Who Is At Fault in a Rear-End Collision?

When determining who is at fault in a rear-end collision, the answer is most often the rear or “approaching” vehicle. Some states support a presumptive law that generally places fault on the rear driver, either for following too closely or due to distracted driving. These collisions usually occur when distractions prevent drivers from reacting to the vehicle in front of them in time.

There are certain circumstances in which the driver in front may be at least partially at fault. Examples may include when a driver merges or turns ahead of another vehicle without providing adequate space. These occurrences are not as common and are difficult to prove. Proving fault in these cases requires examining the actions of each driver leading up to the accident and collecting enough evidence to support the claim.

Frequency and Causes of Rear-End Collisions

A study shared by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) suggests that rear-endings account for around 29% of all collisions that involve severe injuries or fatalities. The study also outlined some of the circumstances leading to this type of crash. Researchers recorded that these accidents typically occurred when the “lead” vehicle:

  • Was driving at a slower speed than the approaching vehicle.
  • Began to decelerate.
  • Came to a complete stop.

In most of these crashes, distracted driving impeded the approaching driver’s reaction time. Without having his or her eyes on the road, the driver was unable to observe the lead vehicle’s speed and brake or steer away to avoid the impact. Tailgating is another common reason for rear-end collisions, which is why many states have laws outlining adequate vehicle distance.

When the Lead Driver May Be At Fault

Under certain circumstances, it may be possible to argue that the lead vehicle in a rear-end crash is at least partially at fault. According to the same study the NHTSA shared, these incidents are relatively rare. When they do occur, they may involve the lead driver:

  • Merging in front of another vehicle without providing enough space.
  • Turning into traffic without enough distance between the approaching vehicle.
  • Driving erratically due to intoxication or other impairment.
  • Reversing into the rear vehicle.

Whether or not the driver of the lead vehicle is at fault may depend upon the speed and distance of the approaching vehicle. If the rear driver was traveling at a safe speed but still did not have the time and space to stop, he or she may only be partially liable.

Consequences of Rear-Endings

The consequences of getting rear-ended can range from mild to severe. Some rear-endings have devastating effects depending on the severity of the crash. Data from the Insurance Information Institute (III) reports that in 2017, rear-endings made up 7.2% of all crash-related fatalities.

In many rear-end cases, minimal damage occurs, and the drivers are able to work out an agreement without getting lawyers involved. Still, even victims of low speed rear-end collisions may report severe injuries in the following days or weeks, according to Canadian Family Physician. Some injuries from this type of car accident include:

  • Bruising from the seat belt, steering wheel, and/or airbag
  • Whiplash
  • Cracked ribs
  • Back pain
  • Headaches

Aside from physical consequences, rear-end collisions can also result in various levels of damage to the vehicles involved. This can range from dented bumpers and broken lights to caved-in trunks and misaligned steering columns. The most severe accidents may even involve multi-car pileups and totaled vehicles.

Holding the At-Fault Driver Accountable

If you experienced injuries in a recent rear-ending and believe another driver is at fault, you may qualify for compensation. Your case must provide evidence that establishes negligence on behalf of the other driver.

Evidence that may help you to prove the other driver’s culpability can include:

  • Eyewitness testimony from nearby drivers and pedestrians.
  • Traffic camera footage of the intersection or road where the collision occurred.
  • Records of the severity and location of the damage on both vehicles.

Whether you were driving the lead or rear vehicle in a rear-end collision, an attorney can help you pursue compensation if you have a case.

Get Support From a Car Accident Attorney

If you are unsure of who is at fault in a rear-end collision you recently experienced, a car accident attorney may be able to provide clarity. In some cases, you may qualify for compensation even if the other driver is only partially at fault.

When you hire Shaw Legal Solutions to work on your case, our legal team can examine the evidence and help you determine who is at fault. If another driver’s actions caused the crash, we can also help you build your case and pursue an award for your injuries and losses.

Our firm works on a contingency basis, so our clients do not owe us unless we win compensation. Call (425) 214-4946 today for more information.


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