If you’ve been involved in a rear end collision then you might be wondering “what is the average settlement for rear end accidents?”
Don’t worry in this article I’m going to walk you through everything you need to know in order to maximize your claim. By the end you’ll know
- How you can determine who is at fault
- How you should document your injuries, damages, and pain and suffering
- Which factors affect your insurance settlement
- A few examples of accident claims.
and much more. So let’s begin.
Who is at Fault in A Rear End Collision?
The first step when it comes to getting the maximum amount from your rear end accident settlement is to determine:
After your accident, the insurance companies will need to figure out who was the MOST at fault for the incident.
I say ‘the most at fault’ because both drivers in the accident can be partially responsible.
For example, maybe driver A turned their vehicle suddenly without giving a signal while driver B drove above the speed limit. The insurance company reviews the case and determines driver A was 60% at fault while the driver B was 40% fault.
As such, driver A and driver B’s final settlement will be adjusted based on their fault percentages. So the less fault you have, the higher your final settlement.
Typically determining who is at fault can be tricky. The police has to arrive at the scene and make detailed reports about how the accident happened.
Witnesses are interviewed. Statements are taken. The point and angle of the vehicle impact is analyzed and studied. And so on.
However, in the vast majority of rear end collisions, the rear driver is the cause of the accident. Why? The general consensus is that had that driver been following traffic laws and general road safety recommendations, they would have plenty of time and warning to stop their car before running into the car ahead of them.
This thinking falls under the Assured Clear Distance Ahead (ACDA) rule. Basically, leave enough space between you and the car you’re trailing to avoid an accident.
There are, however, some exceptions.
No two car accidents are the same. And not all rear end collisions are the result of a driving tailing a lead car too closely. These cases include:
- A vehicle changing lanes without warning
- Unnecessary breaking
- Putting a vehicle in reverse
- Failing to clear a disabled vehicle from a travel lane
- Failing to use hazard lights for a disabled or deliberately slow-moving vehicle
- In a multi-vehicle accident, the middle vehicle or vehicles is pushed into a lead vehicle
In the case of the first two instances, the lead driver can be faulted for the accident and cited for dangerous driving. An exception to the last example is if the middle driver was operating their vehicle in a dangerous or unsafe manner.
After you have determined who is at fault the next step is to evaluate your personal injuries and document your pain and suffering.
What Types of Injuries Can Occur in a Rear End Collision?
Insurance companies divide your injuries into 2 broad categories: soft injuries and hard injuries.
Soft injuries are considered “minor” injuries because they only involve muscles and other soft tissues. This includes injuries such as
- ankle sprains
- minor knee or leg injuries
- minor cuts
- bruises or abrasions
- strained neck or back
With soft injuries, the amount of pain and suffering felt from driver to driver is highly subjective. An ankle sprain for an individual might result in considerable pain, while it’s mild in another.
Due to this, soft injuries are hard to classify. Furthermore, they often result in low payouts either from an insurance carrier or if the claim is argued in court.
Hard Injuries, on the other hand, are considerably more severe. These injuries can result in severe, long-term quality of life issues. Injuries such as this include
- head trauma
- fractures and broken bones
- severe wounds beyond minor cuts
- scratches and bruises (basically those requiring stitches),
- dislocations or torn ligaments
- spinal injuries
As one might expect, the greater the injury, the more compensation you’ll receive. In many instances, hard injuries can result in settlements in the thousands of dollars based on severity. In rare cases, they can be in the millions of dollars.
You can get a quick overview of which type of injuries pay the highest settlements by watching the video below:
What are some typical Rear End Accident Injuries?
Here is a list of some common injuries people suffer:
- Whiplash – This is the most common injury in a rear end accident. The sudden impact from behind results in a jerky motion to create a whipping movement that can cause your neck injury.
- Back Injury – Another common injury. The rear end force can compress your back and spine. Causing it to stiffen up and become less mobile.
- Head Injury – You can suffer this injury if you are hit at low speeds where the airbags were not deployed. The accident could cause you to smash your head against a steering wheel or dashboard if you were a passenger.
- Airbag Injury – The immediate impact could activate and release the airbags inside your vehicle. The impact of the airbags to your face could result in laceration and burns onto your face.
- Seatbelt injury – The force from the rear vehicle could push you forward while being restrained by your seatbelt. This can lead to lacerations and bruising on your chest and torso.
The next thing you should understand is….
What affects the value of my settlement?
The majority of your rear end settlement will be calculated as the sum of your special and general damages
Rear end settlement = Special Damages + General Damages
Let’s look into what each of these parts are a little more closely.
Special damages (sometimes referred to as economic or financial damages) are list of financial expenses you had after the accident. This could include:
- Property damage such as repairs to your vehicle.
- Medical expenses such as health insurance payments and deductibles
- Lost income /missed work due to injuries
- Funeral or burial costs.
Basically if you had to pay for anything as a result of your accident it counts as special damages. In order to get compensated you should keep a record of all your expenses and out of pocket costs.
These are non-economic losses such as those involving mental or physical pain or any type of suffering or anguish. This includes:
- emotional distress
- embarrassment or humiliation
- inability to perform certain tasks or physical activities, or
- loss of reputation due to the collision.
General damages can result in an award up to 5 times the special damage award. The higher the pain or suffering, the higher the award settlement. Though some states do have caps on how much you can claim as general damages.
Additional Impacts to the Value of a Settlement
Three additional factors can impact the value of your rear end collision settlement, including:
- Multiple Defendants: If different insurance carriers represent multiple defendants, it can impact any settlement award amount.
- Personal Factors: Personal factors for both the plaintiff and defendant are weighed when determining settlement value, including age, occupation, income, driving history, medical history, and even the likability factor of the involved parties.
- Location: Should a settlement head to court, the location of the trial can influence the outcome or settlement. Some areas may render more liberal judgments, thereby awarding higher settlements, while others may award lower loss settlements.
Now that you have a quick overview of which factors go into the rear end settlement cases let’s discuss how you can properly document your special and general damages.
Determining the Average Settlement for Rear End Collisions
When attempting to determine the average settlement for a rear end collision, you should try to document the following things:
This includes damages to your vehicle and any other personal property. For your vehicle, ensure you have a licensed professional inspect and document both exterior damages that are immediately noticeable (bumper, windshield, etc.) and interior damages that may be hidden (framework, electrical, or component damage).
Ask the company that repaired your vehicle to provide you with a copy of the bill for repairs to your vehicle. It should be easy to get since it’ll be the same bill they’ll send to the insurance company.
One of the biggest factors in determining the amount of your rear end settlement is the amount of your medical bills. This is because higher medical expenses are typically correlated with more severe injuries. The more severe your injuries the higher your settlement amount.
For example, someone who suffered whiplash might have medical bills for $5,000 and require a couple of physical therapy sessions every few weeks.
This accident victim would get significantly less settlement than someone who accumulated over $100,000 in medical bills that involved multiple surgeries, medical testing, medication, ongoing treatment etc.
The second victims medical expenses indicate more suffering and so deserves a higher settlement.
In order to maximize your chances of getting a high (and fair) settlement you should keep a track of all your medical expenses. This can include your costs for :
- Ambulance rides
- Emergency room visits
- Hospital stays
- Doctor visits
- Physical therapy
- Chiropractic appointments
- Physical Therapy
- Hiring in home care
- Medical tests such as X-Rays, MRI’s, CAT Scans
- Talk with specialists
- Medications and prescription drugs
All of these payments can add up and its easy to lose track. I would suggest you keep a separate “medical expenses” folder where you can store all your appointments, treatments, and bills.
How to Determine Your Pain and Suffering
By far the most difficult thing to prove in an accident case is the level of your pain and suffering. That’s because pain and suffering is a subjective term. There is no medical ways to quantify how much discomfort your actually feeling.
While this is a subjective there are a few factors that indicate how the severity of your injuries.
To show your pain suffering try to answer these questions:
- Which type of injuries did I suffer? Soft injuries or hard injuries?
- How do my injuries negatively affect the quality my daily life?
- How do they affect my ability to work or earn income?
- Have my injuries prevented me from attending important events ex: weddings, conferences, vacations?
- Are there any potential long term effects due to my injuries?
(I’ve written a whole separate article on top 11 questions people ask about pain and suffering that goes into more detail.)
The main thing to do is to keep a record of how the accident has affected the quality of your life.
Can I Include Lost Income As Part of My Claim?
In a word, yes. One of the most common ways to increase your rear end collision settlement claim is to include lost income as part of your claim.
If a rear end collision resulted in you taking time away from work, or being unable to work, you are entitled to seek recovery for the lost income.
When claiming lost income, it doesn’t matter if you used vacation or sick time to recover from your injuries.
In many instances, an insurance carrier will attempt to lower your settlement due to your technically not losing any work days. However, lost income is considered income you would have earned had the accident not occurred.
A healthy individual would not have had to take those vacation or sick days to recover.
Typically, the process involves
- Verification from your employer that you missed work
- Verification from a medical professional showing you could not work
- Proof of how much income you lost (through wage verification).
When providing proof of lost income, always include documentation directly from your employer or prior-year tax information.
Read more about including lost wages.
What is the Settlement Process for a Rear End Collision
Your exact settlement process will depend on the severity of your injuries and whether you decide to get any legal counsel.
Typically rear end accident at low speed with no obvious injuries are pretty straight forward. You call the insurance company to let them know of the accident and they start your claim.
An insurance adjuster is assigned to your specific case. The adjuster will be your main point of contact and will coordinate with you on getting your vehicle repaired from an auto body shop.
If you have deductible, you will have to pay that amount before the insurance company pays for the repair. For example, when I had an accident I had a $500 deductible.
This meant I had to pay the $500 out of my own pocket and the insurance company paid the rest (about $5,000)
The time to finish the claim will depend on the time it takes for the auto shop to order parts and repair your vehicle. The whole process can be smoothly resolved within a month.
However, if you suffered any injuries you should speak with a personal injury attorney. You can get a free consultation to quickly review your case and evaluate your options.
Hiring a personal injury attorney will make the settlement process more complicated, but it may also earn you a larger award to cover any loss.
Based on the specific factors, the length of your case could have a quick resolution or prove a long, arduous process. Should you opt for a personal attorney to represent your interests, you can expect the settlement process to follow the below steps:
- Investigation: Your attorney files a claim with the insurance carrier of the driver responsible for the accident. An adjuster will review all aspects of the collision, including but not limited to evidence and medical records. They will render a judgment on the claim.
- Consultation: Your attorney will work with experts – doctors, engineers, or accident reconstructionists to improve your claim’s standing. Their determinations are added to your claim.
- Review: Your attorney will conduct a thorough review of the insurance involved in the claim. This process can determine the source of compensation and help in accessing additional payments for losses you suffered.
- Lawsuit: Your attorney will file a lawsuit in civil court against the insurance carrier should a settlement prove unsuccessful.
- Negotiation: This step is often ongoing throughout the settlement process between your attorney and the insurance carrier. It may continue even after a lawsuit is filed.
Is My Car Accident Settlement Taxable?
Your settlement from a rear end collision is taxable in certain circumstances, based mainly on what the financial award is for.
For settlements that aim to cover medical bills, you will not be taxed. The one exception is should you choose to deduct any related expenses from your year-end tax filing. Money received to cover any property damages from an accident are also considered non-taxable.
On the other hand, lost wages are taxable as any monetary gain for lost work is still considered income.
With regards to pain and suffering, settlements covering physical pain and suffering are not taxable. If the pain and suffering result from emotional or mental distress, any money awarded is subject to taxes.
What if My Injuries are Minor?
Minor injuries typically involve less severe and obvious injuries. There is also minimal damage to the vehicle. As such these type of insurance claims lead to low payouts by the insurance company or in a claims court.
Settlements though may also be influenced by how a specific injury occurred, beyond the collision itself. For example, if the injury was due to an airbag deploying or caused by your seatbelt. Even if minor, the injury may result in a larger settlement award.
Even if you didn’t suffer a serious injury you should still speak with your doctor. It’s always better to document minor injuries and discuss any potential future symptoms.
That way if your injuries ever resurface or get more severe you can still seek compensation.
What Do I Need to Know about Rear End Collision Accidents?
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there were about 6,296,000 police-reported traffic crashes in 2015. Rear end collisions accounted for nearly 30 percent of wrecks or over 1.8 million. It is one of the most common types of accidents.
There has been a steady uptick of rear end collisions with over 1.6 million in 2011 and more than 1.7 million in 2012. Personal injuries and its expenses tell only one part of the story. Other expenses include lost productivity, insurance costs, and legal and court fees
The NHTSA estimated the direct costs of all motor vehicle accidents at $242 billion. Taking into account the indirect costs of things such as the impacts on quality of life puts the total value of societal harm at over $836 billion. The car accident settlement amount is likely conservative.
The Most Common Causes of Rear End Collisions
A study by the NHTSA found that the most common causes of rear end crashes were distracted driving, unexpected changes of events, and poor visibility. Unsafe driving behaviors like speeding and following too closely also increased the likelihood of wrecks.
What Is My Risk?
The NHTSA study found that men are 1.2 times more likely to have a rear end collision than women. Drivers between the ages of 25 to 34 years represented another high-risk group being 1.9 times greater rate of accidents than other age groups.
You may think that weather is a major factor, but the NHTSA found that most crashes occurred during daylight on straight, level roads that were dry. As you may expect, they are more common in business locations with over 60 percent happening in intersections or on ramps.
How Is My Accident Claim Paid?
How your insurance company pays your car accident settlement amount depends on who is at fault and if the accident claim is for vehicle damage or personal injuries. Your collision coverage will pick up the tap for damage to your car if you’re at fault.
Your property damage liability coverage comes into play to pay for damage that at-fault drivers cause to others. Coverage for physical injuries depends on your state. If your state has no-fault insurance, the injured individuals are paid by their first-party personal injury protection coverage.
If your state has a traditional tort insurance system, then the person at fault will pay for the costs of personal injuries. In this case, your medical payment insurance will cover your at-fault expenses. Bodily injury liability coverage handles at-fault drivers and your at-fault costs.
What Is the Average Settlement Rear End Collision?
When it comes to determining a car accident settlement amount, there are both the tangible costs of damage and medical bills as well as the intangible ones of pain and suffering. We will consider each of these separately. Remember, there is no typical case.
The Distribution of Collision Coverage Claims
About one-third of collision claims are under $1,000, yet they account for only 4 percent of monies paid out. The distribution of claims is a right-skewed curve, meaning that the average or mean is much higher than the median or middle value of claim amounts.
An average figure for collision coverage claims is much higher than the reality. That is true because one large settlement amount can skew the data to imply a much higher claim.
The Distribution of Property Damage Liability Coverage Claims
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the average property damage liability accident claim is $3,115. As you may expect, minivans and large stations wagons had the lowest claim severity, while small luxury cars had the highest.
Examples of Rear End Collision Settlements
Some rear end collisions stand out as extreme examples of settlements. Take the case of Vishnu Siew from New York. Siew’s stopped car was hit from behind on on December 26, 2012. He suffered neck injuries at the time and later had to have cervical fusion surgery.
Siew sued the owners of the vehicle that hit him four years later. The case was settled for $537,500 and $58,158 in Workers’ Compensation benefits. This example shows the lingering effects of these accidents. It also provides a good example of the indirect costs.
Other times, rear end collisions can cause unexpected consequences. On November 1, 2013, Alfred and Ana Maria Sanchez were rear-ended and pushed into oncoming traffic on Interstate 10 in Yucaipa, California. Ana Maria suffered abdominal and spinal injuries.
The Sanchez couple took their case to court in June 2014. It was settled in January 2017 for $2,331,075.08. While it may seem excessive, it’s worth noting that Mrs. Sanchez may likely suffer from chronic pain for the rest of her life.
Larger settlements often occur with cases where treatment including surgeries is ongoing. Such was the case following the 2011 rear-end collision involving Keisha Baa of New York. Direct medical costs played a major role in this settlement.
Evidence presented in court stated that an abrupt lane change by a city sanitation truck caused the rear end collision. Baa suffered multiple injuries that have required six surgeries. She has been unable to work since the accident, adding to her financial losses.
The case was finally settled in March 2017. The final settlement was a $4 million. As with the other examples, quantifying compensation for injuries can be problematic at the time of the accident. It may take some time before the actual direct medical costs is determined.
How Do I Get Compensated for Pain and Suffering?
The gray area when it comes to rear end collision settlements exists with personal injuries and their costs. It has two parts: direct medical expenses and intangible costs. The former is straightforward with documentation that you can easily obtain.
For the quality of life costs, you should document your course of treatment, working closely with your primary care physician. You should stick with traditional medicine rather than alternative treatments since the scientific evidence supporting them is limited, explains Mayo Clinic.
And your insurance company may not cover these treatments. Rear end collision settlements vary simply because people respond differently to treatment. Sometimes, injuries can cause chronic pain that lingers long after an accident, making it more difficult to quantify.
How Do I Estimate My Costs?
To get a figure, consider the NHTSA estimates for motor vehicle accident costs. These costs included both direct medical expenses and societal costs which are essentially what exists with a rear end collision with personal injuries. Less than one-third of accidents include injuries.
A general rule of thumb is to multiply the direct costs by 1.5 to 4 to come up with the total settlement costs. For example, if you had $1,000 in direct costs, your total settlement would range between $2,500 to $5,000 using this range.
You can also use our rear ended settlement calculator to determine your collision amount
The extent of your injuries and response to treatment will help to determine where you fall in this range. Expenses such a physical therapy or ongoing pain management will push your settlement toward the higher end of the scale.
If we look at the NHTSA figures, the quality of life costs are 3.45 times the amount of the direct costs of an accident. The estimates fall in line with what the research has determined for the intangible costs.
Rear end collisions account for about one-third of motor vehicle accidents. Distracted driving is the most common cause. The average rear end collision settlement takes the direct costs and adds 1.5 to 4 times this figure to determine the total amount you should receive.
There is no easy answer for determining what an average settlement for a rear end collision might be. Even with their relative prevalence, the circumstances surrounding each collision are different. No formula can accurately account for what those factors may be or the final settlement.
But, if you suffered severe injuries, experienced pain and suffering, catastrophic vehicle damage, large medical bills or lost wages – you are likely to get a high settlement.