You’re sitting at a stoplight, minding your own business, thinking about your day, when—BAM!—a careless driver slams into the rear-end of your vehicle. You feel your head jerk back, then snap forward. You feel a sharp pain in your neck. Your day goes from normal to disastrous faster than you can say “tailgating.”
Sound familiar? You’re not alone. Rear-end collisions happen everywhere, every day. They’re among the most common types of traffic accidents in the country, and even at slow speeds, they can cause serious injuries.
Your injuries can lead to extensive losses, and you might be left wondering what to do. The best way to protect your health and your rights is to seek medical attention and then contact a rear-end accident lawyer who can help.
A car accident lawyer can help you recover—physically and financially. Read on to learn how you can protect your legal rights and receive compensation after a rear-end accident, as well as discover why they happen and what injuries they can cause.
To get specific answers about your rear-end car crash, contact our national personal injury law firm. We have helped injured car accident victims just like you collect the compensation they needed and deserved. We can do the same for you! CALL OUR PERSONAL INJURY LAWYERS TOLL-FREE AT 866-980-3955 TO SET UP A FREE CASE EVALUATION NOW. WE ALSO OFFER VIDEO CONSULTATIONS.
What to Do After a Rear-end Collision Injury
- Take photos of the damage, even if you think it’s minor. Right now, you may think you only have a scraped bumper or cracked taillight, but you could later discover you have a car with alignment issues, frame damage, or axle problems that could cost thousands of dollars to fix. Property damage should be part of your insurance claim against the at-fault driver.
- Exchange information with the other driver(s) involved. Get their name, phone number, insurance information, and license plate number.
- Get checked out by a medical professional now. You should go directly to a doctor if you’ve been involved in a rear-end car accident, even if you don’t feel injured. This is critical. Even if you were in a minor fender-bender, seek medical attention. Some of the injuries discussed below may show symptoms immediately, but many (like soft tissue damage and brain trauma) do not. Do not risk your life by trying to power through a headache or a pain that could be a warning sign of a far more serious injury.
- Next, talk to an experienced car accident injury attorney about your right to seek compensation for your injuries. In our experience, we’ve seen many people hesitate to seek legal advice for rear-end accident injuries. This mistake ends up diminishing their settlement or having the case dismissed entirely!
Maybe they have a picture in their minds of a plaintiff wearing a foam collar trying to squeeze a few bucks out of a defendant (or an insurance company). Maybe you heard the term “fender-bender” and wonder if you’re overreacting by calling a rear-end accident attorney. Try not to feel that way. To begin with, no ethical lawyer would ever exaggerate an injury or make a false claim to an insurer, a judge, or anyone else.
Don’t compare yourself to others, either. If you got lucky and your auto accident did not cause major damage to your car or inflict a life-threatening personal injury, that doesn’t mean your legal rights are any less important or your compensation claim is any less valid.
You don’t deserve any of the pain and difficulty someone else’s negligent driving caused, point-blank.
A rear-end accident lawyer can also help you determine liability. In most rear-end collisions, but not all, the driver of the trailing car bears most of the blame. Assuming that the driver carries insurance and/or can compensate you for your injury, then that’s what should happen. An experienced rear-end collision lawyer can help evaluate the extent of your injury, what it has already cost you, and what it will likely cost you going forward.
If you were rear-ended, take the available help. A rear-end crash attorney is ready to help and knows how to enforce your right to payment for your out-of-pocket costs, as well as for your physical and emotional suffering.
Causes of Rear-end Collisions
To understand why rear-end collisions cause so much pain and discomfort, we must first understand the physics of a car crash. It helps to visualize what exactly happens to two cars when the front of one runs into the back of the other. Our rear-end accident lawyers are very familiar with this type of crash and how it injures our clients.
Let’s start with the basics. Imagine there are two cars: the leading car and the trailing car. The trailing car is traveling faster than the leading car. The leading car may even be at rest at a stop sign or red light, or parked in a parking space.
Upon impact, the trailing car transfers some of its force to the leading car, and they both push forward as one new “linked” unit. How far they go depends on how fast the two cars were traveling at the moment of impact. Sometimes the transfer of force in a collision is strong enough to push a car into another car, into a different lane, or into oncoming traffic! A seemingly small accident can turn into a huge pile-up.
Generally, the speed at which the two linked vehicles travel will be slower than the speed the trailing car was traveling when they collided, and it will be faster than the pre-accident speed of the leading car. Here’s a video explanation, complete with equations.
In other words, in a rear-end collision, the leading vehicle experiences an abrupt, unexpected acceleration, while the trailing vehicle experiences a deceleration. Injuries can happen to occupants of both vehicles, but the risk of injury is far higher for those in the lead vehicle. That’s because while all cars have standard safety features protecting against a sudden deceleration if you have to slam on the brakes for whatever reason, safety features for sudden acceleration are far less common and far less effective.
Given the physics of it, there should be no surprise that even slow-moving rear-end crashes can cause serious injuries. After an injury and other losses, our car accident attorneys can assist you and protect your rights.
What are some common causes of rear-end collisions?
- Distracted driving
- Intoxicated driving
- High speed driving or speeding
- Reckless or aggressive driving
- Changing lanes suddenly
Most Common Rear-end Collision Injuries
Now that you know how they happen, you should also know about the numerous dangers of a rear-end collision. Even a minor rear-end collision can inflict widespread damage to your body. A seemingly minor injury at first can develop into a serious condition if you do not receive the proper treatment.
Below are some of the most common rear-end accident injuries you may suffer from after getting rear-ended:
Soft Tissue Damage
Soft tissue damage is a common car accident injury, especially in the case of rear-end crashes. You’ve probably heard the term before, but do you know what it means or how it occurs? We’re here to explain.
Imagine you are a passenger in the lead car from our previous hypothetical scenario. Your car stops. Suddenly and without warning, another car plows into yours from behind. Your car shoots forward, which means your body shoots forward as well. But not all parts of your body jolt forward at the same time.
If you never considered what happens to your body at that moment of sudden acceleration from a rear-end collision the scientists who wrote this research paper have. They discovered the sudden acceleration of the initial impact shifts your torso forward before your head and neck. This momentarily creates an “S” shaped curvature in your spine; the discs in your middle back get compressed while those up toward your neck have not yet flexed.
As your torso shifts horizontally below the center of mass of your head and neck, a shearing force transmits up your spine, one disc at a time, until your cervical spine takes a C shape with your head thrown backward. There’s a handy video of the spinal whipping action here to better illustrate the research paper’s findings.
All of this happens in the blink of an eye, and it’s an incredibly unnatural motion for a person’s spine. Usually, your head moves while your torso stays relatively still. Here, the opposite happens—your torso gets pushed out ahead of your head. There is a forceful deformation of the spine from an S to a C shape as this occurs, and each disc absorbs and transmits force upward along the spinal column.
This is followed by an inverse motion as the head and torso rebound. Altogether, these movements contribute to the injury known as whiplash. (The “whip,” so to speak, is the spinal column, which deforms and transmits the crash’s energy into a sudden violent movement of the person’s head.)
So what happens when the spine acts like a whip with your head as its tip? “OUCH!” is what. In a car accident, soft tissue like the muscles and ligaments in the neck stretch far beyond their normal range of motion. Like any type of strain, these are painful injuries, but they can also cause secondary symptoms like headaches and skeletal-muscular discomfort. As anyone who copes with chronic pain can tell you, that sort of long-lasting discomfort can make your life miserable.
Others might dismiss or downplay your pain and suffering from whiplash, but our rear-end accident lawyers never will.
Spinal Cord Injuries
All the forces that harm the soft tissue in your head and neck can also cause structural damage to your vulnerable spinal column. Victims of rear-end collisions often find themselves dealing with neck injuries, ruptured discs, injured vertebrae, and, in serious cases, damage to the spinal cord.
Spinal injuries are serious business. A back injury—like an injury to a disc or a vertebra—can take months to rehabilitate and may require surgery. People often have to wear back braces to get around and can’t spend any significant amount of time on their feet. This makes it difficult to work and has led Americans to turn to powerful, habit-forming painkillers to dull the pain. Even if a back injury eventually heals, a destructive addiction to opioids may take its place.
A spinal cord injury can make life unbearable. The spinal cord is a complex bundle of nerves running through the spinal column that transmits messages from the brain to the body. When the spinal cord sustains damage, those signals experience interference—or get cut off altogether. This frequently results in temporary or permanent paralysis or loss of feeling to the parts of the body below the site of the injury.
Living with a spinal cord injury brings secondary health complications and can cost millions of dollars throughout the victim’s lifetime. This means that the resulting car accident claims can be highly complicated. Speak with a car accident attorney with experience helping spinal injury victims through these types of accident cases.
With all of that “whipping” of your neck and head in a rear-end crash, the brain is another part of a person’s body that can sustain severe damage in this type of collision.
Just as the head and neck move somewhat independently of the torso, the brain moves somewhat independently of the skull. When a person’s head sustains an impact or a sudden jolt (like the instant, forceful snapping of the head in a “whiplash” scenario), the brain itself can sustain tissue damage from moving unnaturally within the cranium.
Minor bruising or swelling may result in a concussion, which can cause immediate cognitive, motor, and emotional dysfunction. Some concussions might heal in time, but others lead to complications and effects that last for months or years. More severe damage may cause a traumatic brain injury, which can leave an injured individual permanently impaired.
One of the many dangers of brain trauma is that it’s not always immediately apparent. That headache or “brain fog” you may feel after a car accident might be a sign of a serious brain injury, though it is easy to discount symptoms as stress following a traumatic event. Always seek medical attention if you hit your head or suffered a sharp jolt in a crash.
Severe whiplash can occur in even low-speed rear-end collisions, and so can traumatic brain injury. This is why you should never wait to seek medical attention after a rear-end collision, and you should also attend all of your follow-up appointments to make sure that new symptoms in need of further medical attention have not developed.
Because a brain injury is a complex medical condition with varying effects, the resulting injury claim can present challenges to victims and their families. You need the right legal help from a rear-end accident attorney who understands the nature of brain injuries.
Burns, Lacerations, Complex Fractures, & Other Severe Injuries
Burns, lacerations, and fractures are three additional common types of injuries suffered by occupants of the lead car in a rear-end collision scenario. But as we’ve learned, those aren’t the only injuries that can result from a rear-end crash, and the occupants of the lead car aren’t the only people who may suffer. In any collision, occupants of both cars always risk catastrophic injuries.
An impact can start a fire or cause an explosion, which may cause severe, life-threatening burns and scars. In all but the most minor accidents, glass shatters and metal twists, creating sharp edges that can inflict deep cuts. These lacerations can cause massive blood loss or leave a person with long-lasting muscle and nerve damage.
Accidents with sudden accelerations and decelerations can cause your car’s frame—also known as the chassis—to bend and crumple, which can pin, pinch, or compress limbs. This can result in fractures and shattered bones in the arms and legs of passengers of both cars. The list goes on and on, with the worst scenarios involving fatalities.
Our personal injury attorneys help injured victims, as well as families who lost a loved one due to fatal injuries. A wrongful death claim can help them obtain compensation for their tragic losses.
Secondary Accident Injuries
Often, rear-end collisions are the start of a chain reaction of tragedy. The disruption in traffic flow can cause a pile-up of trucks and cars to happen fast, and they can slide into sidewalks, other lanes, or intersections, or get pushed into ditches or off embankments.
Think of your typical pile-up accident on the interstate: it usually starts with an unexpected incident or road condition that brings traffic to a halt. Drivers, not expecting to encounter a sudden traffic jam, run into each other again and again and again.
Whatever the scenario is, the injuries and fatalities resulting from so-called “secondary” accidents can be just as serious as the injuries sustained in the initial rear-end collision. Anyone who suffers injuries in any vehicle involved, whether in the primary or secondary collision, deserves the right legal help.
Takeaways Regarding Rear-End Accidents
Let’s sum up what we’ve learned about rear-end collisions and their aftermath:
- Rear-end collisions, even at low speeds, can cause serious injuries.
- Due to the powerful and unnatural forces exerted on their bodies when their car accelerates without warning, the passengers of the leading car face particular risks of whiplash, back injuries, spinal cord damage, and brain injury.
- Any injury sustained in a car accident needs immediate medical attention. The severity of your injuries may go undetected for hours or days if you do not get checked out. Soft tissue injuries like whiplash may seem minor, but they can permanently impair your mobility and leave you with lifelong aches and pains. To raise your chances of a full recovery, make sure you attend all follow-up appointments and complete the recommended physical therapy.
Contacting an experienced rear-end collision accident lawyer can help you recover—physically, emotionally, and financially. At Stewart J. Guss Injury Accident Lawyers, we can help you recover compensation to help pay for medical care and medical expenses, lost wages, and more. We know that medical treatment you receive may be costly. That’s why we work tirelessly to ensure that you get the money you need to get back on your feet after a serious rear-end accident.
You deserve complete compensation for the full cost of your injuries, no matter how severe your injuries are or how complicated the circumstances of your accident were. We’re here to help. Reach out now for your free consultation! During this consultation, we can review all your legal options with you, so you can choose the one that is best for you and your family.
Since starting his firm in 1999, Stewart J. Guss has had the honor of representing clients from all over the world, helping them recover from even the most catastrophic injuries.
Today, thanks to a strong belief in those values of compassion, respect, and approachability, the firm has grown to employ over 120 legal professionals in numerous offices across 4 states, with nationwide reach.