Rear-end collisions are among the most common types of car accidents that occur on U.S. roads. Typically, the driver who rear-ends another vehicle is considered at fault, but liability in these incidents isn’t always straightforward.
If you have recently been involved in a rear-end accident, understanding how liability is determined will help you to accurately assess whether you have grounds upon which to file an insurance claim and/or personal injury lawsuit against the other party involved in your crash.
The primary reason why the driver of the rear vehicle is presumed to be at fault in a rear-end collision is that all drivers should maintain a safe distance from the vehicle ahead of theirs so that they can stop safely and avoid a collision. When a collision occurs, it is generally assumed that the following driver simply ignored this rule of the road.
However, several additional factors can ultimately influence liability in a rear-end collision:
- Distraction and Negligence: If either driver was distracted (e.g., using a phone) or engaging in reckless driving behavior (e.g., speeding), they will likely be held responsible.
- Sudden Stops: If the front driver stops suddenly for no apparent reason, they might be partially or fully liable. However, if they stop for traffic, a pedestrian or an obstacle, the rear driver will usually still be considered at fault for not maintaining a safe distance.
- Vehicle Malfunction: If the rear driver’s vehicle had a mechanical issue, like brake failure, liability might shift. However, drivers are responsible for their vehicle’s maintenance, so this defense can be complicated.
- Multiple Vehicles: In multi-vehicle rear-end collisions (pile-ups), determining liability can be complex, as multiple drivers might share responsibility.
While rear-end collisions often result in the rear driver being deemed at fault, various factors can influence liability. It is, therefore, important to seek legal guidance before making any assumptions about liability in the wake of a rear-end crash.