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Rear-Ended in a Car Accident? What to Do Next in WA State

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Home Blog Auto Accident Rear-Ended in a Car Accident? What to Do Next in WA State

Information Summary:

  • A rear-end accident happens when one vehicle strikes another from behind and is one of the most common types of accidents in Washington.
  • A following driver has the responsibility to maintain a safe distance, and when a collision occurs, they are liable in most cases.
  • Causes of rear-end accidents include weather, road conditions, recklessness, tailgating, and distracted driving.
  • Rear-end collision cases are not as straightforward as they may appear when it comes to determining fault. Both drivers may share in the blame.
  • Washington is a comparative negligence state, which means you can still recover compensation even if found to be partially at fault in a rear-end accident.

Did you know that rear-end collisions comprise one of the largest percentages of accidents involving vehicles? Many citizens might assume that these types of accidents are always minor crashes, but injuries can still occur. In 2021 alone, some 475,774 injuries were reported, making rear-end accidents dangerous enough to ruin not only your day but your health as well.

If you or your loved one have been involved in an accident, a Washington rear-end collision lawyer at McPartland Law Offices may be able to help you handle the insurance company as well as get the compensation you deserve.

Definition of a Rear-End Collision

A rear-end collision is when one car strikes another from behind. These accidents happen far too often and can occur for several reasons, such as inattention, recklessness, and brake checking.

As outlined in the Washington Code of Laws, a following driver has the responsibility, or “primary duty,” to maintain a safe distance, that is, enough space between them and the car in front in order to avoid a rear-end collision. If not, and a motor vehicle accident occurs, that rear driver will be liable unless it can be proven that some condition or negligence led to the collision.

Folks who are injured by a rear-end collision may further benefit from Washington’s ‘following driver rule.’ For decades, case after case has held that it is the following driver’s duty to avoid colliding with vehicles ahead of him or her.

Steps to Take After a Rear-End Car Accident in Washington

After being involved in a car accident, including a rear-end collision, you will want to perform these steps.

Step One: Seek Medical Attention

Your first concern following an auto accident is to seek medical attention for you and any passengers. Even if you initially believe that you have no serious injuries that need evaluating, it is imperative that you find out for sure. Not only will it protect and benefit your health, but the physician’s report will be invaluable to your insurance claim.

Step Two: Call 911 and Exchange Information

As soon as possible following the accident, call 911 and report the crash and location.

While waiting for emergency responders to arrive, exchange insurance and contact information with the other driver. Those involved in an accident in Washington are required by law to stop at the scene of a crash and share information.

Once police officers arrive on the scene, tell them only what you know of the actual accident. Stick to the basic facts and avoid any statement of fault. Police reports will be essential to your personal injury claim.

Step Three: Gather Evidence

man taking photos of two collided cars

Take photos of the crash scene, including all vehicles involved, any tire marks, road conditions, signs or signals in that location, and any sustained injuries.

Also, identify witnesses to the crash and collect contact information. Your car accident attorney will want to contact them later.

Step Four: Contact the Insurance Company

You must notify the insurance company of the accident as soon as you can. They will then investigate the case and determine whether to grant, limit, or deny your claim.

It is essential to note that these insurance companies are guided by a defined timeline, as set forth by Washington insurance regulations. A Washington personal injury attorney with McPartland Law Offices can work to hold these insurance companies accountable and seek fair compensation for your case in a timely manner.

Step Five: Talk with an Accident Lawyer

While you may be tempted to contact your insurance company right away, it is advisable that you first talk with a collision lawyer and seek legal advice.

Insurance companies do not want to pay out excessive amounts for any claim and will do what they can to minimize your accident claim or even deny it altogether.

Instead of dealing with the frustration of going back and forth with the adjuster, let a car accident attorney knowledgeable in insurance and injury law do it for you.

Common Injuries Sustained After a Rear-End Accident in Washington

In most cases, a rear-end accident might not be as severe as a T-bone or rollover accident, but they can still cause injuries.

The most common types of injuries in Washington state include the following.

  • Whiplash: During a rear-end collision, those in the front vehicle can suffer hyperflexion or hypertension, where the head is suddenly whipped backward or forward, respectively. Such unnatural force may lead to injury to the neck, head, or upper torso.
  • Traumatic brain injuries (TBI): TBIs can be mild or severe and result when there is trauma to the head that is enough to cause some level of damage to the brain itself. Types of TBIs include concussions, contusions, internal bleeding, and penetration.
  • Broken bones: The sheer force of a rear-end collision can lead to various broken bones, including those in the extremities and chest, as a result of hitting a stationary object or the force of an airbag deploying.
  • Spine injuries: Impact in a car accident can result in back injuries and damage to the spine and spinal cord, leading to a loss of mobility and motor function in part or all of the body. These spinal cord injuries can be temporary or permanent.
  • Soft tissue injuries: Soft tissue injuries, affecting ligaments, tendons, and muscles, often go undiagnosed initially but can severely affect your life. These injuries include strains, sprains, and contusions.

What Causes Rear-End Accidents in Washington State?

A rear-end accident can be attributed to several different factors. Here are the main ones.


Weather conditions, such as thick fog, ice, snow, or rain, can play a role in rear-end collisions. Visibility may be limited, and safe distances may need to increase in order to see tail lights and react in time should the need arise. Weather is not an excuse, however. It is a following driver’s responsibility to account for weather.

Road Conditions

In some accident cases, road conditions can be a contributing factor. These conditions may include potholes, cracked asphalt, lack of signage, shoulder erosion or drop-off, and debris or obstructions in the roadway. Cases like this may implicate governmental liability, such as a city, county or the state.


Driving too fast by choice or in situations where road or weather conditions require special attention can be defined as reckless driving. So, too, can making sudden lane changes, disobeying traffic signs and signals, or cutting off other vehicles.


Tailgating involves the negligence of the rear driver to maintain a safe distance, as required by Washington law. Whether it results from impatience, distraction, or frustration, it can lead to a rear-end collision as the front car slows, responds to something in the roadway, or obeys a traffic sign or signal. The following driver simply does not have enough time or distance to react safely to slowdowns or brake lights.

Distracted Driving

Drivers are easily distracted these days. Whether they are glancing at their cell phone, eating something, or conducting other actions that pry their attention away from the road in front of them, accidents can occur quickly.

According to reports of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA, over 80% of rear-end accidents result from distracted driving.

Who Is at Fault in a Rear-End Collision?

two men arguing over a rear end collision

Rear-end accidents are not always as straightforward as they appear when determining fault.

An investigation to determine who is responsible should always ensue after this type of accident. Weather, road conditions, and even driving behavior may alter who is at fault for the car accident.

In addition, when an accident occurs and involves personal injury or death of an individual, Washington law requires that the driver must stop and stay until law enforcement arrives. This requirement remains whether you are at fault or not. Also, if you leave, suspicion falls on you as the responsible party.

Both drivers may be found partially at fault, and as a comparative negligence state, Washington allows accident victims to still recover compensation even when this is the case. However, the amount of compensation you can receive will be reduced by the amount of assigned fault.

If you believe you may be partially responsible for the accident, start with a free case evaluation to determine what your options are going forward.

Why Clients Choose McPartland Law Offices

When it comes to legal representation that is relentless and solely dedicated to accident victims, McPartland Law Offices is here for you. Founded in 2012, our Spokane law firm will fearlessly go up against large insurance companies, county and city governments, and even the state of Washington itself, if necessary, to protect a victim’s rights in injury cases.

We have already won millions of dollars for our clients, and as an industry leader, we have a reputation you can count on to get results.


“My family and I had the opportunity to work with Bryce and his team during a very difficult time in our lives. The service and representation that McPartland Law Offices provided was absolutely exceptional. I was thoroughly impressed by their professionalism, knowledge, and ability to help us understand everything throughout the entire process. To say they left no stone unturned would be an understatement. I will be forever grateful for the compassion and dedication consistently demonstrated by Bryce and his team. I highly recommend McPartland Law Offices.” — Claudia V.

“I was in need of Bryce’s expert representation on a difficult case. He was outstanding and negotiated a very reasonable settlement for my permanent injuries. I don’t believe I would have been treated fairly without his representation and expertise. Thanks Bryce and team.” — Lucy P.

“Bryce McPartland was very friendly, conscientious, and was a consummate professional throughout our entire process. His knowledge, research, and attention to detail were second to none. I highly recommend McPartland Law Offices for all of your legal needs.” — Larry D.

McPartland Law Offices Has Your Back After a Rear-End Accident

Rear-end accidents often bring surprise and injury, and knowing your rights and what to do next are imperative.

McPartland Law Offices in eastern Washington has your back and will guide you through the process, providing confident legal representation and seeking the compensation you rightfully deserve. Call our law firm today at 509-495-1247 or contact us through our online form to schedule a free consultation.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Washington State a No-Fault State for Car Accidents?

Washington is not a no-fault system state. Following a car accident, fault will be reviewed and assigned to one driver or possibly both. What this means for you is that if the other driver is found to be 70% at fault for the crash, that driver’s insurance company will only be required to pay out a maximum of 70% of your damages. A prompt investigation is essential to ensuring your interests are maximally covered following a collision.

Can I Get Compensation If I Have Been Rear-Ended in Washington?

You may be able to recover compensation when involved in a rear-end accident. This compensation can be for any or all of the following:

  • Medical bills
  • Therapy and rehabilitation fees
  • Lost wages and earning capacity
  • Pain and suffering
Can a Rear-End Accident Be the Fault of the Front Driver?

In some circumstances, the fault for a rear-end accident may be on the front driver. An ensuing investigation may reveal any of the following in such cases.

  • The vehicle’s rear lights were faulty or completely out, resulting in the inability to alert the rear driver to stop.
  • The car in front stalled or broke down, and the driver did not initiate the hazard lights to warn others.
  • The front driver backed up suddenly.