More than 550,000 Americans are hurt every year when hit from behind in their car, accounting for one third of all car crashes with injuries. That means rear end accidents account for more car crash injuries than any t-bone, head on, and other types of car accidents.
The most common causes of rear-end accidents are:
Tailgating: Most states have laws that require drivers to follow behind you at a safe distance. Safe drivers should allow at least three seconds for stopping if the car in front of them stops suddenly.
Distracted driving: Eating, drinking, cell phone usage, listening to loud music, putting on makeup, talking to passengers, etc are frequent causes of rear-end crashes.
DUI: Drugs and alcohol damage our ability to drive safely, greatly affecting reflexes and reaction time.
Sudden stops: A sudden stop can cause a rear-end crash, but it is not usually a reason to blame the driver in front for the accident. Drivers can have to stop suddenly for many reasons, such as a child running into the street.
If you are hit from behind in your car, you should first check that you are ok. Get immediate medical attention if you have any injuries. Next, call the police and make sure an accident report is written. Also, call your insurance company and notify them that you were hit from the rear.
Most of the time, the car that hit you from behind is liable for the accident. If you live in a no-fault insurance state, you can file a claim with the other driver’s insurance policy. But you could be limited to your auto insurance policy’s med-pay or personal injury protection to cover your injuries.
While the driver in the rear is usually at fault for a rear-end accident, there are situations where the insurance company may say that you were partially at fault for the crash. For instance, if one of your brake lights is out, the driver may not have seen that you stopped. If you are in a situation where fault is being contested, talk to a personal injury attorney immediately.
Most states have comparative negligence rules. This means you can get compensation from the other driver if you were partially at fault for the accident. Compensation will be reduced in proportion to your blame for the accident. Most states do not allow you to collect damages if you are more than 50% to blame for the accident.
There are some exceptions to rear-end liability:
If you were driving in front erratically or recklessly, it could have been impossible for the rear driver to avoid an accident.
If the driver in front stops in a lane of traffic suddenly and does not put out flares, a rear-end accident is likely to occur.
If the driver at the rear is driving slowly and at a safe distance in poor weather, it may be impossible for him to stop.
If the driver at the rear is driving at a safe distance and speed behind the front vehicle, and a third vehicle hits that vehicle from behind, which pushes the second car into the first.
Generally, if you are hit from behind and fault is uncontested, you may be able to handle the claim without an attorney. But if fault is being contested, and/or there are serious injuries, speak to a personal injury attorney right away.