Rear Impact

The value of rear-impact collisions

A rear impact collision occurs when one car hits the car in front of it from behind. This impact could result in damages ranging from a minor fender bender to a complete totaling of both cars. The rear-impact collision is the most common type of automobile accident, and sadly its frequency is increasing with the use of cell phones and other driver distractions. About 28 percent of all highway accidents are rear-impact collisions. 

Who is at fault?

Usually, insurance policies put blame on the car that rear ends another car. When you are following another driver, you are required to maintain a safe distance.

Ask yourself these 5 questions when trying to determine fault in a car accident:

1. Were there traffic citations or violations of traffic law?

2. Was I rear-ended or hit by a car making a left-hand turn?

3. Were there comments made by the drivers after the accident?

4. Were there any witnesses?

5. Were there negligent drivers?

Why am I hurt but my car is not?

Auto manufacturers are only required to design rear bumpers to absorb the impact in a five-mile per hour impact collision. This means that vehicles are designed to protect the vehicle in order to cut damage claims to the car. Insurance companies will attempt to use the lack of physical bumper damage not to payout on personal injuries. However, from a medical standpoint, there does not need to be visible damage to a vehicle for the occupants to suffer injury. Unlike a car, the human body is not built to absorb another vehicle’s impact, even at low speeds.

What are the most common rear-impact injuries?

Neck – Whiplash

  • Whiplash is the most common injury sustained from rear-impact collision. 20 percent of all people involved in rear-end collisions suffer a whiplash injury, and of those, almost 80 percent experience pain and soreness longer than a week. 50 percent have pain and soreness that lasts more than a year. According to a 1999 Kleinberger et al. study, whiplash related injuries cost the United States more than $8.5 billion a year, and that number continues to rise.

Back Injury

  • The force of impact can result in damage to your back and spine.

Face and Head

  • Since airbags don’t usually deploy at less than 20 miles per hour, a slow speed rear-impact collision can propel you to smash your face into the steering wheel. A higher speed rear-impact collision that deploys the airbag can burn your facial area and scalp. Other less serious injuries to the face and head are cuts, bruises, and scrapes.

Arm, Wrist, Hand, Finger

  • The force of a rear-impact collision can make your arms, wrists, hands, and/or fingers smash into the steering wheel, dashboard, and/or window.


  • The force of a rear-impact collision could make your seatbelt lacerate and/or bruise your torso, chest, and/or hip. 

How much compensation can I receive from the insurance company?

Unfortunately, insurance companies will use tactics to complicate a simple issue when it involves them paying compensation. That being said, there are many factors that can affect the value of your settlement. For this reason, insurance settlements for a low-impact rear-end collision without severe injuries range within the thousands.  When there are medical expenses, lost income, and car rentals, that number can get much higher. Additionally, punitive awards, which are meant to deter or punish the defendant and amounts awarded for severe rear-end collisions can rise above $1 million.

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What affects the value of my settlement?

There are many factors that can affect the value of your settlement. These include:

Special Damages

  • Special damages render economic losses. These can include lost wages, lost earning capacity, medical expenses, funeral and burial expenses, and property damage. As the amount of special damages increases, so too should the amount of the settlement.
  • Amounts awarded are lowered when there is shared fault for the incident
  • Special Damages = sum cost of medical treatment + sum of earnings lost from the day of your injury + sum of the cost of repairs to your car + sum of all out of pocket expenses

General Damages

  • General Damages are non-economic losses. These can stem from physical and mental pain and suffering, such as embarrassment, loss of reputation, and discomfort. General damages often equal 1.5 to 5 times special damages. As with special damages, the more permanent and severe the general damages, the higher the settlement.
  • Some states place “caps” on non-economic damages in personal injury cases, while other states cap damages in certain types of injury cases.
  • General Damages = type and duration of pain and suffering + diagnoses and prognoses of emotional distress + loss of ability to perform valued activities + loss of sexual ability + punitive damages

Multiple Defendants

  • If there are multiple defendants represented by a different insurance companies, there may be question as to how much each defendant must pay.

Personal elements of both the Defendant and Plaintiff

  • Age, occupation, wealth, medical and driving history, as well as likeability will affect the settlement amount.

Location of Trial

  • Some areas are more conservative than others and tend to award lower personal injury damages.
  • Urban/suburban courts tend to rule more liberally, while rural courts tend to rule more conservatively.


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