hard to treat, and lingering effects may last a lifetime.
Facial Scarring or Disfigurement – Depending on how violent the crash is, the driver and passengers may hit the dashboard instead of the airbag, resulting in broken bones in the face, as well as severe lacerations that may end up requiring cosmetic and/or reconstructive surgery.
Paralysis – If the victim of a car accident sustains spinal injuries that are very severe, they can become paralyzed, either fully or partially.
As you can see, rear-end collisions can easily result in severe damage – both physically and to your property. It pays to pay attention to the road, eliminates distractions, and keep the proper distance between cars to be safe and reduce the chances of this type of car accident happening.