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The Role of a Lawyer Following a Rear-End Collision

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Jonathan Rosenfeld

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Navigating the aftermath of a rear-end collision can be challenging, but you don’t have to handle it alone. Legal support is available to guide you through each step and help ensure that your rights are protected. 

Here’s what to do after you’ve been in one and how a rear-end crash lawyer from Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers can help you recover compensation if someone else is responsible for the accident.

Who Is Usually at Fault in a Rear-End Collision?

In rear-end collisions, the driver of the trailing vehicle is often presumed to be at fault under the principle of “presumptive negligence.” This principle is based on the expectation that drivers should maintain a safe following distance, allowing adequate time and space to react and stop if necessary to avoid a collision.

While the presumption of fault for the trailing driver is common across many states, the specifics can vary. 

It’s important to note that the trailing driver is not automatically at fault in every case. The presumption can be challenged if there is substantial evidence showing that the lead driver acted negligently or recklessly. Examples include:

  • Sudden Braking: If the lead driver abruptly brakes without a valid reason.
  • Malfunctioning Brake Lights: If the lead driver’s brake lights are not functioning, making it difficult for the trailing driver to anticipate stops.
  • Unsafe Lane Changes: If the lead driver cuts off the trailing driver by changing lanes unsafely.

Instances Where the Lead Driver Might Be at Fault

While the driver in the back is usually assumed to be at fault in rear-end collisions, there are scenarios in which the leading driver may be responsible. 

Here’s when that might happen: 

  • Reversing Without Warning: If a lead car unexpectedly reverses into a stationary car or a vehicle moving at low speeds, the collision could be predominantly their responsibility due to their reckless behavior.
  • Brake Lights Not Functioning: When the brake lights on the front vehicles aren’t working, it becomes difficult to notice that the car is slowing down or stopping, which could put some of the liability on the lead vehicle. 
  • Sudden Stops: If a driver in the lead abruptly halts their vehicle for no legitimate reason, they could be at fault. Drivers are expected to stop gradually to give others ample time to adjust and avoid rear-ending them.
  • Brake Checking: When the leading driver deliberately applies brakes with the intent of instigating a collision or “sending a message” to the driver behind them–an aggressive gesture usually referred to as “brake checking”–then it may make them liable for the accident.  

In the aftermath of being rear-ended, where fault may be uncertain, it should be a top priority to have a car accident attorney who can help walk you through the intricacies of your case. 

Filing a Claim Following a Rear-End Accident

When filing a claim after a rear-end accident, the process differs depending on whether the incident occurred in an at-fault state or no-fault state.

  • At-Fault State: In an at-fault (or “tort”) state, you can file a claim against the other driver’s insurance if they are found to be responsible for causing the accident. In this situation, your compensation is contingent on proving the other party’s fault.
  • No-Fault State: However, in a no-fault state, each driver typically files a claim with their own insurance company regardless of who was at fault, and personal injury protection (PIP) benefits are used to cover medical expenses and a portion of lost wages.

Regardless of the state laws, it’s important to report the incident to the insurance company promptly, as there could be strict deadlines for notification. 

Proving Fault in Rear-End Collisions

In rear-end collision cases, correctly identifying and presenting evidence is crucial to prove fault. Here are some common types of evidence that may be needed in these situations:

  • Skid Marks: These can indicate the distance at which a driver attempted to stop, suggesting reaction times as well as potential issues with speeding.
  • Damage to Vehicles: The angle and location of vehicle impact can provide investigators with insights into how the accident occurred and who was at fault.
  • Witness Testimony: Bystanders or other drivers who witnessed the incident can offer invaluable statements that corroborate how and why the accident happened, which may directly impact fault assessments.
  • Traffic Camera Footage: If available, footage from nearby traffic cameras can provide objective evidence regarding moments leading up to the accident.
  • Police Reports: Officers responding to an accident file reports which include their initial findings and sometimes determinations of fault backed by observations from the accident scene.
  • Accident Reconstruction Experts: Specialists such as accident reconstruction experts can analyze various pieces of evidence from a crash to recreate the events that led up to it.
  • Dash Cam Footage: Many vehicles now come equipped with dashboard cameras, and footage captured from these devices can be instrumental in discerning what really happened. 

Compensation Amounts Awarded in Rear-End Crash Claims

Compensation in rear-end crash claims can cover a variety of losses, most often including the following:

  • medical expenses, covering current and future anticipated healthcare costs related to injuries suffered from the accident,
  • lost wages for any salary or wages lost as a result of being unable to work due to the injury,
  • and property damage for the cost of repairing or replacing your vehicle and any other personal belongings that sustained damage. 

Intangible damages, such as compensation for pain and suffering, emotional distress, and a decreased quality of life, may also be awarded.

The amount of damages awarded in rear-end crash claims can be affected by:

  • Severity and duration of injuries
  • Strength and clarity of evidence
  • Quality of legal representation 

There are other factors that can play a role, but these are some of the major ones. 

Insurance Company Limits Also Play a Significant Role

Insurance policy limits are frequently a decisive factor in the total compensation that can be collected from an accident as well. For example:

If you have sustained damages worth $100,000 and the at-fault driver’s insurance policy maximum limit is $50,000, that is the most you could receive from their insurer.

Insurance Companies’ Efforts to Minimize Payouts

It’s common for insurance companies to try to minimize the amount they will pay out in claims. They might contest the severity of injuries sustained, argue over fault and liability, or make low initial settlement offers quickly before victims fully understand the total impact.

Working with Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers can help you fight these tactics, ensuring that you get the compensation you’re entitled to rather than accepting a settlement that undervalues your damages and suffering. 

The Role of a Car Accident Attorney

Hiring a car accident attorney can be the deciding factor between receiving a just settlement for a victim’s injuries and other losses, or settling for less than is deserved. 

Here’s why their expertise is imperative:

  • Legal Expertise: A car accident lawyer understands traffic laws, so they can guide victims through complicated legal situations to achieve a positive outcome.
  • Negotiating Skills: Lawyers are seasoned at negotiating with insurance companies to secure compensation that reflects the legitimate value of the accident.
  • Expert Witnesses: Lawyers have relationships with a variety of subject matter experts, such as medical and accident reconstruction professionals, who can solidify your case by providing credible evidence supporting claims about the nature and cause of injuries. 
  • Representation in Court: Should negotiations fail to result in a fair settlement, an experienced attorney won’t hesitate to escalate matters and file a lawsuit against the appropriate defendant(s).

The Statistics of Rear-End Accidents

Rear-end accidents constitute a significant portion of vehicular incidents, often resulting in injuries and property damage:

  • There are about 1.7 million rear-end collisions worldwide every year. [1]
  • Distraction contributes to nearly 90% of all rear-end crashes. [2]
  • Each year, approximately 1,700 people lose their lives due to injuries from a rear-end collision. [3]
  • 85% of neck injuries from car accidents occur in rear-end crashes. [3]
  • Rear-end car crashes account for almost 30% of all car accidents resulting in serious injuries. [3]
  • 81% of rear-end collisions occur when the front vehicle is stopped. [3] 

The Most Common Causes of Rear-End Car Accidents

Rear end car accidents are among the most frequent on our roads, stemming from a variety of preventable behaviors and conditions. 

Some of the most common causes include:

  • Distracted Driving: Drivers who are distracted by cell phones, eating, or even just talking to passengers may not notice that traffic has slowed or stopped. 
  • Following Too Closely: Tailgating prevents a driver from having sufficient time and distance to slow down if the leading vehicle suddenly brakes.
  • Speeding: Drivers who do not follow the speed limit have less time to react to traffic in front of them, increasing the risk of rear-end collisions upon sudden stops ahead.
  • Poor Road and Weather Conditions: Icy or wet roads can make it difficult to stop quickly, often leading to rear-end collisions if drivers don’t adjust their speed and follow distance accordingly.
  • Abrupt Stops: Sudden braking by the lead vehicle–whether for a traffic signal change, pedestrian crossing, or an obstacle in the road–can catch trailing drivers off guard and result in a crash. 
  • Driver Fatigue: Fatigue can significantly reduce reaction time and awareness of surroundings, leading to rear-end accidents.
  • Driving Under the Influence (DUI): When drivers are impaired by alcohol or drugs, their judgment is compromised. This can greatly impair their reaction times and decision-making abilities, resulting in a failure to maintain safe distances behind other vehicles.

The Most Common Rear End Collision Injuries

Rear-end collisions can lead to a variety of injuries, varying greatly in severity. Some of the most common include:

  • Whiplash
  • Head injuries from hitting the steering wheel
  • Neck injuries
  • Back and spinal cord injuries 
  • Disfigurement 
  • Internal organ damage 
  • Nerve damage 
  • Burns

Severe injuries from rear-end collisions can impose significant physical, emotional, and financial burdens on those affected—with injuries being significantly worse when occupants are not wearing a seat belt. 

What to Do Following a Rear-End Collision

After experiencing a rear-end collision, taking certain steps can be beneficial both for your well-being and any subsequent legal action:

  • Remain On The Scene: It’s critical to stay at the accident site unless you require immediate medical attention, as leaving could result in significant legal penalties.
  • Notify Law Enforcement: Call the police to report the accident. An official police report can be invaluable when dealing with insurance claims or legal proceedings.
  • Seek Medical Attention: Even if injuries appear minor initially, a medical check-up is essential to ensure you’re healthy and to link any injuries to the accident for future claims. 
  • Document the Scene: Take pictures of your vehicle, the location, any visible injuries, and surrounding circumstances that may have contributed to the accident. 
  • Exchange Information: Collect names, contact information, license plate numbers, and insurance information from the other driver and all involved parties. This includes witnesses who can provide statements later on.
  • Report the Incident to Your Insurance Company: Even if you believe the other driver was the at-fault party, it is important to promptly inform your own provider of the collision.
  • Contact an Attorney: Obtaining legal advice ensures that your rights are defended fully and bolsters any eventual compensation claims related to the accident. 

Contact a Rear End Accident Lawyer Today!

Jonathan Rosenfeld, Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer

If you’ve been injured in a rear-end accident, don’t wait to seek legal guidance, as delaying could impact your ability to claim fair compensation for the hardships and losses you’ve suffered. At Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, we’re here to advocate for your rights and strive to secure the justice you’re owed. 

Call us at (888) 424-5757 or reach out to us online today to find out how we can support and assist you through this challenging time.

Resources: [1] Washington Post, [2] NHTSA, [3] EZ Auto Spa

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