You’re driving along or stopped at an intersection, minding your own business, when “WHAM!” You're suddenly hit from behind. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, rear-end collisions are the most common kind of crash, accounting for 32 percent of all crashes in 2018. While many of these are minor fender-benders, some rear-end collisions are much more serious.
If you were seriously injured in a rear-end collision, the driver who hit you could be held responsible.
How Rear-End Crashes Happen
It makes sense that rear-end crashes are the most common kind of collision, given that we generally drive in single-file lines. If a driver fails to stop when they should, they'll hit the car in front of them. What would cause a driver to fail to stop in time? A number of things could be happening:
- Following too closely. Whatever other factors are involved in rear-end crashes, they all boil down to the rear car not allowing enough space between the car ahead. In normal conditions traveling at 55 mph, you should have about 16 car lengths between you and the car in front of you. The reality is that very few of us allow that kind of space, but if we did, we would be able to avoid hitting the car in front of us in almost any situation.
- Driver distraction. If a driver glances down at their cellphone, turns to talk to a child in the back seat, or gets lost in a daydream for even a few seconds, they won't see that the car in front of them has slowed down or stopped. By the time their attention is back on driving, it will probably be too late to stop in time.
- Drowsy driving. A fatigued driver is also an inattentive driver. In a worst-case scenario, if the driver actually dozes off but is able to keep the car on the road, they'll likely careen into the car in front before waking up.
- Drunk driving. Intoxicated drivers may experience impaired judgment, slowed reaction times, and fatigue, which could cause them to crash into the car ahead.
- Speed. The 16-car-length distance we mentioned above is for highway speeds of 55 mph. If speeds are 65 or 70 mph, you should have an even greater following distance. If you're exceeding the legal speed limit, it's unlikely that you'll be able to avoid hitting a car in front of you that has slowed down or stopped due to traffic conditions.
- Road conditions. Weather—particularly winter weather—adds to the probability of rear-end crashes. When roads are wet, icy, or snowy, it's much more difficult to stop your car before hitting the car ahead. Poor weather conditions require an increased following distance.
If you're forced to slow down or stop—or even if your driving pattern has not changed at all—and you're hit from behind, try to determine if one of these factors may have contributed to the cause of the crash.
Who's at Fault In a Rear-End Collision?
The rear driver is almost always considered to be the cause of a rear-end collision because they ran into the car in front. Even if the vehicle ahead stopped suddenly for no reason, the driver behind should have maintained enough following distance to avoid hitting it. However, to hold the driver liable for your injuries and other losses, you have to show that they failed to use proper and reasonable judgment and care in their actions.
In other words, you need to prove their culpability for causing the crash. Drunk driving, texting and driving, or violating a traffic law such as the speed limit could provide good support for a claim of negligence.
Our Massachusetts Car Accident Attorneys Can Help
Our personal injury lawyers can help you deal with insurance companies, coordinate payments of medical bills, and pursue the best maximum financial settlement possible. This gives rear-end accident victims peace of mind and the ability to focus on healing. Contact our experienced Massachusetts car accident attorneys today for a consultation regarding your claim.