This Is How to Determine Fault in Rear End Collisions

Every year Americans spend $40.4 billion for accidents resulting from speed. Rear-end collisions account for about 29% of all accidents in the United States, and tailgating is the cause of more than one-third of all automotive accidents. Combine speeding and tailgating, and you have an accident just waiting to happen.

When you see rear-end collisions you probably assume that the rear driver is at fault, but that is not necessarily true. There are times when the driver who gets hit is at fault and other times a third vehicle may cause the accident. Determining fault in a rear-end collision is not always easy.

Front Driver Fault

In the majority of rear-end accidents, the vehicle in the rear is at fault. The driver failed to maintain a safe distance or became distracted, resulting in the collision.

There are times when the careless, reckless, or negligent behavior of a driver resulting in their vehicle suffering the impact of a rear-end collision. In those cases, the front vehicle may be at fault. Behavior that may cause front vehicle fault includes:

  • Defective brake lights
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • Backing into the vehicle behind them
  • Braking suddenly without justification
  • Maneuvering their vehicle in a way that intentionally causes an accident
  • Pulling out in front of another vehicle with insufficient time to be safe
  • Road rage

While the front driver may be fully or partially at fault, it is also possible that the rear driver may be at fault.

Rear Driver Fault

Drivers are required to operate their vehicles in a safe and prudent manner. If you are following too close and are unable to stop safely you may be at fault in an accident.

In California following at a safe distance is set forth in California Vehicle Code 21703 VC, and a violation can result in a traffic ticket fine plus responsibility for damages from the accident. The law does not specify what distance is considered safe. The driver must make that determination by analyzing traffic and road conditions.

When a Driver Pulls Into Traffic and Gets Hit

Determining fault when a driver pulls in front of another vehicle can be difficult. There are many factors to consider when determining fault. This includes vehicle speed on the roadway, lane markings, road conditions, and use of lane change signals.

If traffic is basically at a standstill and the vehicle signals and slowly moves into a lane and the rear vehicle rolls into them, it is likely the rear driver will be found at fault. If traffic is moving at a rapid speed and a driver suddenly pulls in front of another vehicle then hits the brakes to make a turn, the front driver may be found at fault.

Accident Due to Third Party

In addition to the drivers of the two vehicles in the collision, it is possible that another vehicle, pedestrian, bicycle rider, road conditions, or road construction were a contributing factor in the accident.

This can happen if the front vehicle stops suddenly because a child runs into the road or a construction worker suddenly flips up a stop sign. In these instances the child or the construction worker may be the reason for the front driver slamming on their brakes, resulting in the vehicle behind them crashing into their rear.

Multiple Vehicle Rear-End Collisions

Frequently a rear-end collision results in a chain reaction where multiple vehicles slam into the back of the one in front of them. In this type of situation, multiple drivers may be at fault. It is also possible that the vehicle that created the accident is not hit and leaves the scene.

This can happen if someone pulls out or slams on the brakes. The person behind them stops suddenly with success, then gets hit from behind. That person is then hit y the vehicle behind them, and so on. In this case is the fault with the first person who did not stop safely, the rear car, or everyone except the first car?

Each driver will have their own version of the scenario, blaming others for the incident. Liability may be difficult to determine and this could end up in court with a jury making the final determination on fault.

Wrongful Death

When a person dies as the result of a rear-end collision, their closest surviving family member may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit. In addition to negligence for the driver’s conduct, they may be able to recover financial damages and loss of consortium.

Recoverable expenses include the cost of the funeral, burial, and loss of financial support from the deceased. The persons who may file a wrongful death lawsuit vary between states and include the decedent’s spouse, children, domestic partner, grandchildren, or anyone else who falls within the state’s intestate succession laws.

Recovering Damages

When you are the victim of a rear-end collision and the other driver is found to be at fault, you may recover damages through your insurance claim. If you suffer extensive medical injuries you should consult with a car accident lawyer regarding a possible lawsuit.

Following an accident, you may encounter extensive expenses in addition to vehicle repairs. This includes medical bills and lost wages. Even if the other vehicle has insurance the costs may exceed their insurance limits.

When you consult with an accident attorney, they will evaluate your case and make sure you are getting everything you are entitled to. It may be necessary to file a lawsuit, in which case they must prove the other driver was negligent. When filing a lawsuit you must plead the four (4) elements of negligence

(1) That in operating their vehicle the driver owed a duty of care

(2) That the driver breached their duty of care when they failed to maintain control of their vehicle resulting in the impact

(3) That the driver’s negligent actions are the direct and proximate cause of your injuries

(4) That as a result of those injuries you are incurred damages

When preparing the lawsuit your car accident attorney will make sure that all the elements are stated in the lawsuit as required by law. They may include additional counts depending on accident facts.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

When the insurance company calls to offer a settlement for rear-end collisions it may appear that they are being cooperative and all is fine. That is not necessarily true. Insurance companies are out to make money, and they want to resolve all claims for the least amount of money possible.

When you receive an offer do not agree verbally or in writing until you consult with a car accident attorney. The attorneys at Sweet Lawyers will review the accident report, medical records, and the insurance company’s offer. They will be able to determine if the offer is a fair settlement. 

If you are in a rear-end collision use our convenient online contact form or call us at 1-800-674-7854 to schedule a free consultation. Our attorneys, case managers, and investigators are available 24/7 to answer your questions.

We do not collect a fee unless we win your case, and we handle the property damage portion of your auto accident case for free. You have nothing to lose except an excellent settlement, so call us today!

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