Who Is Liable in a Rear-End Collision?
Information collected by the National Highway Safety Administration found that in 2019, rear-end accidents account for 32.5 percent of all car crashes. Of those 2,194,000 rear-end accidents, 1,597,000 people were injured and 2,346 people lost their lives.
Although it seems pretty obvious, determining who is liable for these accidents isn't always straightforward. People assume that the driver in the rear car is liable, and most of the time, they are. However, this isn't always the case, and these accidents take a little longer to investigate. Police officers, attorneys, and judges must carefully examine rear-end accident cases to determine who is the at fault driver.
In the article below, we will go over how to determine who the negligent driver is in a rear-end collision.
Table of Contents
- The Rear Driver Is Likely To Be At Fault, But Not Always
- When the Lead Driver May Be At Fault
- Am I Liable if I'm Rear-Ended and Pushed Into Another Vehicle?
- Can Third Parties Be Negligent?
- How Can an Accident Lawyer Help?
The Rear Driver Is Likely To Be At Fault, But Not Always
No matter what type of accident you've been in, automatic liability isn't typically imposed. Although rear driver negligence is more probable, an investigation will always be performed to determine who was truly at fault.
Some of the most common reasons why rear drivers are often the negligent party in these types of accidents are:
- Speeding or driving too fast for road conditions
- Failure to keep a safe distance (tailgating)
- Distracted driving such as texting and driving
Failing to maintain their vehicle because of faulty tires or brake failures
These are all reasons that the rear driver may be at fault for the accident, but the front driver may still share some of the liability even if the rear driver did any of the above.
When the Lead Driver May Be At Fault
It is possible for the lead vehicle in a rear-end crash to be at least partially at fault. The most common reason why a lead driver may be accused of driver negligence is because of an unsafe lane change.
If a rear-end collision occurs because a driver changes lanes directly in the path of an oncoming vehicle, that driver may be held legally responsible for the resulting rear-end collision. This type of crash is still considered a rear-end collision, but the front driver created the underlying safety hazard.
- Other reasons the front car may be responsible for a rear-end collision are:
- Turning into traffic without enough distance from the approaching vehicle
- The lead driver was driving erratically due to drunk driving or intoxication/impairment
- Non-functional tail light or a broken brake light
- Failing to use a turn signal
- Distracted driving such as using a cell phone
- Reversing into the rear vehicle
- Reckless driving
- "Brake-checking" the tailing driver
The distance and speed of the approaching vehicle will also determine how much liability the front car has for the accident.
If the rear vehicle was traveling at a safe speed but didn't have the time and space to stop, they may only be partially liable.
Am I Liable if I'm Rear-Ended and Pushed Into Another Vehicle?
You're stuck behind another car at a stoplight. You are suddenly struck from behind by another vehicle. Due to the collision force, your car moves forward and collides with the vehicle in front of you. Are you responsible for the other driver's rear-end collision?
There isn't a single correct answer to this question. In general, if you rear-end another driver, you'll be held responsible for the collision. Even if you were forced into the vehicle in front of you, this could be true. Why? Even when you're stopped, you must maintain a safe distance between yourself and other vehicles.
The specifics of your case, however, will ultimately determine fault. For example, if the driver who rear-ended you was driving at a high rate of speed, you may not be liable. A high-speed collision's force could potentially propel your vehicle a long distance. As a result, the fact that you left a full car length between you and the car ahead of you may not be significant.
Can Third Parties Be Negligent?
Sometimes third parties are the at fault parties and can be held liable in a rear-end collision.
Parties that could be liable in a rear-end collision include:
- Other drivers who run red lights or engage in other negligent behaviors
- Tire blowouts or brake malfunctions because of defective parts from manufacturers
- Government agencies or city governments that failed to repair road hazards
- Pedestrians that unexpectedly step into traffic
- People involved in other accidents that are blocking the road
How Can an Accident Lawyer Help?
The fault for an auto accident may not be obvious, even after a rear-end collision. Many people don't know what to do after an accident to protect their health and rights.
Your car accident attorney can assist you in many ways. An experienced lawyer can evaluate your situation, conduct an investigation, and help you determine who was at fault for your accident.
In most rear-end collisions, the driver in the rear is to blame, although this isn't always the case. Your lawyer can assist you in determining culpability by examining your situation. Your attorney can be your adviser while you fight to seek justice in your case by helping you gather evidence such as; photographs, traffic light camera footage, eyewitness accounts, or need an expert in accident reconstruction.
Your lawyer can assist you in bringing your claim once you've established the fault in your case. An experienced legal team will also help you determine whether you have the right to financial recovery from the other driver or a third party and their insurance company. They may need to write an insurance company demand letter on your behalf.
They can also advise you on whether you should accept a settlement offer or go to trial based on their knowledge and experience. As you work together to reach the best possible outcome, your experienced car accident attorney serves as your advocate, guide, and teammate at every stage of the case.
If you've been in a rear-end collision, contact Helping the Hurt. Our personal injury lawyers take care of the complicated legal process of determining fault and filing an accident report so you can focus on your physical recovery. The accident law firms we refer out to are the best in personal injury lawsuits.
Our attorneys offer free consultations, so you can better understand your case. Contact our office today so we can get you the compensation you deserve.