Even the best drivers find themselves involved in an accident. No matter how defensively you might drive, there is little you can do to prevent a rear-end collision. Often attributed to distracted drivers, inattentiveness and excessive speed, rear-end accidents make up about one-third of all collisions.
Thankfully, at least, rear-end collisions are also among the easiest to handle from a liability perspective. Drivers who are hit from behind are rarely held liable for the damage done in the accident. That said, there are some steps to take to help ensure you are not stuck footing the bill for damages and medical expenses.
The Immediate Aftermath
Like with any accident, it’s important to move your vehicles out of the way of traffic to avoid further collisions. Call for an ambulance if anyone is injured. Help those hurt in the crash, if you can. Regardless of how serious the accident is, it’s always a good idea to call the police and report the incident. While you’re waiting for police to arrive, be sure to exchange information with the other driver involved. Collect their full name, phone number and insurance details.
If you have your cell phone handy, snap photos and video of the damage. Take shots of different angles, the street where the incident occurred and of any unusual traffic patterns that might have contributed to the crash. Speak to any passersby who may have witnessed the collision and ask if they’d be willing to go on record about what they saw. If they’re willing to be filmed, take a short video of what they witnessed. Make sure to collect their contact information, too, before they leave the scene.
Work with police to get the accident documented. You’ll want the accident report as evidence of the incident. It’s also smart to have yourself and any passengers examined by a doctor as soon as possible, even if you aren’t feeling injured in the immediate wake of the accident. Some serious injuries can take days, if not weeks, to make themselves evident. By then, you may have lost your window of time to connect the injury to your accident.
The Settlement Process
After handling the scene of the accident, reach out to your insurance company to report the incident. Be ready to share any documents, photos, videos and medical records associated with the wreck. You may be able to claim compensation for the injuries you sustained in the accident, but only if it resulted from the other driver’s negligence.
How is that negligence proven? Most of the time, it’s obvious. If you were stopped at a traffic light, stop sign or in traffic and were struck from behind, it’s easy to see that the driver who rear-ended you is at fault. So long as there is nothing you could have done to avoid being hit, liability is unlikely to be disputed.
There are a few scenarios in which a rear-end crash could be considered the fault of the vehicle in front. Should a driver back up unexpectedly, make a sudden stop to turn and fail to actually follow through with their turn, or if their brake lights do not work, the rear-ended driver could be held liable for damages. The legal significance of the driver’s negligence depends largely upon how much their actions contributed to the wreck.
When to Seek Legal Help
In many cases, the negligent driver’s insurance company will want to settle quickly. The figure they offer will be determined by the cost of the damage done in the wreck, the severity of the injuries sustained, and the long-term impact of the accident. The insurance company may offer a sum in exchange for an agreement that you will not seek more compensation. Sign that agreement and you waive the right to ask for any additional damages, even if the ultimate cost of medical treatment balloons beyond the settlement amount.
An attorney can be a valuable ally. Anyone unsure of whether or not to accept a settlement offer should consider speaking with an accident lawyer. In many cases, an attorney can negotiate a higher settlement amount. If a reasonable settlement cannot be agreed upon, your lawyer can escalate the talks to a lawsuit against the negligent driver. While most cases settle without ever going to court, having a lawyer represent your best interests is always a good idea.
If you need help connecting with a trustworthy, experienced personal injury lawyer in your area, Lawsuit Info Center can help. Our injury settlement calculator can provide answers to initial questions you have about the value of your case, and our free case reviews can give you the answers you need about your next steps.