Been in a rear-end accident?
If not recently, at some in your driving life you will probably be involved in a car accident.
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Head-on collisions, high-speed collisions, hitting a parked car, a pedestrian crash, hydroplaning and rear-end collisions are all a risk when you share the roads.
The most common, however, of all motor vehicle accidents are rear-end collisions. While a number of contributory causes can lead to a collision, the majority of rear strikes are caused by tailgating drivers.
How fault, negligence, insurance claims, legal action, the litigation process and compensation works after a crash strictly depends on the details of the accident and where it happened. Tort law, State laws, traffic codes, jurisdiction can play a critical factor when evaluating whether you have a valid injury claim supported by the law beyond just harm suffered.
The following guide to rear-end accidents will present an overview of what you should know about how a crash is handled by insurance companies and plaintiffs accident attorneys should you find yourself seeking lawsuit options or find yourself in a claim dispute.
"The NHTSA estimates 30% of all incidents involve a motorist being rear-ended."
The rules insurers use for determining responsibility which govern compensation after an accident can vary state to state. It is first important to determine what fault doctrine is used in the state the accident occurred.
Connect with an experienced lawyer who knows the accident laws which affect your case will be able to explain the impact to your claim or alternatively you can find the state statute in question online or via our important law by state directory.
Continue reading to learn more about who's at faults, driver's duties, tailgating and more...
After a collision, before even thinking about filing an insurance claim or speaking with an insurance adjuster you should speak with a professional accident attorney.
If you want to a general understanding of the rules about how your claims work in your state, you'll want to determine what fault doctrine is recognized in the jurisdiction of the accident.
Insurance Rules: At-Fault vs. No-Fault Liability Explained
Here is a general overview of insurance fault doctrines used:
At-Fault Insurance - Most States use at-fault based insurance rules for car accidents. In this scenario the at-fault motorist will be held responsible for repairs, medical bills, lost wages, (economic losses) and potentially pain and suffering (compensatory compensation), and possibly punitive. These will be paid by that motorist’s liability insurance coverage. Victims in these accidents can sue the at-fault driver and/or their insurer.
No-Fault Insurance - In these States motorists are required to purchase Personal Injury Protection (PIP) from their insurance provider. PIP covers the driver for medical bills and lost wages, up to a certain amount, no matter who is at fault. Each driver involved in a collision looks to their own insurance company to cover their losses. This does not mean an at-fault driver cannot be sued for damages above and beyond what the PIP provides. Generally, accident victims who suffer permanent injury can seek greater compensation from at-fault drivers in a no-fault State.
Click here for a more in-depth walkthrough on how fault and liability in an accident works..
Legal responsibility after an accident can get complicated - fast.
Every good car accident lawyer knows contributory actions, multiple involved parties, shared responsibility, conflicting testimony and unique case details can make determining who is responsible a messy proposition. Sometimes, however, the evidence is clear, the law is clear, and accountability is clear. The easiest answer is any motorist that violates traffic laws is in breach of duty and has responsibility.
Common traffic code violations include:
- Running a red light
- Reckless driving
- Distracted driving
Tailgating, often cited as following too close, results in a failure to stop in time and is a primary cause of rear-end accidents nationwide. The driver who is cited for following too close or a failure to stop will be the person assumed at fault in the accident until evidence supports otherwise.
Types of Rear-Collisions Covered?
Slow speed/low impact: Slow speed rear impacts involving light or no damage to the involved vehicles but possible injuries (whiplash, neck pain, etc.)
Multi-vehicle rear-end collision: Multiple vehicle pile-ups and accident events and multi-car collisions are among the deadliest form of accident and can complicate who's at fault.
Rear-ended by commercial truck: Accidents involving semi-trucks, commercial vehicles (tractor-trailers, 18-wheelers, big-rigs, dump trucks, etc.) involve specialized insurance.
Tailgating: Motorists who follow too closely to the front vehicle are tailgating. Motorists have a duty to drive at a reasonably safe distance and speed and be able to stop suddenly to avoid a collision if the front vehicle brakes suddenly. The rear driver is not ALWAYS at fault for tailgating accidents, however.
“There does not seem to be an absolute speed or amount of damage a vehicle sustains for a person to experience injury. Crash tests indicate that a change of vehicle velocity of 4 km/hr (2.5 mph) may produce occupant symptoms.” - U.S. National Library of Medicine (NIH)
The injuries sustained will generally be the responsibility of the motorist who rear-ended the car in front.
Supporting evidence for harm suffered in an accident is vital a claim dispute is fought. For step by step instructions go here to read our guide on what to do immediately after a car accident to protect your rights and make sure your needs aren't ignored.
When involved in an accident we recommend seeking representation from the best auto accident law firm available who can walk you through step by step what should be done to protect your interests.
After collecting any photographs and documenting contact information of the involved parties' accident victims should visit emergency services to get checked and document sustained injuries. These documents along with the police report serve to document the incident and facts of the event.
Your lawyer will be familiar with the tort laws and what recovery options may be available as well as being able to explain the risks and potential rewards of litigation.
Just as important if you've been hurt in an accident, an injury lawyer accident specialist will have a wealth of experience fighting insurance companies - and knows the dirty tricks they use to reduce liability and payouts to accident victims.
Like falling dominoes - in a multi-car pile-up, when one car rear-ends another a chain reaction can happen.
To illustrate, imagine in a three car rear-end collision the back car hits the middle car and the middle car hits the front car. Determination of fault becomes more difficult to establish in a multi-car pileup.
Factors that can determine fault include:
- Which motorists were cited for moving violations?
- What was the speed of the back car at the time of the wreck.
- Drivers, passengers and witness testimony
- Where these multiple incidents or just a single accident.
The data above will be gathered by police and outlined in the accident report. This evidence will need to be established in fact, so a determination of fault can be supported. Generally, the last driver and their insurer will usually be held liable for the incident. The back motorist holds the majority of fault for causing the incident. Drivers and their insurance companies will make claims against each other and the back driver.
At-fault insurance scenarios can proceed in the following way:
- The middle driver is cited for following too close. The front driver’s insurer will pursue settlement from the
- The back driver is cited for following too close. The middle driver’s insurer will pursue damages from the back driver for their injuries.
- The middle driver can also pursue compensation for the damages they paid to the front driver.
- The back-driver’s insurer will counter claiming the middle driver is also negligent since they were cited for following too close.
In a multi-car rear-end accidents there are three main types of evidence which can impact your case:
- Independent witnesses
- Vehicle damage
- Most significant - the front driver’s testimony
This general insurance scenario does not take into consideration the variety of negligence laws and fault rules of each State. When commercial vehicles are involved the stakes are raised and professional counsel is all the more crucial in a fight for recovery.
Intentionally Tailgating another vehicle
When people are frustrated by slower moving vehicles or aggressive drivers they start following much closer than they should. In fact, much closer than is legally acceptable. Tailgating is unsafe, risky, unlawful, and leads to a majority of rear-end wrecks.
By riding another motorist's tail drivers pressure other motorists, it's commonly intentional - pressuring motorists for a number of unacceptable reasons.
- Attempting to make green lights
- Trying to pass other drivers
- Pressuring motorists drive faster
- Thinking they are drafting off the lead vehicle
- Road-rage or anger with another driver
- Drunk Driving / Impaired Driving
- Assuming they have the right of way
These reasons will not excuse the driver from legal fault in a accident.
It is important to remember if a driver admits this or something similar, it supports fault and intent. Rear-ending someone “by accident” or without intent means the rear driver did not expect the vehicle in front of you to stop. Intentionally tailgating is evidence of a breach of duty when a driver has chosen to disregard traffic laws and the safety of other drivers and passengers. Willful or gross negligence laws can come into play depending on the State.
Many safe drivers often tailgate unintentionally. Even though they don’t mean to tailgate they still follow the front vehicle to close. They will most likely be held responsible in a rear-end collision.
Reasons for unintentionally tailgating include:
- Ignorant driving
- Habit of following too close
- Tailgated by another driver
- Distracted driving
- Texting and driving
The three-second rule below is also used to find the appropriate following distance while driving at varying speeds:
* 3-Second Rule: A minimum safe distance between two vehicles is considered to be the length required to stop in three seconds considering the speed of travel.
Travelling at 75 mph a car travels at 111 feet / sec. Applying the three-second rule a minimum distance of 333 feet from the front vehicle would be considered safe (111 ft. X 3 Seconds = 333 ft.). At speeds of 25 mph, a vehicle travels approximately 37 feet per second, applying the three-second rule would mean a follow car would require 111 feet distance between it and the car in-front (37 ft. X 3 Seconds = 111 ft.).
The 3 second rule for distance between vehicles must be adjusted for weather conditions, road hazards, and other safety considerations.
Other tips to avoid tailgating:
- Obey speed limit
- Let them pass when safe
- Know and follow traffic laws
- Be a defensive driver
- Stay in the right lane
- Avoid aggressive drivers
Unfortunately, tailgating drivers can’t always be avoided. If you are being followed too closely, you should never do anything to increase a tailgaters aggressive behavior. Intentionally hitting the brakes to cause a reaction shows reckless driving on your behalf. Just continue driving to the best of your ability and obey the rules of the road.
If you or someone you love has further questions for an attorney after being involved in a rear-end collision - take advantage of a free legal evaluation to have an auto accident lawyer review the details of your case. Get the peace of mind answers can bring, learn your legal options and the risks and potential rewards the law supports in your situation. Get the help you need to be confident your lawsuit is 'handled' while you focus on recovery.
After an injury you have a limited amount of time to take legal action, so it is important that you act now. Share the details of what happened to have your claim reviewed. Get the answers you need after an accident, so you can move forward with confidence in the best direction for you and your family's needs.
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