If you get hit in a rear end accident, you can safely assume that the other driver will be deemed at fault for the accident. If you are sitting at a red light or at a stop sign, or are stopped in traffic, and someone hits you from behind, it will be that driver’s fault. About the only way that you can be found at fault for a rear end collision is if you suddenly slam on the brakes hard for no reason at all while you are driving.
What to Do After the Accident
If you get hit in a rear end collision, you should certainly call the police, take photographs of the accident scene and of both vehicles, get witnesses’ names, and call your insurance company. For further information on what to do after the accident, please see Reporting A Car Accident, Steps To Take.
Getting Medical Treatment
People who get hit in a rear end collision usually suffer some type of back or neck injury. They might get whiplash, a muscle strain or sprain, or possibly a disc injury (bulging or herniated disc).
Depending on the severity of the accident, you might have symptoms immediately after the accident. However, it is not uncommon for a person in a car accident to feel fine immediately afterward, and then start having symptoms the next day. If you have pain after a car accident, you should seek medical attention immediately. If the pain immediately after the accident is severe, you should go to the emergency room. Otherwise, you should make an appointment to see your primary care provider as soon as possible.
Don’t wait. Insurance companies generally assume that, if you did not seek medical attention immediately, you weren’t really hurt.
Attend All Scheduled Treatment
Do not miss medical appointments. If you have a pattern of missing medical appointments, the insurer will assume that your injury is not severe, or that you are healed, and will adjust the value of your case accordingly. If you are injured, make sure that you get to all of your medical appointments.
Do Not Give a Recorded Statement to the Insurer
Insurance companies often ask that an injured person give a tape recorded statement describing the accident and your injuries. As a general rule, giving such a statement will not help you if you do not have a lawyer. If you do not have a lawyer, you should not give a tape recorded statement to the insurer.
Settling Your Case
You never want to settle a car accident claim until you have finished your medical treatment or are very close to finishing. You do not want to make a settlement demand until you know whether you have fully recovered from your injuries. If you are unable to fully recover from your injuries, then your case would probably be worth more than if you did fully recover.
Most small car accident cases never reach the lawsuit stage; they are settled without the injured person filing a lawsuit. In very small cases (a couple of thousand dollars or less), you can probably negotiate the settlement yourself with the insurance company; you do not necessarily need a lawyer. For larger cases, it is unlikely that a person can get top dollar without having a lawyer.
Either way, after you have finished treating for your injuries, you or your lawyer will send a demand letter to the insurance company. The insurance company will then respond. Don’t be surprised if it takes the insurance adjuster a month or two to respond. Insurance companies are busy, and, to the adjuster, no single case is any more important than any other case. Once the adjuster responds, then the real negotiating can begin.
If your case is a larger case, then your lawyer may be unable to settle it without filing a lawsuit. Rear end collision cases are generally easier to settle than other types of car accident cases because liability is not an issue in a rear end collision case. Both sides know that the defendant was at fault, so they can limit their discussions to the plaintiff’s damages.
But even if a lawsuit has to be filed in your case, it will most likely be settled before trial. The vast majority of all personal injury cases are settled before or during trial. Only a small percentage of cases -- and very few rear end collision cases -- are tried to a verdict.
If your lawyer has been unable to settle your case, your case will likely go to mediation. Mediation can be done either before filing a lawsuit or after, and is done with either a private mediator or a judge who is not assigned to that case.
The mediator meets with all sides in the beginning, and then meets separately with the plaintiff and the defendant to see if he/she can get the parties’ numbers closer together. Mediation can go on for hours or even days. Mediation has a very good track record in getting cases settled, especially rear end collision cases because, in a rear end case, the parties are only arguing about damages. Learn more about mediation of car accident cases.