Is the Rear Driver Always Liable in a Rear-End Accident?

Is the Rear Driver Always Liable in a Rear-End Accident?2021-06-14T08:20:21+00:00

Rear-End Car Crash Liability

Is the Rear Driver Always Liable in a Rear-End Accident?

Even if you’re a vigilant driver with a clean driving record, accidents can happen when you don’t react quickly enough. One of the accidents that can catch people off guard is a rear-end accident.

A rear end collision in Los Angeles is one of the most common kinds of inner city car accidents, making up 30% of all accidents that are reported each year. This kind of collision occurs when a vehicle crashes into the one in front of it. There are multiple reasons that a back driver could crash into the car directly in front of them. Common factors that contribute to rear-end accidents include:

  • Distracted driving
  • Driving while drowsy
  • Tailgating or following too closely
  • Panic stops
  • Reduced traction due to wet weather or worn tires
  • Faulty brakes
  • Drunk driving

Sherman Oaks accident injury attorneys can tell you that the damages resulting from rear end accidents can vary greatly; sometimes the impact is so minor that neither car suffers so much as a scratch while other times, victims may require hospitalization to recover from their bodily injuries and their cars may be totaled.

You may think that one car failing to stop as quickly and colliding into the one in front of it may mean that the rear driver is always at fault, but an auto accident lawyer in Sherman Oaks will tell you that that’s not always the case. Especially in a state with shared fault laws like California, liability for damages can vary depending on the accident and the circumstances surrounding it.

Determining Fault

When the accident first happens and responding police officers arrive at the scene, they will use debris, skid marks, and other evidence to assess the cause of the accident. Police officers are trained in how to determine what happened during an accident even though they weren’t physically there to see it happen. They will also get eyewitness testimony from any bystanders who may have seen the crash. They will also speak to you and the other driver separately.

From the information they gather at the scene, the officer will make an accident report. This accident report will include everything from any evidence to eyewitness testimony to the officer’s own deductions. The police report will also include who the officer believes is at fault for the accident.

In addition to the police officer, you and the other drivers’ insurance agents also have to get involved. Once a driver files an insurance claim that says they were involved in an accident, their insurance agent will start their own investigation where they determine who is at fault. Similar to the responding police officer, insurance adjusters will research the accident diligently, including:

  • Examine the events leading up to the car crash
  • Speak to witnesses
  • Examine medical reports
  • Look at both vehicles’ damage
  • Verify insurance policies and coverage amounts

The adjusters will determine who is liable for the car accident damages based on negligence, which is when a person fails to exercise an amount of care for the safety of others that another reasonable person would have acted with in the same situation. In shared fault states, the insurance adjuster may assign a percentage of fault to each driver, and this means that you will need to hire a skilled attorney for car accidents in Sherman Oaks to fight for you to get a larger financial settlement.

Fault in a rear end accident is not always automatic. While the rear driver may have failed to brake fast enough due to distracted driving or tail-gaiting, the front driver can exhibit negligence as well. Some situations where the driver in the front of the collision is at fault for the accident include:

  • Reversing suddenly
  • Stopping suddenly to make a turn but then failing to execute the turn
  • Driving a car with brake lights that do not function
  • Getting a flat tire and failing to pull over or turn on the vehicle’s hazard lights
  • “Brake checking,” which is when a driver sees that someone behind is following too closely behind them and purposefully stomps on their brakes

If it’s determined that the front driver may have committed one of the above actions, then they may be at fault for the accident because it would not have happened had they made smarter and safer driving choices. Any of the above actions are negligent, and therefore, the front driver will hold at least some of the fault.

Shared Fault Laws in California

Some states do not assign 100% of the damages and instead examine each party’s actions. Many accident experts would argue that negligence has to occur on both sides in order for an accident to happen.

California follows the doctrine of pure comparative negligence. Pure comparative negligence comes into play in situations where both the plaintiff and the defendant were negligent. A percentage of fault will be assigned to both parties, and each will pay their share of fault to compensate for the other’s damages.

The percentage of fault is reliant on the amount of negligence each party exhibited, not the amount of damages each party suffered. If you are the party who has suffered more damages, like as the rider in a motorcycle-car collision, that does not automatically mean you are going to earn more in your settlement.

For example, if you were driving on the interstate and had to slow to a stop due to heavy congestion ahead, the driver behind you might not realize you are stopping completely. The driver may slam into you while going at a high speed. This can cause severe injuries, such as whiplash or a TBI, especially if the driver was in a tractor-trailer or some other kind of large vehicle. The other driver should have stopped faster, but you also had weak tail lights, which did not shine brightly enough to catch the driver’s attention. If you are determined to be 40% at fault, then you will have to pay 40% of the damages, and they will have to pay the remaining 60%.

The legal battle that follows a car accident can be messy. You will need a Sherman Oaks accident injury lawyer to defend you while shifting more blame to the other driver. You are in great hands with a Sherman Oaks personal injury attorney from Okhovat Law. Call us at (310) 579-9082 to set up a free case review.