With over five million vehicles on Minnesota roads, traffic accidents are common. Rear-end collisions make up a significant percentage of the state’s urban and rural crashes. And despite their reputation as fender-benders, they can cause serious and fatal injuries.
If you’ve sustained injuries in a rear-end collision, you may have the right to receive financial compensation for your losses. An experienced Minnesota car accident lawyer can help.
Here are some important things to know about rear-end crashes in Minnesota.
Common Causes of Rear-End Collisions in Minnesota
Rear-end collisions are the most common type of motor vehicle accident. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), they account for 29 percent of all car crashes, many of which end in injuries and fatalities. Data collected by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (MnDPS) reflects that in a recent year, more than 24,000 rear-end collisions occurred in the state.
Rear-end collisions have numerous causes. Here are some of the most common, with links to descriptions of them by MnDPS.
- Distracted driving involves any activity that distracts from the visual, manual, or cognitive tasks involved in driving, such as texting, eating, talking to passengers, or daydreaming.
- Tailgating occurs when drivers fail to maintain a safe following distance between their vehicles and those ahead.
- Speeding reduces a driver's reaction time and lengthens the distance needed to stop.
- Winter weather contributes to dangerous driving conditions that require drivers to exercise caution.
- Impaired driving interferes with drivers' visual, motor, and cognitive abilities.
- Drowsy driving can impair driving ability to the same extent as consuming drugs or alcohol.
Common Injuries in Minnesota Rear-End Collisions
Rear-end collisions have the potential to inflict severe and fatal injuries. Victims of rear-end accidents commonly suffer:
- Spinal injuries, including spinal cord injuries resulting in paralysis and injuries to the vertebrae and discs in the spine that lead to long-term pain and disability.
- Traumatic brain injuries can cause loss of consciousness or long-term physical, emotional, or cognitive impairments.
- Neck and shoulder soft tissue injuries (a.k.a. whiplash) can lead to lasting pain and a loss of mobility.
- Fractures, including trauma caused by seat belts like broken ribs and broken collarbones.
- Lacerations, contusions, abrasions, and puncture wounds, common when a vehicle occupant hits the steering wheel or comes in contact with shattered glass and twisted metal.
- Internal injuries, such as ruptured vital organs, collapsed lungs, internal bleeding, and nerve damage.
Many of the injuries above can result in a fatality, especially if the victim does not receive prompt medical attention. Injuries that get proper care may heal in time but can cause severe pain, expense, and disruption in a victim’s life.
The Right to Compensation for a Rear-End Collision
Under Minnesota law, injured victims of rear-end collisions have the right to demand money damages from the party (or parties) at fault, so long as they have either exhausted their no-fault insurance benefits or suffered severe injuries. An experienced rear-end accident attorney can represent victims in pursuing lawsuits and insurance claims for that compensation.
Who is legally responsible for a rear-end accident?
Various parties can bear the fault for a rear-end collision in Minnesota. Some common parties who may face liability include:
The Trailing Driver
In most Minnesota rear-end accidents, the driver of the trailing vehicle bears at least some of the blame. All Minnesota drivers must maintain sufficient control of their cars to stop in time to avoid colliding with another vehicle in front of them, regardless of road or weather conditions. Most rear-end collisions in which the trailing driver fails to come to a safe stop constitute a likely violation of that rule.
The Leading Driver
But not always. The driver of the front vehicle can also be responsible for causing a rear-end collision.
That could happen if:
- The leading vehicle rolls backward and hits the trailing vehicle;
- The leading vehicle’s brake lights fail to work properly, depriving the trailing driver of reasonable warning of the need to slow down;
- The leading vehicle experiences an unforeseeable mechanical breakdown that leads to an abrupt stop;
- The driver of the leading vehicle engages in erratic maneuvers while intoxicated.
Others on the Road
Others on the road, including motorists, cyclists, pedestrians, and work crews, can also bear some responsibility for triggering a rear-end collision.
For example, this could occur if:
- A jaywalking pedestrian steps in front of the leading vehicle, necessitating a sudden stop and a crash;
- A chain reaction collision happens in which a third vehicle rear-ends the trailing vehicle, pushing it forward into the leading vehicle;
- A leading vehicle crashes or stops suddenly in a work zone because of an unreasonably dangerous hazard.
A Driver’s Employer
If a driver causes a rear-end collision while operating a work vehicle, the driver's employer may have a legal liability to the accident victims under Minnesota law. Generally, employers must answer for their employees' careless or reckless actions. A driver's employer might also owe a rear-end accident victim for failing to train the driver properly or maintain the vehicle that crashed in safe working condition.
A Government Entity or Private Road Owner
Government agencies or owners of private roads may bear responsibility for a rear-end collision in Minnesota if they:
- Fail to design, build, or maintain roads in a safe condition for all users; or
- Fail to warn the public of temporarily unsafe conditions on roads within their jurisdiction or control.
An Automotive Manufacturer
The company that built and sold either vehicle in a rear-end collision could also share in the fault for the accident. Under Minnesota law, you may hold automotive manufacturers strictly liable if defects in their products trigger a crash, such as if they design a car with a malfunctioning dangerous braking system.
What damages can a victim recover?
Generally, injured victims of Minnesota rear-end collisions can demand payment of two categories of damages from the at-fault party (or parties).
- Economic damages constitute all expenses and financial losses associated with the rear-end collision, including medical and out-of-pocket costs, lost wages and vacation time, and diminished future income.
- Non-economic damages consist of all other adverse effects a rear-end accident injury has on a victim's life, including physical pain, emotional suffering, mental health challenges, inconvenience, loss of consortium, and loss of enjoyment of life.
In some cases, the victim of a rear-end collision in Minnesota may also seek punitive damages, which punish the at-fault party for extreme recklessness or intentionally harmful conduct.
How much money can a victim recover?
The amount of money a rear-end collision victim might receive as compensation can vary widely from case to case.
Numerous factors affect the potential amount of the victim’s financial recovery, including:
- The nature and extent of the victim’s injuries, with the most severe injuries entitling the victim to the highest amounts of damages.
- The strength of the victim’s case, which typically depends on the evidence available to prove the victim's claim and the quality of the arguments a lawyer can make on the victim's behalf.
- The at-fault party’s insurance coverage and other assets, which represent the fund of money potentially available to pay the victim’s damages claim.
The most reliable way to maximize the money you obtain for your rear-end collision injuries and losses is to hire an experienced Minnesota car accident attorney to handle your claim.
The Process of Seeking Compensation for a Rear-End Collision
Securing compensation for rear-end collision injuries and losses typically involves pursuing an insurance claim against the at-fault party’s liability insurance policy, a lawsuit against the at-fault party, or both. In virtually all rear-end accident cases, hiring an experienced attorney gives victims the greatest chance of a favorable resolution of their claim.
Every rear-end collision matter a personal injury lawyer handles differs.
But in general, seeking compensation involves many of the following steps (although not necessarily in this order).
- Initial consultation. Virtually all Minnesota car accident lawyers offer victims of rear-end collisions a free case consultation to help victims explore their rights (including whether they have a claim beyond their no-fault insurance coverage) and answer pressing questions.
- Case investigation. A crash victim’s lawyer will typically investigate the facts and circumstances of the crash, which may involve reviewing official crash reports, visiting the accident scene, interviewing witnesses, and consulting with experts.
- Identification of liable parties and their insurers. The case investigation aims to identify all individuals, businesses, and entities that might owe damages to the injured victim and determine which insurance carrier has issued liability insurance to those parties potentially covering the victim’s damages.
- Evaluation of the victim’s injuries and losses. The case investigation also aims to develop a complete understanding of the toll a rear-end collision has taken on the victim's life, finances, relationships, and health, and calculate the appropriate damages for compensating for that harm.
- Case planning and counseling. A lawyer will typically formulate a proposed strategy for obtaining maximum compensation for the victim and present that plan for approval.
- Formal and informal demands for compensation. The typical strategy involves sending a written demand for compensation to the at-fault party, which may take the form of an informal letter to the party or its attorney, a claim under the party’s liability insurance policy, or a complaint filed in Minnesota state or federal court.
- Case discovery and pretrial procedure. If the strategy includes filing a lawsuit, the lawyers for the victim and the at-fault party will exchange information and appear in court in connection with the claim.
- Formal and informal settlement negotiations. The lawyers and insurance representatives will usually try to reach an agreement to settle the victim's case, sometimes with the help of a neutral third party called a mediator. The decision of whether to agree to a settlement belongs to the victim.
- Trial and judgment. If the parties cannot agree on a settlement, each side will present evidence and arguments at a trial, and a judge or jury will decide the damages the victim should receive.
Throughout this process, the lawyer for the rear-end collision victim advocates zealously for the victim’s rights and fights to achieve the maximum settlement or jury award.
How a Rear-End Collision Lawyer Gets Paid
Minnesota lawyers for rear-end collision victims typically represent their clients on a contingent fee basis (also known as working on contingency). In this arrangement, the lawyer and client agree that the lawyer’s fee will consist of a certain percentage of any money recovered on the client’s behalf. In other words, the lawyer only gets paid if the accident victim gets paid.
Contingent fees make legal services affordable to all rear-end collision victims in Minnesota. Even victims with few or no financial resources can afford to hire a lawyer on a contingent fee basis.
Contact a Minnesota Rear-End Collision Lawyer Today
Rear-end collisions are common in Minnesota, but every victim suffers unique personal injuries. With the help of an experienced Minnesota car accident lawyer, crash victims can secure significant financial compensation to help them pay their bills, heal from their injuries, and return to living their lives.
If you or someone you love suffered injuries in a Minnesota rear-end collision, the law may entitle you to receive money damages. To find out about your rights, contact a Minnesota car accident attorney for a free, no-obligation consultation.