When Is a Rear End Collision Not Your Fault?


When is a Rear-End Collision not your Fault in Pennsylvania?

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s rear-end-collision estimates about 22 percent of all car accidents which occurred in 2017 were rear-ended car collisions. Convincing the opposing insurance company that their insured is at fault is not always an easy task, however.

Rear-end collisions are the second-most frequent accident on the road and the single most common accident type. The United States Occupational Safety & Health Administration states that rear-end crashes make up 17% (around one-sixth) of all accident claims accounted for, as well as 38% of the dollars paid out for automobile claims*.

These types of crashes are far more likely to occur when drivers are distracted or when they tailgate the vehicles in front of them. Distractions such as iPods, adjusting the radio, eating, children, pets, and cell phones also increase the likelihood of accidents. Drivers who use cell phones are four times more likely to be in a motor vehicle collision.

A rear-end collision (major or minor) may not result in immediate injuries and sometimes you might not know you were hurt. However, if you are hit from behind by a car, truck, or SUV even at low speeds, you are in danger of developing severe and long-lasting injuries that may affect your quality of life.

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What is the Cause of Most Rear-End Collisions?

In 2017, rear-end car accidents were the second most prevalent form of two-car collisions. A driver who hits the car ahead of him is usually found to be the at-fault driver. However, insurance companies can attempt to defend their at-fault insured drivers by arguing the injured party in the car in front “stopped short.” This is a defense we at Carpey Law often see employed by insurance companies. This is another reason NOT to give the opposing insurance company a statement of any kind following an accident. Insurance representatives are trained to protect their insured, and even what may seem like the most innocuous comments can be used to your disadvantage later in your personal injury case.

Just like any other type of car crashes, rear-end collisions are a major interruption in your life. Luckily, many of the major contributing factors that lead to rear-end collisions can be avoided, which in turn decreases the chances of you having to go through the hassle of an accident. Keeping phones and food put away while behind the wheel allows drivers to stay focused on the road. Additionally, maintaining your car’s break system and practicing safe driving habits can help you avoid a collision in the first place

This is also the case in multi-vehicle collisions, or, chain-reaction collisions. We see insurance companies trying to lay blame on other drivers all the time in cases that we handle. So, don’t help the insurance company by giving them information that will help them defend their insured to your disadvantage. Unfortunately, under Pennsylvania law, the driver who causes the rear-end collision from behind should have been driving a safe enough distance behind any other vehicles such that they he/she has enough time to react and stop, and ultimately avoid a collision.

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Who is at Fault (Liable) in a Rear-End Collision (Hit from Behind)?

Often times, people assume that the driver that hits the car in front of them is automatically at fault for the accident. However, not every rear-ends collision is that straightforward. Insurance companies will often try to shift the blame to the front car, claiming that the driver stopped short or slammed on the breaks, which was the cause of the accident. Other factors can complicate a rear-end collision, including the number of cars involved in the accident, road conditions, and the driving patterns of the drivers involved.

What is important to remember is that under Pennsylvania law, the driver who causes the rear-end collision from behind is typically at fault. The rational is that the individual should have been driving at a distance behind other vehicles that is far enough to allow a sufficient amount of time to react and stop before a collision occurs. Unfortunately, many insurance companies attempt to bully statements out of drivers that make the hit car appear more at fault and protect their own interests. For this reason, never make a statement to another insurance company after you have been in an accident because these statements could be used against you at another time. Instead, politely decline to make a statement, and contact your own insurance company or your accident lawyer.

Even though a rear-end collision in Pennsylvania might seem like a straightforward case to handle from a legal point of view, it is not, given how insurance companies operate. Check out the below articles on our website for more information on this common type of car crash.

  • 5 Simple Ways to Help You Avoid Motor Vehicle Accidents
  • What to Do Following a Rear-End Car Accident in Pennsylvania
  • The Common Sense and Basic Physics of Bumper-to-Bumper Car Accidents

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What Kind of Injuries Can People Get from Rear-End Collisions?

Injuries most commonly associated with rear-end collisions are whiplash injuries. These neck injuries can often occur in a rear-end crash situation as the impact can cause a driver’s neck to jolt backward and forward. The stress of this can cause hyperextension and other damage to the neck. However, neck injuries are not the only injuries commonly resulting from a rear-end collision. In the event of a rear-end collision, it is important to know what kind of injuries might have occurred in the accident. Not only is it essential to evaluate your own physical state following an accident, but it is also beneficial to be able to share that information with emergency responders.

Rear-end collisions are truly unfortunate events. However, knowing what to expect and how to handle the fallout will keep you protected. If you have any questions or concerns, take the time to speak with an experienced accident attorney who can help you navigate the legal system and obtain compensation from an at-fault driver.
Stuart A. Carpey – An Experienced Car Accident Lawyer

Head, neck and back injuries from a rear end collision

What to Do Following a Rear-End Car Accident in Pennsylvania

Car accidents can be stressful ordeals that have the potential to rattle even the most levelheaded people. If you get into an accident you may feel a wave of emotions ranging from scared to angry. However, no matter how you are feeling, it is important to remember not to say too much at the scene of the accident. Often, people say something like “he came out of nowhere,” which, in the long run, could hurt your accident case.

Car accidents seemingly happen when you least expect them. But, after an accident, there are things you can and should do. This is especially true in a rear-end collision crash: whether you are a passenger or a driver; whether you are in a taxi cab or bus; even if you are driving on the job, there are always things you should do.

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What happens When you are Rear-Ended?

When you are rear-ended, your car is often unexpectedly jolted forward with significant force. Since you are sitting inside your vehicle, your body can be aggressively jolted forward as well. Unfortunately, our bodies are not designed to withstand such violent sudden forces and movements. This can cause strains to vulnerable body parts, such as your neck, back and shoulders.

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Do Airbags Go Off in a Rear-End Collision?

For the majority of stock cars, the answer is no. Most cars are equipped with sensors that detect when the damage has been done to the front of the car and deploy the airbags from the dashboard. Unfortunately, this means that when your hit from behind, the sensors do not detect the impact and the airbags fail to deploy. In some cases, there are manufacturers that equip their vehicles with rear airbags, called rear-curtain airbags. These airbags are in place to help prevent injury for rear passengers in the event of a crash.

The following are some useful tips that will help you navigate the aftermath of a car accident:

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Immediately Following Your Accident

  • At the scene, try to find a safe place away from traffic where you can exchange information with the other driver and wait for emergency personnel. It is very important that you call the police and wait for them to arrive, unless it is absolutely impossible for you to do so. If you cannot wait for police to arrive at the scene you should make sure to speak with them as soon as possible.
  • Exchanging information with the other driver is important. Try to obtain as much information as possible, within reason, about the other driver as well as any other passengers who might be in the other driver’s vehicle. Most importantly you need the name, address, and phone number of the other driver as well as the license plate/tag number for the other driver’s vehicle and the state that the license plate is registered. If there are any witnesses to the accident, get their names, phone numbers, and addresses as well.
  • You should also take at look our checklist for what to do at the scene of a car accident.

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Insurance Companies – What to do following an Accident

  • While you are not obligated to contact your insurance company immediately following the accident, we recommend that you do so as soon as you reasonably can. Typically, an insurance policy simply provides that you give them notice of the accident as soon as possible, but it is important to remember that insurance companies do not necessarily have your best interest in mind. They have their own best interest in mind. For this reason, you should always contact an attorney following an automobile accident. An attorney can help you deal with your insurance company and the other driver’s insurance company, as well as help you handle the payment of medical bills and resolutions of property damage.
  • If an insurance adjuster calls you after the accident, you may not know if you should talk to him. You can talk to him, but we do not recommend it. The adjuster will likely want to take a recorded statement about the accident and your injuries. This benefits the insurance company, not you. Some insurance companies will also try to pressure you into settling your case early on in the claim process. Do not fall for that trap. Again, we stress the importance of contacting a qualified attorney who is used to evaluating person injury cases before any settlement offer is considered.
  • Do not sign a release—not for the other driver’s insurance company or your own
  • Insurance company—to get your medical records. Simply put, the other driver’s insurance company is not entitled to a release from you for your medical records. Your own insurance company may be entitled to a release for your medical records so that they can pay your medical bills, but you should defer to your attorney before signing any medical release for an insurance company.

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Your Injuries – In Regards to a Rear-End Car Accident

You should know what all of your damages and injuries are. But, of course, you may not know what they are in the very beginning. That’s why you should seek medical care as soon as possible following the accident. Tell you doctor about all of your injuries, but do not exaggerate. Pain and suffering is one of the main elements of damages in any personal injury case. Keep records of all of your medical bills, and of the expenses, you spent going back and forth to doctors. Keep your receipts for co-pays and deductibles. Do not forget that you are entitled to be reimbursed for any wages that you lose as a result of the accident.

How to Choose the Right Lawyer After a Rear-End Collision

  • If you decide to hire a lawyer to represent you, you should choose one who is not afraid to go to court. Not all lawyers go to court. Some lawyers who handle personal injury cases always settle them. Ask the lawyer whom you might hire whether they are skilled and experienced at trying to rear-end accident cases in Pennsylvania.

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The Process of Settling Your Personal Injury Claim After an Accident

For more information on rear-end car accidents, please see the articles “ “Rear End Collision Crashes,” and “ “Whiplash Neck Injuries,” both of which can be found on the Carpey Law website. You should also request a FREE copy of Purchasing Auto Insurance in Pennsylvania and The Biggest Mistakes That Can Wreck Your Pennsylvania Accident Case, two books written by Stuart A. Carpey.

Rear-end Collision in PA – Is the Driver Who Hit You Always At-Fault?

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation estimates about 22 percent of all car accidents which occurred in 2014 were rear-ended car accidents. All told, this amounts to about 27,000 rear-end collisions resulting in roughly 80 deaths.

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Are you Always at Fault in a Rear-End Collision or is it Always the Other Driver?

In 2014, rear-end car accidents were the second most prevalent form of two-car collisions. With upwards of twenty thousand collisions happening from year-to-year, all drivers must exercise caution behind the wheel. Causing a rear-end collision could mean trouble for you since, statistically, a driver who hits the car ahead of him is found to be the at-fault driver.

However, this is not always the case.

There are a few circumstances which can save a driver from automatic-fault in a rear-end collision in PA.

  • Multi-Collision – This kind of accident is a chain reaction among three or more vehicles. The first car rear-ends the second car, who then rear-ends the third car, and so on. In a case like this, the second car was simply caught in a sort of domino effect.
  • Broken Brake Lights – Sometimes the car which was struck from behind did not have working brake lights or tail lights. In this case, it is harder to find the rear-ender at-fault.
  • The Incautious Pull-out – If a driver is particularly reckless in how he or she backs out of a parking spot or driveway, this driver could cause a vehicle on the roadway to crash into the rear of the car.

Mostly, a rear-end collision in PA occurs when a vehicle is stopped at a traffic light or stop sign and is struck from behind. In these situations, the at-fault driver is easy to identify. Just keep in mind that rear-end accidents are not always so cut-and-dry.
There is a lot to be said regarding a rear-end collision in PA, so you should check out the other articles on this website which delve deeper into this common type of car crash.

And read about injuries commonly associated with rear-end collisions; most notably, whiplash injuries. These neck injuries can often occur in a rear-end crash situation as the impact can cause a driver’s neck to jolt backward and forward. The stress of this can cause hyperextension and other damage to the neck.

If you think you might have a car accident case, contact our personal injury team for a free consultation.

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Injuries from Rear-End Collisions

We often think of rear-end accidents as minor fender benders. However, rear-end accidents can be just as dangerous as head-on collisions. It is still possible to experience severe injuries from rear-end accidents. Here is everything you need to know about rear-end collisions.

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What happens to your Body in a Rear-End Collision?

A lot of what happens to your body in a rear-end collision depends on the speed of the accident. Most rear-end crashes happen when you stop suddenly and the car behind crashes into yours. The momentum of the other vehicle shifts quickly to your car – and your body is thrust forward as an extension. Almost immediately the seat belt stops your forward motion and snaps your body backward. The sudden forward motion can have severe ramifications that don’t always manifest into “injuries” until hours or days later after your head, neck and back smash back into your seat and headrest. When your head violently snaps forward and back like this, its referred to as whiplash. Whiplash is responsible for headaches, neck and back injuries and more. Not only does your head snap forward and back, but your internal organs do the same thing, and can be bruised or even rupture. In some rear-end collisions your airbag may deploy, and this can cause a broken nose, broken glasses, or worse.

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How Long are you Sore after being rear-ended?

Whiplash, muscle aches, headaches and back pain usually go away in mild rear-end collisions after a few days or a few weeks. Sometimes they can become permanent issues though, taking years to go away. Sometimes your physician will recommend pain medication, neck or back braces, physical therapy or even surgery. Everyone’s injuries are unique and should be treated as such.

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What kind of Injuries can you Get in a Rear-End Collision, and Which are Most Common?

One of the most common injuries from rear-end collisions is whiplash, an injury of the neck from sudden, violent movements. When drivers are caught unaware, the severity of the injury can increase due to neck muscles being in a relaxed state instead of contracting, causing further damage through increased movement.

Whiplash is the most common injury from rear-end collisions. However, there are other injuries that can befall drivers in rear-end collisions:

  • Back and Spine Injuries: These injuries are also very common in rear-end collisions. The force of a crash causes extreme stress on the vertebrae in the back, and can lead to slipped or collapsed discs, or a compression of the spine. These injuries can cause excruciating amounts of pain in the back. Spine injuries as a result of a back or head injury can cause nerve problems and even paralysis depending on the overall force of the impact.
  • Head and Face Injuries: Although many drivers are aware of the possibility of whiplash from a collision, others do not think about the possibility of injury to their head and face. Due to the force of impact in a collision, many drivers and passengers hit their head or face on a hard surface inside the vehicle. This can cause bruising, lacerations, concussions, and other trauma. In some cases, deploying airbags have done so with enough force to break bones and even cause head trauma. Brain injuries can also occur in these types of accidents (concussions, for example). In the event of a brain injury, the patient can develop abnormal behavior and difficulty communicating, and left untreated could be permanently impaired or even die. Depending on the accident and where you were hit, these injuries can be very debilitating, cause facial disfigurement, and possibly lead to death.

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Should I see a Doctor if I Get into a Rear-end Collision?

If you find yourself injured in a rear-end collision, or are concerned that you might be, it is in your best interest to visit a doctor, urgent care or emergency room. Many drivers do not notice symptoms from their accidents until hours or days afterwards, at which point their injuries could have become more severe. Only a qualified doctor can tell you whether your injury is worth worrying about.

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Can you Sue for Rear-End Collision?

Every rear-end accident is different. The facts of each accident dictate whether or not you have a viable lawsuit. This can be a murky subject to navigate, but a skilled lawyer can help guide you on how to proceed. If you have experienced injuries from a rear-end accident, you should consult a lawyer to see if a lawsuit is a good option for you.

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Whiplash and Other Neck Injuries Due to Rear-End Collisions

Thousands of rear-end car accidents occur each and every day across the United States. Many times these car accidents result in an injury known as whiplash. Unfortunately, insurance companies typically downplay the severity of whiplash. In fact, the insurance companies have been so successful in downplaying whiplash that the term has developed a negative connotation.

Whiplash is a broad term used to describe neck pain following an injury to the soft tissues of your neck (specifically ligaments, tendons, and muscles). The term whiplash was first used in 1928. Its origins are from doctors who viewed the neck and spinal column as a rope or whip. These doctors noticed that in rear-end collisions the spine lengthens and the patient rises up out of his/her seat. As this occurs the lower back is propelled forward and your head and neck whip backward. The initial backward movement and sudden lengthening of the front neck muscles result in a reflexive contraction of those same muscles and causes the neck and head to lash forward. Doctors simply put the two terms together to come up with whiplash.

There are hundreds of scientific papers discussing injuries to soft neck tissue following a car accident. Here are just a few: Acceleration-deceleration injuries: ‘Whiplash Syndrome’, which described the risk of injury to certain muscle groups and how to protect children, and Simon Fraser University ‘Whiplash Study’ which showed that 60 percent of those who have whiplash will still have problems 6 months after the injury. Whiplash is not a theory. It is a fact.

For instance, a study by Yale University School of Medicine used cadavers to simulate what happens to the neck when a person is involved in a rear-end collision. The study revealed the three following things:

  • In a rear-end collision the spine deforms into an S shape. This deformation causes compression in the facet joints, which damages cartilage and leads to pain.
  • Damage to the spine occurs before a person is aware they are in a car accident and before reflexes can protect the neck.
  • Damage to the spine and neck can occur in very low-speed car accidents. The Yale University study indicated that whiplash could occur at speeds as low as 2.5 mph.

But what does this mean to you and your car accident case? It means that even in low-speed car accidents, where there is little or no visible damage to the vehicle, there can be a severe neck injury. So, if you have been in an accident and you are suffering from a neck you should be medically evaluated as soon as possible following the trauma.

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How do Insurance Claims Work in a Rear-End Collision?

Insurance claims essentially work the same for a rear-end accident as they do for any other accident. However, depending on the law of the state where the accident occurs, an insurance adjuster might handle your claim differently. In most states, whether a no-fault state or not, you can file a claim with the insurance carrier for the at-fault driver which allows you compensation for your damages. However, you may be limited to your carrier’s personal injury protection coverage for medical payments in no-fault states. This can be another tricky issue to navigate that often requires the advice of a qualified lawyer, and you should never hesitate to speak with an attorney who is able to answer your questions.

Rear-end accidents are just as serious as any other accident. If you’ve been rear-ended, and you’re worried that you have sustained injuries from that accident, call a personal injury attorney to talk about your case.

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How do you Get Paid After being Rear-Ended?

In order to receive compensation for the accident and any medical expenses or pain and suffering, you must file a claim with your insurance company. In case your insurance company won’t meet the amount you think you deserve, it is always a good idea to consult a personal injury lawyer who can help you determine whether you have a legitimate case. Most rear-end cases never go to court because it is usually clear who the negligent party was, and your lawyer can usually reach a satisfactory settlement with the other party’s insurance company.

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Should I Accept the First Offer for Whiplash?

The insurance company for the driver that was negligent usually offers a settlement amount and at that point your lawyer may need to begin negotiating. Your lawyer will need to prove your claims of injuries, damages, lost income and pain and suffering. If it looks like negotiations are at an impasse, your lawyer may file a lawsuit for you against the other party if they had insurance at the time of your accident.

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How much should a Rear-End Collision Settlement be?

Many factors determine whether you will get a few thousand or million dollars for your settlement. The damage is part of the settlement, as are your medical bills, income loss, and pain and suffering. The settlement also depends on proof of gross negligence by the other party. The best way to estimate your potential rear-end collision settlement is to speak about your case with a personal injury lawyer in your area.

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How Long Until I Receive Compensation after a Rear-End Collision Settlement?

Settlement for minor cases usually takes between 30 to 90 days. Cases that go to court can take years to reach a settlement.

After settlement, your attorney will sign a release for funds and send it to the other party’s insurance adjuster. The adjuster will send a check to your attorney within a few weeks. Your attorney will then send you your portion of the check-in a few weeks.

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Will my Insurance Go Up If Someone Rear-Ends Me?

The answer to this question depends on who is determined to be “at fault”. If you were not at fault, your insurance will not go up.

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Learn more Information on Rear-End Car Crash Accidents.

Request a free copy of the book written by Stuart A. Carpey, Purchasing Auto Insurance in Pennsylvania. This book discusses how you can protect your family by purchasing the correct type of car insurance. Call 1-610-834-6030 or visit www.thepennsylvaniaautoinsurancebook.com to request your copy of Purchasing Auto Insurance in Pennsylvania, and find out why it’s extremely important that you not only understand your car insurance policy but choose the kind of insurance coverage that will protect you and your family.

  • Were you rear-ended while stopped at a red traffic light?
  • Hit from behind while stopped in traffic on a major highway or the Pennsylvania turnpike?
  • Were you rear-ended by a truck, SUV, or other large vehicles?
  • Were you rear-ended while stopping at a toll-booth?

If you live in the Greater Philadelphia area and have been injured in a rear-end collision on a roadway, turnpike, or highway, call Carpey Law for information on how to best handle your case. If you’re suffering spinal cord injury, neck injury, head injury, back injury, or any other form of serious injury, we can help, from dealing with the medical bills, getting your car repaired, and dealing with the insurance company.
* www.osha.gov.