What Should Drivers Know about Rear-End Collisions?

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Rear-End Collisions

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that nearly one-third of all car accidents in the United States are rear-end collisions. According to one source, that amounts to over one million crashes annually. Seven percent of those accidents are fatal.

These accidents are especially scary for the driver in front, who may not see the vehicle approaching from the back or see it but not have time to react. Fortunately, rear-end car accidents are largely preventable. Learning how and why rear-end car accidents occur can prevent debilitating personal injury and save lives.

Anatomy of a Rear-End Car Accident

A rear-end accident happens when the front bumper of one vehicle collides with the rear of another. Although that seems pretty straightforward, injuries and property damage these accidents cause vary depending on how fast the vehicles were traveling, if there was any effort to stop, and if the passengers were wearing seat belts.

Injuries are more likely to be serious or even fatal if the following vehicle is driving at a high rate of speed or is on the larger side, such as a commercial tractor trailer.

Common Causes of Rear-End Accidents

Rear-end car accidents happen for many reasons. Some come down to driver negligence, whereas others are more external, such as like bad weather. Here is a closer look at some of the common factors involved in rear-end motor vehicle crashes.

Distractions. According to NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts from 2020, approximately 400,000 people were hurt and more than 2,800 people were killed in distracted-driving accidents in a single year.  There are three types of driver distractions:

  • Cognitive: When the driver’s mind wanders away from the task of driving.
  • Manual: Those that take the driver’s hands off the wheel.
  • Visual: Those that take one’s eyes off the road.

Although mobile phones are a leading source of deadly distraction for drivers, there are plenty of others. Eating behind the wheel, grabbing to pick up something that has fallen, or turning to talk to another passenger for just a few seconds is enough to cause a fatal rear-end accident.

Fatigue. Drowsy driving is another leading cause of rear-end accidents. Drowsiness impacts a driver’s ability to make good decisions, pay attention to the road, and react in time to steer or brake suddenly.

Commercial truckers, shift workers, and drivers with untreated sleep disorders are especially at risk. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that an estimated one in 25 drivers admits to falling asleep behind the wheel at some time.

Road hazards. Unfortunately, drivers are at the mercy of conditions on the roads they travel. If the leading driver stops to avoid debris or damage, such as a pothole, the next driver may not have sufficient time to brake. This also happens when animals get loose in the road. One driver may stop to avoid a deer, squirrel, or dog, giving the driver behind them no option but to collide.

Speeding. Fast-moving vehicles are more difficult to control and stop quickly. Speeding reduces the time and space a driver has to react to a slowed or stopped vehicle ahead of them. High speeds also increase the force of impact in a rear-end accident and the chance of serious injuries.

Tailgating. Tailgating is following too closely to the car ahead. It does not allow any space or distance to react if the car in front stops suddenly. Tailgating is actually considered a form of aggressive driving; in Maryland, it can be a two- or three-point traffic offense, depending on if it results in a traffic accident.

Traffic jams. Anyone with some experience driving on a major highway has probably known the feeling of moving along at a decent speed only to come up abruptly on traffic that has come to a complete stop.  This stop-start flow of traffic is common during rush hour and around traffic accidents and construction zones.

Drivers who do not take a defensive approach when navigating traffic congestion are more likely to collide with a stopped vehicle in front of them.

Vehicle defects. In some cases, it is neither the driver nor the road conditions that cause a rear-end accident. It is the vehicle itself. Although they are less common, vehicle defects do happen, and they can cause dangerous accidents. Brake failures and tire blowouts are two common equipment problems that interfere with safe stopping and cause drivers to lose control.

Weather. Wet or slippery road surfaces can cause vehicles to skid out of control and affect stopping time. Although bad weather is out of drivers’ control, they do have duty to adjust driving accordingly, slowing down and increasing following distance when road conditions are questionable.

Rear-End Crash Injuries

Rear-end car accidents can result in death. But, more often, they cause survivable injuries that leave victims with pain, trauma, medical bills, and lost income. A few of the most common injuries caused by rear-end collisions include the following trauma:

  • Back injuries: Including spine compression, bulging or herniated disks, paralysis.
  • Broken bones: Fractured bones throughout the body.
  • Facial injuries: Facial trauma from impact with the steering wheel or airbag.
  • Head injuries: Concussion and other traumatic brain injury (TBI) from impact with the steering wheel, dash, or windshield.
  • Neck injuries: Sudden jolt of the head can cause whiplash and damage to the delicate bones and tissue of the neck.
  • Seat belt injuries: The force of seat belt restraint can leave cuts and bruises of the neck, shoulders, and torso.

It should be noted a vehicle that rear-ends the car in front of them does not have to be speeding to cause these injuries. Serious car accident injuries can happen when a vehicle is going as slowly as 20 miles per hour.

What to Do After a Rear-End Accident

Rear-end accidents are unnerving, especially for the driver in front who may not have seen it coming. To protect passengers and prevent secondary collisions, drivers should take the following steps after a rear-end traffic crash:

  • Come to a complete stop and turn on the hazard lights to alert other drivers.
  • Check everyone in the vehicle for injuries. Never move anyone who appears to be hurt.
  • Call 911 for assistance. File a police report at the scene.
  • Gather contact information from the other driver, including driver’s license number, address and phone number, and insurance information.
  • Take pictures of the accident scene, including damage to any vehicles or structures.
  • See a doctor. Even passengers who do not have pain or symptoms may develop injuries in the hours and days that follow.
  • Contact a skilled car accident lawyer to review the case and recommend the next best step to take.

Throughout this process, it is important to avoid accepting fault for the accident, to the police, the insurance company, or the other driver. Drivers should let the accident investigation take its course and consult with a lawyer before making any statements regarding the rear-end collision.

Who is to Blame for a Rear-End Collision?

It is often assumed that when a rear-end car accident happens, the driver in back is always to blame. But that is not always the case. If the first driver is not paying attention and turns without signaling or stops short, the driver behind them may not have time to avoid a collision. Of course, if the second driver is looking down at their phone or tailgating, they are most likely to blame.

Either way, it is best to avoid assuming liability for any type of accident and let the investigation proceed.  It is best to defer to the police, lawyers, witnesses, and evidence to reveal how and why the accident occurred and who was the negligent party.

Damages for Car Accidents in Maryland

When an unfortunate rear-end accident happens, victims are often left with physical pain and suffering, costly medical bills, and damage to their vehicle, not to mention lost wages if they are too hurt to work.

This is where the representation of a lawyer is invaluable. The lawyer deals with the insurance company on the injured party’s behalf to seek fair and reasonable compensation for their losses and to support their recovery.

Lawyers will gather and review police reports, medical records, and other evidence. Based on those details, they submit a demand package to the insurance company stating their position on liability. If a settlement cannot be reached with the insurance company, the lawyer and their client can pursue a claim in court.

A seasoned personal injury lawyer understands Maryland code and has experience tackling tough rear-end accident claims. They are the single best resource for injured accident victims to recover damages and hold negligent drivers accountable.

Baltimore Car Accident Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Represent Clients Harmed by Negligent Drivers in Maryland

Being in a rear-end collision is a frightening experience. Although the hope is passengers can escape unharmed, that is unfortunately not always the case. The Baltimore car accident lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton know how devastating a serious accident can be. We will leave no stone unturned to build the strongest case possible so you can recover compensation and focus on healing. We will not stop fighting for you until we have your complete satisfaction. Call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online for a free consultation.

Our offices are conveniently located in BaltimoreColumbiaGlen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, where we represent victims throughout Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel CountyCarroll CountyHarford CountyHoward CountyMontgomery CountyPrince George’s CountyQueen Anne’s CountyMaryland’s Western CountiesSouthern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of CatonsvilleEssexHalethorpeMiddle RiverRosedale, Gwynn OakBrooklandvilleDundalkPikesvilleParkvilleNottinghamWindsor MillLuthervilleTimoniumSparrows PointRidgewood, and Elkridge.