It may be true that very few rear-end collisions result in fatality (only about 6% of all accidents), but that doesn’t mean these types of accidents are not a huge problem in the United States. In fact, about one-third of all car accidents in the United States are rear-end collisions, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which makes it the number one type of vehicle collision on our roadways.
Last year, the NHTSA commissioned the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) to conduct on rear-end collisions; the VTTI report looked at many different aspects of rear-end collisions and found:
- Most rear-end collisions happened when the vehicle in front is stopped or moving slowly; approximately 81% of rear-end crashes occurred when the vehicle in front was stopped completely
- In most instances, the driver in the back was following the lead car too closely
- The majority of rear-end crashes happened during the day, on straight, dry, and level roads
- In almost half of the rear-end accidents, the driver in back did not react appropriately to the stopped or slowed vehicle (almost always due to distracted driving)
- Distracted driving caused about 90% of rear-end crashes (nine out of every ten drivers involved in these collisions was distracted)
- Male drivers from age 25 to 34 were more likely to be involved in a rear-end crash than drivers in other age and demographic groups
Tailgating and inclement weather are the next two top causes of rear-end collisions after distracted driving. In rear-end collisions, one thing is almost always true: the driver of the car who hits the rear of the car in front is considered “at fault,” and there is rarely a time when the driver in the front car is responsible for the collision.
Rear-End Collision Injuries
Many of us saw footage of the horrifying collision in Lakewood, Colorado on April 25th when a semi truck carrying lumber crashed into stopped traffic on eastbound I-70 near Colorado Mills and the Denver West exit. At the time of this writing, the exact cause of that accident that killed four people and injured many others is still being investigated, but the driver of the truck has been charged with four counts of vehicular homicide and two counts of vehicular assault.
While exactly what caused that deadly accident near Denver is still not clear, we do know that rear-end collisions may result in serious personal injuries that can forever alter the life of an unsuspecting person sitting a traffic jam, at a stoplight, or at a stop sign.
The National Traffic Safety Board (NTSB) reports that every year approximately three million people are injured in rear-end collisions, and many of those are seriously injured and need urgent medical care. Injuries to the head, neck, and back are the most common rear-end collision injuries, and whiplash is probably the most common complaint following these types of crashes.
Traumatic Brain Injury
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) and spinal cord injuries are two of the most devastating rear-end collision accident injuries, and these types of injuries can change your life or the life of a loved one forever.
A concussion occurs in rear-end crashes when a person’s brain strikes the inside of the skull, causing bruising and compression of tissues. Concussions are dangerous because often times they’re not obvious right away and are often not diagnosed until hours or days after the collision. A traumatic brain injury occurs when there is a “sudden striking of the brain against the skull caused by a violent shaking, unnatural movement or a hit to the head by or against another object.” The soft tissue of the brain absorbs the powerful force of the impact and according to the velocity inside the skull; varying degrees of disruption of normal brain function may result. TBI’s are graded as mild, moderate, or severe.
Mild, Moderate, and Severe TBI
Mild TBI symptoms may include disorientation, confusion, headache, blurred vision, and a brief loss of consciousness. Sometimes bruising or contusions accompanied by mild swelling will occur.
Moderate TBI symptoms may include more prolonged and severe cognitive impairments lasting hours, weeks, or even permanently. Sudden nausea and severe headache may also appear. Vision impairment may include depth perception or double vision. There may be memory loss of events prior to, during or even after the injury, which may be short term or permanent.
Severe TBI symptoms occur when there’s tearing of the tissues such as the nerves or blood vessels resulting in devastating and often permanent changes to a person’s personality, thought processes, and basic functions. Seizures, fluids from the nose or ears and unequal pupil dilation may also be present indicating a possible skull fracture. Testing may reveal swelling and bleeding in the brain and may require surgical intervention to reduce swelling, repair damage and/or remove blood clots. Severe TBI may lead to death in the most serious cases.
Rear-End Collisions at Traffic Lights
While most rear-end accidents occur at traffic lights and proving fault here is fairly easy, to win a case like this, you have to prove the liability of the other drivers. Your lawyer will make your case in any number of ways including eyewitness testimony, findings in the police report, footage from security cameras or bystander smart phones. Skid marks and debris at the scene may also serve as evidence to prove your case.
In more difficult cases, it may be necessary to retain an accident reconstruct expert, who will be able to evaluate damage and other evidence to determine the speed at the time of the collision and additional critical details that may help you prove your case.
Lastly, if the cause of the crash was a defective design or a manufacturing defect, you may need to have your vehicle professionally inspected and conduct research to see whether other drivers have had similar problems.