Who Is at Fault in a Rear End Collision?

Most drivers operate under the assumption that any driver who causes a rear-end collision with another driver is automatically at fault for the accident. Generally, this is true because drivers have a duty of care to prevent accidents with drivers in front of them. This means allowing ample space to come to a stop in case a driver ahead suddenly stops. When drivers do not allow adequate room between themselves and others, rear-end accidents are likely to happen. However, a rear-end collision does not always mean the driver who hit another from behind is definitively at fault.

Negligence in Car Accident Cases

When lawsuits arise from car accidents, negligence is the central concept that helps determine who is at fault and therefore responsible for the damages. “Negligence” describes a failure to act with reasonable care, and this may apply to a driver who causes a rear-end collision or the driver struck from behind.

If a driver simply isn’t paying close enough attention or is following the driver ahead too closely, then liability for a rear-end collision will likely fall to the driver who hit the other from behind. However, there are a few situations in which the driver in front could absorb fault. Some examples of this could include:

  • The driver in front does not have functional brake lights or taillights. If the driver behind cannot reasonably tell that the driver in front is slowing or stopping, this would likely mitigate the rear-ending driver’s liability for the collision.
  • The driver in front suddenly reverses or slams on the brakes without a justifiable reason.
  • The driver in front slows very suddenly to make a turn but does not complete the turn.
  • The driver in front fails to stop after getting a flat tire.

In these situations, the driver who rear-ends another driver should act quickly to limit his or her level of liability for the resulting damages. This means taking photos of the accident scene, reporting the incident immediately to the police as required, and contacting a Nassau County car accident attorney to start building a case. State laws will likely come into play as well.

State Laws in Rear-End Collision Cases

Some states follow a no-fault rule for car accidents, and anyone injured in an accident must be able to prove catastrophic injuries to pursue a personal injury claim in these states. In fault-based states, the question of negligence determines each driver’s right to claim compensation and level of liability for a rear-end collision.

A few states follow pure contributory negligence laws that prohibit plaintiffs from recovering compensation if they are in any way at fault for their claimed damages. Even if a driver is only 5% or 10% at fault, he or she cannot recover damages in a contributory negligence state. Other states use comparative negligence laws.

In a pure comparative negligence state, a plaintiff can recover damages even if he or she is partly at fault for an accident; the plaintiff simply loses a portion of the case award equal to his or her fault. In a modified comparative negligence state the same rule applies and a plaintiff loses a portion of the case award equal to his or her fault percentage. However, the plaintiff can only recover damages if the plaintiff’s fault is lower than the defendant’s.

Determining fault for a rear-end collision can be tricky, so anyone injured in a rear-end collision should take appropriate steps to protect their ability to recover compensation. A Nassau County personal injury lawyer can help an injured driver understand his or her legal options under the state’s laws. A good attorney can also handle correspondence with insurers and other legal matters resulting from a rear-end collision.