Is The Person in the Back Always at Fault in a Rear End Collision?
Whenever you are in a car, whether driving or riding as a passenger, you are at risk of having an accident. Accidents can be as minor is a fender-bender or as serious as a high-speed head-on collision. According to a report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 28 percent of crashes in 2012 were rear-end collisions. Most people believe that the person who strikes another vehicle from behind is automatically it fault, but there are scenarios where this is not the case.
Car Accidents and the Concept of Negligence
One way that someone whose vehicle rear-ends another vehicle may not be at fault is if it can be proved that the other driver was negligent in some way. If the other driver’s actions are not what a reasonable person would or would not have done in the same circumstances, you may not be at fault in a rear-end collision. In order to prove this, you would need to prove that the driver you hit breached their duty. This can be proven in many ways, including:
- failing to pay attention to the road and look out for hazards
- failing to stop within a reasonable time
- failing to drive at a reasonable speed (based not just on posted speed limits but also on road conditions)
- failing to maintain control of the vehicle
- failing to yield the right of way
- failing to use turn signal(s), and
- failing to follow at a safe distance.
In addition, you must prove that you sustained damages in the accident and that it was the other driver’s breach of duty that caused the accident to occur.
Establishing Fault in Rear-End Collisions
If you rear-end another vehicle, you may be found to be at least partially negligent. The law requires that every vehicle follow other vehicles at a safe distance to allow for sudden stops or slowing. Therefore, it is your duty to be sure you are far enough behind a vehicle so that you can stop easily, even if the other vehicle slams on their brakes due to road hazards or traffic. However, there are circumstances where the other driver may be negligent as well. These may include:
- a driver reverses suddenly
- a driver stops suddenly to make a turn and fails to execute the turn
- a driver’s brake lights do not function, and
- a driver gets a flat tire, but does not pull over and does not engage the vehicle’s hazard lights.
The legal impact of the other driver’s negligence will depend on how much their actions contributed to the accident as well as whether your state has contributory or comparative negligence laws.
Contributory and Comparative Negligence
In some states, when a driver contributes to damage or an injury, they may not be able to recover all, or in some cases, any of a claim against another driver. In five states, if the driver of the vehicle you rear-ended can prove that you contributed to the accident at all, even if they backed up suddenly on the highway, you are unable to recover any claims for injury or damages, a law known as contributory negligence. These five states include Alabama, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia and the District of Columbia. There are two types of comparative negligence – pure and modified. In pure comparative negligence, liability is split based on the percentage of fault. If you are 30 percent to blame, you will only be able to collect 70 percent of your damages. In modified comparative negligence, liability is split based on the percentage of fault, but only to a certain level. In most states, if you can be proven to be at fault by more than 50 percent, you are unable to receive compensation for damages or injuries, but less than 50 percent and you will be able to recover up to the percentage you were not at fault.
Rear-end collisions can cause severe injuries, whether you are in the vehicle that is rear-ended or the other vehicle. If you have been injured in a rear-end collision, contact the personal injury attorneys at Lundy Law who will investigate your accident to uncover any acts of negligence. We will then fight for your recovery, including medical expenses, lost wages, pain, suffering and more. Contact us today at 1-800-LUNDYLAW to schedule your consultation.