Rear End Motorcycle Accidents – Causes & Injuries

January 2, 2024
By Michael Padway

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No matter how safely you ride, there can be that one motorist who’s going too fast or not paying attention to the road, resulting in a rear end collision. A rear end motorcycle accident can be very serious for motorcycle riders. While a rear-ended four-wheel vehicle can result in a fender bender, in most cases a rear-ended bike has much more serious consequences for both the rider and the bike.

What are Rear End Motorcycle Accidents?

As the name implies, this incident occurs when a vehicle hits the rear end of a motorcycle. In most cases, the trailing vehicle is almost always at fault for negligence.

Compared to other types of motorcycle accidents, a rear end crash can result in serious injury and damage to the rider and motorcycle in the majority of incidents. This is due to the bike’s lower mass compared to the crashing vehicle. This can lift the rear wheel, flip the bike, or even send it crashing into the vehicle in front. In extreme cases, the bike’s lightweight mass can result in it being crushed between two vehicles.

Read End Motorcycle Incidents by the Numbers

  • Of the 5,421 fatal motorcycle accidents in the US in 2018, 7% were rear-end collisions based on data from the NHTSA.
  • Rear end accidents accounted for 11% of incidents in a UK study of over 100,000 motorcycle accidents.
  • The average motorcycle weighs about 400 lbs, while the average passenger car weighs between 2,800 to 3,200 lbs, which translates to a grossly disproportionate striking force in the event of a rear end collision.

Common Causes of Rear End Motorcycle Collisions

Common Injuries from a Rear End Motorcycle Accident

A bike’s low mass, open nature, and lack of comparable safety restraints such as seatbelts and airbags can result in serious injuries in the event of a rear end collision. Such injuries in order of severity include:

Brain trauma – From falling or being flipped, despite wearing a helmet. 

Spinal cord/neck injury –  Since motorcycles lack a car’s protective compartment, the spine can absorb the brunt of the impact. A spinal injury can range from chronic pain to partial or full body paralysis.

Internal organ damage – Likewise, the lack of a steel cocoon leaves the internal organs at risk of absorbing the blow. While a rider may appear physically unharmed from the outside, he or she may suffer internal bleeding and hemorrhage.

Limb injuries – These can range from fractured or broken bones to maimed limbs and extremities.

Eye damage – Whiplash effects are not limited to the neck. In some cases, the optic nerve may be affected or the eyeballs may even be forced out of their sockets due to the force of the rear impact.

Burns – Caused by hot motorcycle parts like the exhaust, or friction from road contact.

Road rash – These include cuts, lacerations, and other wounds up to the third degree.

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How to Minimize the Chances of a Rear End Collision

Since rear end accidents are almost always the fault of the other driver, you need to be proactive to avoid being hit from behind.

  1. Don’t tailgate
    • Know your bike’s stopping distance, and allow sufficient braking distance from the car in front.
    • Remember that bikes need a longer braking distance than four-wheeled vehicles since only two rubber patches are in contact with the road.
  2. Brake early
    • This should allow the trailing vehicle time to react in case of road congestion ahead.
    • If you have to brake suddenly, veer to the roadside to minimize the chances of the trailing vehicle hitting you from behind.
  3. Approach crossings with caution
    • Stop slightly to the side instead of the middle to avoid being pinned between two vehicles in case of a collision.
  4. Increase your visibility
    • Keep your brake lights on when stopped, to warn vehicles behind.
    • Make sure your riding gear has reflective markings and luminous colors
    • Avoid wearing “stealthy” gear at night or in low visibility conditions.
  5. Drive defensively
    • If a driver tailgates your bike, switch lanes.
    • Stay in the best lane position.
    • Keep an eye on your rearview mirror while stopped at crossings or intersections.

A rear end collision is one of the most serious accidents that can happen to motorcycle riders. While it can’t be completely avoided, the chances of suffering one can at least be minimized by taking the right precautions. 

In the event that you do get rear-ended, consult legal counsel immediately. A motorcycle accident lawyer can help you claim compensation and additional damages in the form of lost wages, continuous pain and suffering, and other losses that may not be apparent during the accident itself. 

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Motorcycle Injuries

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Michael Padway

Michael Padway uses his expertise in personal injury and motorcycle accidents to represent a broad spectrum of clients dealing with life-changing and permanent injuries for the first time. His offices are located at 235 Montgomery St., Ste 668, San Francisco, CA 94104 and at 3140 Chapman St. Oakland, CA 94601. For more information, please call (800) 928-1511.

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