Uh-oh! You have been involved in a rear-end collision. How do you determine who is at fault? There are three types of blame in this type of accident. You may be found 100% at fault, not at fault at all, or you may share the responsibility with the other drivers involved in the accident.
Most of the time, the rear driver will be found at fault for the accident. This is because drivers have a responsibility to keep a safe distance from the vehicle in front of them and to be able to stop or slow down in time to avoid a collision.
Rules are in place to determine who is at fault in a rear-end collision. These rules ensure that all drivers are treated equally and are basically universal. If you are found at fault for the accident, it will take approximately six years for the accident to fall off your driving record and may affect your insurance during this time.
Establishing Fault for Rear-End Accidents
When it comes to establishing fault for a rear-end collision, it’s not in the hands of the police or the insurance adjuster. Specific rules are in place to determine who is at fault and the percentage of the accident they are responsible for.
When considering the fault for a rear-end collision, the insurance adjuster must determine what type of collision happened and use the rules to specify the responsibility. These rules may be known as fault determination rules, and upwards of 40 different accident types are covered under these rules. The rules are in place to ensure that all drivers involved in an accident are treated fairly.
One common reason a car is rear-ended might be because the lead car is brake checking.
Is Brake Checking Illegal, and Is the Brake Checker at Fault?
Brake checking is considered a form of road rage. It occurs when the lead driver slams on their brakes to surprise, irritate, or intimidate the driver behind them. The rear driver then has to slam on their brakes or swerve into another lane to avoid hitting the lead vehicle.
There are dangers to brake checking. It can lead to a collision or even a physical altercation between drivers. The driver who brake checks will likely receive a traffic violation ticket and may even face criminal charges.
The rear driver has to prove that the lead driver hit their brakes for no apparent reason to prove brake checking occurred. The lead driver will likely blame the rear driver for following too close or tailgating or will come up with another excuse for why they had to slam on the brakes. If you rear-ended the vehicle in front of you, look for witnesses or doorbell cameras in the area that might have seen the brake check to prove your case.
If you are accused of brake checking, it is essential to talk to no one at the accident scene about the accident. Do not apologize to the other driver, as this can be construed as admitting fault for the accident. Talk with a lawyer, especially if there is a threat of criminal charges.
Is the Rear Driver Always at Fault for the Accident?
In most rear-end car accidents, the trailing driver will usually be at fault for the accident and have to pay damages to the lead driver. But that isn’t always the case. In several situations, the lead driver may be at fault, or multiple drivers may share responsibility.
The at-fault rules determine who gets the blame for the accident. Most of the time, the rules will determine that the rear driver is at fault. Let’s consider a situation where multiple cars are involved in a collision. Is the driver at the rear of the collision at fault? Maybe, but maybe not.
You’re driving behind a slow vehicle but haven’t had an opportunity to pass them yet. The car behind you rear-ends you, pushing your vehicle into the slower-moving vehicle. The driver who rear-ended you is 100% at fault for your rear-end collision, but you are considered 50% at fault for hitting the vehicle in front of you. This is determined because you likely weren’t a safe enough distance behind the vehicle in front of you to avoid hitting them.
Car Accidents and the Concept of Negligence
Negligence describes behavior that hurts others and falls below a basic standard of care. If you are acting irrationally and someone gets hurt as a result, you can be found at fault for negligence. Negligence is determined by the circumstances surrounding the accident. It must be proved that the driver has a duty of care to prove negligence. This is simple as all drivers have an obligation to be safe on the road.
Drivers can breach this duty of care in many ways when they are the rear driver of a rear-end collision. Some of these include:
- Stopping within a reasonable time
- Looking out for hazards
- Yielding the right of way
- Following at a safe distance
A driver may be found at fault for two types of negligence: comparative and contributory.
Comparative Negligence vs. Contributory Negligence
The outcome varies from state to state if more than one driver is found at fault for an accident. A few states follow a harsher contributory negligence rule, while most follow a contributory negligence rule. There are differences between these two rules that we will discuss next.
Under the rule of contributory negligence, if Driver A can prove that Driver B is in any way at fault for the accident, Driver B cannot recover anything in a lawsuit against Driver A. It doesn’t matter if Driver B is found even only to be 1% at fault. They get nothing.
This is the more common form of negligence and is where the fault is allocated between drivers. A driver’s liability may be reduced but not eliminated with comparative negligence. There are two types of comparative negligence, pure and modified.
- Pure Comparative Negligence: Liability for the accident is split based on the percentage that each driver is at fault for the accident. If Driver A is found 20% at fault for the accident and has $10,000 worth of damages, they can only collect 80% of the damages or $8,000.
- Modified Comparative Negligence: Similar to pure comparative negligence, liability gets split depending on the percentage that each driver is found at fault. The difference is a limit placed on the percentage of fault before a driver can no longer claim damages. The limit is usually 50% or 51%. So if Driver B is found to be 51% at fault for the accident, they can no longer recover anything from the other drivers in the accident.
Getting Compensation After a Rear-End Accident
Usually, in an accident, the rear driver is at fault, and that driver will be legally responsible for paying for the damages to the lead car. The insurance agency can determine the cost of damages and pay for the expenses easily and quickly.
However, paying for the lead driver’s medical bills can get a little convoluted. Common medical injuries can include back issues and whiplash, which may not appear on diagnostic exams.
Next Steps After a Rear-End Collision
While determining fault in a rear-end collision may be obvious, small details could shift the liability of each driver involved. Even if fault has been determined, the amount owed for damages may still be in question, especially when blame for the accident is shared among drivers.
A lawyer specializing in car accidents could benefit your case, especially if you think you are owed more than the other driver is willing to pay.
Talk to a Lawyer
A car accident lawyer can help you with all phases of the insurance claim process, the lawsuit process, and proving fault. The traffic accident law experts at Lee, Gober, & Reyna can help you navigate the accident claims and help you get the compensation you deserve.
How It Works
An accident lawyer can help determine how much you are entitled to and work with your insurance company, the other driver, and their insurance company to ensure you get what you are fairly owed.
[BUTTON] Speak With an Attorney