The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has concluded that 87% of rear-end crashes were caused at least in part by the rear driver failing to pay attention to the traffic ahead. This can occur for many reasons, including distractions like texting, talking on the phone, or sending emails. It can also happen because the driver is drunk or taking drugs. However, there could be multiple at-fault parties in a rear-end accident case.
According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), nearly half of all traffic accidents involve a rear-end accident. Given the sheer number of times a rear-end car accident occurs, it is important to know how fault is determined, who is at fault when it happens, and how to avoid it. This article will help answer those questions.
Potentially At-Fault Parties in a Rear-End Accident
The following are the parties who could potentially be at fault in a rear-end accident:
- The rear driver
- The front driver
- Another vehicle driver
- A car part manufacturer
- A mechanic
Just as the rear driver isn’t always at fault for hitting the car in front, the at-fault party isn’t always responsible for your losses. Some parties that could be on the hook for your expenses include:
- Your insurance company
- The negligent driver or their insurance
- The negligent driver’s employer if they were on the job during the accident
- The mechanic’s employer or company
What is a Rear-End Automobile Accident?
A rear-end automobile accident happens when a vehicle hits the back of another vehicle. It does not matter if either vehicle involved is a car, truck, or motorcycle. If one runs into the back of the other, it is considered a rear-end auto accident.
It also does not matter how many cars, trucks, or motorcycles are involved. Rear-end crashes often involve more than just two vehicles. This type of multi-car crash is more common on highways and freeways.
How is Fault Determined in a Rear-End Car Accident?
In a rear-end auto accident, just like any other type of car accident, the concept of negligence is used to determine fault. Negligence is usually defined as the failure to use reasonable care to avoid causing injury to another person. So, in a rear-end auto accident, negligence is the failure to use reasonable care to avoid causing injury while driving.
Reasonable care means paying attention while driving, not posing a risk to other drivers, and anticipating that vehicles in front of you may have to come to a stop. Although either the front driver or the rear driver can fail to use reasonable care, certain reasons make it overwhelmingly likely that the accident will ultimately be the rear driver’s fault.
The Rear Driver is Usually at Fault in a Rear-End Car Crash
Drivers must pay attention to road conditions, weather conditions, and traffic patterns. After taking into account all of the above, a driver must leave enough room between their vehicle and the vehicle ahead to stop or avoid a crash.
The rear driver is usually at fault because they can see what is ahead and take defensive measures to prevent the crash. In most circumstances, if the rear driver is paying attention to the weather conditions, the road conditions, and the traffic ahead, they should be able to keep the proper distance between their vehicle and the one in front of them so that they can stop in time.
When is the Front Driver at Fault for a Rear-End Crash?
The front driver is supposed to be paying attention to the road ahead of them. As a result, the front driver usually has no way to prevent the rear driver from hitting their car. This is especially true when the front driver is stopped.
However, there are a few times when the actions of the front driver make it impossible for the rear driver to stop in time even when the rear driver is paying attention and keeping a proper distance. In those circumstances, the front driver may be responsible for causing the accident.
The following circumstances make it more likely that the front driver is at fault:
- A sudden abrupt stop at a time and location that is not foreseeable
- The front driver begins to accelerate in reverse
- The front driver’s tail lights are not working
- The front driver pulls into traffic from a side street without leaving enough room for the rear car to slow in time to avoid the crash
Under these circumstances, the law will usually assign some if not all responsibility for causing the crash to the front driver.
When Will None of the Drivers Be at Fault in a Rear-End Auto Accident?
Believe it or not, there are some rare occasions when a rear-end collision might not be either driver’s fault. Sometimes there is simply nothing that either driver could have done to avoid the collision. The law usually considers the following circumstances not the fault of either driver:
- The rear driver has a sudden, unexpected, and unforeseeable medical emergency
- The rear driver’s vehicle has a design defect or manufacturing defect that creates a sudden inability to stop the rear car. (In this circumstance, the car manufacturer may be at fault)
How Do You Prove Who is at Fault in a Rear-End Automobile Accident?
Sometimes both drivers agree about the sequence of events leading up to the impact. In this case, it is not difficult to determine who is at fault. However, many other times, drivers have different recollections of the events. As a result, drivers may have to prove their account of the accident is correct.
Since there is important evidence at the scene that may disappear by the time you hire an attorney, you might be the best person to gather evidence while you’re still at the scene. It is often difficult to do so because you may be too hurt to do so.
If you’re physically able, gathering this evidence before you leave the scene can often provide tremendous help in determining fault. Evidence to gather will include:
- Photos of the vehicles’ resting points at the scene
- Photos of the damage to the vehicles
- Skid marks
- Photographs depicting the location of debris from the crash
- Eyewitness testimony
- Names, addresses, and phone numbers of anyone that saw what happened
A car accident attorney from our firm can help gather any evidence you were not able to collect yourself. Once all the evidence is gathered, an auto accident attorney from our team can also analyze it and compare it with what each of the drivers is saying, and see which version of the events makes the most sense.
In cases involving catastrophic injury, your attorney may need the help of an accident reconstruction expert to help analyze the evidence and come to a conclusion about what happened. This type of expert is specially trained to look at the evidence and render opinions about what happened.
For example, if the lead driver says they came to a gradual stop, but the rear driver says there was a sudden and abrupt stop, skid marks, crash damage, the final resting place of the vehicles, and the location of debris may give the accident reconstruction experts clues to what happened.
Assigning fault might not fall on you—law enforcement might have already done so at the accident scene. A police report can help us with your case, especially if they issued the other driver(s) traffic citations.
In the end, there may be very little evidence to support what either driver is saying happened. If this happens, it may come down to the credibility of the drivers. When this happens, the driver that is more believable may ultimately prevail.
Compensation if Another Party is at Fault in a Rear-End Collision
If another party is at fault in your rear-end collision, you could be entitled to compensation for your losses. Some losses you could recover awards for include economic and non-economic damages.
Economic losses are damages with monetary value, including:
- Past and future medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Reduced earning capacity
- Property damage
Non-economic losses are damages the rear-end accident has caused to your life. These can include:
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Loss of enjoyment
This is a non-exhaustive list of damages you could be entitled to after your car accident, and an attorney from our firm can give you a better idea of what you could recover.
Call Distasio Law Firm for Help Proving Your Rear-End Accident Case
Our personal injury lawyers at Distasio Law Firm can help you after a rear-end accident. We can help you prove who is responsible for the accident and your losses. We work on a contingency-fee basis, so you don’t have to pay us until we secure you a settlement out of court or a verdict at trial.
Call a Distasio Law Firm team member for your free consultation today at (813) 259-0022.