A rear-end collision, where the front of the striking vehicle hits the rear of the vehicle in front of it, is the most common type of car accident in Maryland and across the United States.
It is estimated that rear-enders constitute about 40% of all car accidents. That would mean that there were about 2,200,000 rear-end accidents in 2009, the last year for which we have figures from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. That is more than 6,000 rear-end collisions per day in the United States.
Causes Of A Rear-End Collision In Maryland
A rear-end collision in Maryland is usually caused by:
- Speed. Driving too fast to be able to stop in time.
- Tailgating. Failing to keep a safe distance between the driver’s car and the car in front of it.
- Inattention. Distracted by eating, looking away from the road, talking on the phone, texting, etc.
- Driving Under the Influence. Of course, driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs can lead to rear-end collisions.
- Unsafe lane change. Changing lanes and cutting off another vehicle.
- Weather conditions. Rain, snow, ice, fog and dust can make the roadway slippery and can limit visibility.
- Road conditions. Wet, snowy and icy roadways can contribute to rear-end collisions.
- Defective vehicles. Vehicles with defective brakes or bald tires can cause a vehicle to slide into a rear-ender.
Injuries Caused By a Rear-End Collision In Maryland
In many car crashes, including a rear-end collision In Maryland, no one is injured. Of the 5,500,000 car accidents in the United States in 2009, about 4,000,000 only caused damage to vehicles and other property. Only about 1,500,000 car accidents caused injuries and fatalities. This is according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
However, thousands of people are injured in a rear-end collision in Maryland each year.
The Most Common Injuries Caused By A Rear-End Collision In Maryland
These are the most common injuries that are caused by a rear-end collision in Maryland:
- Neck injuries. When your car is hit from the rear, your neck snaps back (medically, this movement is called extension) and then forward (called flexion). When this movement extends and flexes your neck beyond its usual range of motion, you can sustain a hyperextension/hyperflexion injury, which is sometimes called whiplash. These neck injuries vary in severity. Some whiplash injuries can be permanent and disabling. You can also suffer more serious neck injuries such as cervical radiculopathy (pinched nerve) and herniated cervical (neck) discs.
- Back injuries. Sprains, strains and herniated discs in the mid-back (called the thoracic spine) and the low back (the lumbar spine) can also result from rear-enders in Maryland.
- Face and head injuries. Your face and head may strike the steering wheel or the windshield in a rear-end collision, possibly resulting in bruises, lacerations or even closed-head injuries such as concussions or even more serious brain injuries. It is possible to sustain a closed-head injury (brain injury) without striking the interior of your car. Your brain can collide with the inside of your skull during the violent back and front movement of your head, even if your head does not hit anything.
- Wrist, hand and shoulder injuries. These can occur when your hands and arms are jammed into your steering wheel by the impact.
- Ankle and foot injuries. Your ankles and feet can be injured when they are jammed into the brake pedal by the impact.
- Leg and knee injuries. These can occur when your leg or knee strikes the interior of your car, usually the dashboard.
- Seatbelt injuries. When your seatbelt and shoulder harness engage, they can cause bruising or, possibly, internal injuries.
- Airbag injuries. Your airbag may deploy if your rear-end collision forces you into a car in front of you. The CO2 in the airbags sometimes causes chemical burns.
Factors That Affect Whether You Are Injured In A Rear-End Collision In Maryland
Whether a driver or passenger is injured, and if so, how seriously they are injured, may be affected by these factors:
- Where they are seated in the vehicle. In a rear-end collision, passengers in the rear of vans are more vulnerable than those seated closer to the front of the vehicle.
- Proper positioning of headrests. Proper headrest positioning can prevent neck injuries. On the other hand, it the headrest is too low, it can act as a fulcrum and make neck injuries even worse.
- Use of seatbelts and airbags. While they can cause comparatively minor injuries, seatbelts and airbags have been demonstrated to save lives and prevent more serious injuries.
- Awareness of the impending crash. If a driver and her passengers know they are going to be hit, they can brace themselves and this can prevent injuries or lessen their severity.
When Do The Symptoms of Rear-End Collision Injuries Begin?
When there are injuries in a rear-end collision in Maryland, the symptoms of those injuries usually occur promptly, either at the scene of the accident or soon after, after the stress of the accident subsides.
However, the symptoms of legitimate injuries caused by a rear-end collision in Maryland may not arise for days or even weeks.
My best advice: if in doubt, check it out. That is, consult a doctor as soon as you experience symptoms of an injury after a rear-end collision in Maryland.
Legal Claims Resulting From A Rear-End Collision In Maryland
As I explained, usually a rear-end collision in Maryland does not result in injuries, only vehicle and other property damage. Therefore, statistically, the most common claim after a rear-end collision in Maryland is a “property damage” claim.
However, often a rear-end collision in Maryland does cause injuries. Legal claims for compensation for injuries are usually called “personal injury claims” or “bodily injury claims.”
Who Pays Damages Caused By A Rear-End Collision In Maryland?
With one exception that I will explain below, Maryland has a fault car insurance system.
That means that whoever causes an accident pays for the damages that result.
The at-fault driver is said to be “liable” for the damages caused by the accident.
Since Maryland law requires drivers to have motor vehicle insurance, up to their policy limit, the at-fault driver’s insurance company defends against claims that are made after a rear-end collision in Maryland and pays whatever amount the at-fault driver has to pay.
Here’s the exception I mentioned. Almost all Maryland drivers have a type of “add-on” no-fault insurance called “Personal Injury Protection,” or “PIP.” The coverage is usually $2,500, but it could be as high as $10,000 if you chose a higher coverage when you bought your insurance. Without regard to fault, PIP coverage pays your accident-related medical bills and (85% of your) lost income up to the policy limit.
In fact, under current law, accident-related medical bills arising from a rear-end collision in Maryland (and other types of collisions) are submitted to your PIP insurance carrier first. If you exhaust your PIP coverage, you then submit your medical bills to your health insurance company, if you have one.
If you later make a claim against the at-fault driver, you can claim all of your medical bills and lost income, even if you have received PIP or health insurance benefits for all or part of them. If you recover from the at-fault driver, you do not have to reimburse your PIP carrier but you probably will have to reimburse your health insurance carrier some portion of the amount they paid for your accident-related medical bills. This issue can get tricky, so be sure to check with a lawyer about it.
What Do You Have To Prove After A Rear-End Collision In Maryland?
A legal claim resulting from a rear-end collision in Maryland (and other collision types, too) is based on negligence. Negligence means carelessness.
Therefore, to prove your claim, you have to show that another driver was careless and caused the collision.
In most cases of a rear-end collision in Maryland, the rear driver, the driver who struck the vehicle in front, is negligent and must pay for all damages caused.
In fact, the law of Maryland establishes a presumption that when a stopped vehicle is struck from the rear the striking driver is negligent. This is a “rebuttable” presumption which means that it can be overcome if the striking driver can prove she was not negligent.
While the usual rule is that the striking driver is responsible for a rear-end collision in Maryland, there can be exceptions.
This is because Maryland is 1 of only 4 states that has a harsh rule called “contributory negligence.” This means that if the driver who is rear-ended contributed in any way to causing the collision, her claim is completely defeated!
That’s right, in theory, if the driver who is struck did something that makes him 1% responsible for causing the collision, he cannot recover from the following driver who was 99% responsible for the crash. Amazing, huh?
Forty-six states have a more reasonable rule called “comparative negligence.” Although there are different forms of comparative negligence, the essential concept is that the negligence of drivers involved in an accident is compared and the driver who is more at fault pays. However, the injured person’s recovery is reduced by his degree of fault. For example, if a driver is rear-ended, and it is determined that the front driver was 10% at fault, his recover is reduced by 10%. He can only recover 90% of his damages.
However, because Maryland does not have comparative negligence and still follows the old rule of contributory negligence, the opposing insurance company may try to defeat a claim made against the striking driver after a rear-end collision in Maryland in circumstances such as these . . .
- A Third Vehicle. Of course, if the following driver was driven into the rear of your car by another car, the driver of the other car is the cause of your damages and injuries.
- Cutoff. A driver swerves in front of another car, such as when changing lanes, and then abruptly stops. The driver in front could be determined to be the sole cause of the crash or contributorily negligent. In either case, she has no legitimate claim under Maryland law.
- Road Rage. The driver in front intentionally slams on the brakes, such as when angry with a tailgater. Both drivers could be found at fault or, at least, the driver in front would probably be found to be contributorily negligent.
- Backing. Of course, if the driver in front backs into the rear vehicle, that driver will probably be at fault.
- Disabled Vehicle Without Warning. A disabled vehicle does not have on emergency flashers, especially at night, and is struck from the rear. It could be determined that the disabled driver caused or contributed to causing the crash.
- Safety Defects. The front vehicle’s brake and/or tail lights are out so that the following driver does not get a signal that the vehicle in front is stopping. Here, also, the front driver could be found to be the sole cause of the rear-end collision, or, at least, a contributing cause.
The driver who strikes a vehicle in front and causes a rear-end collision in Maryland is almost always at fault — legally liable — and responsible for paying all of the property and injury damages that he causes.
However, don’t forget that there are exceptions to the general rule that the striking driver is liable.
I believe that, if you want to, you can safely resolve legal claims arising from a rear-end collision in Maryland by yourself, without a lawyer, if liability is clear and your damages are relatively small. In fact, I have written a book to help consumers settle their own claims. It is called The Car Accident Claims Kit and if you want to try to resolve your claims without a lawyer’s help, I encourage you to buy this book to learn the basics you will need to know. The book is inexpensive and comes with a 60 day no-questions-asked money back guarantee.
However, if liability is not clear or if your injuries and other damages are significant, you should have a lawyer represent you. The insurance company defending against your claim will have experienced and capable insurance adjusters and lawyers trying to defeat or minimize your claim. You should make sure you have someone on your side who is at least as experienced and as skilled and who is totally committed to making sure you receive all that you are entitled to.
You can call me NOW for an immediate and free discussion of your rear-end accident in Maryland.