Last year, 31.4% of traffic injuries in the U.S. (594,000 Americans) suffered injuries in rear-end collisions. These car accidents also resulted in over 2,400 deaths.

The injuries that result from rear-end collisions follow a predictable pattern. Since a rear-end collision forces your body to whip backward and forward, your neck, back, and head are likely to suffer injuries.

Below is some information about rear-end collision injuries and how you can recover compensation when you’ve been injured in an accident.

What Happens in Rear-End Collisions

Rear-end collisions result from many of the bad driving habits that drivers have developed. Distracted driving, speeding, tailgating, and aggressive driving all lead to an increased risk of rear-end collisions.

In a rear-end collision, a rear vehicle collides with a front vehicle from behind. This often occurs because the front vehicle is slowing down or has stopped, and the driver of the rear vehicle fails to react quickly enough to prevent an accident from occurring.

The Crash

The rear vehicle collides with the front vehicle. The rear vehicle experiences a rapid deceleration and the front vehicle rapidly accelerates. This transfer of momentum subjects anyone in the vehicles to extreme force.

In the rear vehicle, the occupants lurch forward at the moment of impact and whip backward as the car comes to a stop. The same force pushes the occupants of the front vehicle back into their seats, then forward against their seat belts.

A crash will involve a large transfer of energy between the cars. The energy of a moving vehicle depends on the weight and speed of that vehicle. Of the two, speed has the greatest influence on the amount of energy created in an accident. This is the reason even a low-speed rear-end collision can result in injuries.

But weight also plays a role. A fully loaded semi-truck can weigh 80,000 pounds, which is about 20 to 30 times the weight of a passenger vehicle. This is the reason truck accidents involving rear-end collisions can be so disastrous.

Common Injuries from Rear-End Collisions

The back-and-forth force that the body experiences during a rear-end collision can stretch the neck and back. This stretching will strain the muscles, discs, and bones in the back and neck. As the head whips backward and forward, it can strike the steering wheel, headrest, dashboard, and windshield.

Some of the injuries that can result from these forces include:

Whiplash

Whiplash occurs when the whipping motion of the head strains the neck muscles. Symptoms of whiplash can extend beyond the neck. They can include neck pain and weakness, headache, shoulder pain, and arm numbness.

Back Strain

In addition to straining the muscles in the neck, rear-end collisions can strain back muscles.

Broken Bones

Bones in the hands and legs may break when they strike the steering wheel, dashboard, door, or center console. Rear-end collisions may also cause fractures in the facial bones and the skull as the head strikes the interior of the vehicle.

Seat Belt and Airbag Injuries

Rear-end collisions will cause the seat belts to lock and may also deploy the airbags. Impacts with the seat belts and airbags can cause bruises on the face, chest, and ribs.

Disc Injuries

As the neck and back compress and stretch, the discs can slip out of place, compress, or rupture. A slipped, herniated, or bulging disc can cause nerve pain as the disc presses on the nerves inside the spinal column.

Spinal Cord Injuries

The spinal cord carries nerve signals from the brain to the rest of the body. An injured spinal cord can cause nerve pain, muscle spasms, loss of muscle control, or paralysis.

Brain Injuries

Brain injuries can result from concussions, where the motion of the brain causes it to slam into the inside of the skull.

These injuries can last a lifetime. For example, doctors have no good treatment options for ruptured or slipped discs. As a result, you might live the rest of your life with the pain and nerve damage that can result from a disc injury.

Compensation for Injuries in Rear-End Collisions

New York uses a no-fault insurance system. This means you must file an insurance claim for your car accident injuries with your insurance company, regardless of whether or not you were at fault. In other words, New York law requires that you start a claim with your insurance company even if you did not cause your car accident.

When dealing with your insurance company, your primary hurdle will be to provide sufficient evidence to show that the rear-end collision caused your injuries. You will also need to establish that your doctor provided medically necessary treatment.

Lawsuits Against the At-Fault Driver

Under New York law, an injured person can break free of the no-fault insurance system and file a lawsuit against the driver who caused an accident if the injured person either:

  1. Had more than $50,000 in basic economic losses or
  2. Suffered a serious injury, such as loss of a body part, broken bone, or significant limitation of a body system or function.

When an injured person files a lawsuit against a driver for causing an accident, the person will prevail if they can prove the negligence of the driver.

Proving Negligence in a Rear-End Collision

Negligence requires proof across four different elements:

  • Duty:  Every driver must drive with reasonable care.
  • Breach of Duty:  A driver who fails to exercise reasonable care breaches that duty.
  • Damages:  The person who filed the lawsuit must have suffered damages, such as an injury.
  • Causation:  The breach of duty must be the cause of the damages.

In a typical car accident lawsuit, the jury will focus on whether any driver failed to exercise reasonable care. Most rear-end collisions are caused by the driver of the rear vehicle. That driver, in most cases, was traveling too closely or too quickly to react. Thus, whether the driver of the rear vehicle was speeding, following too closely, distracted, or intoxicated, that driver is liable for the property damage and injuries resulting from the crash.

In a few circumstances, the driver of the front vehicle is at fault. For example, if the driver of the front vehicle cut off the rear vehicle, had broken brake lights, or failed to signal, that driver is likely at-fault for the rear-end collision.

Rear-end collisions can be devastating, particularly if you suffer a neck, back, head, or spinal cord injury. New York provides multiple avenues for recovering compensation for these injuries to ensure you can pay your medical bills and replace lost wages.