Rear end collisions are the most common type of motor vehicle collision both in California and nationally. When a vehicle is struck from behind, it can cause severe whiplash injuries even at low rates of speed. A rear end collision occurs when one vehicle crashes into another vehicle from behind. Rear end collisions typically occur when the lead vehicle slows or stops and the trailing vehicle is unable to stop in time to avoid a collision. When you are in the vehicle that is struck from behind, you are particularly susceptible to serious injury because the collision is typically unanticipated so you have no opportunity to brace for the impact.
Explaining the Dynamics of a California Rear End Collision
California metro areas like Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento and the Bay Area are frequently the locations of rear end collisions because of heavy traffic congestion. Bumper to bumper traffic and stop and go traffic flow often involve a high number of rear end collisions because drivers become bored and/or impatient. Drivers may become distracted and attempt to fight the boredom of being stuck in traffic by reading, talking on a cell phone, texting or other multi-tasking practices that entice a driver to divert their visual and mental focus from the roadway. Impatient drivers may dangerously weave between vehicles trying to gain an incremental advantage in reaching their destination. When drivers confronted with a heavy flow of traffic become distracted or impatient, it can mean avoidable rear end collisions.
When a driver is struck while stopped from behind, the occupants in the vehicle that is rear ended may suffer severe life-altering injuries if the vehicle that slams into theirs is substantially larger and heavier. Even if the vehicles are of comparable mass, the force exerted in a rear end collision on the vehicle occupants is akin to driving into a concrete wall at half the speed. If a vehicle rear ends another vehicle while traveling at a rate of fifty mph hour, the force of the impact is equivalent to slamming into a concrete wall at 25 mph.
Basis of Liability in California Rear End Accidents
The unique factual circumstances of a rear end collision typically make them easier to litigate on the issue of fault. The basis for fault in most California car accidents is negligence. Because most California rear enders involve a lead vehicle that is stopped or moving at only a few mph when another vehicle collides with it from the rear, the trailing vehicle will be liable most of the time. Drivers are expected to allow enough following distance so that they can stop their vehicle if the flow of traffic stops. Rear end collisions in California usually are caused by a variety of unsafe driving practices including:
- Failing to observe proper following distance
- Driving too fast particularly given the flow traffic or road conditions
- Inattentive drivers who overt their eyes from the road
- Fatigued or tired drivers who are struggling not to doze off
- Aggressive drivers weaving through heavy traffic
- Drunk drivers who require longer braking distances
While the issue of proving fault is frequently easier in a California rear end collision, insurance companies can be especially difficult to deal with on the issue of damages. Because many rear enders in California occur at relatively low rates of speed, insurance adjusters often classify such collisions as “low impact” collisions. Insurance adjusters will argue that because there is minimal vehicle damage in a California rear end collision, there should be no injuries or only very minor injuries. The insurance adjuster for the other driver may contact you and offer to settle the case for a relatively nominal amount because of the lack of vehicle damage and presumed lack of injuries. While the insurance adjuster is well aware that serious injuries can occur in rear enders at low rates of speed, insurance companies increase their profits by settling claims for nominal amounts.
Effectively Fighting Insurance Companies to Maximize Recovery in Rear End Crashes in California
If the other driver’s insurance company contacts you to settle your California rear end collision, you should refuse to speak to a representative from the insurance company until you have spoken with an experienced California rear end collision lawyer. Many rear end accidents that occur as low rates of speed result in serious whiplash injuries that may not manifest immediate symptoms. A rear end collision lawyer can help you avoid mistakes like settling your claim before you know the full extent of your injuries or undervaluing your injury claim.
Those who suffer whiplash injuries are often minimized by insurance company adjusters as malingerers, but whiplash injuries, which are common in California rear end accidents, can be extremely painful and debilitating. During a rear ender, the force exerted on the lead car propels the bodies of vehicle occupants forward while their heads remain stationary; this causes the neck to experience a sudden extreme extension and flexion similar to the movement of a whip. Whiplash-type injuries are now commonly referred to by more technical names like hyperextension/hyperflexion injury, myofascial injury, neck sprain or strain, and cervical strain or sprain.
Hyperextension/hyperflexion injuries cause permanent disability in about ten percent of all accident victims that are rear ended. Approximately 1.5 million people that suffer whiplash injuries experience chronic pain and about 300,000 whiplash victims will be permanently disabled.
Other injuries that are commonly suffered in a rear end collision include the following:
- Injuries to the joints of the knees and ankles when bracing for impact
- Closed head injuries from air bag deployment
- Soft tissue injury of the lumbar spine
- Disc damage
- Facial lacerations that result in disfigurement
- Soft tissue injury of the cervical spine
Because many injuries that cause intense pain and long periods of disability suffered in California rear end collisions are hard to diagnose, it is important to seek prompt medical attention and to obtain timely legal advice. Insurance adjusters are notoriously unreasonable when confronted with injury victims that suffer soft tissue injuries in rear impact collisions that do not involve vehicle damage. An experienced California rear end collision attorney may be able help you deal with uncooperative insurance companies. A rear end collision lawyer will seek the full and fair damages that you are entitled to so that you can have compensation for your medical expenses, lost income, vehicle repair and other less tangible forms of damage.
California rear end accident lawyers understand the devastating toll of suffering a sudden debilitating injury. A rear end car accident lawyer can provide careful investigation of the facts, thorough analysis of the law, effective negotiation with insurance companies and persuasive courtroom advocacy. A California rear end accident attorney also can answer your questions and advise you regarding your legal rights and remedies.