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Rear-End Car Accidents: What to Do When You've Been Injured

Rear-end car accidents are quite common. Many of us have experienced being rear-ended, and some of us have unfortunately even rear-ended someone else. While many of these incidents are simple “fender benders,” where everyone walks away unscathed, there are times when a rear-end accident is more serious. If a driver has hit your car, it is important that you know how to react and what to do to get any compensation that is deserved.

Common Causes of Rear-End Accidents

There are several causes of rear-end accidents, but one of the most common is tailgating. Tailgating is when someone follows the car directly ahead of them too closely. When a driver tailgates, they do not leave enough room to stop quickly without potentially hitting the other car.

Responsible drivers will follow the 2-4 second rule when driving. This involves counting how many seconds it takes you to pass an object after the car in front of you has passed it. You are keeping a safe distance if:

  • You count 2 seconds if you’re driving under 35 mph
  • You count 3 seconds if you’re going between 35 and 45 mph
  • You count 4 seconds if you’re traveling between 46 and 70 mph

The faster you are driving, the more distance there should be between you and the car ahead.

Of course, there are other causes of rear-end accidents besides tailgating. These may include:

  • Speeding
  • Distracted driving due to texting or even eating
  • Driving while tired
  • Slow-moving traffic or congestion
  • Driving under the influence
  • Road rage

If someone is driving unsafely behind you, there are a few things you can do to protect yourself and reduce collision risk. These include:

  • Moving over to the slow lane so they may pass
  • Speeding up to add distance between you
  • Make a left turn to get away from the other driver, if possible
  • Avoid road rage behaviors like suddenly slamming on your brakes

When a car is rear-ended, it is often the back driver who is responsible. However, negligence must still be proven, and if it is shown you were reciprocating in aggressive behavior, it can make your case harder to prove.

Injuries From Rear-End Accidents

When you’re hit from behind, your body is pushed forward violently, and your airbags and seatbelt may not prevent this due to the direction of impact. Some of the injuries that may occur from being rear-ended include:


This appears in the form of neck pain, headaches, and unusual stiffness. Severe cases can also cause nerve injury.

Back injuries.

A rear-end crash can result in fractured vertebrae, strained back muscles, and herniated and ruptured discs.

Brain injuries.

Concussions can occur in a rear-end accident. This can lead to impaired brain function, be it short-term or long-term.

What To Do After a Rear-End Accident

If you are rear-ended, you might be tempted to walk away from the scene, especially if you feel physically fine. However, in order to ensure you remain eligible for financial compensation, there are important steps to take before leaving the scene of the accident.

  1. First and foremost, call 911 and wait for the police to arrive. They will perform a thorough investigation and write a report stating the cause of the accident. Request a copy of this report.
  2. If you are able to move around uninjured, take pictures of the accident, including damage to both cars, any debris in the roadway, and anything else that can serve as evidence and documentation.
  3. Exchange insurance information with the other driver. Also, get the names and phone numbers of anyone who observed the accident, including passengers.
  4. Go to the hospital for an examination, even if you feel fine. Some injuries are not visible, and some will not display symptoms until after it’s too late to document.
  5. Keep copies of all records—medical receipts, reports, car mechanic notes—anything and everything related to the accident.
  6. Contact a lawyer immediately. Do not wait to do this, as time is of the essence.

There are many things you can win in a car accident settlement, and the more documentation you have, the better. Compensation that may be available to you includes:

  • Medical bill costs, including everything from that initial hospital visit to long-term care needed for recovery
  • Car repair or replacement
  • Lost wages if you have had to miss work to heal from the rear-end accident
  • Pain and suffering damages for emotional distress and trauma. Do not discount this when filing suit.

Have You Been Injured In A Car Accident?

If you've been injured in a car accident you need to speak with an experienced car accident attorney as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our Fairfax, Virginia car accident law office at 703.277.2811 to schedule your free consultation. We help clients throughout Washington D.C., Maryland and Virginia and look forward to helping you.

Related Links:

  • What are the types of damages I can recover after a car accident?

  • Know Your Rights If a Drunk Driver Is at Fault for Your Car Accident

  • 5 Things Not to Do After a Car Accident