Who Is at Fault in a Car Accident (Rear-ending)?
Updated: Feb 23
Rear-end accidents are among the most common types of car accidents, and those involved in a rear-end collision often have many questions, like whether they are to blame.
In most cases, the motor vehicle that approached the other from the rear, causing the accident, is found to be at fault in a rear-end accident. Many states support a presumption law that holds the driver of the rear vehicle responsible for trailing too closely or practicing inattentive driving. This is because being distracted can keep drivers from responding to the car in front of them in a timely manner, which leads to crashes.
There are some situations where the driver in front may be somewhat to blame. An example of this is when a driver pulls in front of another driver too closely, not allowing him enough time to slow down.
However, these types of collisions are uncommon, and proving them is challenging. In many circumstances, proving culpability means scrutinizing each driver's behavior leading up to the collision and gathering substantial proof to back up the claim, which often involves the help of an expert car accident attorney.
Those who have been in a rear-end accident must contact an experienced car accident attorney at The Keating Firm LTD as soon as possible for a free consultation and case evaluation. We can help drivers involved in rear-end collisions determine their legal rights and begin building their case.
In the meantime, here is what drivers involved in a rear-end collision need to know.
What Are the Most Common Causes of Rear-end Accidents?
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA, rear-end crashes make up roughly 30 percent of all accidents that result in serious injury and death. The report also detailed some of the factors that contribute to such a collision.
As per the experts, these collisions usually happen when the leading vehicle is traveling slower than the motor vehicle approaching from the rear, decelerating for the first time, or the vehicle comes to a sudden standstill.
Additionally, driving while distracted slowed the response time of the rear-approaching car in the majority of these collisions. Drivers who do not have their eyes on the road or become distracted while driving can lose focus and not notice the car's speed. Such drivers may be unable to brake or steer away from the car in front of them in time to avoid a collision.
Another significant cause of rear-end crashes is tailgating. This is why many jurisdictions have rules defining proper vehicle distancing. Those found to be tailgating, or following another vehicle too closely may be determined to be the negligent party in a claim.
The Most Common Consequences of Rear-ended Collisions
Rear-ending collisions can have a variety of outcomes, ranging from minor to serious. Based on the severity of the crash, certain rear-end accidents can be fatal.
Fortunately, most rear-ended collisions result in minor damage, and the motorists are able to reach an arrangement without involving attorneys. However, those involved in a rear-end accident can experience significant bodily injuries following a rear-end accident.
Common Injuries In Rear-end Collisions
While serious injuries are generally uncommon in a rear-end collision accident, the following injuries can be sustained when this kind of accident occurs:
Bruising caused by seat belts
Cracked or broken ribs
Neck or spinal injury
Negligence in Car Accidents
Concerning all personal injury and car accident claims, negligence is used in instances when a person or party's behavior goes below an acceptable level of care. Simply put, if a driver's actions are not what a sensible person does in a similar situation, then that driver is considered to have been negligent.
To establish which driver was at fault in a vehicle collision, it must first be proved that they had a duty to behave a certain way, which is relatively straightforward, as all motorists owe each other a duty of care when driving on the road.
The driver must also show that the other motorist was the negligent driver. A driver's duty of due care for the other driver may be violated in a variety of ways, such as neglecting to watch the road and keep an eye out for any dangers, not coming to a stop within a reasonable period, or traveling at an unsafe speed.
Additionally, drivers must show that the other driver's negligence is what caused the accident and must demonstrate that they suffered real damages because of the crash.
How Is Fault Established in a Rear-end Collision?
In most cases, the rear driver is deemed at least partly to blame. Every motorist has a responsibility to keep a safe space between themselves and other cars, especially the car in front of them. This is to allow the rear driver sufficient reaction time to slow down if the car in front of them comes to a sudden halt or slows down.
This is because animals can make their way onto roadways causing motorists to slow down, trees can fall unexpectedly and block roads, and there can be unforeseen traffic jams up ahead. Therefore, it is essential for drivers to maintain a safe distance from the car in front of them, as this prevents collisions.
Sometimes, the lead driver is to blame, and the legal ramifications of that driver's recklessness are determined by the extent to which that driver's negligence contributed to the vehicle collision and how the state in which the accident occurred handles accidents involving several parties.
When the Lead Driver May Be to Blame
Rear drivers may be able to argue that the leading car in a rear-end collision is somewhat to blame in certain situations. However, these occurrences are rather uncommon.
In such cases, the lead driver may be to blame for changing lanes ahead of another car without allowing the driver enough room to slow down in time or merging into a busy lane without leaving sufficient space for the rear car. Additionally, when a lead driver reverses into another car vehicle or is driving recklessly under the influence of alcohol or drugs, they can be held responsible for the accident.
The speed at which the lead car was traveling can also play a part in determining if the lead driver was to blame. If the oncoming driver was driving at a reasonable speed but did not have enough time or distance to brake, they may only be responsible in part.
Another case in which the lead driver may be at fault in a rear-end collision is if the driver's brake lights were not working when the accident occurred. Brake or taillights indicate when drivers are applying their brakes and indicate to the rear driver that they also need to slow down to avoid a collision.
However, when drivers fail to have their broken brake lights repaired, they can be held accountable for the rear-end accident.
Understanding the Two Types of Negligence in Play in a Rear-end Accident
The result of a rear-end automobile accident in which more than one motorist is at blame varies from one state to another. Only a few states enforce a contributory negligence system, but the majority have switched to comparative negligence standards. Below we take a look at each of these systems and how they work.
Contributory Negligence in a Rear-end Accident
Suppose one driver can establish that the other driver's carelessness made any contributions to the rear-end collision in any way. In that case, that motorist is prevented from collecting compensation in a case against them under the law of contributory negligence.
Comparative Negligence in Rear-end Collisions
Comparative negligence assigns blame to different drivers. If another driver (the lead driver) is partially to blame for the collision, the rear driver's responsibility may be lowered, but not abolished. There are two forms of comparative negligence, namely pure and modified comparative negligence.
Pure Comparative Negligence
This type of negligence requires that the blame be split in terms of percentage. Therefore if the lead driver cuts in front of the rear driver too closely, only 20 percent of the responsibility may be placed on the rear driver while the lead driver takes 80 percent of the blame.
Thus, this means that if the cost of damages to a rear driver's vehicle was $1,000 and a claimant was 80 percent liable for the rear-end collision, that driver can only claim $200 from the other driver.
Modified Comparative Negligence
In this type of comparative negligence, liability is divided as per the percentage of the blame to a certain extent. A plaintiff is prevented from recovering after they reach, or exceed, that threshold. Usually, this restriction is set at 50 percent. Therefore, if a claimant is more than 50 percent to blame for a rear-end collision, they cannot recover any damages from any of the other drivers who were at fault.
How to Hold a Rear Driver Responsible for Their Part in the Car Accident
Those who were hurt in a rear-ended collision and suspect that the other driver is to blame may be eligible to receive compensation for the damage to their vehicle and their injuries. In order to win lawsuits regarding rear-end collisions, a driver must show that the other motorist was negligent. Passengers can also receive compensation in car accidents.
The first step to building a good case against another driver to prove that they were at fault in a rear-ended accident is first to gather enough evidence.
1. Contact the Police
One of the most important things a driver can do after a car accident has occurred is to contact the police. The responding police officer is required to draw up a police report of the accident, which can provide vital evidence in proving the other driver's negligence in a rear-end collision case.
Injured parties can also receive the emergency medical care they may need by dialing 911, as emergency medical services are often dispatched for car accident cases or seeing a doctor on their own.
2. Take Photographs
Photographic evidence from the accident scene can provide vital evidence in proving who the at-fault driver was in rear-end collision cases. When taking photographs, be sure to obtain photos of both vehicles, if possible, as well as the license plate numbers of each of the cars.
3. Talk to Bystanders
Passersby who may have witnessed the rear-end crash can also prove to be vital eyewitnesses if the case goes to trial, and obtaining their contact information can be game-changing for an accident case.
4. Do Not Admit Guilt
Admitting guilt, especially right after an accident, occurs when victims may be shaken up from the accident can be harmful to their case. Drivers involved in rear-end collisions must also never admit fault in a rear-end accident to an insurance company without their attorney present.
5. Stay Off Social Media
Anyone involved in a personal injury case is encouraged to stay off social media, as anything posted to social media platforms can be used against them during the legal proceedings. Even haphazardly describing the car crash events on social media can result in a driver receiving no compensation for their damages.
6. Obtain Evidence from Security Cameras
Security footage can also provide proof of distracted driving. Some cameras may even pick up footage of a driver taking their hands off the steering wheel momentarily or failing to pay attention to the vehicle ahead, causing the accident.
7. Talk to a Professional, Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer
Personal injury lawyers can help motorists determine whether a rear-end collision was the rear driver's fault. They can also assist drivers in gathering evidence to build up an accident claim, to hold the rear or lead driver responsible for their part in the collision.
Need a Rear-End Accident Lawyer? Contact The Keating Firm LTD Today!
Because traffic accidents of this nature often involve more than one person, establishing negligence can be difficult. At The Keating Firm LTD, our team of specialists can help victims of such crashes in determining fault and work tirelessly to collect all the evidence victims need to support their claims.
Our team is dedicated to maintaining an excellent attorney-client relationship with every client. We treat our clients with the utmost respect because we know how devastating dealing with the aftermath of a car accident can be. Contact us today to speak to the best motor vehicle accident lawyer in Nashville TN for a free case evaluation.