Rear-end Collisions in Maine: Know the Facts and Your Legal Rights

Rear-end collisions are the most common crashes in Maine

Car crashes sometimes cause more than just physical damage. In an instant, they can change the course of a life.

In June of 2013, a college student was stopped at a red light in downtown Lewiston, Maine. The 25-year-old woman was working at the local hospital while studying toward her nursing degree.

Without warning, her vehicle was struck from behind by a distracted driver. The student suffered injuries to her neck and back. Because of her injuries, she lost her job and eventually was forced to give up her dream of becoming a nurse. Sadly, this is just one example of thousands in which the consequences of a crash are serious and life-changing.

Rear-end collisions are the most common type of car crashes in Maine, making up more than 30 percent of the total, according to the Maine Department of Transportation. While these crashes are not usually fatal, they cause hundreds of injuries each year and account for millions of dollars in vehicle damages.

In this article we take a look at the hazards posed by rear-end collisions. We explore some ways to keep your family safe, and give you advice on what to do if you’ve been hit from behind by another driver.

The toll of rear-end crashes: 500k injuries and more than 10k deaths each year

Let’s take a quick look at the scope of the problem. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently reported that about 30 percent of all traffic accidents are rear-end collisions — about 1.7 million each year.

Those collisions cause more than 10,000 deaths annually, and about 500,000 injuries, according to the Washington Post.

These statistics are in line with local statistics in Maine. Between 2006 and 2015, 33 percent of all car crashes in Maine were rear-end collisions, according to the state’s Bureau of Highway Safety and Department of Transportation. Rear-end crashes in Maine are more common than crashes caused by lane departures, moose or deer collisions, and all other types.

Rear-end collisions are often called “whiplash accidents” because they are likely to cause injuries to the soft tissues and bones of the spine, neck, face, and brain, resulting from the whip-like action of being struck from behind. Injuries are exacerbated because most victims of rear-end crashes don’t see the rear driver approaching, so they don’t brace for impact.

What causes rear-end collisions? Tailgating, speeding, reckless driving, drugs, alcohol, and fatigue are all potential causes. Environmental and physical factors such as fog, snow, sleet, ice, rain, construction zones, sometimes play roles.

Distracted driving, including texting while driving, is a major cause of rear-end collisions. In a nation where almost every driver has a smart phone and other mobile devices, driver distraction has become a major public safety hazard, despite a growing number of laws prohibiting the use of such devices while behind the wheel.

Five tips to help you avoid a rear-end collision

Some rear-end collisions are unavoidable. For example, if you’re stopped at a red light and the driver behind you, distracted by a cell phone call, smashes into you.

But there are some steps you can take to lower your risk of becoming the next victim.

  1. Make sure your brake lights and running lights are functioning and clean. There are countless scenarios (braking at construction sites; stop-and-go traffic; low visibility) where the drivers behind you depend on your lights.
  2. If the road becomes enveloped in thick fog, or some other extreme weather condition severely restricts visibility, play it safe and get off the road.
  3. Is someone tailgating you, driving recklessly, or showing signs of road rage? Again, play it safe. Keep calm, pull over, and let them pass.
  4. Check your mirrors often. This increases your chances of spotting a dangerous driver coming up behind you, giving you a chance to react and avoid a collision.
  5. If possible, when stopping in traffic, identify an escape route. Try to leave enough room between your vehicle and the vehicle ahead of you, so that if you had to move quickly to avoid a car coming up behind you, you could navigate to a sidewalk, a shoulder, or another safe option.

I was rear-ended by another driver. Now what?

Taking some basic steps after a car accident can make the difference between a legal claim that fails and one that provides fair compensation for you and your family. Here are some suggestions for first steps.

  • First, be sure all parties involved are safe and out of danger. Then move your car if it is causing a hazard; otherwise leave it where it is and turn on hazard lights.
  • Call 911 to immediately report the accident to police, even if you think the damage is minor. Stay close to your vehicle until police arrive.
  • Remain calm and polite, but do not apologize or admit fault.
  • Gather pertinent information from other driver and any witnesses.
  • Photograph vehicle damage and any visible injuries. Write down your recollections about the event. 
  • Get the name and badge number of all responding officers, and ask for police report.
  • Seek immediate medical attention for your injuries, even if you think they are minor.
  • Contact an experienced personal injury trial lawyer who specializes in rear-end car accident cases and one who is prepared to win either by settlement or, if necessary, court judgment.
  • Report the accident to your insurer. Do not give a signed or recorded statement to your insurer before talking with your lawyer.
  • Do not discuss the accident with any representative of the other driver’s insurance company before talking with your lawyer.

At Berman & Simmons, our legal team has the most experience in Maine handling personal injury claims, including cases involving rear-end collisions. Our firm will speak with you free of charge about what happened whether you might have a valid claim.

If we accept you as a client, our lawyers and their teams will investigate. We will interview witnesses, preserve physical evidence and, if necessary, we can even reconstruct the crash to show exactly what happened and why.

Here are some of the reasons why clients choose Berman & Simmons to represent them in personal injury, medical malpractice, and other types of claims:

Results. We have won many of the largest jury verdicts and settlements in Maine history. Two of our landmark cases have been recognized in The National Law Journal’s Top 100 U.S. Verdicts and many of our cases have advanced Maine law to protect the rights of those who have been injured or harmed because of someone else's negligence.

Reputation. Founded more than 100 years ago, the firm is recognized nationally for its record of success in trials, a fearless approach to litigation, and for standing up for working people against powerful defendants.

Relationships. We care about our clients. We listen. We follow through on our promises. You’ll have a team behind you.

Car accident resources

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