Rear end collisions happen every day. Of the six-million accidents that occur annually in the U.S., 40 percent are rear-end collisions; and according to 2016 statistics, in Wisconsin, about 116,301 crashes involved injuries, property damage, or death. Rear end collisions are very common, and people tend to presume that the fault rests with the driver who rear-ended the car in front. However, that is not always completely true.
Causes of Rear-End Collisions
All drivers have a duty to follow other cars at a safe distance because unanticipated stops sometimes happen. Rear end collisions may be caused by a variety of factors, such as distractions, weather conditions, or other circumstances such as:
- Driving while intoxicated
- Distracted driving
- A car in front suddenly stopping or reversing
- Weather or other hazardous road conditions
- Construction zones
- Breakdowns or other accidents
- Brake light failure
- People, animals, or objects in the road
Many rear-end accidents can be avoided by allowing a safe distance from the car ahead of you and by maintaining a consistent speed if you are driving the car in front.
Determining Fault in a Rear-End Collision
Under Wisconsin law, if a court determines you were 51 percent or more responsible for an accident than the other driver, then you are barred from recovering compensation. However, if you are 50 percent or less responsible for the crash, then you can still recover compensation. If you were partially at fault, your compensation would be adjusted according to your percentage of responsibility. Therefore, it is essential to have experienced attorneys investigate the accident and collect evidence.
Generally, the driver of the following car is considered partially or fully at fault because they should have allowed a safe distance between the cars. However, it is possible for the driver of the car that has been rear-ended also to be negligent and thereby contribute to the accident. Some of these situations include:
- The driver suddenly puts the car into reverse
- The driver makes a sudden and erratic maneuver
- The brake lights of the car in front do not work
- The driver in front has a flat tire, or some other mechanical failure, but does not pull off the road or turn on warning lights
- The driver stops to turn but fails to complete the turn
Common Injuries Caused by Rear-End Collisions
You may assume that a rear-end collision is just a “fender bender,” and not a serious cause for concern. However, because rear-end collisions happen so frequently, they are a major cause of many personal injuries. Some of these injuries include:
- Whiplash. Whiplash is a sudden, violent movement of the neck and head. It can damage the soft tissues. Whiplash is the most frequent injury from a rear-end collision, but the symptoms may not be immediately apparent. Of those who suffer a whiplash injury, many experience pain, and soreness for more than a week and in some cases, for a year or more.
- Back injuries. Even at low speeds, the force of impact can cause compression of the spine and discs in the lower spinal column. A severe brain or spinal injury can even leave the victim partially or completely paralyzed.
- Traumatic head injuries. Head injuries are very serious and may result in a concussion, loss of consciousness, swelling, abnormal changes in behavior, and cognitive difficulties. As with whiplash, the symptoms of a traumatic brain injury may take days or weeks to become apparent.
- Facial disfigurement. This may be more serious than a cosmetic problem. Injuries such as a broken nose, jaw, or detached retina may require extensive medical care and surgeries.
- Wrist and arm injuries. If a driver anticipates a crash, they will probably brace themselves by gripping the steering wheel. This can lead to injuries such as broken or sprained wrists or dislocated shoulders.
- Seatbelt and airbag injuries. Seatbelts and airbags save lives, but in some cases, they may also cause injuries, such as bruising, or broken bones.
Compensation for a Rear End Accident
Once the other driver’s negligence has been established, you may wish to pursue compensation for your physical, psychological, and financial damages. You may be able to collect compensation for losses such as:
- Medical bills
- Lost wages
- Loss of earning capacity
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional and psychological distress
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of companionship
- Property damage, if applicable
- Punitive Damages, if applicable
Call the Groth Law Firm After a Rear-End Crash
If you were in a rear-end collision, attend to the following important matters.
The first is to immediately seek medical attention. Remember that some injuries do not show up until later. Provide accurate and complete information about your condition. Do not either exaggerate or minimize your injuries, or state that you have no injuries. It is best to seek care immediately. After the initial medical care, always keep your scheduled doctor visits. Getting medical care is not only important for your health, but also for any claims you may file in the future. Contact the police and call your insurance company. If possible, take photographs of both cars and the accident scene. Write down the names and contact information of witnesses.
Rear end collisions may seem like minor accidents, but they can have long term consequences. No matter which car you were driving, do not assume that the driver of the following car is automatically and fully responsible. It is important in these accidents to gather as much information as possible, promptly and accurately. It’s wise to consult an attorney who has experience with car accident claims as soon as possible. Our personal injury attorneys have represented clients across Wisconsin. We have the skills and resources to zealously protect your rights and obtain any compensation you are owed. For more information, contact Groth Law online or call Groth Law Firm at (414) 240-0707.