Rear-End Collisions: Who's At Fault?

A recent study by the Chicago Tribune found that red light cameras failed to improve road safety and, in fact, led to a rise in rear-end collisions in the city. Specifically, the report found that while traffic cameras reduced injuries by 15 percent for collisions when one car crashes head on into the side of another car, these improvements were offset by a 22 percent increase in injuries from rear-end collisions.

Thus, taken together, the study found an overall increase in injuries of 5 percent. In the United States, rear-end collisions account for a substantial number of both fatal and non-fatal crashes that occurred in 2013: 31,057 and 5,657,000 respectively, according to the latest statistics by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Many rear-end collisions occur in city traffic where drivers are distracted by mobile devices. However, even when driving at lower speeds, a rear-end collision is still capable of serious injury to those involved, along with material damage to cars. For occupants of cars that are impacted from the rear, soft tissue neck injuries or “whiplash” are the most common result. While these injuries are not life-threatening, they can result in long term pain and disability. Moreover, onset of symptoms from rear-end crashes may be delayed and can include:

  • Pain in the neck, shoulder, and back
  • Burning sensation, tingling, and dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Stiffness in the upper body and decreased range of motion
  • Blurred vision

Is the “Last Driver” Always at Fault?

When rear-end collisions occur, the natural tendency is to assign blame to the driver in the last car involved. However, auto accidents are usually analyzed from a point of “who was most capable of preventing the accident” and, in some cases, the driver of the vehicle that was hit is most culpable.

For example, if the car in the front is being put into reverse and the driver fails to notice that other vehicles have pulled in behind him or her. Or, the accident may have been avoided altogether if the lead driver had not made an erratic maneuver. Conditions that were out of the control of both drivers can also serve to mitigate fault such as heavy rain, snow, or fog that reduces visibility and the status of the road.

Preventing Rear-End Collisions

The best way to prevent rear-end collisions is to be an attentive driver. That is, drivers should maintain a safe braking distance that will allow him or her to slow down without suddenness. A good rule of thumb is to leave two or three vehicle lengths between you and the vehicle in front of you while driving.

Moreover, proper maintenance of braking systems, tail-lights, and car tires can also help to avoid accidents. Brake lights are especially important to check regularly and to replace, if needed, since drivers rely on that signal to warn them that you are stopping. Periodically checking the rear view mirror can also help to avert rear-end collisions by determining if the driver behind you is stopping at a safe distance.

When you are involved in a rear-end collision, it is important to consult with an attorney about your case. At The Pittman Firm, we can help you obtain compensation for your auto accident. Call us today to speak with one of our experienced motor vehicle collision attorneys.

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