taking a photo a rear-end car collisionIf you’re rear-ended by another motorist in Virginia, there are steps you can take right away to strengthen your insurance claim against the at-fault driver. Every motorist has a duty to drive safely. Doing so includes following another vehicle at a safe distance to avoid a rear-end accident if the car ahead should stop suddenly. Nonetheless, rear-end crashes account for approximately one-third of all U.S. car accidents resulting in injuries. In Virginia, they’re most likely to occur at busy intersections in the summer months when thousands of tourists visit Shenandoah.

How Rear-End Accidents Happen

Rear-end wrecks occur most commonly in heavy traffic, especially where cars are traveling at high speeds. The causes of such accidents include:

  • Speeding. Driving faster than the speed limit or road conditions allow makes it hard to slow down or stop quickly to prevent a rear-end crash.
  • Tailgating. If a car ahead slows down or stops suddenly, the driver behind might be unable to stop in time if it’s following too closely.
  • Bad weather. In snow, ice, rain, or fog, visibility is reduced, and a vehicle’s stopping distance is increased, so drivers following other cars should slow down and leave even more than the normally safe distance between vehicles.
  • Defective equipment. Faulty or worn-out brakes make it harder for a car behind to stop, increasing the chance of rear-end wreck.
  • Impaired driving. The use of drugs or alcohol slows reaction time and inhibits vision, making an impaired driver more likely to crash into a car ahead that slows down or stops unexpectedly.
  • Distracted or fatigued driving. A motorist who is tired or drowsy, talking or texting on a phone, eating or drinking, talking to passengers, adjusting a radio, putting on makeup, or checking a GPS device might not notice in time that a car ahead is slowing down or stopping.

Injuries frequently sustained in rear-end crashes include fractured bones, organ damage, lacerations, internal bleeding, whiplash, spinal cord damage, and traumatic brain injury (TBI). If you suffer these or other injuries, you may submit a claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance company for your resulting medical expenses, as well as property damage, lost income, and pain suffering.

What Is Contributory Negligence?

Although the driver of the car that rear-ends you is probably responsible for your accident and liable for your damages, you might be assigned partial fault for the crash in some scenarios:

  • You have defective brake lights, backup lights, or taillights.
  • You slam on the brakes and stop suddenly in traffic for no apparent reason.
  • You “brake check” the car behind you by tapping your brake pedal to activate your brake lights.
  • You reverse into the front of the car behind you.
  • You come to a stop because you’ve rear-ended a car in front of you, causing a multi-car accident.
  • You stop suddenly because you’ve struck an object on the road.

The Commonwealth of Virginia follows a strict contributory negligence rule in personal injury cases. This means you can be deprived of your right to compensation for damages if you’re found even one percent responsible for your accident. The at-fault driver’s insurer knows this and is in business to make a profit by collecting high monthly premiums and paying out as little as possible in accident claims.

The insurance company, therefore, is very likely to accuse you of being partially at fault in the wreck, even if you really aren’t, in order to scare you into accepting an unfairly low settlement before you even know what your total medical expenses will be. You should not accept such an offer without consulting a car accident attorney. If you don’t have a lawyer, the insurance company knows you’re unlikely to file a lawsuit and take your case to trial on your own. If you do have an attorney who’s willing to fight for you in court, however, the playing field is leveled, and you’re apt to be offered a more reasonable award since the insurer wants to avoid the trouble and expense of a trial as much as you do.

What to Do If You’re Hurt in a Rear-End Vehicle Accident in Virginia

If you’re physically able, you should move to safety, call 9-1-1 to report the wreck, take photos of both vehicles and the scene, exchange information with the other driver, get contact information from witnesses, seek medical attention as soon as possible, notify your own insurer, and contact an experienced car accident attorney who can work to prove the at-fault driver’s complete liability and fight in court for fair compensation if necessary. Contact us online or call us at 540-341-0007 to schedule your free consultation. You pay no attorney fees until we win your case.

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Working with Andrew and his team has been--without exception--one of the most pleasant, productive, and professional experiences of my adult life. I was seriously injured in an accident in July, 2018, in Virginia. I was driving a company vehicle that was registered in Maryland, for a company that was based in Wisconsin. And I live in New Jersey, where my personal vehicles are insured. The several jurisdictions involved presented a very unique case that demanded an experienced and nuanced strategy. I found Andrew Thomas (of Dulaney, Lauer, & Thomas) through some online research. And it is noteworthy that Andrew has worked the other side of the aisle--he used to work with insurance companies. Andrew took on my case with the assurance that he would work it with no less energy than he does each of his cases. At each turn, and with each question I had, Andrew and Paralegal Misty kept me informed, returned my calls, provided detailed explanations, and kept me feeling like I was in the loop and there was an eventual end to our journey. Nearly five years after the accident, we settled out of court for a significant sum in recognition of my personal injuries. The settlement was much more than I had expected. And without Andrew & Misty, I am sure the award would have been much less. If you are looking for professionalism, knowledge, dedication, answerability, responsiveness, integrity, and human-level communication from a personal injury attorney--look no further. You have found him. Thank you, Andrew and Misty. Gary Daley
I'm grateful for all your work . . . Roger V. (Remington, VA)