If You Rear-End Someone, Is It Always Your Fault?

In many cases, a driver who rear-ends another car is legally at fault for the accident. Often, the police conclude that the rear driver was driving too closely to the car in front of them. However, there are some situations in which, when a driver rear-ends someone, it is the other person’s fault.

In addition to the two drivers involved in a rear-end collision, there may be other people or entities at fault for a rear-end crash. In some cases, road conditions, a pedestrian, or even another vehicle could share in the liability or even be fully liable for a rear-end collision.

When the Lead Driver Is at Fault for a Rear-End Collision

Determining fault in a rear-end collision is not automatic, as many people think. Several scenarios can mean that the front driver is at fault in a rear-end crash.

There are four common scenarios when this is the case:

  • When a driver pulls too far into an intersection, then backs up to get out of the way of opposing traffic, they may collide with the car behind them. Because it is not reasonable to expect the rear driver to know the front driver is going to back up, the rear driver cannot be expected to get out of the way. Instead, the driver in front must watch what they do.
  • When the front driver drives aggressively, including sudden braking when it is not necessary and erratic lane changes, that person could be at fault if their erratic driving causes a rear-end wreck. Drunk drivers, drivers exhibiting road rage, and those who intentionally try to get hit may also be liable for accident injuries in a rear-end crash they cause.
  • If the front driver’s vehicle does not have functioning brake lights, the front driver may be at fault for a rear-end wreck.
  • If the front driver’s vehicle stopped due to hitting another vehicle in front of it causing a pile-up.  Typically, it’s the second car in the pile up that is found at fault for causing the accident.

When the driver in front brakes suddenly, they may be at fault for the accident, but only if the rear car was following at a reasonable distance. Nevada laws only state that a driver “shall not follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable” but does not define reasonable.

How to Determine Fault in a Rear-End Accident

Usually, in a car accident, whoever broke a traffic law or otherwise behaved negligently is at fault. In the example of someone pulling into an intersection by mistake, then backing up to get out of the intersection, that person is negligent if they did not check their rearview mirror before backing up.

To recover damages for injuries in a rear-end wreck, the victim must show that the at-fault driver (or other at-fault parties):

  • Owed the victim of the wreck a duty of care. Drivers all owe one another a duty to drive safely, watch the road around them, and follow traffic laws and regulations.
  • The at-fault driver breached the duty of care because of their negligence.
  • The at-fault driver’s negligence was a major factor in causing the accident and any related injuries.

Do I Need a Car Accident Attorney If I Believe the Rear-End Collision Was Not My Fault?

Yes. Even if the police report states that you were not at fault, the other driver’s insurance company is going to try to poke all kinds of holes in that assertion. An attorney can help you prove that the accident was not your fault and that the police officer who wrote the report interpreted the accident scene correctly. If the at-fault driver and/or their insurance company continues on the same path of reassigning blame, your accident lawyer can help with investigating the accident to prove that you were not at fault.

Injuries in Rear-End Crashes

People suffer all kinds of injuries in rear-end crashes. The specific injuries a person suffers depend on several factors, including where in the car the person was sitting, where the vehicles were located at the time of the accident, and how fast both vehicles were traveling.

Common injuries include:

  • Bruises, bumps, scratches, cuts, and scrapes.
  • Road rash, if the person is thrown from the vehicle.
  • Head, neck, and shoulder injuries.
  • Face and eye injuries.
  • Traumatic brain injuries.
  • Simple and compound fractures.
  • Strains, sprains, pulled and torn muscles, and other soft-tissue injuries.
  • Back and spinal cord injuries.
  • Internal injuries.
  • Chemical and heat burns.
  • Amputation, whether during the accident or immediately after the accident.

Collecting Compensation for Accident-Related Injuries

If your attorney can prove that you were not at fault for your rear-end collision, you may collect compensation for your accident-related injuries and other losses from the at-fault party. There are three categories of compensation, called damages, available to accident victims who make a successful claim against the at-fault party’s insurance company or in court.

Joseph L. Benson II, Esq.
Car Accident Attorney, Joseph L. Benson II, Esq.

These categories are:

  1. Economic damages: This category of damages includes medical expenses, lost wages, property damage, and other losses that have a clear economic value. If the victim has serious injuries that will require long-term treatment, they can request estimated future medical expenses and lost wages, as well.
  2. Non-economic damages: This category of damages provides compensation for less tangible losses, such as physical or emotional pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment if the victim can no longer participate in activities they once enjoyed, and other emotional or personal disruption to the victim’s life because of the injury.
  3. Punitive damages: When the at-fault party’s behavior was particularly egregious, the victim can sometimes obtain punitive damages. These are rare, but courts can award them to punish the at-fault driver—if they crashed while driving drunk, for example.

A car accident lawyer can help you determine whether you or someone else bears liability for an accident, and what compensation you should pursue.

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