Rear-End Collisions, Injuries, and Fault: What You Need to Know

Rear-End Collisions

If you have been in a rear-end collision, you know the unique problems it presents for injuries, car damage, and fault.

Most car accidents have varying degrees of fault. However, rear-end accidents are almost exclusively the fault of the person driving the car in the rear (with some exceptions).

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) there were 2,132,000 rear-end collisions in the United States in 2017.

This accounts for 33% of all auto accidents that year, the largest single category.

What causes such frequent rear-end collisions?

Common Causes of Rear-End Collisions

There are common reasons that cause all types of auto accidents, but many are unique to rear-end collisions.Some of the common causes are:

Bad Weather

In fog or heavy rain, it can be hard to see a car driving in front of you. This lack of visibility makes it hard to see if they are stopping or slowing down to adjust for conditions.

Brake lights can help during such conditions, but very severe conditions can mask these as well.


Distracted driving is becoming a bigger issue as people use cell phones while they are driving.

Responding to a text message, checking notifications, and even talking on the phone if you aren’t hands-free all contribute to distracted driving.

Other distractions may include adjusting radio buttons, eating, applying makeup, or simply not paying attention to the road.

Wearing headphones while you are driving impedes your ability to hear warning signals from other drivers. This may result in a rear-end collision that could have otherwise been avoided.


Tailgating is when someone is driving too close behind you.

Whether it’s because of busy traffic, speeding, road rage, or distraction, tailgating doesn’t allow time for the rear car to react when the car in front has to stop because of a hazard in the roadway.

A general rule for safe following distance is three seconds behind the car in front of you.

To determine your following distance, watch for the moment when the car passes a fixed point on the side of the road. Then count the seconds until you pass that same point.

Anything less than three seconds doesn’t give the rear car enough reaction time to stop, especially at higher speeds.


Speeding is a main cause of many car accidents.

Driving beyond the speed limit drastically diminishes your reaction time to stop, which leaves less time to react to hazards in the road.

In a rear crash, you will not have enough time to safely stop if the car in front of you slams on their brakes.


Drowsy driving lessens the driver’s senses.

If the driver of a rear car is nodding off, they may lose consciousness long enough to cause a collision.

Because of the unique nature of rear crashes, a variety of injuries can occur. Let’s take a look at what these types of injuries are.

Rear-End Collision Injuries

According to statistics from the NHTSA, rear-end collisions caused 615,000 injuries, and 2,456 fatalities.

The most common injuries are:

Whiplash Injury

Whiplash is caused by an abrupt jerking motion of the head. This creates a twisting of the neck vertebrae, causing muscle and nerve damage. This jarring motion is especially common with abrupt impact of your car from the back.

Symptoms of whiplash include neck pain, stiffness, fatigue, shoulder pain, headaches, and dizziness or numbness, among other things.


A rear-ended collision often causes your head to jolt forward, resulting in an impact with the steering wheel or dashboard.

This impact can cause a concussion, swelling, and headaches.

Broken Bones

The impact from a rear-end collision can also cause broken bones if high speeds were involved.

Your head or arms can impact the steering wheel, dashboard, or seats at such a velocity that bones are broken.

Fractured or broken ribs are also a result of impact, or by hard straining against a seat belt.


Burns are rare in car accidents, but car engines may catch fire, causing burn injuries.

See more information about burn injuries here.

Brain Injuries

If your head injury is severe enough, brain injuries and trauma may occur.

See more information about Traumatic Brain Injuries here.


In the best-case scenario, you may come out with general soreness in the neck and back.

As adrenaline from the event takes over, some injuries might not be realized at the scene of an accident.

However, when your body has had time to process what happened and the adrenaline subsides, injuries may become more prominent.

For this reason, it’s important to get checked out by a doctor after any accident, even if you aren’t feeling symptoms at the time of the crash.

READ: I Feel Fine After My Accident, Should I See a Doctor?

Who is At Fault

The fault almost always resides with the driver in the rear.

The driver in the front holds the right to stop for whatever reason they deem to be necessary, even if the stop is abrupt.

The driver in the rear is at fault for following too closely, or because they were too distracted to see the car in front of them slowing down or stopping.

When a Rear-End Collision Isn’t Your Fault

In some instances, fault may be shared if the state in which the accident occurred allows this.

For example, the car in front might be missing both brake lights and thus cannot give a full warning that the car is stopping or slowing down.

Another example is if the driver in front is “brake-checking” or stopping on purpose because they believe you are following too closely.

Either way, if you are the rear driver you are likely to share most of the fault. You must always follow at a safe distance and watch out for hazards in front of you.

If you are the one who has been rear-ended, it may be a good idea to speak with an attorney about the matter.

Contact VanDerGinst Law

If you have suffered injuries in a car accident, you should always contact a lawyer.

An experienced personal injury attorney can determine if you have a case.

If you do have a case, they help you negotiate with insurance companies so you get the best possible compensation.

At VanDerGinst Law, we specialize in personal injury cases. We have represented tens of thousands of injury victims in Illinois and Iowa and obtained millions of dollars in settlements for our clients.

Call us at 800-797-5391 for a free consultation, or send us a message online.

The law is tough, being injured is tougher. We’ll make it easier for you.

The information contained on this website is presented by VanDerGinst Law P.C. It is not intended nor should it be construed as professional legal advice. The information is general in nature about the Firm, the scope of services we offer, and our community outreach, it is not legal advice. Please contact us by phone, email, mail, or via this website for inquiries. Contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please contact a personal injury attorney for a consultation regarding your situation. This website is not intended to solicit clients outside the State of Iowa and/or the State of Illinois.

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