Rear-End Collision: Who is Always Liable?
Dealing with the aftermath of a car accident is never fun, especially when you rear-end someone. Your first thoughts will probably revolve around how much this is going to cost you – even if you don’t think that you’re the one at fault. After all, the driver in the back is always blamed for a rear-end collision, right?
While it’s true that the rear driver is often held liable in a rear-end accident, that doesn’t mean that you should automatically claim responsibility if you rear-end someone. If you believe that the driver in front of you was actually the one at fault, it is possible to prove this if you can show that the other driver was the one who was negligent or reckless. Here are 8 situations in which the front driver may be at fault in a rear-end collision:
1. The Other Driver Cuts You Off
This is the most common cause of rear-end collisions where the front driver is usually found at fault. If a car suddenly moves in front of you that is moving significantly slower than you are, that brakes suddenly, or that cuts too closely in front of your car, that car’s driver is the cause of the accident. This kind of action on the other driver’s part is especially dangerous when they fail to use their turn signal. While you’re responsible for maintaining a safe following distance, a merging or lane-changing driver is responsible for moving a reasonable distance ahead of you and for using the proper signaling.
2. Their Brake Lights are Out
In order to stop within a reasonable amount of time so that you can avoid colliding with the car in front of you, you need to be able to see that the other car has stopped. When it’s dark out, it’s not always easy to tell that a car ahead of you has stopped without seeing those brake lights come on; after all, if brake lights weren’t necessary, we wouldn’t have them.
3. They’re Stopped on the Roadway
If a car is stopped in a lane of traffic due to a vehicle malfunction, it’s reasonable to consider that running into them is possible. Even if they have their hazard lights on, it’s easy to hit a car that’s at a standstill on a busy highway. You might be coming around a bend and not see them until it’s too late, or maybe the driver ahead of you – who can see the car’s hazards while you can’t – suddenly swerves around a stopped car, leaving you without sufficient time to brake or move.
Even if the car has pulled over onto the shoulder, you may not be at fault. A lot of highway shoulders are too small for a car, leaving the stalled car sticking out into traffic. And if the stalled car does not have their hazard lights on, this is a good defense on your part – especially if the collision happened at night.
4. They’re Driving Recklessly
Texting while driving, talking on the phone while driving, and drunk driving have become widespread epidemics. These and other causes of distracted driving make it hard for people to drive properly, which often leads to erratic movements and lane-drifting. If a car drifts into the lane ahead of you and you rear-end it, the other driver is at fault.
5. The Driver Behind You doesn’t Stop in Time
When on the road, everyone is responsible for driving responsibly. If the driver ahead of you brakes suddenly and you were maintaining a safe following distance, you won’t hit them; however, if the driver behind you was not maintaining a safe following distance behind you, they may crash into your car and push you into the car ahead of you. In that case, the driver behind you will likely be found at fault for both collisions.
6. They Turn when You have the Right of Way
If a driver to your right turns right at a red light while you have a green light and you rear-end them, you shouldn’t be held at fault. It’s their responsibility to make sure that the roadway is clear before they execute a turn since you have the right-of-way.
If a driver opposite you turns left or u-turns when you have a green light, they’re likely at fault for any collisions. A driver without a left-turn arrow is responsible for making sure that there is no traffic coming from the opposite direction before executing a turn.
7. They Unexpectedly Reverse their Car
If you’re stopped at a left turn light without an arrow, and the driver ahead of you pulls into the intersection but then decides that it’s not safe to turn, they’ll likely back up in order to return to the safety of the lane. If they pull back too far and run into you, the accident is their fault.
If you’re driving in a parking lot and a driver ahead of you pulls out of a parking spot without enough space between the two of you, you’re probably not at fault for a rear-end collision.
8. They Suddenly Stop to Execute a Turn, then Don’t
This is probably one of the trickiest situations. If a person ahead of you suddenly stops in order to make a turn, starts to make the turn, but then doesn’t finish it, you may end up hitting them. Since you expected them to make the turn, you may have slowed to a pace that would have allowed you to pass them, were they to have completed the turn. Since you had no reasonable expectation that they would not complete the turn, it’s possible that you will not be held at fault for the auto accident.
Even if you’re found to be at partially at fault for the accident, you may not have to pay for all of the damages. Under the rule of modified comparative negligence in Texas and certain other states, if you’re the plaintiff and you’re found to be less than 50% at fault for the accident, the cost of the damages can be split between the two parties. For example, if you’re found to be 30% responsible for the accident, you’ll only have to pay for 30% of the damages, and the other driver will have to pay for the remaining 70%.
If you are involved in a rear-end collision, contact The Dashner Law Firm. They can help you prove fault so that you don’t end up liable for a collision that someone else caused.