Understanding Rear-End Accidents in Orange County

It doesn’t matter whether you’re at a red light, a stop sign, a traffic slowdown, or a traffic jam. Rear-end accidents are the worst. 

And they hurt. Sometimes, they even lead to serious injuries. According to the Insurance Information Institute, these crashes are behind 6.8 percent of fatal car accidents.

In other words, rear-end accidents are no joke. So, what should you do if you’ve been involved in one?

Here’s what many people do: They file insurance claims or lawsuits to recover compensation for their injuries.

Whether you are able to do that will depend on the circumstances of your unique accident. But by the end of this article, you should have a solid idea of what you want your next steps to be.

The only thing left to do after that will be to speak to the experienced Costa Mesa car accident attorney at Case Barnett Law. Read on and reach out.

car rear ends another in California

Suing for a Rear-End Accident in California

Can you sue for a rear-end accident? 

In many cases, the answer will be yes. However, a few key elements have to be present in your case:

  • The driver who rear-ended you must have been acting with negligence.
  • That negligence must be the cause of the accident.
  • You must have demonstrable damages as a result of the crash, such as injuries and resulting financial harms.

The good news is that rear-end accidents — more often than many other types of accidents — are typically pretty easy to blame on the rear driver.

In other words, if you got rear-ended and suffered injuries, there’s a decent chance that you will be able to file a lawsuit to recover compensation.

Is the Rear Vehicle Always at Fault?

Nothing in California law — or the laws of any other state, for that matter — is ever 100 percent consistent. 

That certainly applies to the old wisdom about rear drivers always being at fault in rear-end accidents.

Yes, the driver who rear-ended you is likely to be considered at fault. But there are exceptions to this rule. 

For example:

  • The rear driver’s brakes failed, causing them to slam into the rear of your vehicle. In this case, the manufacturer of the faulty brakes might actually be at fault.
  • You created a situation in which it was impossible for the rear driver to avoid hitting you. An example of this might be slamming on your brakes in the middle of an open interstate.
  • A third driver rear-ended the car behind yours, causing that car to slam into the rear of your vehicle. In this case, the driver who actually hit you might have been helpless to avoid the collision. And the third driver might actually be at fault.

These are, however, exceptions to a relatively general rule. And even in these exceptions, someone was at fault for the crash. It just isn’t always the driver who directly rear-ended you.

Injuries in Rear-End Collisions

Compared to a head-on collision, a rear-end accident might seem relatively minor. But it’s a mistake to assume that serious injuries never happen in rear-end collisions.

In fact, they happen all the time. The force and speed involved in a rear-end collision can even be enough to be fatal

Here are some common types of injuries that occur in rear-end crashes in California:

  • Whiplash. A rear impact can send your head violently rocking forward and then backward. And that’s exactly how whiplash occurs. This injury can cause pain for months after the crash.
  • Back injuries. The sudden force of being hit from the rear can cause your back to lurch forward or strain excessively. Both situations can lead to long-term back injuries. And back injuries can cause debilitating pain for months or years.
  • Brain injuries. When you get hit from behind, your head flies forward. If it hits the dashboard at high speed, you can suffer a brain injury. Brain injuries can affect memory and cognition for the rest of your life.
  • Broken bones. Any high-speed impact, including a rear-end impact, can break a bone. Broken bones in the arms and legs are common, but fractures of facial bones and bones in the hands and feet also happen quite frequently.
  • Facial disfigurement. What happens to your face when it smacks into the dashboard or your windshield? It can be permanently disfigured, affecting everything from your self-confidence to your relationships for the rest of your life.
  • Lacerations. Shattering glass is a common feature of rear-end crashes. That glass, moving at high speed due to a rear-end impact, can cause deep lacerations that lead to scarring, blood loss, and severe pain.

These are just examples. In reality, rear-end collisions at high speed can cause almost any kind of injury. And if you were injured in a rear-end crash, you deserve compensation.

Compensation You Could Recover

If someone rear-ended you because they were acting negligently, there’s a chance you can sue them. If your lawsuit or claim is successful, you can recover compensation.

But what, exactly, can you be compensated for in a rear-end accident?

Really, any harm that came to you because of the crash could warrant compensation. Here are some common examples:

  • Medical bills
  • Lost income during your recovery
  • Property damage
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional trauma
  • Scarring and disfigurement

A qualified attorney can help you identify all of the damages you suffered and assign a fair monetary value to them.

Next Steps

What do you do after a rear-end accident?

  1. Immediately after the crash, you need to seek medical attention. That’s step one. 
  2. But after that, when the dust has settled, you need to consider your next moves. Many people in your situation choose to file an insurance claim or lawsuit.
  3. The point, of course, is to recover compensation for their injuries and other damages. But here’s the problem:
  4. Simply filing a claim or lawsuit is no guarantee that you will see a single dollar. Your claim or lawsuit has to actually be successful.
  5. That’s where a trusted and experienced auto accident lawyer can be a huge help. 
Case C. Barnett
Costa Mesa Personal Injury Attorney practicing in child injury law, car accident injuries and elder abuse law