Rear-end collisions can cause serious injuries, and even low-speed collisions can result in whiplash and other painful injuries that require extensive medical treatment. High-speed rear-end collisions can cause catastrophic, debilitating injuries, and in worse-case scenarios, victims die from their injuries.
Many victims of rear-end collisions never recover fully or recover enough to continue working and enjoying their life the way they once did. If you suffered serious injuries in a rear-end collision, you may obtain compensation.
Most of the time, the driver in the back bears responsibility for causing the crash, but other scenarios exist where each driver could share responsibility, or the victim could pursue compensation from a third party.
A car accident lawyer can explain the claims process for rear-end collisions and how you can hold those responsible for your injuries accountable. An attorney can review your rear-end collision injury claim and provide advice regarding your rights and options for pursuing compensation.
An experienced attorney can file your claim and advocate for you throughout the process to increase your chances of getting the maximum compensation you deserve.
How Do Rear-End Accidents Happen?
Rear-end collisions are among the most common car accidents. In a recent year, New Jersey reported over 190,000 total vehicle crashes, including 697 fatalities, and rear-end collisions accounted for around 24 percent of those accidents.
Rear-end collisions happen because of:
- Tailgating. Following another vehicle too closely is a leading cause of rear-end collisions. When a driver does not maintain a safe distance, they have less time to react and stop if the vehicle in front slows down or stops suddenly.
- Distracted driving. Distractions such as texting, talking on the phone, eating, or using infotainment systems can divert a driver's attention from the road. Failing to notice traffic slowing down or stopping ahead can result in a rear-end collision.
- Speeding. Driving at an excessive speed reduces the time a driver has to react to changes in traffic conditions. If a driver cannot stop in time, they can slam into the vehicle in front of them.
- Sudden braking. Abruptly slamming on the brakes without warning can catch the driver behind off guard, especially if they follow too closely. This can result in a rear-end collision.
- Driver inattention. Failing to pay attention to the road ahead, whether due to fatigue, daydreaming, or simply not focusing on driving, can lead to a rear-end collision if the driver does not notice the slowing or stopped vehicle in front. In fact, New Jersey reported driver inattention as a major contributing factor in vehicle accidents, far more than any other reason.
- Impaired driving. Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs significantly impairs a driver's judgment, reaction time, and ability to maintain proper control of the vehicle. Impaired drivers may fail to notice or react to slowing or stopped traffic, leading to rear-end collisions. Of the 697 traffic fatalities reported in just one year, just in New Jersey, 228 died in accidents involving intoxication.
- Adverse weather conditions. Poor weather conditions like rain, snow, or fog can reduce visibility and increase stopping distances. If drivers fail to adjust their driving behaviors accordingly, they make rear-end collisions more likely.
- Faulty brake lights. If the brake lights of the vehicle in front do not function correctly, the driver behind may not have sufficient warning that the vehicle is slowing down or stopping. This can greatly increase the risk of a rear-end collision.
- Inexperience or driver error. Inexperienced drivers or those who make errors, such as misjudging stopping distances or failing to anticipate changes in traffic, are more prone to causing rear-end collisions.
Many rear-end collisions occur in heavy stop-and-go traffic, such as during rush hour or when cars slow for another accident. Other factors can lead to rear-end accidents as well, such as sun glare and the car behind you rapidly accelerating.
Contact an attorney immediately if you suffered injuries or lost a loved one because of a rear-end collision.
Is the Rear Driver Always at Fault?
Most of the time, people assume the driver in the back bears liability for a rear-end collision. The New Jersey Department of Motor Vehicles recommends drivers keep at least 20 feet of distance between them and the vehicle in front for every 10 miles per hour they travel. This means you should maintain at least 120 feet of distance from the car in front of you when traveling at 60 miles per hour. If you drive a large, heavy vehicle like a commercial truck, or drive in inclement weather, you should maintain even more distance.
A New Jersey Supreme Court decision states that failing to maintain a reasonable safe distance behind the vehicle in front constitutes negligence, and many judges cite this precedent when determining liability in rear-end accident cases.
However, scenarios exist where the lead vehicle driver can also bear responsibility for the crash. One instance is if the front driver suddenly slams on their brakes without warning and without cause. So-called brake checking can constitute reckless behavior that may impose liability on the lead vehicle driver.
Another scenario is if a driver recklessly merges into your lane, cuts you off, and causes you to collide with the rear of their car.
Additionally, defective auto components may have caused the crash instead of driver error or inattention. One scenario could involve faulty brakes, where the rear vehicle suddenly loses the ability to stop. A problem with the vehicle’s steering or suspension, for instance, could cause the driver to lose control or prevent them from taking evasive action to avoid a collision.
Likewise, the lead car could experience mechanical problems that effectively shut down the vehicle and cause it to slow rapidly or stop suddenly, leaving no time for the rear driver to respond.
Can Both Drivers Be At Fault for a Rear-End Collision?
New Jersey follows a comparative negligence model to determine liability in auto accidents. The state’s Comparative Negligence Act allows insurance companies to determine liability in proportion to the percentage of fault all parties bear for causing the crash. If the plaintiff bears more than 51 percent responsibility for their injuries, they cannot seek compensation from the other driver.
The comparative negligence model becomes especially important for rear-end car accident claims because of how the accidents typically occur. You need a car accident attorney with extensive experience handling rear-end collision cases to advise you of your options, protect your rights, and fight hard to hold the other driver accountable for your injuries.
What Types of Injuries Result from Rear-End Collisions?
Rear-end collisions can cause a range of injuries, from minor to catastrophic, and injuries vary in severity depending on the speed of the vehicles involved, the angle of impact, the use of seat belts, and the presence of safety features like airbags. Some common injuries that can result from rear-end collisions include:
- Whiplash. Whiplash, one of the most common injuries in rear-end collisions, occurs when the head and neck snap back and forth, straining or spraining the neck’s soft tissues. Symptoms may include neck pain, stiffness, headaches, dizziness, and shoulder or back pain.
- Back injuries. The sudden impact of a rear-end collision can cause herniated discs, spinal fractures, and muscle sprains. These injuries can result in chronic pain, limited mobility, and extensive medical treatment.
- Head injuries. A jolt or strike during a rear-end collision can lead to concussions, traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), skull fractures, or contusions. Head injuries can result in cognitive difficulties, memory problems, headaches, or even long-term disabilities.
- Chest and rib injuries. The impact force can cause chest injuries, including broken ribs, internal organ damage, or bruising. Improper restraint, such as a seat belt, can make these injuries particularly serious.
- Facial injuries. Cuts, lacerations, fractures, or dental injuries may occur if the airbags deploy or if the occupants strike the steering wheel or dashboard.
- Psychological injuries. Along with physical injuries, rear-end collisions and other car accidents can leave psychological effects on the individuals involved. Victims may experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, or a general fear of driving.
Seek immediate medical attention following a rear-end collision, even if injuries appear minor. Some injuries may not manifest right away, and a medical professional can provide an accurate assessment and appropriate treatment. Additionally, you must document injuries and seek medical care promptly to pursue a legal claim for compensation related to the accident.
What Compensation Can I Receive After a Rear-End Collision?
After a rear-end collision, you could receive compensation, depending on the specific circumstances of the accident and other factors.
Here are some common types of compensation you may seek:
- Medical expenses. You can seek compensation for past, present, and future medical expenses related to the injuries you suffer in the rear-end collision. This may include hospital bills, doctor visits, medication costs, rehabilitation, physical therapy, and any necessary medical equipment.
- Lost income. If your injuries kept you from working, you may receive compensation for your lost income. This includes both the income you missed during your recovery and any future loss of earning capacity due to long-term disabilities.
- Property damage. You can seek compensation to cover the cost of vehicle repairs or the fair market value of your car if the accident damages it beyond repair.
- Pain and suffering. Along with economic damages, you may obtain compensation for pain and suffering and other non-economic damages. This compensation provides monetary relief for the physical and emotional distress the accident and resulting injuries caused. These less tangible damages take into account the pain, discomfort, anxiety, and loss of enjoyment of life experienced due to the accident. Victims may receive compensation for depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other psychological effects of the accident.
- Loss of consortium. If the injuries from the rear-end collision affected your ability to have a normal relationship with your spouse or partner, you may seek compensation for loss of consortium or loss of companionship. You may also seek these damages and more through a wrongful death claim if the rear-end collision killed a close family member.
In certain rare cases, you may also receive punitive damages from the court if you take your case to trial. These damages go beyond compensating for the victim's losses. They punish the defendant and deter similar behavior. The court only awards punitive damages at its discretion and only in cases involving particularly reckless or intentional conduct by an at-fault party. If a drunk driver caused the crash that injured you or killed a loved one, you can discuss with your attorney the possibility of pursuing punitive damages in court.
Regardless of the compensation you pursue, the compensation you could receive will depend on the severity of your injuries, the extent of your damages, insurance coverage, and applicable laws in your jurisdiction. Consulting a car accident attorney can provide you with a better understanding of the compensation you may deserve and help you navigate the legal process to seek fair compensation.
Contact a Rear-End Accident Attorney Today
You deserve full financial compensation after a negligent driver caused a rear-end collision that injured you or someone you love. An experienced car accident attorney in New Jersey can get the compensation you need, but you must act quickly. New Jersey allows you only two years from your injuries to file a car accident claim in court, so you need to contact an experienced personal injury attorney today to get started.