I was seriously injured in a rear-end collision. How can I tell who was responsible for the accident?

Man holding neck after rear-end collisionThe most common car accident types can be broken down into three categories: head-on collisions, side impact or T-bone collisions, and rear-end collisions. Head-on and T-bone accidents are the most life-threatening types of collisions as the points of impact are located near the driver and passengers. However, rear-end collisions can also cause serious injury and it may be difficult to determine liability in these kinds of crashes.

Liability in Rear-end Collisions

Tennessee is a “modified-fault” state. This means that if a driver’s actions are found to be completely responsible for the accident, he will be held accountable for all damages. However, if he or his insurance company can prove that your actions contributed to the collision, you may be held partially liable for your own injuries.

In rear-end collision investigations, liability usually falls on the driver of the rear vehicle. The basic notion is that the rear driver failed in his duties as a responsible driver by:

  • Paying attention to traffic ahead. If he were paying attention, he would have been able to stop before crashing into the car ahead of him.
  • Driving at a controllable speed. If he was in control of his vehicle, he should have been able to stop in plenty of time to avoid a collision.
  • Maintaining an adequate braking distance. If he was driving normally, paying attention and allowing a safe two-car stopping distance between his bumper and the car in front of him, he should have had enough time and distance to stop completely before a collision occurred.

Although these assumptions are reasonable explanations for liability, there are a few exceptions. In other words, there are instances where you could be held accountable even though you were hit from behind. These instances include slamming on your brakes with no warning, cutting in front of another driver when there wasn’t enough room, or committing any other negligent action that deliberately put you and other drivers at risk for a collision.

Types of Injuries Suffered in Rear-End Collisions

Injuries suffered when your car is hit from behind are often less severe than those resulting from head-on collisions or even side-impact crashes. However, rear-end collisions can cause injuries resulting in chronic pain and suffering. Often these injuries involve soft-tissue damage, which can be difficult to prove to an insurance adjuster. You will need to seek medical treatment and keep careful record of your doctor visits, diagnosis, treatments, and physical therapy appointments. The most common injuries caused by rear-end collisions include the following:

  • Whiplash. Whiplash occurs when a tremendous force causes the neck to over-extend. This over-extension causes muscles and ligaments to stretch or even tear. Even though it’s not a life-threatening injury, it can cause prolonged periods of pain, discomfort, and the inability to move the neck. 
  • Back trauma. Depending on the severity of the collision, occupants’ backs can be injured, causing severe bruising or even spinal damage. If the force was great enough to cause spinal trauma, the consequences of the injury can range from pain and numbness to partial or complete paralysis.
  • Facial damage. In addition to causing whiplash, the force of a rear-end collision can cause the driver or passenger to smash his face into the steering wheel or console. This impact can lead to broken orbital (bones around the eye) or cheek bones, collapsed nasal passages, and fractured jaws.

Precautionary Steps to Protect Your Rights

You never know when you may need a helping hand. Don’t allow an insurance company to lay the fault at your feet or take advantage of your confusion. An experienced car accident attorney will help you strengthen your case by documenting your injuries. Allow attorney John L. Griffith to protect you and your rights. You can also download our FREE guide on handling personal injury cases for additional insights and guidance into car accident injury claims.

John Griffith
Nashville Personal Injury Attorney