A rear-end collision often seems to come out of nowhere, and there’s nothing you could have done to prevent it. Someone else was driving too fast, tailgating, or texting instead of watching where they were going. And as a result, you’ve suffered physical injuries and financial losses.
Now what? If a car hits you from behind, do you know what steps to take to protect your legal rights and financial interests?
Here are some suggestions for what to do next after a rear-end collision disrupts your life.
Report the Accident and Wait for Help to Arrive
You have a legal obligation to report a rear-end accident to the police if it causes more than a few hundred dollars of property damage or if anyone gets hurt. The easiest way to do this is to call 911 and ask law enforcement to come to the scene. Absent a medical emergency, always wait at the accident scene for the police and first responders to arrive. Leaving early could get you in trouble.
While waiting, determine whether you need to move your vehicle out of the road for your own or someone else’s safety. If unsure, ask the 911 dispatcher for guidance. In either event, always prioritize human safety over the safety of vehicles and other property. Do not risk further injuries to anyone if you can avoid it. But also remember that you must never leave the scene entirely, even if you move your vehicle out of harm’s way.
When the police and first responders arrive at the scene, tell them what happened. Stick to what you saw or know about the rear-end collision. Try not to say anything that even potentially suggests you were at fault-many people tend to self-blame, but it doesn’t help you say, “I should have seen him coming” if there’s nothing you could have done to avoid the collision. If you don’t know the answer to an officer’s questions, it’s better to say you don’t know than guess an answer.
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Take Photos/Video and Collect Information
In the wake of a rear-end collision, taking photos or video of the accident scene can help to preserve important evidence of what happened and who should be held accountable.
If you can do so safely and without getting in the way of police and first responders doing their jobs, use your phone to capture images of:
- The position of the two vehicles
- The damage to both vehicles
- The make and model of the other vehicle
- The other driver’s license plate
- Any tire skid marks on the road
- The road location of the rear-end accident and the immediate surroundings
You also have a legal obligation to exchange information with the other driver in most rear-end accidents. Use your phone to snap a picture of the other driver’s license and insurance information.
Then, look around for other potential sources of information about what occurred. Did a bystander witness the crash? If so, see if you can get that person’s name and contact information so that your attorney can follow up with them. Do you see any security or traffic cameras in the area?
Note their location so that your attorney can obtain the footage. Do you see telltale signs that the other driver, who hit you from behind, is intoxicated, tired, or otherwise impaired? Pay attention and alert law enforcement to what you’ve seen.
The more information you can collect at the scene of a rear-end collision, the better. But remember, you are the crash victim, and your health and safety come first. Do not stress if you can’t collect information. Even if you don’t, the police will gather much of the same evidence, and a skilled lawyer can always follow up on your behalf.
Seek Medical Attention
Some rear-end crash victims might feel tempted to forego medical attention, either because of worries about the high cost of health care, the inconvenience of going to the doctor, or simply because they feel okay right after the collision. But that’s a potentially costly, dangerous mistake.
Always seek medical attention after an accident involving another car hitting you from behind. It’s vital to your health and your legal rights.
To begin, you may have suffered injuries you don’t yet feel. Even serious injuries common to rear-end collisions-like whiplash, spinal injury, and brain trauma-may not show symptoms immediately. Your body’s stress reaction to getting into an accident can also mask the pain you might otherwise feel from a broken bone or other orthopedic injuries.
By visiting a doctor immediately after a rear-end collision, you ensure that you spot those injuries and prevent them from getting worse. That’s important to your well-being and your right to receive financial compensation for your injuries and losses.
Your doctor visit generates medical records that can prove the connection between the rear-end accident and your injuries and your efforts to prevent those injuries from getting worse. That’s critical evidence in a legal action seeking money damages for the harm you suffered. It’s also a critical part of receiving full compensation from your auto insurance or health insurance.
Save Your Medical Bills, Insurance Statements, and Other Records
From the time you first seek medical attention after a car hits you from behind, keep track of your medical bills and records. Do not throw anything away. These records constitute important evidence of your injuries, medical costs, and future needs that can support an injury claim to an insurance company or court.
Keep all such records you receive from medical providers or insurance companies in a safe place, and then give them to your car accident attorney to review. What may seem duplicative or confusing information to you might constitute key elements of your claim for full financial compensation.
Follow Doctors’ Instructions
Your doctors and other members of your care team will give you instructions about the steps you need to take to maximize your healing from rear-end collision injuries. Follow those instructions carefully. Your health and legal rights depend on it.
It’s common for doctors to recommend that you avoid certain physical activities, take time away from work, or get extra rest after suffering injuries in a rear-end crash. For example, in cases of traumatic brain injury, you may need to take precautions to avoid any further trauma to your head while you recover. If you break a bone, you may delay the healing process by using the injured limb to bear weight.
Your doctor may also recommend that you follow a specific routine for regaining your health and strength. You may need to take medication, attend physical therapy, do at-home exercises, or have surgery.
Activity restrictions and treatment plans can feel like a major inconvenience. But your health and legal rights depend on you abiding by them. If you fail to follow your medical team’s instructions, you may worsen your injuries or delay your healing process. That, in turn, could prevent you from securing full payment for the medical expenses and other costs of your injuries from insurance companies and at-fault parties.
Avoid Contact With the Other Driver’s Insurance Company
Insurance plays a large role in paying for any rear-end collision. Your property damage, auto personal injury protection (PIP), and health insurance may cover some of your expenses.
But sometimes, those coverages may not apply or may not fully compensate you for your financial losses and physical injuries. In those cases, you may have the right to seek compensation from the car driver that hit you from behind and that driver’s auto liability insurance.
Representatives of the other driver’s insurance company may try to contact you if they think their policyholder was at-fault and may have financial exposure to you. If possible, avoid having any conversation with that company. The representative may seem friendly, but their goal is to undermine the strength or value of your potential claim for financial compensation.
Similarly, never sign any papers the other driver’s insurance company gives you, and never agree to any payment it offers you directly. Instead, let an experienced car accident attorney negotiate with the other driver’s insurance on your behalf. The amount of money a skilled lawyer can secure almost always exceeds the amount the insurer initially puts on the table when it contacts you.
Contact an Experienced Rear-End Collision Attorney
An attorney’s job is to get you the most money possible to help you pay for injuries, financial losses, pain, and inconvenience you suffered after a car hits you from behind. The sooner you call on an experienced car accident lawyer, the better your chances of obtaining the maximum compensation from the at-fault driver and/or the driver’s insurance company.
Contact a skilled lawyer right away if:
- You suffered an injury in the rear-end accident;
- The other driver denies liability;
- Any insurance company (yours or the other driver’s) disputes the other driver’s liability;
- The other driver’s insurance company contacts you, especially if they ask for a recorded statement from you or offer you a quick cash settlement; or
- You feel confused or overwhelmed by decisions you need to make that could affect your life, health, or finances.
Virtually all good car accident lawyers offer a free, no-obligation consultation to rear-end collision victims like you. In a consultation, you can learn about your legal rights and options for seeking money damages from the other driver and anyone else answerable for the accident.
You May Have Rights to Major Financial Compensation
Every rear-end crash differs, of course, so there’s no guarantee of compensation for your injuries and losses.
However, in many cases in which a car hits someone from behind, a skilled attorney can secure payment for:
- Past and future medical expenses related to treating rear-end collision injuries;
- Past and future out-of-pocket expenses that wouldn’t have arisen if not for the crash and the injuries it caused;
- Lost income from taking time off from work to heal, including the value of paid time off (PTO) or vacation days, used;
- Lost earning capacity in the future due to an injury that partially or totally prevents the victim from working;
- Physical pain, emotional suffering, inconvenience, lost quality of life, and interference with personal relationships.
Multiple parties may owe you this compensation, including the other driver who hit you from behind, that driver’s employer, an automotive manufacturer, or even a city or state government.
What a Car Accident Lawyer Can Do for You
The most reliable way to find out if you have these rights, and to estimate the potential financial recovery you could receive, is to speak with an experienced car accident attorney as soon as possible.
Depending on the circumstances, a skilled lawyer can often:
- Investigate the accident to identify all of the at-fault parties who may owe you financial compensation;
- Evaluate the amount of financial compensation you have the right to receive;
- Answer your questions and explain your options in a language you can understand;
- Advise you on how to make important decisions that could affect your future and your finances;
- Prepare and file official claims for compensation from the at-fault parties and/or their insurance carriers;
- Negotiate top-dollar settlements of your claims if possible;
- Go to court on your behalf to prove your right to receive money damages in a trial;
- Collect the money owed to you through a settlement, judgment, or jury award.
Of course, a lawyer can’t take any of these steps on your behalf until you reach out. So, if you suffered physical injuries and/or financial losses when a car hit you from behind, don’t wait to get the legal help you need.
Contact an experienced car accident attorney for a free case consultation.