Accidents where one vehicle strikes another in the rear are by far the most common form of collisions in the United States. These types of collisions can be caused from driver inattention, following too closely or adverse road conditions.
Regardless of the cause, all drivers have a duty to maintain a safe following distance between their vehicle and the vehicle they are following. This is probably the most widely violated safety rule in America. One need only look at any highway in America during morning or evening rush hour to see how closely vehicles travel behind each other. A safe stopping distance of 1 car length for every 10 mph speed is the recommended safe following distance. It is not a stretch to say that probably 90% of drivers do not adhere to this rule during normal driving conditions and in heavy traffic no one does.
Under these conditions then, it is not surprising that if a driver's attention is diverted for less than a second, brake lights ahead coming on can be missed. Without a safe stopping distance, disaster can result. A bigger problem exists when the following vehicle is a truck or SUV.
On impact, the car that is struck is forced forward, the person inside is thrust backward from the force and then propelled forward when their body comes in contact with the seat. If the impact is severe enough, the seat sometimes breaks because of that contact. If the seat does not break, it propels the person forward. If that person is wearing a seat belt, and the seat belt functions properly, the seat belt will hold and force the person backward again. This violent back, front and back again movement is what causes injuries to the back and neck areas. Even with a seat belt, the person's knees, hands or chest may strike the dashboard or steering wheel. Studies have shown that there is little correlation between the speed of the impact and the extent of injuries sustained. There are a number of factors involved, such as the person's age, physical condition and prior medical condition. One need only imagine the difference between what happens to a very young child learning to walk and an elderly grandmother experiencing the very same fall. The young child gets up and goes on, business as usual. The 80 year old who falls in the exact same manner may fracture a hip, or at the very least, suffer a back or neck injury.
The law provides that a person causing injury takes the person as they find them. In other words, if a person injured in an accident suffers an aggravation of a prior condition, there is responsibility for the harm that is caused. Of course, the injured party must show that their condition has been aggravated in some way. All of these things are issues that should be discussed with a competent attorney. Just because a person has had prior problems, does not mean that they should suffer without compensation for their injuries.