Rear-End Motor Vehicle Collisions

According to the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), approximately 40% of all accidents on U.S. roads each year are rear-ending crashes. This kind of accident occurs more frequently than any other. While the result of rear-end collisions is usually not as severe as other kinds of car accidents, the potential for serious injury and property damage remains.

In the vast majority of rear-end collision cases, the person at fault is clear. As a result of Washington being a pure comparative negligence state, the exact percentage of fault will vary from case to case. Typically, the at-fault insurer will be responsible for covering the medical and property damage expenses. But what happens when the at-fault driver is uninsured or underinsured? What happens if the rear driver disputes the claim that he/she is at fault? In a situation like that, going to court may be your best option.

In contrast with popular belief, the at-fault party in a rear-end collision is not always clear cut. The law presumes that the tailing driver in a rear-end collision is at fault for causing the accident, but the tailing driver can dispute this claim. If you were in a rear-end crash with another car, truck, or motorcycle, it is in your best interest to acquire an attorney. Moreover, if the tailing driver hit your car and caused you and your loved one’s severe injuries, seek medical attention. Whiplash, the neck and head injury most associated with rear-end collision, can seem minor at first. Nevertheless, whiplash can snowball into a more significant health issue.

Attorney for Rear-End Collisions in Bellingham, WA

Many people––including some insurance agents––assume that rear-end collisions are always less serious than other kinds of collisions. Still, there are several situations in which a rear-end collision could result in major injuries. For one, depending on the speed of the at-fault driver, the force of the crash may cause whiplash or other painful, potentially long-lasting injuries. Similarly, it is not uncommon for rear-end collisions to result in heavy damage to all vehicles involved.

In the aftermath of an accident, solving an insurance dispute is the last thing on your mind. Between dealing with injuries and property damage, successfully resolving an insurance dispute with the at-fault insurer can seem incredibly stressful if not downright impossible. At PNW Trial Lawyers, it is our mission to relieve the burden felt by those affected by car accidents. By advocating for our clients, we are able to lift some of the responsibility from their shoulders and allow them to focus on recovering.

Our team of devoted, experienced lawyers wants to work with and for you so that you can recover and restore normalcy to your life. At PNW Trial Lawyers, we serve clients in Bellingham, Everett, Mt. Vernon, Anacortes, and the surrounding areas of Snohomish, Skagit, and Whatcom counties. If you or a loved one have been involved in a rear-end crash, contact us today at (360) 483-5201 to schedule a free consultation and strategy session. 

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Overview of Rear-End Collisions in Washington

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Rear-End Collisions: Who’s at Fault?

The car that crashes into the rear-end of the other vehicle is almost always at fault for the accident. Even though Washington is a comparative negligence state, extremely high percentages of fault are handed out to the rear-ending vehicle compared with other kinds of collisions. Not all types of collisions are easy to derive fault from, but rear-end crashes are generally more straightforward than other types.

Rear-end Collisions can happen for many different reasons, but poor visibility due to weather, driver distraction, and aggressive behavior are among the most common. Even when an accident seems to be the result of adverse weather conditions, fault is not reduced or removed from the drivers. When conditions on the road are assumed to be too dangerous to drive on, drivers should stay off the road. If they decide to risk it, they have to accept the possibility of being involved in an accident. That can include having some or all of the fault assigned to them.

In all collisions, fault is determined by factoring in the actions of both parties. With rear-end collisions, fault is almost always assigned fully to one at-fault driver. Once fault has been established, evaluating the cost of injuries and property damage is the next step. Restoring normalcy after a collision is a multi-step process that can involve many different decisions and people depending on the circumstances.

While some cases resolve themselves through insurance, many victims of rear-end collisions find themselves unable to overcome the financial burden brought on by the accident. This is often because the at-fault driver is uninsured or underinsured, or because the at-fault driver’s insurer refuses to pay the amount you need. In situations like this, hiring a competent personal injury attorney that can take the fight to insurance companies is the best decision you can make.

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Washington State Laws on Rear-End Crashes

A rear-end accident is when a vehicle (car, motorcycle, semi-truck, etc.) hits your vehicle from behind. Per RCW 46.61.145, the driver of a motor vehicle should keep a safe distance. Although Washington does not have specific laws for rear-end accidents, RCW 46.61.145 states that a driver cannot follow another vehicle too closely than what is considered being cautious and sensible. Therefore, the law presumes that the tailing driver in a rear-end collision is at fault for causing the accident. On the contrary, that is not always the case as there are instances when the leading driver is considered negligent. For example, the leading driver may have stopped abruptly, giving the tailing driver no time to avoid a collision. The leading driver could be comparatively negligent if his taillights or brakes were out.

Rear-end crashes can involve more than one vehicle. Regardless of the number of vehicles involved in a rear-end collision, the law will presume that the tailing driver is at fault unless he/she can disprove the allegations.

Some rear-end collisions can be minor. Although not all rear-end crashes are dangerous, you or your passenger can still suffer catastrophic injuries. For example, if your airbags deployed, then you and the passenger may have suffered from head injuries. If you were in a rear-end collision with a bigger vehicle (e.g., a dump truck), the injuries can be more severe (e.g., paralysis).

Leading Driver At-Fault

The leading driver can be held accountable in some rear-end collisions if their actions prevented the rear driver from stopping on time. Below are a few examples of when the leading driver is at-fault:

  • Broken Taillights or Brakes – If the leading driver was driving with non-functioning taillights, leaving the rear driver with no way of knowing when the leading driver came to a complete stop. 
  • Back-up – If the leading vehicle is backing up and hits your car behind them.
  • Sudden Stop & Turn – If the leading driver makes an immediate stop to turn and does not make the turn. 
  • Mechanical Complications – If the leading driver’s vehicle has a mechanical problem, but the driver fails to turn on their hazard sign or move the vehicle away from the road. However, this action does not ultimately dissolve the responsibility of the rear driver for rear-ending the vehicle in front. It allows for shared responsibility. 

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Rear-End Collision with Another Motor Vehicle

Even if many rear-end accidents are straightforward, some are not so simple. There can be many medical and legal factors in complex rear-end accidents. Rear-end collision can include three or four vehicles. Additionally, there are cases when the accident involves a commercial truck or a motorcycle. It is possible to hold individuals and others accountable for injuries you have wrongly suffered. Companies and manufacturers can sometimes be held liable for issues like manufacturing defects or poor road conditions. 

Whether you are up against an individual, a company, or a government agency, consulting with an experienced car accident attorney is in your best interest. Generally, insurance companies are very complicated to deal with because of their various policies. After an accident, they might contact you to resolve the accident as quickly as possible. However, they might also attempt to settle the claim without an evaluation of the long-term consequences and implications of the victim’s injuries. 

Damages suffered after an accident are not always physical. In a rear-end collision, the damages are not only done to your property – you can suffer internal organ damage, broken bones, and more, but also emotional distress. For many insurance companies, the damages considered are mainly physical such as broken bones and the damages sustained by the vehicle. In situations when the size of the vehicle is not proportionate, the victims can suffer catastrophic injuries. Therefore, it is essential to retain an attorney to represent you against individuals, companies, or agencies while you recover.

Commercial Truck

Normal truck accidents can be serious. However, a truck rear-ending a smaller vehicle or vice versa can be especially disastrous. There are two types of rear-end accidents that a commercial truck can be involved in – a passenger vehicle can rear-end the truck, or the truck can rear-end the passenger vehicle. Commercial trucks can be extremely hard to maneuver, which is why Washington State and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) have many rules, laws, and regulations for truck drivers. Potential truck drivers have physical and medical requirements that they must meet to acquire their licenses. (See WAC 446.65.10 & 49 CRF § 390 Subpart E).

Accidents involving a truck can be extremely catastrophic. First, whether the truck rear-ends the passenger vehicle or vice versa, both results can lead to severe injuries. Second, many semi-trucks are higher than standard passenger vehicles. Therefore, in a rear-end collision, the bumper of the semi-truck can enter the passenger vehicle and increase the severity of the injuries or cause death. In the end, whether a commercial truck strikes a passenger vehicle or vice versa, the victim is at risk of death or permanent injuries. 

Commercial truck drivers have to follow basic traffic laws, federal regulations, and various rules while on the road (on-duty) and off-duty. The regulations they must follow range from the number of hours they can work to the vehicle maintenance requirements. Truckers are not excused from RCW 46.61.145, and if they rear-end another vehicle, they are likely at-fault for the accident. Nevertheless, because truckers have many federal and state regulations to follow, many factors and variables are at play in determining liability. Furthermore, if the truck driver violates any Federal Codes or State laws, the company or the driver can be held liable. 

Even if it seems as though the trucker is at fault, that may not be the case. If the truck driver was on duty, then the company can be held liable. The same is true if the company pushes the driver to continue their route, and it violates the hours of service guidelines. (See 49 CFR § 395).

Another example is when the rear-end crash happened because of faulty brakes or poorly adjusted truck equipment. In this situation, the question of liability becomes more complex. Do not hesitate to consult with an experienced attorney. Determining fault in a rear-end accident with a commercial truck can be very challenging and complicated. Retaining an attorney can help you determine liability, prove your innocence, and acquire the documentation necessary for your claim. 


A rear-end collision between two or three standard passenger vehicles can be destructive to your property and physical well-being. A car striking your vehicle from behind can leave you and your passenger with neck and spine injuries. Whether you were in a rear-end crash with just one car or in a chain reaction, it is prudent to obtain professional legal help. In instances where more than two vehicles are involved, determining liability can become difficult because more than one driver could have been negligent. In many traditional rear-end collisions, insurance companies determine liability and pay for the damages, but sometimes receiving compensation for your injuries can be a long and drawn-out process.

Insurance companies are not always willing to cooperate. As a business, their primary motive is to pay out the least amount of money necessary. Experienced personal injury attorneys know how to fight insurance companies to get what their clients deserve.


The assumption that rear-end collisions are far less severe than head-on collisions is not entirely accurate when a motorcyclist is involved. Even if the car that caused the accident was going at a low speed, the motorcyclists in the rear-end collision can suffer catastrophic and chronic injuries. Unlike standard motor vehicles that provide their driver and passengers with metal protection, motorcycles are lighter and smaller. In a rear-end crash with two standard passenger vehicles, the airbags may deploy, and your car may be pushed forward. Unlike with cars, it is extremely easy for motorcyclists to fall or fly off their motorcycle in a rear-end accident.

Motorcyclists that have been struck or rear-ended may be pushed forward into another vehicle into oncoming traffic, or the force of the hit can propel the driver upward before hitting the ground. It is important to remember that if the motorcycle falls on top of the rider, it can result in severe injuries (e.g., traumatic brain injury, paralysis). Catastrophic injuries are likely to occur if the motorcyclists hits the ground with a lot of force. Some common injuries are disfigurement, traumatic amputations, and broken bones. Rear-end crashes result in many motorcyclists suffering long-term injuries (e.g., tissue and brain damage), and the days after the accident are grueling physically and mentally. If you were rear-ended by another car, seek medical attention. Afterward, it is vital to consult with a legal professional on your options.

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Additional Resources

Brain Injury Association of America – This link leads to one of the preeminent brain injury awareness organizations in the United States. Many people believe that traumatic injuries cannot occur due to rear-end collisions, but the statistics do not agree. No matter how the accident occurs, there is always a risk of a serious, life-altering injury. Find out more about the nature of brain injuries by following this link.

Revised Code of Washington Laws on Fault – You can view the Washington state laws on fault and the determination of fault by following this link. There is a lot of complex information provided on the state law website, but it can be helpful to take a look at what the actual laws say about these issues.

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Attorney for Rear-end Collisions in Whatcom County, WA

Accidents are never expected, and the struggles that come with solving the problems created by car accidents can be overwhelming. Navigating the world of insurance law is no easy task, and the methods by which insurance companies arrive at their decisions can be puzzling. Rear-end collisions are nothing to joke around about. Not only are there many serious injuries associated with this kind of car accident, but the potential for extensive damage increases significantly with only a small jump in speed. Cars are always dangerous, and accidents can always result in severe damage to body and property. When a rear-end collision disrupts your life and well-being or the lives and well-being of your loved ones, you should entrust your case to a team of legal experts.

At PNW Trial Lawyers, we’ve assembled a first-rate team of lawyers and legal professionals that know how to fight insurance companies for what our clients deserve. Know-how and experience are only part of our legal repertoire—we also have an intense passion for pursuing justice for our clients. From start to finish, our clients receive all of the focus they need, and they will never be kept in the dark. In and out of court, we will work with you and for you to pursue everything that you are entitled to. Our qualified personal injury attorneys can help clear up misunderstandings and help you fight for maximum compensation.

PNW Trial Lawyers serves clients in and around Whatcom County, Skagit County, and Snohomish County. Contact us today at (360) 483-5201 to schedule a free consultation and strategy session.