Short Answer: When you are the victim of a rear-end collision, you can expect compensation for any direct financial losses you incur (e.g., medical treatment, property damage, and loss of wages) as well as any emotional distress and loss of ability to perform valued activities. The total sum of the damages assessed will be multiplied by a factor reflective of the severity of the crash to determine the ultimate settlement amount. To ensure that you receive an appropriate settlement after you’ve been rear-ended, you should immediately document and treat your injuries, document all property damage, file a police report, and file a claim with your insurance company. For more about rear-end collision settlement amounts, as well as the process for determining fault and administering a claim, see below.
Average Rear-End Collision Settlement
The amount you can expect to receive in a settlement for a rear-end collision will vary widely. The point of compensation in a settlement is to make the victim whole again; the settlement amount takes into account compensation for medical expenses, property damage, missed work, emotional distress, etc.
There is no standard calculation to determine the amount you can expect to receive after being rear-ended, but an attorney can assist you in understanding what is possible in your specific case. Keep in mind that geographic location will also affect how much compensation you can receive; some jurisdictions place stringent caps on the amount that can be paid out to compensate for pain and suffering, while others are more generous to victims. The amount you will receive depends on the damages you incur as a result of the accident, which are determined by several factors:
- Special damages: Sum of direct economic losses
- Cost of medical expenses (related to the collision)
- May also factor in treatment for any long-term health problems resulting from collision-related injuries (e.g., physical therapy)
- Cost of car repairs or full value of the car, if declared a total loss
- Cost of rental car while waiting for car repairs
- Cost of medical expenses (related to the collision)
Note: While some vehicle damage is obvious (e.g., dents, scratches, chipped paint), other damage can be underlying and may not cause problems until it is too late for you to request compensation. An adjuster from your insurance company will inspect the car and determine the cost of repairs or declare it a total loss, but to ensure that you receive accurate compensation for special damages, you may want to bring your car to an expert for a full valuation after a crash.
- General damages: Non-economic losses, which typically equal two to five times the total of special damages, depending on severity and persistence.
- Loss of family care-taking abilities
- Loss of ability to perform valued activities, hobbies, etc.
- Resulting anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues that may need treatment
- If immediately apparent, treatment for these may be considered special damages.
- Punitive damages, awarded to the victim to punish the person liable for the crash for negligence, wrongdoing, etc.
- General pain and suffering
- Fault of the collision
- Compensation can be decreased significantly (or removed entirely) if an investigation determines that you were partially at fault for the accident. Policies vary by state.
Once the total of the damages is assessed, it will likely be increased by a multiplier depending on the severity of the crash. The more severe the accident, the higher the multiplier. A common multiplier for collisions in the U.S. is three; for a very bad accident, the total financial loss incurred may be multiplied by a factor of four.
For example, if the total cost of your damages is determined to be $5,000, your approximate settlement amount may be around $15,000. If the accident was severe, you may be offered closer to $20,000 or more.
What to Do If You Get Rear-Ended
Rear-end collisions are one of the most common types of car accidents. There are a few steps you can take right away to ensure that you can properly handle any medical care, car repairs, and insurance measures; each of these items will factor into your settlement amount.
Document and Treat Injuries
The first thing you should do after a collision is determine if you are injured. Even low-speed collisions can cause whiplash or broken bones. If necessary, you should go to the hospital and have a doctor examine your injuries. Minor pain or irritation just after an accident can turn out to be larger problems and have long-term effects if untreated.
Although some injuries can manifest days after an accident, the closer to the accident these injuries are documented by a medical professional, the easier it will be to prove a connection to the accident and request compensation for the costs of treating your injuries. Keep track of all the money you spend on medical services.
Document Property Damage
After any type of collision, it is vital to document all damage to property. Take photos of your car and the car that hit you. Additionally, take photos of the surrounding road conditions and any possible obstructions. It is generally better to have more photos than you need than to be missing a photo that could be vital in proving fault.
File a Police Report
Regardless of the severity of the accident, you should call the local police department to file a police report. This can assist in your insurance claim case against the other driver. Even if the damage to your car seems minimal, be sure to get the other driver’s insurance information. If there was anyone in the area who saw the accident, you may want to speak to them to see if they can confirm your version of events. If you believe they might be valuable witnesses later, ask them if they are willing to share their contact information to give possible witness statements as to how the collision occurred.
Contact Your Insurance Company
Whether you caused the accident or you were rear-ended, you will want to provide your insurance agent with as much information as possible. Although there are a few well-known steps you can take to make sure you properly file your claim and receive compensation, your insurance agent will be able to provide personalized advice on how to proceed in your individual case. You may also want to contact the other driver’s insurance company to inform it that you’ve been in a collision with one of its policyholders.
Filing a Rear-End Collision Claim
The first step to receiving compensation after you have been rear-ended is to file a claim with your insurance company. Although it’s possible that the claim will go to court, this is very unlikely in most cases; litigation is both time-consuming and costly, and it’s generally unnecessary for rear-end collisions. Rear-end accident cases are typically settled out of court, with one insurance company offering a sum of money to the other to compensate for the damage caused.
Your insurance agent can walk you through the steps of filing a claim. Once you’ve filed the claim, the insurance companies will come to a determination about who is liable. This determination may or may not match the conclusion of the police report, although the insurance companies will take this into consideration. The liable driver’s insurance company will be responsible for covering the other party’s medical expenses and car repair costs. You should keep in contact with your insurance agent in case any obstacles arise during the claims process.
Determining Fault in a Rear-End Collision
To resolve a rear-end collision damage claim, it is necessary to determine which driver is at fault. In rear-end collisions, the driver in the back is almost always liable, regardless of the specific circumstances of the incident. The rules of the road require drivers to follow other vehicles from a safe distance, which should enable the second driver to slow down or avoid the car in front which has slowed down or stopped. This typically applies no matter the reason the front car slowed down or came to a stop.
There can be a number of factors, however, that mitigate the rear driver’s liability. For example, unsafe road conditions such as the presence of ice and snow, or poor visibility caused by weather, smoke, fog, overhanging branches, or the curve of a road, can contribute to the cause of an accident and thereby reduce the fault of the rear driver.
Another factor to consider when determining fault in a rear-end collision is if there have been any violations of traffic law. For example, if a car makes a left-hand turn into traffic on a red light, and is rear-ended by a car with the right of way, the driver that did the rear-ending is not automatically at fault. It is possible that the front driver was also negligent.
The second driver may also not be held responsible for as much liability if the front car had malfunctioning brake lights, if they reversed suddenly, or if they had a flat tire or other problem but did not pull off the road or use their hazard lights appropriately.
A determination of liability considers all of the possibilities listed above. A lawyer can help analyze the specific facts of your case and explain .
What If You Are at Fault?
Liability tends to fall on the rear driver by default in a rear-end collision. Regardless of your place in the accident, much of the information above pertains to the overall process that follows a rear-end collision and can provide you with a good idea of what to expect in the aftermath of the crash. If any of the external mitigating conditions listed above apply to your situation, you may want to consider hiring an attorney to help you argue your case and reduce your liability.
Following a rear-end collision, once you are able to assess and treat your injuries, document property damage, and file reports with both the police and your insurance company, you can expect your settlement amount to factor in all associated damages and then be multiplied by a number that reflects the severity of the crash. Insurance companies will likely settle the claim outside of court. If you are at fault, there may be ways to mitigate the amount of liability for which you are responsible.
For more information on dealing with the aftermath of a collision, see our article about how often car accidents exceed policy limits.