All You Need to Know About Rear-End Collisions
You do all you can to drive safely, but the simple fact remains that you’re only as safe as the most dangerous driver you share the road with. This is especially true when it comes to rear-end collisions.
While you’re busy scanning about to make sure there’s nothing dangerous in front of you, a threat to your safety is the driver behind you who might end up rear ending you for any number of reasons. Sometimes these accidents are relatively harmless. Minor fender benders. While other rear end collisions can be significant.
Rear-end collisions are some of the more common automobile accidents on our roads these days. Indeed, in some years they can account for as many as 40% of all collisions. That’s why we’ve put together this comprehensive guide to rear-end collisions for you. We’ll look at how most accidents happen, examine the most common injuries suffered because of these accidents, and review how fault is typically determined by investigating officers and insurance companies.
5 common causes of rear-end collisions
Typically, rear-end collisions are caused by a driver of one car following another car too closely. The accident can also be the result of several additional factors, either alone or in concert.
Sometimes the distance between two cars is shorter than it appears when the second car is driving too fast. A “safe distance” may not be enough in this situation.
2. Distracted driving
A problem that only gets worse as technology becomes more addictive, distracted driving has become the number one cause of death in Ontario automobile accidents. Time spent checking your phone is time when your eyes aren’t on the road, allowing for the vehicle ahead of you to brake without you noticing, resulting in a rear end collision.
3. Mechanical failure
Even keeping a safe distance becomes a moot point if your brakes fail. And if you’re found to be negligent in the upkeep of your vehicle, it will only compound your problems in court.
4. Fatigued driving
Recent studies have shown that driving while tired can be even more dangerous than driving while intoxicated. Driving while you are tired slows your reaction time considerably, meaning that keeping a safe distance between your car, and the one in front of you, simply may not be enough. Pull over somewhere safe, have a power-nap, or get yourself an extra strong cup of coffee and stretch your legs before getting back behind the wheel.
5. Driving under the influence (alcohol/drugs)
Getting behind the wheel while intoxicated, whether with alcohol or drugs, is a recipe for disaster. Many illicit substances impair your judgement, causing you to assume certain risks, including reckless driving, that you might never consider while sober.
5 common physical injuries associated with rear-end collisions
Depending on a variety of variables—including which vehicle you were in and whether the lead vehicle was in motion at the time of the accident—the list of injuries resulting from a rear-end collision could be almost immeasurable, but some of the most likely include:
Whiplash is a catch all term for a number of soft-tissue neck injuries that can be caused by the sudden jerking motion of an auto collision.
2. Head and face injuries
In a car accident, there are many things that could injure your head and/or face, including airbag deployment, loose items set in motion by the sudden loss of momentum, and flying broken glass.
3. Shoulder injuries
Seat belts save lives, but they can still hurt. The force of being thrown forward with one shoulder restrained can lead to possible shoulder injuries.
4. Broken bones
It’s possible that the force of the accident could break some bones. Anything from your knees hitting the dash, your ribs pressing against the seatbelt, or your forehead hitting the steering wheel of an older model car all could result in fractures.
5. Internal damage
The impact of a collision can also jostle you inside, possibly leading to such complications as internal bleeding or damaged organs.
Determining fault in rear-end collisions
People have been involved in rear-end collisions as long as vehicles have had to share roads. In Ontario, determining negligence in a rear-end collision was established in Beaumont v Ruddy, 1932, and further clarified in Ruetz v Goetz, 1955, which states:
When one motor vehicle is following another, there is not only a duty in law on the following vehicle to exercise reasonable care, but if he collides with the leading vehicle there is an onus of proof resting on him which has been correctly described in Beaumont v Ruddy.
In other words, in the eyes of the law, the car that strikes from behind—or, the second car—is usually assumed to be at fault, and if that driver doesn’t agree, it’s up to them to prove it.
Let’s look at some examples that aren’t so cut and dry.
What if a rear-end collision involves three cars?
The examples above all assume a collision between two vehicles, but it’s possible for a rear-end collision to involve multiple vehicles. In cases with three cars, the car at the rear can hit another car from behind with so much force that the second car is forced to rear-end the car in front of it. Who’s at fault then?
In this case, it’s good to know that the first car, the one at the front of the line, will be assumed not at fault. As for determining fault for the other two vehicles, the deciding factors are whether the first two vehicles are in motion or not at the moment of impact.
If the first two cars have come to a complete stop, fault for the accident is assigned 100% to the driver who sets the chain reaction in motion—the third car. The car in the middle would not have hit the car in front of it without first being hit from behind. However, if all three cars are in motion, say traveling in the same lane on a highway, fault can be split between the driver at the rear and the driver in the middle. In order for all three cars to be involved in that accident, both of the at-fault drivers would have to have been following too close.
What about rare rear end collision exceptions?
While Ruetz v Goetz leaves provision for the driver assumed to be at fault to argue that the driver in front caused the accident through some form of negligence, such as sudden and unreasonable braking, proving it in court has proven difficult.
In cases like Rahimi et al. v Hatami et al. and Nadeau et al. v Peters et al. where the at-fault driver has tried to argue the other driver was at fault, judges have ruled against them. Meeting the burden of proof to assign fault to the first driver can be problematic, to say the least.
So, what’s the solution to reducing rear-end collisions?
Try as we might to stay safe on the road, we still have to accommodate for the actions of other drivers—actions that can surprise us from behind and have drastic consequences.
You can take steps—such as not speeding, choosing a safe car or truck, keeping your vehicle in good repair, not playing with digital devices behind the wheel, avoid driving at times when car accidents are most likely to occur, all of which will help minimize your chances of causing a fender bender.
One good thing in all this is that at least you now know that if you’re ever rear ended, you likely won’t be found at fault for the accident. However, if you’re seriously injured in the accident, determining fault could be the least of your concerns.
Have you been injured in a rear-end collision?
If you or a loved one has been seriously hurt in a rear-end collision, contact the dedicated team of professional personal injury lawyers at Mackesy Smye today. We have some of the most-respected auto accident lawyers in Ontario, and we’ll do everything in our power to help you get the outcome you deserve.