Who Is at Fault in a Rear End Collision?

Most drivers assume that any accident involving a rear-end collision is always the fault of the driver in the back. This belief stems from the notion that drivers can see what is ahead and should be concerned with obstacles in front of them, therefore a driver should reasonably be able to stop or otherwise avoid striking other cars from behind. In almost all cases involving rear-end collisions, the driver in the back is to blame. However, there are exceptions to this rule.

When the Rear Driver Isn’t at Fault

In some cases, both drivers will share blame for the accident. For example, the lead driver may make an erratic maneuver or make some other unexpected change, slam on the brakes, or otherwise make stopping in time very difficult for the rear driver. In this case, both drivers would likely share the blame. While the rear driver should have allowed enough room to stop in case of an emergency, the lead driver created an unpredictable and dangerous situation on the road, giving the rear driver little time to act.

Another exception applies to cars driving in reverse. If a car reverses and crashes into another car, the rear driver cannot be to blame since the lead driver struck from the front. For example, if a car drifts too far into an intersection as the light changes to red and attempts to reverse back into the lane, he or she may hit the cars that have pulled up behind him or her. In this case, the rear driver could not be at fault since the driver in front reversed and gave him or her nowhere to go.

Establishing Negligence

If a driver who strikes another driver from behind wishes to escape fault for the crash, he or she will need to prove the other driver’s negligence caused the accident. Proving negligence in car accident cases requires establishing four facts in court:

  • First, the plaintiff must prove the defendant owed a duty of care, or had an obligation to act with reasonable care in the situation.
  • Second, the plaintiff must prove the defendant violated this duty of care in some way.
  • Third, the plaintiff must prove that his or her injuries and damages were the direct result of the defendant’s negligence.
  • Finally, the plaintiff must prove that he or she suffered actual harm. If a plaintiff suffered no injury or incurred no loss, he or she has no claim.

In most lawsuits involving a rear-end collision, the rear driver will more than likely receive some portion of fault in the final determination. The logic behind this rule is that any driver who is behind another driver should be paying enough attention to react to changes on the road, and should be leaving a reasonable amount of space between his or her own vehicle and the vehicle ahead.

Partial Fault Cases

Every state has its own negligence laws as well. While some states allow for contributory or comparative negligence rulings, other states do not, and a plaintiff who is partially at fault for an accident in these states will not be eligible to receive compensation. In states that operate under contributory negligence or comparative negligence rules, a plaintiff who is partially at fault for an accident can still secure compensation, but his or her award is reduced based on his or her percentage of fault in the accident. For example, a plaintiff found 10% at fault in a $100,000 case will lose 10% of the case value, leaving him or her with $90,000 instead.

Anyone injured in a car accident should seek legal counsel after handling their immediate medical issues. A qualified Austin car accident attorney will help an injured driver assess his or her options for seeking compensation and advise the appropriate course of action following a rear-end collision.