When one vehicle hits the back of another vehicle, the resulting crash is referred to as a “rear-end collision” or “rear-ender.” Rear-end accidents frequently happen when traffic is moving slowly and are often considered to be low-impact crashes. Some rear-end collisions happen at high speeds, for example when a motorist fails to notice a traffic jam on a freeway before colliding with the stopped cars. Serious injuries can occur as a result of a rear-end crash regardless of the speeds involved.
If you or a loved one has been hurt as a result of a rear-end accident, you may have legal rights to compensation. Under the no-fault laws in Michigan, drivers who are involved in car crashes can have their medical bills and lost income paid for by their own insurer under a personal injury protection (PIP) policy. In certain cases where injuries are severe or costly to treat, injured drivers may take action against the party responsible for causing the crash.
Causes of Rear-End Crashes
Rear-enders can occur at any time when a vehicle is following behind others. However, rear-end crashes are most likely to occur at intersections, stop signs or in heavy traffic, especially when vehicles are traveling at high speeds. Certain types of behavior can also lead to rear-end crashes, including:
- Tailgating -- Drivers are expected to maintain a safe following distance at all times. According to Michigan’s safe driving rules, drivers are required to maintain a following distance of three to four seconds. To determine your following distance, observe when the car in front of you passes a fixed object and then count the number of seconds until you pass that same object. The following distance should be increased during bad weather; when changing lanes; when approaching intersections; and in heavy traffic.
- Distracted driving -- When a driver fails to pay attention to the road, he or she may not be aware that the vehicle in front is slowing or stopping. As a result, the driver may hit the lead vehicle when the lead vehicle brakes to turn or when the lead vehicle comes to a full stop. Distracted driving can also cause a crash if the driver in the rear begins moving at a stop sign or intersection before the lead vehicle.
- Speeding -- If a driver is going too quickly for road conditions or if he or she is not obeying speed limits, a rear-end collision is more likely to occur. Speeding contributes to rear-end crashes because the faster a driver is traveling, the longer it will take to stop when the driver hits the brakes. Slick roads caused by rain or winter weather demand significantly longer stopping distances, which increases the likelihood of a rear-end accident. Inclement weather is usually not an excuse for an accident, because drivers are supposed to adjust to the conditions.
- Stopping short -- When the lead driver slams on the brakes, this can cause the driver in the rear to have insufficient time to stop, leading to a rear-end crash. There are some rare instances when a motorist will intentionally cut off another driver and then slam on the brakes to trigger a rear-end accident in order to collect on a fraudulent insurance claim.
- Failing to signal -- If a lead driver fails to signal when changing lanes or when slowing to make a turn, this can cause the driver in the rear to hit the back of the vehicle. Malfunctioning brake lights or turn signals could contribute to a rear-end accident.
When a rear-end collision occurs as a result of these or other behaviors, it will be important to determine if any of the drivers involved were negligent or broke the rules of the road. If so, and if serious injury or death resulted, the injured victim or his family members may be able to pursue a car accident injury claim against the careless driver.
Who is Responsible for Rear-End Accidents Under Michigan Law?
In the vast majority of situations, the driver who is operating the vehicle in the rear is considered to be responsible when a rear-end accident occurs. This is because the law mandates that a safe following distance must be maintained at all times. If a driver is truly maintaining a safe following distance and driving at a reasonable speed, he or she should be able to react and brake even if the car in front stops short or fails to signal.
Injuries in Rear-End Accidents
Rear-end accidents can have severe consequences. In fact, according to the Spine Research Institute of San Diego, an estimated 3 million people annually suffer injuries in rear-end crashes. These injuries can include:
- Whiplash -- Whiplash occurs when the body is thrown forcefully forward and then backward, causing the muscles of the neck to extend beyond their normal range of motion.
- Soft tissue injury -- Soft tissue injuries include damage to the muscles, joints and ligaments in the body.
- Air bag injuries – Air bags are life-saving devices, but they can also cause injuries. Air bag injuries are especially dangerous to kids, which is why it is recommended that children 12 and under never sit in the front seat. However, even adults can suffer injuries from the force of an air bag.
In addition, serious injuries and even death can occur as a result of the impact of the crash or as a result of striking objects in the vehicle or external objects in rear-end crashes.
Hurt in a Michigan Rear-End Accident? Get Legal Help Now
If you have been seriously injured in a rear-end car accident caused by another motorist in Michigan, you have a legal right to obtain compensation. But you have a limited amount of time to file a lawsuit, so it’s important to contact a car accident lawyer without delay. We will handle the necessary paperwork to make sure you don’t miss the deadline. If you have been injured in a car accident, we can help you and your family obtain a fair settlement.
We respond promptly to telephone calls and report regularly on developments in cases. Call our Michigan auto lawyers now at 313-438-4357 or send us an email. If there is no recovery in your case, there is no fee for our services.