Who is to blame for rear-end collisions?

Car accidents happen every minute of every day. Most of them are minor but many are quite serious. Through the first six months of 2017, for example, more than 2 million motorists were seriously injured while driving, according to preliminary estimates from the National Safety Council. More often times than not, these crashes are caused by driver error.

“Nearly a third of all crashes in the U.S. are rear-end collisions.”

One of the most common types of crashes is rear-end collisions. Though estimates vary in terms of just how many happen year to year across the U.S., they typically fall in the annual range of 1.5 million to 2 million, according to figures compiled by The Washington Post, establishing them as among the most common types of motor vehicle crashes overall.

If this is the case and drivers are supposed to allow plenty of space between themselves and the motorists in front of them, is the trailing driver – the one that strikes from behind – always to blame for these crashes?

Whiplash highly associated with back-end crashes

This is an important question to consider if you’re ever injured in a car accident and require medical treatment. Rear-end collisions take on a variety of forms, from motorists who aren’t paying attention to what they’re doing to errantly pressing on the gas pedal instead of the brake. This happens more often than you might think. Whiplash is among the more common injuries that stem from being hit from behind. Left untreated, whiplash can lead to pain in other areas besides the neck, according to the National Institute of Health, usually the upper and lower back. In addition to physical therapy, treatment for whiplash can include muscle relaxants, anti-inflammatory medication, over-the-counter medicines and range of motion exercises, as directed by a chiropractor or other health care practitioner.

All of these treatments require money, some of which may come out of your own pocket if your insurer doesn’t cover them. Fortunately, you do have a legal recourse that can make you whole, should a judge or jury decide the person that did the rear-ending is at fault.

Blame determined on case-by-case basis

So, is the motorist who struck from behind blameworthy in all circumstances? Generally speaking, the answer to that is yes. But ultimately, context is king.

The deciding factor typically depends on state law. For example, in some parts of the U.S., laws are on the books expressly stating the driver that hits from behind is at fault. However, in others, the law isn’t as matter of fact and is dictated by the circumstances surrounding the crash itself.

“Parties may be mutually responsible.

Perhaps a driver is at a stop light and instead of going forward when the green light flashes, his car moves in reverse. In this case, the motorist out in front would likely be at least partly responsible.

Alternatively, if a driver fails to use his turn signal before making a left or right turn and gets struck from behind, both parties may be mutually at fault.

The point is, there are few traffic laws that are black and white. While rear-end collisions are typically the fault of the trailing driver, there are exceptions to this rule, which is part of the reason why you should always consult with a personal injury attorney if you decide to sue for the cost of medical treatment.

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