Are You Automatically At Fault if You Rear-End Someone?

February 18th, 2016

Rear-end collisions are one of the most common types of auto accidents. And while you may have heard the following car – the car who rear-ended the leading car – is always at fault, that is not always the case.

This misconception is rooted in the idea of negligence. When analyzing where the fault lies in an accident, one should consider “Who was most capable of preventing this accident from happening?” or “Whose negligence led to the accident.” In most rear-end collisions, the answer to these questions is the driver of the following car because they have the ability and responsibility to be alert and maintain a safe following distance, allowing enough time to come to a complete and sudden stop if necessary.

However, sometimes rear-end collisions are not fully caused by the negligence of the following car’s driver and instead is partially or fully due to the leading car’s negligence. Here are a few scenarios where this may be the case:

  1. If the leading car accelerates in reverse into the following car. This is more common than you may think. For example if the leading car is waiting to take a left turn and enters the intersection, but the light turns red before they are able to turn. As a result, they back up to move out of the intersection. When the light turns green allowing for the leading car to take a left turn, they accelerate forgetting they left their car in reverse and accelerate into the following car. In this scenario, the accident was not caused by the following car’s negligence.
  2. If the leading car’s brake lights are not working. Without seeing brake lights, the following car does not stop in time to avoid a rear-end collision. In this scenario, the fault in this accident would not fall fully on the following car because the leading car was negligent in not having operable and illuminated brake lights.
  3. If the leading car gets a flat tire or breaks down, but does not pull off of the road or turn on the vehicle’s hazard lights. While the following car in this scenario does have an obligation as a driver to ensure that the road ahead of them is clear and safe to drive on, they still may not realize the leading car is stopped in enough time to stop their vehicle to avoid a collision. In this circumstance the following car may not be found fully at fault because the leading car could have prevented this accident by pulling off of the road or at minimum turning on the vehicle’s hazard lights.

Proving negligence of a leading car’s driver can be tricky, and will often require the work of an attorney. If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident, we encourage you to call Dudley DeBosier for a free consultation 444-4444.