You’ve been rear-ended. Now what? We will walk you through what you need to do immediately following the accident through collecting damages. And, we will, of course, answer the question: “I got rear-ended. How much money will I get?”
What to Do Immediately Following the Accident
1. The first thing you should do is determine whether you or any passengers in your vehicle have been injured. In the event of an injury, call for emergency services.
2. The next step is to safely move your vehicle out of traffic, if possible. Some states have “Move It” laws, which require you to move your car out of traffic if it’s been involved in a minor accident. If you don’t move your car, you could be subject to a fine.
3. You’ll also need to contact the police to document the accident. If you call for emergency services, police will also be dispatched to the scene. If the police arrive, do not leave the scene of the accident until it has been cleared by a police officer. In some cases, the police may decline to respond if the accident is minor and there are no injuries; if this happens, go to the nearest police station and file a report. An accurate report will protect you and the other driver from false claims and may be particularly important if there’s a question about who is liable. We’ll talk more about liability in a bit.
4. In addition to contacting emergency responders, you’ll need to exchange information with the other driver involved in the accident. This includes his/her name, address, contact, and insurance information.
5. You should document the scene as thoroughly as possible. Take photos of the vehicles involved and the surrounding area, as well as any conditions that may have contributed to the accident. You should also write down everything you recall happening during the accident as soon as possible, while it’s still fresh in your mind.
6. Finally, you may want to get your car checked because there could be hidden damage. For example, a plastic bumper could flex and not show damage, while the safety foam and metal structure behind it may be damaged. This would need to be repaired because if you happen to get into another accident, you won’t be as well protected.
Should You Go to the Emergency Room?
If you or a passenger have been hurt in the accident, you should seek medical attention immediately. Head injuries are the most common type of injuries suffered in rear-end collisions.
According to a study on car accident injury patterns by the Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine, the most frequently suffered injuries in rear-end accidents are:
- Head injuries: 31.7%
- Chest injuries: 17.1%
- Abdominal injuries: 14.6%
- Neck injuries: 12.2%
- Pelvic fractures: 9.8%
Keep in mind that an injury that initially feels minor may become worse over time, if not properly treated. If you don’t go to the emergency room, you should try to see a doctor soon after a rear-end collision — not only to determine the extent of any injuries, but also to document your injuries and any potential long-term effects. This may be important information for an insurance claim.
Who’s at Fault?
Generally, police and insurance companies favor the front driver in a rear-end collision. This means the back driver is almost always found liable. However, there may be mitigating circumstances that can reduce the liability of the back driver and even place some of the liability on you as the front driver.
According to an article on establishing fault in a rear-end collision from legal publication site Nolo.com, mitigating circumstances may include:
- Visibility issues, such as smoke, bad weather, hanging branches, or curves and hills
- Road conditions, such as snow, ice, sleet, or heavy rain
- Front-driver negligence, such as running a red light, unexpectedly reversing, or failing to use hazard lights and/or pulling off the road due to a flat tire or other mechanical problem
- Front-driver mechanical issues, such as non-functioning tail or brake lights
Note that some states, such as New Jersey and Michigan, also have “no-fault” car insurance laws. Under these laws, regardless of who caused the accident, certain costs related to the accident (like medical expenses) will always be covered by your own insurance provider.
Suggested article: What to Do If You Rear Ended Someone
How Do You File a Claim?
If you’re involved in an accident that appears to be the fault of the other driver, you should first contact his/her insurance company. Let the insurance company know that you were in an accident involving one of its policyholders. This is why it is important to exchange insurance information at the scene of the accident.
The other driver’s insurance company will ask you for the presumed at-fault driver’s name and policy number. The company will also request as much information as you can give about the accident. You can send in photos of vehicle damage and a copy of the police report, if you have one. If the other driver is determined to be at fault — which is typically the case in rear-end collisions — his insurance company will pay for the damages and any additional expenses the driver is determined to be liable for.
You may also be required to report the accident to your own insurance company, regardless of who was at fault. You’ll need to review your individual insurance policy to determine if the company requires accident reporting.
If you aren’t required to notify your insurance company, you may choose not to, as your premium may increase depending on your state’s laws. A Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) article, Why Car Insurance Rates Go Up After Accidents, explains some of the effects various types of accidents can have on your insurance policy. Contact your insurance company to find out more about your state’s laws regarding accidents and insurance premiums.
The general exception here is if you’re rear-ended by a driver who doesn’t have insurance. We will discuss what to do in this circumstance in a later section of this article.
Do You Have to Pay Your Deductible?
Provided that the at-fault driver’s insurance company will cover your vehicle repairs, you will not need to pay your insurance deductible for a rear-end collision. However, you will need to pay any deductible that’s required by your policy if the at-fault driver does not have insurance and your insurance company will be covering the cost of repairs, or if you’re found liable for the accident.
How Much Money Will You Get?
The amount of money you’ll receive from a rear-end collision depends on several factors, including the amount of damage done to your vehicle and any additional costs for which you’re seeking recovery. Additional costs may include medical expenses, lost income (if you were out of work as a result of the accident), and pain and suffering. For more information, see our article: Average Settlement for Rear-End Collisions + How Settlements Work
If You Were Injured, Can You Receive Punitive Damages?
Generally, insurance companies will only cover tangible damages caused by a rear-end collision or other accident, such as vehicle damage and medical expenses. If you’re seeking punitive damages, such as lost income or pain and suffering, you will likely have to file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver.
You can file yourself in small claims court or hire a lawyer. In many cases, working with a lawyer may cost you more than the amount you can expect to receive from a settlement. However, if you’ve been seriously injured or permanently disabled as a result of a rear-end collision and it affects your livelihood and quality of life, you may want to consider hiring a lawyer.
Most lawyers who specialize in personal injury will provide a free consultation to review your case and let you know how much of a settlement you may be able to receive. FindLaw.com has a national directory of personal injury lawyers to help you find someone in your area.
The At-Fault Driver is Uninsured. How Do You Collect Damages?
If you’re rear-ended by a driver who doesn’t have insurance, your options to settle may be limited.
Most insurance companies offer uninsured motorist coverage for both bodily injury (UMBI) and property damage (UMPD), but this type of coverage is not mandatory. If you have purchased this type of coverage and you’re hit by an uninsured driver, you can file a claim with your insurance company. You’ll still have to pay any required deductibles on your policy.
If you have not purchased UMBI/UMPD coverage, your insurance company will most likely not cover the damage or expenses.
Your insurance company may take the other driver’s information and file a lawsuit on your behalf against the at-fault driver to cover the costs. In this case, you’ll have to pay for any repairs and medical expenses out of pocket and the insurance company would reimburse you when/if it receives compensation from the at-fault driver.
Unfortunately, there is a chance that an accident involving an uninsured driver will result in you having to pay for everything yourself. If your insurance company doesn’t cover the accident and doesn’t file a lawsuit against the other driver, you can file a case in small claims court. But, keep in mind, if a driver is uninsured, he or she may not have the money to pay a settlement even if a judgment is made in your favor.
A rear-end collision can be a scary experience, but now you know what to do. The first step is to find out if anyone needs medical attention. After that, you should report the accident to the police and start documenting everything right away — this will make the insurance claim process smoother. You will need to file a claim with the other driver’s insurance company to recover damages. Under certain circumstances, such as if you were seriously injured or if the other driver does not have insurance, you may be able to sue the other driver.