What to Do After Getting Rear-Ended: Avoid These Mistakes When Hit from Behind

What you do after getting rear-ended can make or break your accident claim. Here’s how to avoid the mistakes that undermine insurance claims.

When you’re hit from behind, check for injuries and call 911. Watch what you say and cooperate with emergency responders. Don’t just shake hands and walk away – you’ll risk jeopardizing your claim against the at-fault driver’s auto insurance.

Even low-impact rear-end collisions can result in hidden damage to your car and serious injuries to you or your passengers.

Knowing the critical steps to take after a rear-end accident can protect your health, safety, and ability to file a successful claim.

What To Do After a Rear-End Car Accident

  1. Check for Injuries
    Summon medical help and administer first aid to others who may be injured, if you’re able.
  2. Call 911
    If you or anyone else involved in the crash may be injured, let the dispatcher know. Tell the dispatcher if airbags deployed, or there is fuel leaking, blocked traffic, or any other hazard.
  3. Watch What You Say
    Never admit fault if you’re rear-ended, and don’t be goaded into an argument with the driver who rear-ended you. If the other driver accuses you of stopping “for no reason” or not having working brake lights, don’t respond.
  4. Take Pictures
    Take photos and videos of each vehicle and the surrounding area. Get a picture of the other driver’s license plate number, close-ups of the damage, pictures of skid-marks, stop signs, and any other photos you can safely take.
  5. Identify Witnesses
    Get the names, phone numbers, and contact information for anyone who saw the accident and can potentially help your case.
  6. Get the Other Driver’s Information
    Write down the driver’s name and contact information, insurance information, vehicle details, and any other details.
  7. Cooperate with Paramedics
    Let the EMTs or paramedics check you for injuries. Tell them all your symptoms, and don’t make excuses for having a headache, neck pain, or upset stomach. The adrenaline rush from a collision can mask symptoms of serious injuries. Let them take you to the hospital if they recommend it.
  8. Cooperate with Law Enforcement
    When the investigating police officer arrives, they must first secure the scene and see to the injured. Be patient until they’re ready to speak to you. Don’t lie, but don’t admit any share of fault, either. It’s okay to say, “I don’t want to speculate on why they crashed into the back of my car.” 

Don’t risk your health or safety trying to take pictures or talk to witnesses at the scene of the accident. If you’re too badly shaken or injured to get out of your car, that’s okay. Stay in your car until help arrives.

5 Big Mistakes After Getting Rear-Ended

  1. Working Out A Deal With the Other Driver
    The other driver might offer to pay your damages “without getting the cops or insurance involved.” That’s a big red flag that the driver has a revoked license or no insurance. Always call 911.
  2. Refusing Medical Care at the Scene
    Refusing or delaying medical attention after a traffic accident gives the insurance company an excuse to deny your claim. You might be in so much pain you can’t turn your head by the third day after the crash, but the insurance company will argue your injuries weren’t caused by being rear-ended. Medical bills are the basis for your compensation after a rear-end accident.
  3. Failing to Notify Your Insurance Company
    You have a contractual obligation to notify your insurance company, even if the accident wasn’t your fault. Your insurer has a duty to defend you if someone from the other vehicle decides to sue, but you may lose that protection if you fail to promptly notify your insurer of the accident.
  4. Posting on Social Media
    Don’t publicize your accident, your opinions about the driver who rear-ended your car, or offers from the insurance company. Avoid posting, or being tagged in photographs that show you engaging in activities that may be inconsistent with your injuries.
  5. Using Questionable Medical Care Providers
    Insurance companies are only obligated to pay reasonable and necessary medical expenses. Beware of accident doctors or chiropractors who order repeated tests and prescribe extensive therapy for soft-tissue injuries. If the adjuster rejects these outrageous bills, you may be on the hook for payment.

What To Do While Recovering from The Crash

Write It All Down

As soon as possible after the accident, write down everything that happened while the details are still fresh in your mind.

Did you hear screeching tires before impact? Did your head fly forward, then jerk back? Did any part of your body strike the door, steering wheel, or any other part of the car? Did the other driver apologize before the police arrived?

Notify Your Insurance Company

Let your car insurance company know you were rear-ended. Your auto policy has a clause requiring you to notify the company after an accident.

If you have no-fault insurance your injury claim must first be made under your PIP coverage. If you have collision coverage, you might decide to let your insurer take care of your vehicle damage, then your insurer will get reimbursed by the at-fault driver’s company.

Notify the At-Fault Driver’s Insurer

Put the other driver’s insurance company on notice of your intent to file a claim. In most states, you’ll file a bodily injury claim and a property damage claim. Even in a no-fault state, the at-fault driver’s insurer should pay for your vehicle damage.

After you fully recover from your injuries, you will send a letter demanding compensation for your rear-end accident.

Follow Doctor’s Orders

Stay home from work if your doctor says you should. Wear a cervical collar or observe any restrictions for lifting or standing placed by your medical provider, and attend all physical therapy as ordered.

Gather Medical Bills and Wage Statements

Your hard costs for medical treatment and lost wages are the basis for calculating fair injury compensation after a traffic accident.

Get a Copy of the Police Report

The police accident report can be powerful evidence of the other driver’s fault, especially if the report shows the other driver was cited for failing to keep a proper distance, and indicates you had no share of blame for the crash.

Consider Hiring a Car Accident Attorney

Decide if you can handle your own injury claim or if you need to seek legal advice from an experienced attorney in your area.

Learn more from this case example of a rear-end accident with multiple injured parties.

Rear-End Accidents Without Vehicle Damage

If you are rear-ended in a parking lot or in slow-moving traffic, there may be little or no apparent damage to your vehicle. The other vehicle may also show little damage, or may have a crumpled hood and smashed front end, depending on the size and weight of your cars.

Call 911 to report every motor vehicle accident. In busy jurisdictions, the police probably won’t be dispatched for a rush-hour fender-bender, but you’ll at least have a record of the call.

It’s important to gather as much evidence as possible for low or no-damage rear-end accidents, even if you decide later on not to file a claim.

You might not want to call an ambulance if you’re not feeling discomfort at the accident scene, but see your doctor or go to urgent care as soon as possible, preferably the same day.

Significant rear-end injuries are often caused by relatively low-impact collisions, but the symptoms may take a day or two to develop. If you are the driver or passenger in a vehicle that was rear-ended, you owe it to yourself to seek prompt medical attention.

Similarly, have your vehicle checked for damages. You may not see much more than a scuff on your bumper, but the rear-end impact may have been enough to bend your car’s frame or throw it out of alignment.

Insurance adjusters will fight injury claims arising from low-impact or no-damage rear-end collisions. You may need a personal injury attorney to get fair compensation for your injuries, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Most injury attorneys offer a free consultation to auto accident victims.

What To Do After Rear-End Accident Questions

Charles R. Gueli, Esq. is a personal injury attorney with over 20 years of legal experience. He’s admitted to the NY State Bar, and been named a Super Lawyer for the NY Metro area, an exclusive honor awarded to the top five percent of attorneys. Charles has worked extensively in the areas of auto accidents,... Read More >>