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Car AccidentRear-end Collisions: Establishing Liability in Common Rear-end Accident Claims

January 15, 20240

Rear-end collisions are one of the most common types of accidents on US roads. In a rear-end crash, a following vehicle hits the vehicle in front of it from behind. These types of accidents frequently lead to injuries and vehicle damage. When a rear-end collision occurs, an investigation will be conducted to establish liability and determine who was at fault. There are a few key factors that are considered when determining fault in a rear-end crash.

Presumption of Negligence

In most states, there is a presumption of negligence on the part of the following driver in a rear-end accident. This means the driver who rear-ended the vehicle in front of them is presumed to be negligent and therefore at fault for the collision. The rationale behind this presumption is that the following driver has a duty to maintain a safe following distance and keep their vehicle under control. If they collide with the rear of another vehicle, the following driver breached that duty of care.

However, the rear driver can rebut this presumption of negligence by providing evidence that the lead driver caused the accident. This evidence must definitively show the front driver’s negligence contributed to the rear-end collision.

Possible Defenses for the Following Driver

While the following driver generally faces an assumption of fault, there are some defenses the rear driver can use to rebut the presumption of negligence.

Sudden Stopping

One defense is that the front driver stopped suddenly and unexpectedly without warning, leaving the following driver no time to react and stop. However, the following driver must prove the lead vehicle made an unsafe, abrupt stop that a reasonable driver could not anticipate. Slamming on the brakes at a yellow light may not be considered a defense unless the lead driver was far enough away from the intersection that a sudden stop would not be expected.

Failure to Signal

Another potential defense is the front driver failed to properly signal before stopping or turning. If the front vehicle stopped or turned without warning and without use of turn signals or brake lights, their negligence may have contributed to the crash. But the rear vehicle must still prove they were driving at a safe distance and speed.

Hazardous Road Conditions

Icy, wet, or slippery roads can cause a rear driver to slide into the vehicle in front of them even when driving prudently. Establishing there were hazardous conditions that contributed to the inability to stop can potentially shift some liability away from the rear driver. Evidence like weather reports can help prove road hazards existed at the time.

Mechanical Failure

The rear driver may also be able to show their brakes or tires failed unexpectedly, leading to the collision. They will need documentation from mechanics and repair invoices showing repairs made after the accident to prove mechanical failure caused the crash.

Establishing the Front Driver’s Fault

While the following driver faces an assumption of fault, they can provide evidence to show the front driver’s negligence caused the accident:

Eyewitness statements from passengers, nearby drivers, or pedestrians indicating the front vehicle made an abrupt, unexpected stop for no discernible reason can help prove the lead driver’s negligence. Eyewitnesses who observed the front driver slam on their brakes unlawfully or stop short without cause can provide key evidence to establish fault.

Dash cam or other video footage definitively showing the front driver brake checked (when the lead driver taps their brakes to scare or intimidate the following driver) or deliberately reversed their vehicle into the front of the following car can conclusively establish the front driver’s liability. Video evidence provides indisputable proof of the sequence of events.

Event data recorders or dash cams can provide data on speed, braking, and distance prior to impact. Evidence showing the rear vehicle was following at a safe distance and reasonable speed based on conditions can prove the rear driver was operating their vehicle appropriately and shift liability onto the front driver.

Proof the front driver was texting, talking on the phone, attending to children, or otherwise dangerously distracted while driving points to their negligence. Likewise, evidence the front driver was impaired due to alcohol, marijuana or prescription medications strongly indicates their negligence and failure to operate their vehicle safely.

Documentation that the front vehicle’s brake lights were faulty or not operable at the time of the crash can provide evidence that the front driver contributed to the collision by failing to signal their intent to stop. Non-working brake lights may leave the rear driver without adequate warning that the front vehicle was stopping.

Evidence implying the front driver deliberately slammed their brakes or took other actions to intentionally cause a collision with the following vehicle may point to an insurance fraud scheme. Information indicating the front driver has staged other accidents or made fraudulent injury claims can establish their intent to profit from an intentional crash.

In some cases, the front driver may bear the majority of fault or the accident may be considered no-fault if substantial evidence proves the front driver was negligent. An experienced attorney can help gather evidence necessary to rebut the presumption of rear driver negligence.

Injured Passengers

Passengers injured in a rear-end collision may be able to recover damages from either driver, depending on who is found negligent. If the front driver’s actions substantially contributed to the crash, the passengers can potentially recover damages from the driver who caused the collision by failing to stop appropriately. An attorney can evaluate liability and advise on the best route to recover damages for injured passengers.

Seeking Compensation with an Attorney

Rear-end collisions often result in injuries and vehicle damage requiring compensation. Whiplash, back and neck injuries, concussions, and scrapes and bruises are common. An auto accident attorney can help establish fault and seek compensation for medical treatment, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages. They will investigate the accident, interview witnesses, work with crash reconstruction experts, and build the strongest case possible on the injured party’s behalf.

No matter who is deemed at fault in a rear-end accident, the aftermath can be difficult to navigate. If you need help, you can visit one of our offices at:

  • Beverly Hills – 8383 Wilshire Blvd, Suite 830, Beverly Hills, CA 90211
  • Los Angeles – 212 East Pico Blvd, Suite #4, Los Angeles, CA 90015
  • Tulare – 100 E. Cross, Suite #122, Tulare, CA 93274
  • Hanford – 13400 Hanford Armona Rd, Suite #B

Or call now for a free consultation on (877) 729-2652 or (323) 782-9927.


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