Last updated: October 2022

What Happens After a Rear-End Collision

You approach a crosswalk and see an elderly woman starting to cross the street. You hit the brakes, but the car behind you doesn't. You end up getting rear-ended while stopped. What happens next?

Rear-End Collisions are the most common kind of car accident. Out of the 6 million car accidents that happen on U.S. roads every year, roughly 40% of them are rear-end collisions, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). As common as rear-end accidents are, it's important that drivers know how to handle them. Find out what to do if you’re rear-ended, as well as what to do if you're the one who accidentally rear-ends another car.

What is a Rear-End Collision?

Rear-end accidents are almost exactly what they sound like. A rear-end crash occurs when a driver doesn’t brake in time and collides with the back of the vehicle they’re following.

Who is at fault in a rear-end accident?

While fault can vary depending on several factors, the legal experts at Nolo note that a trailing driver will almost always be found at least partially at fault for a rear-end collision.

What causes most rear-end collisions?

Several factors may cause rear-end collisions. You may be putting yourself at risk of being involved in one if you: 

  • Engage in distracted driving.
  • Fail to keep a safe distance between your vehicle and the ones ahead.
  • Ignore posted speed limits and hazardous road conditions.
  • Hydroplane or lose control of your car.
  • Fail to yield the right of way.
  • Don’t use your turn signals when changing lanes.
  • Practice aggressive driving such as tailgating and brake-checking.

If you find yourself in this situation, you may wish you had collision coverage along with liability coverage. Collision insurance pays to repair or replace your vehicle if it’s damaged in a collision, regardless of who is at fault.

I got rear-ended. Now what?

Rear-end collisions could happen in any number of ways, in any number of places. You could be stopped at a stop sign, red light, or crosswalk when the driver behind you doesn't stop or they take their foot off the brake pedal a little too soon. Follow a few simple steps after you're rear-ended to help ensure everyone's safety. 

What to Do When You're Rear-Ended

Was your car hit from the back? Take a deep breath, and don't panic.

  • Check for injuries. Seek medical attention for those injured.
  • Call the police and report the accident.
  • Take pictures and document the positions of the vehicles. Explain to the police officer how the accident occurred.
  • Get a copy of the accident report.
  • Contact your insurance company.

While the other driver's car insurance company will likely pay for the damages that result from a rear-end collision in this case, your coverage could apply, too. If you live in a no-fault insurance state like Florida, your personal injury protection insurance would apply. If the at-fault driver does not have liability insurance or cannot be identified, your uninsured motorist auto coverage could help pay for medical and related expenses you incur. Medical payments coverage is an optional coverage that could also help pay for medical or hospital expenses incurred by you and those insured under your policy, regardless of who is at fault. If you have collision insurance, that coverage may apply to help cover the cost of repairs to your vehicle.

I rear-ended someone else. Now what?

There's no such thing as the perfect driver. Accidents happen, and there's a chance you will be (or have already been) involved in a rear-end collision. If you accidentally rear-end someone, you'll want to follow the same steps you'd take after being involved in any other type of car accident.

What to Do If You Rear-End Another Car

Take a deep breath. Don't panic, and do not flee the scene of the accident.

  • Check for injuries. Seek medical attention for those injured.
  • Call the police and report the accident.
  • Take pictures and document the positions of the vehicles. Explain to the police officer how the accident occurred.
  • Get a copy of the accident report.
  • Contact your insurance company. Your bodily injury coverage and property damage liability coverage will help pay for the other driver's medical expenses and vehicle damage.

Tips for Avoiding Rear-End Collisions

You can't predict what other drivers will do, but you can take precautions to help ensure you're not involved in a rear-end collision. If you’ve ever wondered how can you avoid being rear-ended, these tips are for you. You'll give yourself more time and more options to react when the unexpected occurs.

  • Make sure your lights work. Working brake lights signal to drivers behind you that you’re slowing down or coming to a stop. If they aren’t working, the driver behind you could slam into you and cause a rear-end collision domino effect. Working blinkers signal intent to turn or switch lanes – also essential for safe driving.
  • Stay focused. Avoid driving distractions such as texting or talking on your phone, adjusting the radio, or chatting with passengers. Distracted driving is the number one cause of rear-end collisions. These free smartphone apps can help you curb a texting and driving habit.
  • Curb aggressive driving. Avoid speeding, slamming on the brakes, and other types of risky behavior.
  • Focus on the road ahead. Keeping your eyes and attention on the road can help you spot and react to hazards such as backed-up traffic, construction zones, and even that chicken trying to cross the road.
  • Be mindful of the weather. Snow, ice, and rain may decrease your ability to make a quick stop.
  • Be aware of the cars around you. Check your rearview and side mirrors regularly. Being able to identify aggressive or distracted drivers makes it easier to anticipate their moves and stay safe.
  • Remain calm. If another car unexpectedly zips in front of your vehicle, slow down and don’t engage in road rage.
  • Don’t drive under the influence. Substances like alcohol, drugs, and certain medications can impair both your judgment and your ability to operate heavy machinery (like your two-ton sedan). Prioritize safety by lining up a designated driver, or using other alternatives like public transportation, taxis, or rideshare apps.
  • Don’t drive sleepy. If you’re tired, delay your trip or pull off to the side of the road and get some rest. Driver fatigue makes it harder to pay attention and harder to drive defensively.
  • Don’t tailgate. Keep plenty of distance between you and the car in front of you. (See below to learn about the three-second distance rule.)
  • Use the time-lapse method: Start counting when the vehicle in front of you passes a roadside object. If you reach the marker before two seconds have passed, you’re probably following too closely.

Do you have the right car insurance coverage to handle the aftermath of a rear-end accident? Find out! Call 1-877-GO-DIRECT, Click, or Come in today to learn more!

Rear-end collisions are the most common kind of car accident. Out of the 6 million car accidents that happen on U.S. roads every year, roughly 40% of them are rear-end collisions, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). As common as rear-end accidents are, it's important that drivers know how to handle them. Find out what to do if you’re rear-ended, as well as what to do if you're the one who accidentally rear-ends another car.

What is a rear-end collision?

Rear-end accidents are almost exactly what they sound like. A rear-end crash occurs when a driver doesn’t brake in time and collides with the back of the vehicle they’re following.

Who is at fault in a Rear-End Accident?

While fault can vary depending on several factors, the legal experts at Nolo note that a trailing driver will almost always be found at least partially at fault for a rear-end collision.

What causes most rear-end collisions?

Several factors may cause rear-end collisions. You may be putting yourself at risk of being involved in one if you: 

  • Engage in distracted driving.
  • Fail to keep a safe distance between your vehicle and the ones ahead.
  • Ignore posted speed limits and hazardous road conditions.
  • Hydroplane or lose control of your car.
  • Fail to yield the right of way.
  • Don’t use your turn signals when changing lanes.
  • Practice aggressive driving such as tailgating and brake-checking.

If you find yourself in this situation, you may wish you had collision coverage along with liability coverage. Collision insurance pays to repair or replace your vehicle if it’s damaged in a collision, regardless of who is at fault.

I got rear-ended. Now what?

Rear-end collisions could happen in any number of ways, in any number of places. You could be stopped at a stop sign, red light, or crosswalk when the driver behind you doesn't stop or they take their foot off the brake pedal a little too soon. Follow a few simple steps after you're rear-ended to help ensure everyone's safety. 

What to Do When You're Rear-Ended

Was your car hit from the back? Take a deep breath, and don't panic.

  • Check for injuries. Seek medical attention for those injured.
  • Call the police and report the accident.
  • Take pictures and document the positions of the vehicles. Explain to the police officer how the accident occurred.
  • Get a copy of the accident report.
  • Contact your insurance company.

While the other driver's car insurance company will likely pay for the damages that result from a rear-end collision in this case, your coverage could apply, too. If you live in a no-fault insurance state like Florida, your personal injury protection insurance would apply. If the at-fault driver does not have liability insurance or cannot be identified, your uninsured motorist auto coverage could help pay for medical and related expenses you incur. Medical payments coverage is an optional coverage that could also help pay for medical or hospital expenses incurred by you and those insured under your policy, regardless of who is at fault. If you have collision insurance, that coverage may apply to help cover the cost of repairs to your vehicle.

I rear-ended someone else. Now what?

There's no such thing as the perfect driver. Accidents happen, and there's a chance you will be (or have already been) involved in a rear-end collision. If you accidentally rear-end someone, you'll want to follow the same steps you'd take after being involved in any other type of car accident.

What to Do If You Rear-End Another Car

Take a deep breath. Don't panic, and do not flee the scene of the accident.

  • Check for injuries. Seek medical attention for those injured.
  • Call the police and report the accident.
  • Take pictures and document the positions of the vehicles. Explain to the police officer how the accident occurred.
  • Get a copy of the accident report.
  • Contact your insurance company. Your bodily injury coverage and property damage liability coverage will help pay for the other driver's medical expenses and vehicle damage.

Tips for Avoiding Rear-End Collisions

You can't predict what other drivers will do, but you can take precautions to help ensure you're not involved in a rear-end collision. If you’ve ever wondered how can you avoid being rear-ended, these tips are for you. You'll give yourself more time and more options to react when the unexpected occurs.

  • Make sure your lights work. Working brake lights signal to drivers behind you that you’re slowing down or coming to a stop. If they aren’t working, the driver behind you could slam into you and cause a rear-end collision domino effect. Working blinkers signal intent to turn or switch lanes – also essential for safe driving.
  • Stay focused. Avoid driving distractions such as texting or talking on your phone, adjusting the radio, or chatting with passengers. Distracted driving is the number one cause of rear-end collisions. These free smartphone apps can help you curb a texting and driving habit.
  • Curb aggressive driving. Avoid speeding, slamming on the brakes, and other types of risky behavior.
  • Focus on the road ahead. Keeping your eyes and attention on the road can help you spot and react to hazards such as backed-up traffic, construction zones, and even that chicken trying to cross the road.
  • Be mindful of the weather. Snow, ice, and rain may decrease your ability to make a quick stop.
  • Be aware of the cars around you. Check your rearview and side mirrors regularly. Being able to identify aggressive or distracted drivers makes it easier to anticipate their moves and stay safe.
  • Remain calm. If another car unexpectedly zips in front of your vehicle, slow down and don’t engage in road rage.
  • Don’t drive under the influence. Substances like alcohol, drugs, and certain medications can impair both your judgment and your ability to operate heavy machinery (like your two-ton sedan). Prioritize safety by lining up a designated driver, or using other alternatives like public transportation, taxis, or rideshare apps.
  • Don’t drive sleepy. If you’re tired, delay your trip or pull off to the side of the road and get some rest. Driver fatigue makes it harder to pay attention and harder to drive defensively.
  • Don’t tailgate. Keep plenty of distance between you and the car in front of you. (See below to learn about the three-second distance rule.)
  • Use the time-lapse method: Start counting when the vehicle in front of you passes a roadside object. If you reach the marker before two seconds have passed, you’re probably following too closely.

Do you have the right car insurance coverage to handle the aftermath of a rear-end accident? Find out! Call 1-877-GO-DIRECT, Request a quote or Direct Auto location near you today to learn more!

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