Average Settlement for Rear End Collisions + How Settlements Work

Have you recently been in a rear end collision? If you have, you are probably wondering how to handle the details that follow — especially regarding the average settlement for a rear end collision. What do you do if you get rear-ended? What caused it? Who is at fault? How do you handle a settlement, and how much is a rear end accident worth? Once you’ve made sure that everyone involved is safe and unharmed, use this guide to assist you in moving forward from what can be a scary and unsettling situation.

Rear-end collisions are one of the most common types of road accidents. A rear-end collision occurs when a car hits the car in front of it. Damages from a rear-end collision can vary drastically, from minor scratches on a fender to one or all cars involved being totaled; from no human injury or minor whiplash to serious complications that result in hospital stays. According to the National Transportation Safety Board, almost one-third of all highway accidents are rear-impact collisions.

In This Article

What to Do If You Get Rear Ended

If you are in a rear-end collision, chances are that you’ll experience at least a few moments of shock. However, it is important to take a number of steps right away to ensure that you can properly handle any medical care and car repairs. These steps include examining and documenting all personal injuries and damage to vehicles, contacting the local police for a report, if necessary, and getting the other driver’s insurance information.

The very first thing you should do is check if you are injured. Even low-speed rear-end collisions can cause whiplash or broken bones. If necessary, 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 than you initially realize, and even minor injuries can 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 receive compensation for the costs of treating your injuries. Keep track of all money spent on medical services.

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. Take more photos than you think is necessary; it’s much better to have a photo that you don’t need than to be missing a photo that could have proved the other driver was at fault. You never know what may prove to be important during settlement.

Regardless of the severity of the accident, you should call the local police department to get a police report. This could greatly 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, 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.

Finally, call your insurance company. Especially if you are the car that was rear-ended, you want to provide the insurance agent with as much information as possible. Although this article can assist you in filing a claim and receiving compensation in a general sense, your insurance agent will be able to provide personalized advice on how to proceed in your individual case.

Causes of Most Rear-End Collisions

A number of factors can result in a car hitting the car it is following — that is to say, a rear-end collision. Too often, the driver in the back is following too closely to the front car to properly take evasive action before causing the collision. Distractions, such as the radio, other passengers, cell phone use, or things happening outside the car, can also contribute to a rear-end collision. Sometimes, it is simply a matter of the driver in the back not paying attention.

Of course, other factors may come into play. Weather conditions may increase the likelihood of this type of collision; if, for example, visibility was obstructed with fog, heavy snow, or rain, and the driver in the back did not see the car in front of them stop until it was too late. Perhaps the surface of the road was somehow compromised with ice or oil, such that even if the driver in the back was paying attention and attempted to brake prior to hitting the car in front, they were unable.

Keep in mind that determining the cause of a rear-end collision is not the same as determining who is at fault. The next section deals with how fault — or liability — is determined in these situations, taking into account the above factors.

Rear-End Collision Fault: Who Is at Fault in a Rear-End Collision?

To resolve a rear-end collision damage claim, it is necessary to determine which driver is at fault. Both the law and insurance company policies strongly favor the driver in the front. 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. This safe distance should enable the second driver to slow down or avoid the car in front which has slowed down or stopped. This applies no matter the reason the front car slowed down or came to a stop.

However, there can be a number of factors which mitigate the rear driver’s liability. For example, road conditions such as the presence of ice and snow, or poor visibility, caused by weather, smoke, 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.

Other things to consider when determining fault in a rear-end collision are 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 car that did the rear-ending is not automatically at fault. It is possible that the front driver was also negligent. Whether the front car had functioning brake lights, if the driver reversed suddenly, or if they got a flat tire (or other problem) but did not pull off the road or use their hazard lights appropriately are all things that could reduce the liability of the second car.

A determination of liability considers all of these possibilities. The legal impact of any negligence on the part of the front driver depends on how much these factors, taken as a whole, contributed to the car accident. A lawyer can help analyze the specific facts of your case and explain how liability is determined in your state.

How a Rear-End Collision Settlement Works

The first step to receiving compensation when you have been rear-ended is to file a claim with the insurance company. Although it’s possible that a claim will go to court and be litigated, this is very unlikely in most cases. Litigation is both timely and costly, and it’s generally unnecessary for rear-end collisions. In the absence of some highly unusual situation, such as clear negligence on the part of the driver in front, rear-end collisions are typically much less complicated than other vehicle accidents. For these reasons, rear-end accident cases are usually settled out of court, with one insurance company offering a sum of money to the other to compensate for the damage caused.

What you want is for the other driver’s insurance company to pay. This occurs if the insurance company determines that the other driver is at fault. As a first step, you’ll typically want to contact the other driver’s insurance company to inform them that you’ve been in a collision with one of their policyholders. However, note that your own insurance company may require you to file a report for any accident, even if you were not at fault. Look over your insurance policy to see if you’re required to report a collision regardless of fault. Even if it isn’t required, you may want to file a report with your own insurance anyway, in case the other driver’s insurer denies your claim.

Once you’ve filed a 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. Once it’s been determined which driver was at fault, that person’s insurance company will be responsible for covering the other party’s medical expenses and car repair costs. At least, that’s the straightforward version of how things should work; insurance can be an extremely murky subject, and there are numerous possibilities about what will happen after you file a claim. The best thing to do is to be willing to work closely with both your own insurer and the insurance company of the other driver so that you can solve the issue quickly and avoid an expensive legal battle.

What Is the Average Settlement for Rear End Collisions?

The amount you can receive in a settlement for a rear ended car accident settlement can vary widely. The point of compensation in a settlement is to make the victim whole again. That is, you should look at compensation as the amount of money it takes to put you in the position you would be in had the accident not happened. The assessment of that amount takes into consideration that your car may be severely damaged, medical expenses have piled up, that you may have missed work as a result of the accident, and more.

There is no standard calculation to determine the figure a person can receive after an accident. An attorney can assist you in understanding what is possible in your specific case. Keep in mind that geographic location will also determine how much compensation you can receive. Some jurisdictions place relatively stringent caps on what can be received for pain and suffering, while others are much friendlier to victims. But generally, the worse the damage to the car and driver, the higher the settlement will be.

The main thing to consider when looking at how much a settlement will be is the financial loss that occurred as a result of the accident. You can start this inquiry by looking at property damage. How much will it cost to repair the damage sustained to your vehicle? While some damage is obvious, such as dents and scratches, other damage can be hidden and may not cause problems until it is too late to be compensated for it. For this reason, it’s a good idea to bring your car to an expert for a full evaluation after a crash. Depending on the extent of damages versus the value of the car, a mechanic might determine your car to be totaled — meaning you are entitled to receive compensation for the full value of the car. Another factor that can add to the settlement cost is whether or not you had to pay for a rental car while waiting to get your car repaired.

Next, look at medical expenses. Consider everything that is related to the crash — an ambulance ride, medication, hospital expenses, and subsequent doctor’s visits, for example. In addition to economic loss from medical expenses, there may be non-economic losses that can increase a settlement amount. Such losses can stem from physical and mental pain and suffering, such as emotional anxiety and physical discomfort, especially when chronic or expected to persist in the long term.

Another form of financial loss is lost income. This is measured by the time that you were not able to work, and therefore not able to earn money, as a direct result of the accident. Lost income can be caused by a loss of transportation to your workplace when your car had to go to the shop for repairs or as a result of injuries. The amount of lost income will, of course, vary based on the type of work you do, and how it was impacted by the accident. If you have a manual labor job and, for example, broke a leg during the accident, your lost wages will likely be higher than someone who has the ability to work remotely from a desk.

The total of these damages may then be increased by a multiplier depending on the severity of the crash. The more severe the accident, the higher the multiplier. For a very bad accident, the total financial loss incurred may be compensated by a factor of four, for example.

What If You Are the One Who Did the Rear-Ending?

Were you the rear driver in a rear-end collision? This can be an extremely stressful situation, as liability tends to be applied to the rear driver by default. 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 a rear-impact crash. Review especially the section on who is at fault and look closely at the mitigating factors that may reduce the rear driver’s liability. If any of these conditions apply to your situation, you may want to consider hiring an attorney to help you argue your case and reduce your liability when it comes to the settlement.

For more information, see our article: I Rear-Ended Someone, What Now?

In Summary

Being in any sort of car accident is a stressful and unsettling experience. First, you’ll need to make sure that you, your passengers, and the people in the other car are alright. Then you’ll need to assess the damage to your car and keep a careful record of any expenses that follow, including car repair costs and medical fees. Depending on the severity of the accident, you’ll likely be facing a police report, an insurance claim, and a settlement process. With the information in this article, you’re fully prepared for the aftermath of a rear-end collision.

For more information on dealing with the aftermath of a collision, see our article: How Often Do Auto Accident Settlements Exceed the Policy Limits?

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10 comments

  • Frankie Nelson says:

    Hi my girlfriend and I were involved in a rear end car accident totalling our car from the impact of the driver hitting us and driving us across train tracks with an oncoming train. Physically she is banged up but for me its more of an emotion, mental pain in that I drive a box truck for a living and now since the accident I’m afraid that every time I see brake lights or come to brake I replay the impact of the accident my girlfriend and I were invloved in. Can you please let me know what the average settlement a person experiencing mental and emotional stress and pain is entitled to?

  • i rear ended someone.i sustained damages as well.and have to rent a car.will i be made whole or will i just have to foot the bill.also the man i rear ended was alone,but says his grandson was with him.no police report was made since.no one was badly hurt.WhAt do you think?

    • Laura Bachmann says:
      First Quarter Finance logostaff

      Hi Janice,

      It’s the party who is at fault who has to make the other whole. This is a basic tort law negligence principal — the person who causes the harm has to compensate the other to put them back to the state they were at before the tort. Tort usually isn’t punitive, so the obligation is just to make whole or compensate, and not to pay extra money as punishment. As the rear driver, you’ll most likely be found at fault unless there are some other circumstances that mitigate your guilt. Other circumstances, for example, could be road conditions beyond your control of the front driver’s contributory negligence. At this point, you should do all you can to record what damage was done. Gather any photos of car damage and record any bills arising from the incident. If you have insurance, you should check your policy and make a report to your company as appropriate. If you anticipate factual disputes (e.g., as to whether he had his grandson with him), you can look into the other driver’s insurance policy and see if there is anyway to file a report about the incident with his company.

  • Pamela LaCombe says:

    I was rear ended which caused my vechile to spin around into the oncoming traffic from which I got hit again hard t-boned by another vechile the police report clearly states the vechile that rear ended me was at fault and was cited at the scene my vechile was totaled and my injuries were bruised ribs and chest neck strain and low back strain my medical bills came to $5,900 and the insurance adjuster first offer was $6,700 is this a ligament offer?

    • Rebecca Turley says:
      First Quarter Finance logostaff

      Hi Pamela,

      Unfortunately, we are not able to provide you with advice regarding an insurance settlement and its legitimacy. Many people feel more comfortable working with an insurance company regarding a settlement when they are represented by an attorney.

  • I was involved in a rear ender accident this past March. I was told that even if no injuries I could recieve up to 5000.00 dollars from the accident. How do I go about claiming this?

    • Rebecca Turley says:
      First Quarter Finance logostaff

      Hi Lacey,

      You have the right to contact an attorney regarding a rear end collision. An attorney will give you an idea whether you have a case against the other motorist/motorist’s insurance company. As with most cases, you must be able to demonstrate damages to collect a settlement.

      • Thank you editor Rebecca Turley.
        I figured that was the way I had to go. I was told I didn’t have to get an attorney involved. Maybe I ask ťhe other party.

  • Amy Brigman Merkle says:

    Hello,
    I was in the middle of a 4 car MVA in February 2017. The driver has admitted fault. This process has been a huge problem for me. This has taken over 4 months to settle and still isn’t settled. I have had to collect bills, medical records, etc. myself to send to their adjuster. I’ve sent at last count 13 emails to their adjuster. I’ve also had to take my car on 3 separate occasions in for repair to 2 different body shops totaling $6300 damage. My lost wages and medical bills are $1400. I have endured so much stress from this I couldn’t even begin to tell you.
    In calculating my settlement would you suggest adding in my car damages? They have already paid for that and my rental.
    Thank you

    • Rebecca Turley says:
      First Quarter Finance logostaff

      Hi Amy,

      While I can’t tell you what you can and can’t claim because it will vary from case to case, just remember that the other driver’s insurance company will likely be quick to settle instead of going through the court process. This means that it can’t do any harm to include your car damages in your settlement.