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What Should Drivers Know about Rear-End Collisions?

Posted on: September 9, 2021

Rear-end car accidents usually happen when one vehicle is stopped and another comes up from behind at a high speed. Many rear-end collisions happen at very slow speeds as well. The all-too-familiar picture of a driver or passenger getting rear-ended by another vehicle brings to mind thoughts of whiplash, but the injuries can be much more, or much less, severe. This also applies to the car damage, and the severity of the consequences depends on how fast the vehicles were moving, if at all; how many vehicles were involved; where the injured people were in the vehicle; and when the accident occurred.

How Do Rear-End Collisions Occur?

These kinds of accidents are more common than one might think: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that close to 30 percent of all motor vehicle accidents are rear-end collisions, and these accidents also account for seven percent of all auto accident fatalities. In most cases, negligence causes rear-rend collisions. Some of the main reasons for rear-end collisions are tailgating, speeding, fatigued driving, ignoring traffic signals, inexperience and/or poor judgment, mechanical problems, and driving under the influence.

Tailgating happens when a driver is following a vehicle in front too closely. To stay safe, it is essential to follow at a safe distance. Tailgaters increase the risk for rear-end collisions, which can happen when the car in front suddenly slows or stops. Not having enough room to brake causes accidents. Large tractor-trailers and other kinds of trucks need to increase their following distances even further, since it takes longer for them to come to complete stops.

Drivers in the front vehicles can also be responsible for causing rear-end collisions. This can happen when that car’s brake lights are not working or if that driver slams on their brakes suddenly. Other reasons could be if that driver neglects to use the turn signal while slowing down to turn, or if they put their car in reverse while in traffic.

What Injuries can Rear-End Collisions Cause?

Even if a car is going as slow as 20 miles per hour, a rear-end collision can cause significant injuries. When the impact occurs, the person and vehicle are suddenly jerked forward without time to brace against the impact. The head snaps forward and then backward violently, and if the victim is wearing a seat belt, the body also snaps back, which can make the head and spine smash against the seat. This reaction can lead to injuries all along the person’s spine.

The internal organs are also jerked forward and backward and can be forced up against the ribcage and other rigid internal surfaces. When this happens, the organs can even tear or rupture. Even though seat belts and airbags save lives and reduce serious car accident injuries by about half, they are not without risk. Seat belts and airbags both employ force to protect passengers, but this also creates the risk of whiplash, spinal injuries, broken bones, abdominal injuries, and concussions. They do protect drivers and front seat passengers from slamming into steering wheels and dashboards, so the benefits do outweigh the costs.

Whiplash is the most common rear-end collision injury and can tear neck muscles, tendons, and ligaments. This can happen even if the accident was seemingly minor. One report found that whiplash occurs even at speeds as low as 10 miles per hour; this is a common scenario at stop signs and stoplights. Symptoms include stiffness and neck pain but may also include headaches, shoulder problems, fatigue, and dizziness.

This is one kind of injury that may not present itself immediately after an accident, with symptoms not showing up until afterwards. That is why it is so important to seek medical attention; whiplash should be diagnosed with an X-ray. Back to the topic of headaches, rear-end collisions can lead to injuries that cause this problem. A pinched nerve, muscle spasms, and concussions are also common in rear-end collisions, and any of these can cause mild, moderate, or severe headaches and neck aches.

What Other Injuries can Rear-End Collisions Cause?

Some people also experience acute neck and back pain after these collisions, often owing to herniated disks. These are in the spinal column, located between each vertebra. A traumatic rear-end collision can cause them to dislocate or rupture; when this happens, the person can feel pain, numbness, weakness throughout the body and tingling.

Bad muscle strains are also common, and those can occur in the back and other parts of the body. Arm and wrist injuries can happen as well, such as stress fractures, serious sprains, tendon damage, and dislocated shoulders. After an initial diagnosis, doctors may recommend surgical procedures, chiropractic care, medications, physical therapy, and other treatments for rear-end collision injuries.

There are also victims who experience traumatic brain injuries after rear-end collisions. The force of the crash can cause one’s brain to hit the skull in different spots. This can result in bleeding, tearing, bruising, and swelling. Unfortunately, brain injuries can result in long-term symptoms that can also impact a person’s quality of life. Again, getting a medical evaluation as soon as possible after the accident, and follow-up care, is the best course of action.

What if My Car is Damaged from a Rear-End Collision?

Just like the injuries, vehicle damage from a rear-end collision may not be immediately apparent. It is crucial to look over the vehicle after the accident, and having a mechanic handle this is well advised. Here are some important things to check over:

  • Look for kinks and distortions on right and left rear rails and the trunk floor pan.
  • See if the rear bumper and taillights look out of alignment or different from each other in any way.
  • The door and trunk gaps should be even, without any tight spots.
  • Make sure that the rear suspension area and suspension components are not damaged.
  • There may be damage in the roof, sail panel, and vehicle quarter panels. Check for buckling and sagging.

It makes sense to take pictures of any damage that is found. Even if the problems are not visible to the naked eye, rear-ended vehicles can have crooked steering wheels, noisy steering, vibrations, squealing tires, and uneven tire wear. Modern cars have delicate and complex components, and even the lightest tap on the back can cause significant, expensive problems. Rear-end collisions can also damage vehicle engines and drivetrains, transmissions, electrical systems, and safety features such as rear-view cameras. Also, it can take a collision center weeks or even months to complete the repairs.

What Should I Do after a Rear-End Collision?

These kinds of accidents can be traumatic, and victims can be seriously injured or and/or momentarily confused afterwards. No one involved should leave the scene, and it is best to stay as calm as possible. The vehicle should be put in park and the hazard lights should be turned on. Everyone should be checked for injuries and not moved if there are any serious injuries. Emergency services should then be called. If the accident occurred in a high-traffic, dangerous area, the vehicles should be moved into a safe area such as a shoulder or parking lot.

Since many drivers who cause rear-end collisions will attempt to drive away, it is a good idea to snap photos of their license plates as quickly as possible. While help is on the way, drivers and passengers can photograph the scene and get contact information from all involved and any possible witnesses. It is important to never admit fault to anyone at the accident scene, including law enforcement officers. The auto insurance provider can be contacted and given the basic facts about the accident. If another driver caused the rear-end collision because of negligence, an experienced car accident lawyer may be able to help.

Freehold Car Accident Lawyers at Ellis Law are Experienced with Rear-End Collision Cases

If you were involved in a rear-end collision and need sound legal advice, get in touch with the experienced Freehold car accident lawyers at Ellis law. We will protect your rights and fight to get you the compensation you deserve. For a free consultation, call us at 732-308-0200 or complete our online form. We are located in Freehold, New Jersey, and help clients throughout Freehold, East Brunswick, Toms River, Middletown, Jersey City, Neptune, Hudson County, Union County, Essex County, Monmouth County, Marlboro, and Ocean County, as well as Brooklyn, New York, and New York City.