Your Guide to Rear-End Accidents in Los Angeles

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Rear-end accidents happen frequently on Los Angeles’ congested streets and crowded freeways. For victims, these crashes often lead to major medical expenses, lost income, property damage, and other serious financial and personal struggles.

This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know about rear-end accidents in Los Angeles, including causes of rear-end accidents, determining fault, types of injuries, litigation issues, time limits, damages, finding an attorney, and much more.

Learning About Rear-End Accidents

Let’s start by examining some key aspects of how rear-end accidents occur in Los Angeles and their potential consequences. This will help you understand these incidents and your options if you are injured. 

How Rear-End Collisions Occur

These accidents happen when the front of one vehicle strikes the rear of another vehicle ahead of it in traffic. Specifically, tailgating, distracted driving, speeding, sudden braking, and failure to maintain a safe distance are common factors that can lead to rear-end crashes.

Injuries From Rear-End Accidents

Whiplash, back injuries, spinal cord damage, head trauma, and psychological injuries are some of the common harm that can result from rear-end collisions.

Thoroughly documenting all of your accident-related injuries and their effects will be essential for claiming full compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages.

Understanding typical rear-end injuries can also help you seek the proper medical diagnosis and treatment.

Your Rights Under California Law

California has specific statutes and legal doctrines that govern rear-end accidents and protect the rights of injured victims, including:

The Following Too Closely law (CVC 21703), which requires leaving ample distance between vehicles.

The Comparative Negligence rule, which allows injured parties to recover damages if partially at fault.

The presumption of negligence against rear-ending drivers.

Having knowledge of these laws is essential for understanding your rights and ability to recover damages if you are injured as the result of someone rear-ending you on a California roadway.

What Causes These Accidents

While each rear-end collision involves unique circumstances, there are some common factors that contribute to many rear-end accidents. Being aware of the main causes can help you avoid these unsafe driving practices and also shed light on how the accident occurred if you are the victim. The most frequent driving behaviors that lead to rear-end crashes include:

Distracted Driving

Distracted driving, especially because of texting and driving, is a major contributing factor in many rear-end accidents.

Drivers who are focused on their cell phones or are not paying attention to the road are unable to brake in time when traffic ahead of them slows or stops. This delayed reaction time makes them prone to colliding with the vehicle in front of them.


Excessive speeding is another major cause of rear-end accidents. Speeding drivers have less time to react and bring their car to a stop when they encounter a slow or stopped  traffic ahead of them. Speeding is considered reckless driving and makes rear-end collisions much more likely.

Figuring Out Who Was At Fault

Determining liability and who was at fault is a critical issue after a rear-end accident. The ability to prove negligence is the key to successfully recovering your damages and losses. There are some general principles that apply regarding fault in these types of collisions.

Is the Rear Driver Always to Blame?

In most rear-end accidents, the driver who strikes the vehicle in front of them is presumed to be primarily at fault.

This presumption exists because drivers have a legal duty under the Following Too Closely statute (CVC 21703) to maintain safe distances between vehicles and allow enough space to avoid collisions.

However, the lead driver’s actions may still play a role.

When the Front Driver is Partly At Fault

While the rear driver is typically deemed negligent, the lead driver’s conduct can also be a contributing factor in a rear-end accident.

For example, if the front driver makes a sudden, unsignaled stop for no legitimate reason, their actions could potentially shift some liability onto them.

Other examples are driving well below the speed limit or having malfunctioning brake lights.

Injuries From Rear-End Collisions

Being struck from behind in a rear-end crash can lead to an array of serious injuries with potentially long-lasting health effects.

Understanding the common harm that can result is important for being aware of the need for prompt medical diagnosis and proper treatment.

It also provides foundation for seeking full legal recovery of damages.


Whiplash is very common in rear collisions because the head and neck are suddenly snapped back and forth in a violent motion.

Whiplash injuries include strains, sprains, and tears to muscles, tendons and ligaments in the neck and shoulder areas.

This can cause chronic pain, headaches, dizziness, restricted mobility, neurological symptoms, and other problems requiring extensive medical treatment.

Back and Spinal Injuries

The high levels of force often generated in rear-end crashes can also result in an array of back and spinal injuries of varying severity.

These can range from herniated discs to compression fractures of vertebrae.

In very extreme cases, permanent spinal cord damage leading to partial or total paralysis is possible.

Finding the Right Lawyer

Obtaining experienced legal representation is highly recommended if you are injured in a rear-end accident. Hiring the right attorney can help protect your rights and maximize the compensation you receive. Here are some tips on finding the best lawyer for your case:

Initial Consultation

Schedule free case evaluation meetings with several attorneys to discuss your accident details, injuries, and legal options. Consultations provide a chance to get questions answered and assess which lawyer is the best fit for you. They can evaluate the merits of your case and advise if they are able to take it on.

Contingency Fee Agreements

Most personal injury lawyers handle rear-end accident cases on a contingency fee basis. This means the attorney only gets paid if they obtain a settlement or court award for you. Their fee is a percentage of the recovery amount, which is typically 33% to 40%. 

Other Deductions from Settlements

In addition to lawyer fees, other common deductions from a rear-end settlement can include:

– Repayment of health insurers or Medicare lines for accident related medical costs.

– Payment of medical liens asserted by treating doctors or hospitals.

– Expenses for experts, court fees, investigations, etc.

Making an Insurance Claim

Pursuing compensation after a rear-end accident typically starts with making an insurance claim against the at-fault driver’s auto liability policy. The claims process involves the following steps:

Filing the Claim

Your attorney will need to file a claim with the insurance company of the negligent driver, providing details of how the accident happened, your resulting injuries, medical treatment obtained, lost wages, and other damages and losses.

Submitting supporting evidence like medical records, work records, and auto repair estimates helps back up and strengthen your demand for compensation.

Insurers investigate the claim details to determine fault and attempt to calculate a settlement value based on your documented damages.

Negotiating a Settlement

After investigating the rear-end accident, the insurance company will make a settlement offer based on their valuation of the claim.

If their offer seems too low, an experienced attorney can negotiate aggressively on your behalf to obtain full and fair compensation in light of all your accident-related expenses, losses, and suffering.

Settling avoids time-consuming litigation but may not adequately cover all your damages.

If Your Claim is Denied

If the insurance company disputes liability or denies your injury claim altogether, your attorney can send a demand letter formally asserting your legal right to recover damages.

The letter outlines the insurer’s contractual duty to compensate you for losses caused by their insured driver’s negligence.

If they continue to refuse reasonable compensation, filing a lawsuit may ultimately be necessary.

Filing a Lawsuit

If you are unable to reach a just settlement directly with the insurer for a rear-end accident, pursuing compensation through litigation may become necessary. Lawsuits allow you to compel payment of damages, but involve complex procedures. Key aspects of rear-end injury litigation include:

Reasons People Sue

Rear-end accident victims typically file lawsuits for reasons such as the insurer denying liability, disputing the claimed injuries, or making an unreasonably low settlement offer.

Lawsuits also become necessary if your damages exceed the negligent driver’s policy limits, requiring compensation from their personal assets.

The Litigation Process

The rear-end injury litigation process formally begins when your attorney files a complaint in court alleging negligence by the other driver and seeking compensation from them for your damages.

The at-fault driver’s insurance company, representing them as their defendant, will respond by filing an answer denying allegations against their insured and asserting any defenses.

Extensive information gathering, negotiation, and trial preparation follow.


Discovery is a key phase of the litigation process that allows each party to obtain information and evidence from the other side, including:

– Interrogatories – Written questions that must be answered under oath

– Requests for production of documents

– Depositions – Oral testimony given under oath

This evidence can significantly impact liability disputes and settlement negotiations.

Going to Trial

If a fair settlement cannot be agreed upon out of court, your rear-end accident case will proceed to trial before a judge or jury.

Your attorney will present evidence and argue your case, aiming to prove legal fault, negligence, and damages to obtain a favorable verdict.

Most cases settle before trial, but your lawyer must be ready to take your case all the way to obtain justice.

How Long Will My Case Take?

The timeline for resolving a rear-end accident injury case can vary substantially based on factors like:

– The severity and complexity of injuries.

– Disputes over who was at fault.

– Whether litigation is pursued.

Straightforward, minor injury claims with clear liability may potentially settle within a few months. Serious injury cases with uncertainties over fault often take 12-24 months or more to resolve.

Proving the Other Driver’s Fault

Proving legally that the other driver was primarily at fault for the rear-end collision through evidence is critical for injury claims and lawsuits. Their negligence must be convincingly established to hold them responsible for your damages.

Important evidence and issues in determining rear-end accident fault include:

Using Evidence to Establish Fault

Police accident reports, eyewitness statements, video footage, photographs, and reconstruction expert analysis can all help substantiate which driver was at fault and what their actions were prior to impact.

Being able to demonstrate that the other driver was speeding, distracted, tailgating, or otherwise driving carelessly and recklessly is key.

Physical evidence from the accident scene may also provide clues as to fault.

Resolving Disputes Over Who Was At Fault

If the defendant driver or insurer disputes fault and alleges comparative negligence by the plaintiff driver, a thorough independent investigation of the accident is needed.

An experienced attorney can conduct extensive discovery, talk to witnesses, and bring in accident reconstruction experts to try and definitively prove the plaintiff’s version of events and establish the other driver’s full liability.

Vigorously contesting questionable liability arguments is essential.

Time Limits for Filing a Claim

Under California personal injury law, the statute of limitations for rear-end accident claims is generally two years from the date of the injury accident.

This law (CCP §335.1) requires that any injury lawsuit or insurance claim must be filed within two years, or you may lose your right to recover damages.

Prompt legal action is key, so contact an attorney right away to avoid exceeding deadlines.

When There’s Little Vehicle Damage

Even when minimal vehicle damage results from a low-speed rear-end collision, severe hidden injuries like whiplash and disc injuries can still result.

Extensive medical documentation of any spinal or soft tissue injuries is especially important to overcome defense arguments disputing serious injury claims when property damage is low.

An experienced lawyer can combat such defense tactics aggressively.

Informing the California DMV

Under California law, auto accidents resulting in property damage over $1000 or any injuries must be reported to the DMV within 10 days.

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To properly report a qualifying rear-end accident to the California DMV, you or your attorney must fill out and file the Report of Traffic Accident Occurring in California (Form SR-1) along with any supporting documents.

The form requests information on the crash details, parties involved, property damage, injuries sustained, and insurance data.

Properly notifying the DMV of reportable rear-end accidents is required under CVC 16000.

Getting a Police Report

Obtaining an official police report documenting the circumstances of the rear-end accident can significantly help establish what happened and who was at fault.

Police reports contain important details like officer observations at the crash scene, witness statements, party admissions, and conclusions by the investigating officer.

If any factual errors, evidence issues, or disputed liability conclusions arise in the police report, your attorney can work to amend it.

What You Can Recover

If injured in a rear-end accident caused by another driver’s negligence, you can make claims and pursue compensation for a wide range of damages and losses.

These can be divided into two main categories:

Understanding potential damages provides a foundation for seeking a full recovery.

Economic Damages

Economic damages cover quantifiable out-of-pocket losses and expenses incurred as a result of the accident, including:

– Medical expenses from accident-related injuries

– Lost income and reduced earning capacity

– Repairs and replacement costs for damaged or destroyed property

– Costs of future medical treatment and rehabilitation

– Any other verifiable monetary costs

Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages provide compensation for more subjective, quality-of-life losses such as:

– Physical pain and emotional suffering

– Loss of companionship or consortium

– Permanent disability or disfigurement

– Loss of enjoyment of life

– Emotional distress like fear, anxiety, depression

Settlement Amounts

The amount of compensation obtained through rear-end accident settlements or verdicts varies substantially based on circumstances like:

– Severity of injuries and amount of medical expenses

– Extent of property damage in collision

– Policy limits and assets of liable driver

– Evidence issues and disputed liability

– Jurisdiction and venue of case

While specific results depend on the case details, many serious injury rear-end accident claims commonly settle for over $100,000.

Going It Alone Without a Lawyer

While it may be possible to handle a straightforward, minor injury rear-end accident claim yourself in very clear liability situations, pursuing compensation without an attorney is generally not advisable.

Experienced personal injury lawyers have the litigation skills, resources, and leverage needed to maximize financial recovery in rear-end claims.

They also provide invaluable guidance on protecting your rights.


Being injured in a rear-end accident can lead to substantial financial burdens from medical expenses, vehicle repairs, lost income, and other serious damages.

Understanding the legal process, evidence issues, potential compensation, and qualified legal help available is critical for protecting your rights as an accident victim.

This guide covers the key issues and provides a roadmap to obtaining fair compensation after a rear-end collision in California through experienced attorneys who can help maximize your recovery.

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