The Forward Truth Of Rear-End Collisions

Car accidents can happen in many different situations. They might occur due to speedy highway driving or bumper-to-bumper traffic, but they can also occur on side streets and in parking lots. How vehicles collide with other vehicles, objects, and even pedestrians impacts the resulting injuries. Let’s look at one type of car accident that is all too common on Florida’s roadways: the rear-end collision.

Rear-end collisions are traffic accidents that occur when one car crashes into a car in front of it. Rear-endings can be caused by sudden deceleration (slowing down or braking) by the first car, or when the following car accelerates more rapidly than the vehicle in front of it. Injuries to the occupants of the impacted vehicle are usually much worse. Whiplash is an injury in rear-impact collisions, even when the wreck occurs at a moderate speeds. The driver of the car that rear-ends the other car is usually considered to be at fault due to not being within stopping distance, or following too closely, or lack of attention. An exception is when the impacted vehicle is in reverse gear. If the driver of the car that was rear-ended files a claim against the driver who hit him, said driver could be responsible for damages.

Rear-end accidents tend to happen on smaller, two-lane roads, particularly in more urban settings or near the center of town where traffic is heavier and frequent stops are made. They are probably  the most common of all auto accidents, often resulting in injuries to the back, neck and extremities of motorists in the vehicle that is struck. In juries from these types of accidents can include:

  • Whiplash
  • Ruptured disks and bulging disks
  • Concussions
  • Fractures and broken bones
  • Shoulder injuries


Whiplash, Neck and back Injuries

You may not realize it, but rear-end collisions are frequently seen by insurance companies as mere “whiplash” claims. However, the fact is that whiplash can lead to very serious, debilitating injuries that can make it impossible for the injured party to function, or to go to work – sometimes permanently. While many people don’t know this, the word “whiplash” is not even a medical term. It describes what are more accurately known as “cervical acceleration-deceleration” injuries, which is a medical term that describes a sudden, rapid back-and-forth movement of the neck.

There is nothing new about these injuries: They have been around since humankind rode on anything that moved – horses, wagons, trains, cars. In most rear-end collisions, a vehicle’s driver doesn’t have ample time to react properly to avoid the crash. Neck, back, and shoulder injuries that occur due to rear-end car collisions can result in headaches, pain in the arms and legs, and numbness – and far from being “minor,” they can last for years, or even become permanent. Some typical causes of rear-end car crashes in St. Petersburg and Tampa include:

  • Tailgating
  • Sudden stopping by the car ahead of you
  • Rapid acceleration by the car behind you
  • Congested streets and highways
  • Stop-and-go traffic
  • Sudden stopping due to panic
  • Red-light cameras
  • Defective vehicles

The risk of serious or fatal injuries in rear-end collisions can also be impacted by the size of the vehicles involved in the crash. If your car is struck from behind by a larger vehicle, it can plunge your car into the vehicle in front of you, with horrible consequences for both drivers. In addition, if your car hits the rear of a larger vehicle – say, a huge truck — your car can be forced under the truck. Sometimes, a defective vehicle claim can result from a rear-end collision. Beginning with the famous Ford Pinto claims of the 1970’s, there have been many cases involving defectively-designed gas tanks or similar engineering defects that exacerbated a collision. Similar defective design cases can be sometimes brought in cases where a smaller car is thrown under a large commercial truck that doesn’t have what are called “override guards” that are designed to reduce the chance of serious or fatal injuries.


What Does Whiplash Feel Like?

Symptoms usually appear within 24 hours following the incident that caused the whiplash. However, sometimes symptoms may develop after a few days and can last several weeks. Common symptoms include:

  • neck pain and stiffness
  • headaches (specifically at the base of the skull)
  • dizziness
  • blurred vision
  • constant weariness

Less common symptoms associated with long-term chronic whiplash include:

  • problems with concentration and memory
  • ringing in the ears
  • inability to sleep well
  • irritability

You should follow up with your doctor immediately if your symptoms spread to your shoulders or arms, if moving your head is painful, or if you have numbness or weakness in your arms.

It is important to seek medical attention immediately if you have been involved in a rear end car accident, even if you don’t seem to be hurt. Often, it may take days, weeks, or even months for your injuries to appear. It is important to detect these injuries right away so that you can receive the medical treatment you need and prove that your injury was in fact caused by the rear end car accident.


Proving Fault in a Rear End Car Accident

Drivers are required by law to leave enough space to come to a safe stop in the event that the driver in front of them stops short. Therefore, fault in rear end car accidents is almost always 100% attributed to the driver in the rear car.

However, there are certain situations where the driver in the front car may shoulder some of the liability for the car accident. This may occur if the front driver’s brake or signal lights are not working properly, or if the front driver fails to use turn signals.

If you have been rear ended by another car, it is important to call the police immediately. The police officer arriving at the accident scene will fill out a report indicating fault. This information will be of great assistance when you file your car accident claim.