A study from the U.S. National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) in 2015 found the most common car accident involves a rear-end collision. Even low speed rear-end collisions can cause injuries because of the forces involved.

Here is what you need to know about rear-end collisions and how to recover compensation for them.

What Happens in a Rear-End Collision?

A rear-end collision is a car accident where a vehicle strikes another vehicle from behind. Almost all rear-end collisions occur when the trailing vehicle collides with the lead vehicle as it decelerates or stops. Some common causes of rear-end collisions include:

  • Inattention: Distracted or impaired driving can slow down a driver’s recognition time. This can slow a driver’s reaction to another car’s brake lights.
  • Aggressive driving: Risky maneuvers like cutting another driver off or following too closely can lead to rear-end collisions.
  • Poor driving conditions: Slick roads and low visibility can reduce a driver’s ability to brake in time to avoid a rear-end collision.
  • Vehicle malfunction: A vehicle with bad brakes or bald tires might malfunction at the wrong time, leading to a rear-end collision.

In most of these situations, the front vehicle cannot escape the collision because it is trapped by other vehicles, stop signs, or traffic lights. Worse yet, in many situations, the occupants of the front vehicle are unable to brace themselves for the crash because they never see it coming.

Common Injuries in a Rear-End Collision

In a rear-end collision, the impact pushes your body forward. But your unrestrained head snaps backward before snapping forward as your vehicle comes to a stop after the crash.

This is exactly the opposite of what happens in a front-end collision. Unfortunately, this means that airbags and seat belts are unable to protect you from injuries the way they would during a front-end crash. As a result, rear-end collisions can lead to injuries such as:

Whiplash

A common injury resulting from rear-end collisions is neck strain, also known as whiplash. This injury is characterized by neck pain, headaches, and stiffness or weakness in the neck. Severe whiplash can cause nerve injuries that cause pain, weakness, or numbness in the arms and shoulders.

Back Injuries

The impact of a rear-end collision can place enormous stress on your back. These forces can fracture vertebrae, compress intervertebral discs, and strain back muscles. Broken bones and ruptured or herniated discs can cause back pain. Worse yet, they can create pressure on the spinal cord, leading to pain, weakness, numbness, or even paralysis in the torso and lower limbs.

Brain Injuries

Concussions occur when the brain strikes the inside of the skull. These injuries can lead to impaired brain function. Symptoms tend to include confusion, dizziness, loss of balance, and drowsiness. Concussion symptoms can last for weeks. Post-concussion syndrome can lead to long-term physical, behavioral, and mental changes.

Severe rear-end collisions, such as those involved in truck accidents, can even result in death. In fact, NHTSA statistics show that rear-end collisions cause about 1,700 traffic deaths every year.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Rear-End Collision Injuries

You should seek medical attention after a rear-end collision. Many of the injuries caused by rear-end collisions result in symptoms that can manifest long after the accident. For example, the full extent of injuries to the spinal cord or brain might not be felt for weeks or months. But an immediate diagnosis of your injuries can help you receive the treatment you need.

Doctors use a variety of tools to diagnose injuries resulting from vehicle accidents. X-rays can identify fractured vertebrae and other broken bones. CT scans can identify injuries to spinal discs and the brain.

However, doctors have very few tools to definitively diagnose injuries to the spinal cord and nerves. Instead, doctors often diagnose these injuries based on the symptoms presented.

Muscle strain, like whiplash, can often be treated with anti-inflammatory medication and physical therapy to help the body heal itself. Other injuries, particularly neurological injuries, might never heal. As a result, a rear-end collision might produce lifelong symptoms and disabilities.

Liability for Rear-End Collisions

To receive compensation for any auto accident in Texas, you must prove fault. In almost all cases, fault means showing that the other driver was negligent in causing the crash.

For rear-end collisions, the driver in the rear vehicle usually acted negligently. Negligence simply requires you to show that the driver failed to act with the reasonable care expected of drivers. If the driver of the trailing vehicle drove too fast, followed too closely, or failed to pay proper attention, the driver was probably negligent.

In fact, Texas law recognizes a doctrine called “negligence per se.” Under this doctrine, a driver who broke a traffic law while causing an auto accident has acted negligently. This relieves the injured person of proving negligence. As a result, the injured person can establish liability by providing evidence of the injury and proving that the traffic violation caused it.

Thus, suppose the driver in the trailing car is arrested for drunk driving. Everyone injured in the accident can use the negligence per se doctrine to generate a presumption that the driver was negligent. Under the doctrine, the plaintiffs would be pointing out that the driver was intoxicated in violation of Texas state law and, in turn, was negligent. Then it would be up to the tailing driver to disprove that in order to avoid liability for the crash.

On the other hand, rear-end collisions are occasionally caused by the driver in the leading car. For example, if a driver swerves into another vehicle’s lane without cause, that driver might have been responsible for causing the accident.

Compensation for a Rear-End Collision

Drivers and passengers injured in a rear-end collision can recover compensation for bodily injuries and property damage to their vehicles.

Some of the types of damages recoverable in a personal injury lawsuit against the negligent driver include:

Because drivers in Texas are required to maintain liability insurance, the at-fault driver’s insurance company will handle your claim. In most cases, you should consider hiring a personal injury attorney to document your claim, negotiate with the insurance company to try to settle the case, and file a lawsuit if a settlement is not possible.