Case Example: Rear End Collision with Two At-Fault Drivers

Follow along as we unpack a rear end collision from the moment of impact, through injury treatments and final settlement with the insurance company.

Rear-end collisions are some of the most common car accidents on American roadways. This fictional case study is based on fact patterns from real car accident cases.

Our study looks at the circumstances leading to the collision and how the police determined liability for the crash.

Learn about common injuries caused by rear-end collisions and follow our victims through to a final settlement with the at-fault drivers’ insurance companies.

We conclude with a list of important points to keep in mind regarding rear-end car accident claims.

Sudden Stop Leads to Rear-End Collision

The accident occurred on a busy two-lane road in the retail district of town. The straight stretch of road was bordered by shopping centers, big box stores, and restaurants. It was a clear and dry Tuesday afternoon.

Vehicle One: Cathy stopped at the pet store for cat food on the way home from work. It had been a long day and she was in a hurry to get home and relax.

Cathy sat in her small red Corolla, impatiently waiting for a break in traffic so she could pull out of the shopping center parking lot. Finally, Cathy saw her chance and hit the gas, whipping out into the main road.

Vehicle Two: Wilma Granger was driving home from the grocery store with her adult disabled daughter, Dee. Suddenly, a red Toyota cut in front of her causing her to slam on the breaks.

No sooner had Wilma’s Sorrento come to a halt when there was loud and violent impact to the back of her vehicle. Wilma and Dee were both jolted by the force of the crash.

Vehicle Three: Robert was traveling behind Wilma in his Ford F150, enjoying some tunes and thinking about his date later that evening. Traffic was heavy and he was going about 30 miles per hour.

Robert looked down to adjust the radio.

In the few seconds he took his eyes off the road, Wilma had stopped in front of him. Robert tried to brake but couldn’t avoid slamming his truck into the rear of Wilma’s vehicle.

Robert heard screaming from the other car and immediately called 911.

Injuries Caused by the Accident

Vehicle One: Cathy was shaking as she realized she had caused a car accident and narrowly missed being hit in the crash. Her heart was pounding from adrenaline, but she had no physical injuries.

Vehicle Two: Wilma and Dee were both jolted forward into their safety belts, and then thrown abruptly back, causing their heads to snap violently back and forth. Dee also had a bump on her forehead from hitting the passenger window as she was thrown about by the impact.

Wilma experienced mild whiplash and a prior back problem was exacerbated by the rear-end collision. At the scene of the crash, Wilma refused treatment from the paramedics. She was only concerned about Dee, who was crying and screaming from fear. Wilma didn’t realize she’d been injured until she could barely crawl out of her bed the next morning.

Dee also experienced a whiplash injury and had a big bump on her forehead from hitting the window. Wilma was able to calm Dee down enough to let the paramedics evaluate Dee’s injuries.

After some reassurance that Dee did not appear to have any life-threatening injuries, Wilma decided to take her home and arrange for Dee to see their family doctor.

Medical Treatment After the Collision

The next day, Wilma’s husband, Fred Granger, took Wilma and Dee to see their family physician, Dr. Eric Michaels. Fred used vacation pay to stay home from work for the next week to care for his wife and daughter.

Dr. Michaels diagnosed Wilma with a whiplash injury and back strain from the crash. He scheduled an MRI to determine the extent of Wilma’s new back injuries compared to her pre-existing back condition.

After a week of rest and muscle relaxers, the doctor referred Wilma to a physical therapist. Wilma was given six weeks of gradually increasing strength training to restore the range of motion in her back and neck.

Dee experienced more severe whiplash and her head had a lump from hitting the passenger window. Dr. Michaels ordered a CT scan that helped rule out a concussion.

Dee’s physical injuries were also treated conservatively with rest, hot pads, and muscle relaxers, followed by six weeks of physical therapy.

Dee also suffered emotional trauma from the accident. For several weeks she would wake with nightmares, cried when startled by loud noise, and was afraid to be away from her mother.

Despite her special needs, her regressed behavior was directly linked to the car accident. The family worked with a licensed clinical social worker to help Dee recover emotionally.

Three months after the rear-end collision, Wilma and Dee had both recovered from their physical injuries.

Vehicle Three: Robert had scrapes and bruises on his face from the deployment of his airbag. Beyond some stiffness for a few days, Robert was not injured in the crash.

Driver Liability for the Collision

Police arrived on the accident scene within minutes of the collision. After talking to the drivers and several witnesses to the collision, the investigating officer determined how the accident happened and who was at fault.

Every state has traffic and injury laws pertaining to vehicle accidents. Police at the scene will document violations of traffic laws and issue citations accordingly.

Two drivers were issued citations:

  • Cathy, in Vehicle One, was ticketed for failing to yield the right-of-way to oncoming traffic. The police report named Cathy as the first at-fault driver for starting the chain of events that caused the rear-end collision.
  • Robert, in Vehicle Three, was cited for failing to keep a safe distance between his car and the car in front of him. Robert also admitted to police that he was distracted by the radio before the crash.

The police report stated that Wilma was driving safely and was not at fault for causing the rear-end accident.

Police are trained in accident scene management and investigation. Insurance companies put a lot of weight on the police crash report when determining liability for car accidents.

Damages and Insurance Negotiations

The insurance companies for Cathy and Bob both accepted liability, meaning financial responsibility, for their insured’s part in the crash.

Both insurance companies agreed to help pay for Wilma and Dee’s car accident damages.

Damages generally include the accident victim’s: 

  • Medical bills
  • Out-of-pocket medical expenses
  • Vehicle repairs
  • Replacement services
  • Lost Wages
  • Pain and suffering

The Granger family hired a personal injury attorney to handle their claims with the two insurance companies.

Wilma’s Damages

Wilma’s medical bills for testing, treatment, and physical therapy totaled $4,500.

Because Wilma was physically unable to care for her home and family for nearly two months, she hired household help for the cleaning, cooking, and laundry. The replacement services cost $4,000.

Out-of-pocket expenses for travel to medical appointments and related expenses came to $125.

Besides the physical pain from her injuries, Wilma dealt with the pain of watching her special-needs daughter struggling to cope with the aftermath of the accident. Wilma was frustrated and depressed over her inability to take care of her family.

The Grangers’ attorney valued Wilma’s claim at $40,000.

Dee’s Damages

Dee’s medical bills for testing, treatment, and physical therapy totaled $4,000.

Additionally, because of Dee’s regression and her mother’s inability to physically care for her, a home health aide was brought in to take care of Dee’s bathing, dressing, and daily personal care. The home health aide’s wages for eight weeks totaled $5,000.

Dee and her family had weekly sessions with the clinical social worker for three months, at a cost of $1,500.

Dee suffered significant emotional distress from the accident that impacted her ability to enjoy daily activities or sleep through the night for several months.

The Grangers’ attorney valued Dee’s claim at $60,000.

Fred Granger’s Claim

Fred Granger lost a full week of vacation pay, totaling $1,000, to care for his wife and daughter, and to arrange for their continued care.

Further, Fred lost the comfort and companionship of his wife and daughter due to the accident. In legal jargon, loss of companionship is called loss of consortium and is compensable in injury claims.

Fred’s claim was valued by the Grangers’ attorney at $10,000

Insurance Claim Settlements

Cathy carried the state minimum of liability coverage on her auto insurance policy in the amounts of $20,000 per person and $40,000 per accident for bodily injury claims, and $10,000 for property damage.

Robert carried a much higher level of insurance, with liability coverages of $100,000 per person and $300,000 per accident for bodily injury claims, and $50,000 for property damage.

The Grangers used the collision coverage under their own auto policy to get the family car fixed. Their insurer would in turn file subrogation claims against Cathy’s and Robert’s insurance companies to recover the cost of the vehicle repairs.

The Granger’s attorney filed car accident injury claims for Fred, Wilma, and Dee with both Cathy’s and Robert’s insurance companies.

Cathy’s insurer quickly offered their $40,000 policy limits to be shared equally between Wilma and Dee.

After a few rounds of negotiations with Robert’s insurer, the Grangers attorney settled Wilma’s claim for $15,000, Dee’s claim for $40,000, and Fred’s claim for $5,000.

Total injury compensation for the Grangers: 

  • Wilma $35,000
  • Dee $60,000
  • Fred $5,000

Dee’s settlement had to be approved by a judge, because of her status as a dependant adult. The Granger’s attorney negotiated to have Cathy’s and Robert’s insurance companies share the legal costs of the settlement hearing and setting up a trust fund for Dee.

Important Points About Auto Accident Claims

  • The driver who rear-ended your car may not be the only at-fault person.
  • It’s never a good idea to refuse treatment at the scene. The insurance company might say you weren’t injured in the car accident.
  • Most states have laws mandating special handling of injury settlements for minor children or dependent adults to protect the best interest of the injured person.
  • Car accident claims involving more than one at-fault driver can be complicated, especially when each driver’s insurance company argues about who should pay.
  • Complicated injury claims are best handled by an experienced personal injury attorney.
  • You can use your own collision coverage for car repairs, even when the accident wasn’t your fault. Your insurer will deal with the at-fault driver’s insurer for reimbursement.
  • The insurance company may go back and forth with offers and counteroffers before a claim finally settles whether you handle your own claim or hire an attorney.


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 >>