When you are rear-ended, your car (any everyone inside) is unexpectedly jolted forward with significant force. Our bodies are not designed to withstand such violent sudden forces and typically airbags do not deploy when you are hit from behind. This can cause strains to vulnerable body parts, such as your neck, back and shoulders.
What Happens to Your Body During a Rear-End Collision?
Rear end collision injuries are more severe when one car is moving much faster than the other during the collision. Most rear-end crashes happen when you stop suddenly and the car behind crashes into yours. Depending on the speed of your rear end collision, 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 such as whiplash.
What Kind of Injuries Can People Get 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 possible to experience severe injuries from rear-end accidents. Here are the most common rear end collision injuries.
Injuries most commonly associated with rear-end collisions are whiplash injuries. Whiplash is responsible for headaches, neck and back injuries and more.
Whiplash occurs when your head violently snaps forward and back during a collision. The stress of this can cause hyperextension and other damage to the neck. In rear-end collisions, the spine lengthens and the driver and passengers rise up out of their seats. 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.
The ‘Whiplash Study’ at Simon Fraser University showed that 60% of those who have whiplash will still have problems 6 months after the injury. 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).
Other Neck Injuries
When drivers are caught unaware, the severity of neck injuries can increase. Relaxed neck muscles before a crash result in more movement and severe injuries compared to contracted neck muscles. Some common neck injuries caused by rear end collisions include herniated discs, fractures, muscle strains and sprains, and pinched nerves.
Damage to the neck can occur in very low-speed car accidents. The Yale University study indicated that neck injuries could occur at speeds as low as 2.5 mph during a collision.
Back and Spine Injuries
Back and spine injuries are also very common in rear-end collisions. The spine deforms into an S shape which causes compression in the facet joints and damages cartilage leading to pain. The force of a crash can also lead to slipped or collapsed discs, spinal cord injury, or sciatica. These injuries can cause excruciating amounts of pain in the back. Spine injuries can cause nerve problems and even paralysis depending on the overall force of the impact.
Head and Brain Injuries
Head and brain injuries can also occur in rear end collisions. Due to the force of impact, 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 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.
In some rear-end collisions, your airbag may deploy with enough force to break bones and even cause head trauma. Common facial injuries from rear end collisions include a broken nose, lacerations, abrasions, bruises, or dental injuries.
Bruised or Ruptured Internal Organs
The force of impact in a rear-end collision can cause your internal organs to move rapidly and violently. This can lead to bruising, bleeding, or even rupture of organs such as the liver, spleen, kidneys, or intestines.
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, 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.
What To Do Immediately Following A Rear-End Collision
Immediately following a car accident, you should first call the police, and if anyone is injured, call an ambulance. Make sure to get all the information from the other driver and take photos and videos of the scene. For a complete guide, take a look at our checklist for what to do at the scene of any car accident. Specifically, for rear-end collisions, you should seek medical care immediately following an accident.
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.
Tell your 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.
What NOT To Do Following A Car 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 includes that you give them notice of the accident as soon as possible, but that is the only information you are obligated to provide.
Contact an attorney next to 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. It is important to remember that insurance companies do not necessarily have your best interest in mind, but rather their own.
- Don’t give a recorded statement to an insurance adjuster about the accident and your injuries
- Do not sign a release—not for the other driver’s insurance company or your own
- Don’t speak with an insurance adjuster or sign any paperwork without consulting with your attorney
How Do You Get Compensated After A 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 rear end collision lawyer can help guide you on how to proceed.
Filing A Claim
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 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.
Negotiating A Settlement
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.
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.
Settlement for minor cases usually takes between 30 to 90 days. Cases that go to court can take years to reach a settlement.
Rear End Collision Injuries Summary
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.
Stuart A. Carpey, who has been practicing as an attorney since 1987, focuses his practice on complex civil litigation which includes representing injured individuals in a vast array of personal injury cases.