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June 13, 2024
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Characteristic Injuries from a Rear-End Accident

Rear-end accidents happen more frequently than any other type of collision. In 2018, the most recent year with fully tabulated statistics, 32.3% of vehicle accidents were rear-end collisions. Rear-end collisions produce some characteristic injuries. These injuries are so distinctive that they can help a car accident attorney prove a causal link between your injuries and the rear-end accident.

Here is some information about some common injuries caused by a rear-end collision.

Rear-End Collisions

Rear-end collisions occur when a trailing vehicle strikes a lead vehicle from behind. They can occur for many reasons. But in most cases, the driver of the trailing vehicle causes the accident.

Some common causes for rear-end collisions include:

  • Distracted driving
  • Speeding
  • Slippery road conditions
  • Following too closely
  • Impaired driving

Occasionally, the driver of the lead vehicle causes the rear-end collision. For example, the lead vehicle might cut off the trailing vehicle or swerve into the trailing vehicle’s lane.

Common Injuries from Rear-End Collisions

When a rear-end collision occurs, the force pushes the occupants of the lead vehicle backward into their seats. As the lead vehicle comes to a stop, inertia whips them forward. The opposite happens in the trailing vehicle. The collision pushes the occupants of the trailing vehicle forward. They fall back into their seats as the vehicles stop. This back-and-forth whipping motion causes distinctive injuries in both vehicles. Some of these injuries include:


As the vehicle occupants whip back and forth, their heads act as a weight at the end of the neck. This weight pulls and bends the neck in a violent motion that can strain or tear the muscles, ligaments, and tendons of the neck. This injury is called whiplash.

Some symptoms of whiplash include

  • Neck pain and stiffness
  • Pain that radiates from the neck into the shoulders and arms
  • Headache
  • Tingling or numbness in the hands and arms

These symptoms may clear up on their own after a few days or may require treatment and medication.

Disc Injury

Spinal vertebrae are separated by intervertebral discs. These discs cushion the vertebrae and make the back flexible. In a rear-end collision, the discs expand and compress as the head whips back and forth. This can cause disc injuries, such as:

  • Herniated disc, which occurs when the disc ruptures and the gel-like material inside protrudes from the disc.
  • Bulging disc, which occurs when the fibers of the disc weaken, allowing the disc to compress and bulge.

In either case, damaged discs can press on the spinal cord that passes through the vertebrae. This pressure can lead to chronic nerve pain in the neck, back, and limbs.

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

Even if your head does not strike the steering wheel or windshield, the whipping motion caused by a rear-end collision can lead to a TBI. A rear-end collision can cause a few types of TBI including:

  • Concussion, where the brain sloshes inside the fluid in the skull causing widespread, but minor, bruising.
  • Contusion, where the brain strikes the inside of the skull, leading to localized bleeding and swelling.
  • Diffuse axonal injury, where the whipping motion tears nerve cells inside the brain.

TBIs can produce many symptoms such as:

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Loss of balance
  • Tinnitus
  • Confusion
  • Fatigue

A severe TBI may lead to coma or death.

Recovering Compensation After a Rear-End Collision

California uses an at-fault insurance system. This means financial responsibility for accidents lay with the drivers who caused them. To recover compensation after a rear-end collision, you must prove fault for the accident. Once that happens, you can recover compensation for injuries caused by the accident.

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