Rear end car accidents have been acknowledged as one of the leading reasons for personal injury claims in Ireland and, due to the potential for false rear end whiplash claims, insurance companies are more frequently investigating the circumstances of rear end accident claims made against their policyholders, and becoming less willing to admit their client´s liability for injuries sustained in rear end car accidents.
Despite the volume of compensation claims for rear end car accidents, no two cases are the same – even when the injuries sustained are similar – and, although the advice provided below should be followed after any injury has been sustained in a rear end collision, it is always in your best interests to discuss the circumstances of your accident with an experienced personal injury solicitor.
Causes of Rear End Car Accidents
The majority of rear end collisions are avoidable and are due to driver errors. Some of the causes of rear end car accidents include:
- Inattentive driving, perhaps due to tiredness due to driving long distances without breaks or working long hours
- Negligent driving, such as driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Moving hazards on the road, such as animals or pedestrians
- Fixed hazards on the road, such as roadworks
- Weather conditions, especially fog or heavy rain
- Wet roads, especially on uneven surfaces
- Ice on roads, such as black ice
- Distractions such as mobile phones
- Faults in cars, such as damaged brakes in the following car or broken brake lights in the front car
- Sudden braking by the front car, perhaps due to animals or pedestrians on the road
- Poor signalling by the front before braking to turn corners or change lanes
- Front car in collision is parked on the road without hazard warning lights, perhaps due to breakdowns
However, the most frequent explanations for rear end collisions is that the rear car was not maintaining a safe distance, was travelling too fast for the road conditions or the driver of the rear ending vehicle was distracted or inattentive.
Determining Fault in Rear End Car Accidents
Unless proven otherwise, the law and insurance companies generally assume that the rear-ending driver is at fault. This default position does not take into account the many extenuating circumstances that explain why the front car may be fully or partially to blame – such as if the car´s brake lights are not working properly – and, as mentioned above, insurance companies are now less prepared to automatically accept liability in rear end accident claims.
Therefore, even if liability was admitted by the negligent driver at the scene of the accident, you should have still called the Gardai and summoned an ambulance if you or a passenger in your car sustained an injury from the rear end collision. If the Gardai declined to attend the scene of the accident because it was not considered sufficiently serious, you should make a report of your rear end collision at a Garda station at the first possible opportunity.
Although making a report of your rear end car accident to the Gardai does not prove the liability of the negligent driver, the logged record of your call to the Gardai and your accident report will act as evidence that your accident occurred should the driver responsible for your injuries – or their insurance company – dispute your claim for rear end car accident compensation.
Injuries from Rear End Collisions
Rear end collisions can cause serious injuries to the spinal cord, fractures, concussion, and traumatic brain injuries. However, the most likely injury is whiplash. It is perfectly normal for whiplash symptoms not to manifest for several days after an accident, but you should not wait until the symptoms of an injury appear before seeking professional medical attention.
Should you delay seeking medical attention for several days – or sometimes even weeks – the insurance company of the negligent driver may claim that you exacerbated your injury between the times of your accident and when you eventually sought medical attention. Although this will not disqualify you from making rear end accident claims, how much compensation for a rear end accident you receive may be reduced to reflect your own lack of care.
Claiming Compensation for a Rear End Accident
A claim for rear end car accident compensation first has to be assessed by the Injuries Board Ireland. The Injuries Board process does not establish who is at fault in rear end car accidents, so if the negligent driver´s insurance company feels that they need to investigate your claim further, consent for the Injuries Board to assess your claim will be withheld until such time as the insurance company is convinced of its validity.
Once consent is given for the assessment to proceed, the Injuries Board will calculate how much compensation for a rear end accident you are entitled to receive based on the information provided by your doctor and – possibly – a further medical examination to assess how your recovery from your injuries is progressing. Rear end whiplash claims are more likely to require a secondary medical examination due to the unpredictable nature of soft tissue injuries.
Injury Compensation for Rear End Car Accidents
How much compensation for rear end car accidents will be assessed depends on the nature of your injuries, the length of time you may be incapacitated during your recovery and any financial expenses you have incurred as a result of the rear end collision. The physical injuries you have sustained are assessed in relation to the Book of Quantum – a publication which allocates a financial value to a long list of possible injuries sustained in rear end car accidents – while any financial expenses or loss of income is calculated according to receipts and payslips provided to the Injuries Board at the time you make your application for assessment.
One important element in a claim for rear end car accident compensation which is frequently overlooked is the victim´s “loss of amenity”. The term “loss of amenity” relates to the impact that your injuries have on your quality of life, your ability to perform day-to-day activities and participate in leisure and social pursuits. There is very limited space available on the Injuries Board assessment to account for your loss of amenity – and no guidance on what you may be able to include in your claim in respect of the impact an injury has made to your quality of life – and it is advisable to have a solicitor review your application for assessment to ensure that this important element of your claim for a rear end car accident is adequately presented.
Passengers in Rear End Car Accidents
Passengers in rear end car accidents are also entitled to claim injury compensation for rear end car accidents – even if they were travelling in the car driven by the person responsible for causing the collision. Passengers in rear end car accidents frequently suffer more severe injuries as they do not always have the split second to brace before impact that a driver has when seeing a car approaching from behind in his or her rear view mirror.
Women passengers and children are also susceptible to more severe soft tissue injuries – especially in rear end whiplash claims – due to their weaker neck muscles. Rear end accident claims for children have to be made by a parent or guardian acting on the child´s behalf and will need approval in court before a claim for a rear end car accident can be resolved. Your solicitor will be able to give you more information about making rear end accident claims for children.
Rear End Accident Claims and Insurance Companies
It was mentioned at the top of the page that insurance companies are investigating more rear end accident claims made against their clients and contesting them whenever necessary. However, these investigations also mean that you may be approached directly by an insurance company soon after the insurance company have received notification of your injury – particularly when their investigations show their policyholder was undoubtedly negligent – with an offer of compensation for a rear end accident.
These offers should always be referred to a solicitor as, although the potential for a quick settlement may be tempting – they rarely reflect your full entitlement to rear end car accident compensation. It is perhaps wise to ask the question ‘Why would the insurance company offer to settle the case at this early stage?’ the response is rather logical; it is not done out of kindness or generosity but in order to save costs. The negligent party´s insurance company will normally be responsible for the compensation payment and for both sets of legal costs, so it should cost you nothing to obtain rear end accident claims advice from a solicitor before accepting an offer which you may later regret.
Rear End Car Accident Claims Advice
Most solicitors will offer rear end car accident claims advice for free during an initial consultation. This consultation will be used to establish whether you have a claim for rear end car accident compensation which is worth your while to pursue and then to advise you on the best way to account for your injuries and their consequences on the Injuries Board´s application for assessment.
In some cases – where the symptoms of your injuries have not yet fully manifested or where further reports are required to ascertain your right to compensation for a rear end accident – it may not be possible to submit rear end car accident claims immediately, but you should still not delay in speaking with a solicitor whenever possible.
- Rear end car accidents account for almost one third of car accident injuries in Ireland, particularly whiplash and soft tissue damage.
- Causes of rear end collisions are typically due to drivers leaving insufficient braking distance between them and the car in front of them.
- Inattentive drivers and poor weather conditions are also responsible for many rear end car accidents.
- After any car accident, make sure you seek professional medical attention and have an examination to ascertain any injuries.
- You should have your application for assessment reviewed by a solicitor prior to submitting it to the Injuries Board Ireland.
- Always refer any offer of compensation for a rear end accident to a solicitor to establish that it reflects the full impact of your injuries.
Copyright © 2009-2015 Eoin Campbell
About the Author
Eoin P. Campbell is an honours law graduate (LL.B) and qualified solicitor whose primary professional experience is the area of litigation and in particular personal injury claims. Eoin P. Campbell is currently lecturing in law at two universities in Lyon, France.