Who Is Most Often at Fault in a Rear-End Collision?

Posted On January 19, 2023 Car Accidents
speeding driver about to strike the back end of a vehicle

Rear-end collision fault is a common topic of concern among those who have been in car accidents. It is also the source of misconceptions that can make it difficult to know your legal rights after a crash.

Generally speaking, the driver in back will be found at fault for a rear-end collision. However, liability for the accident is not automatically assigned to the trailing motorist.

Determining rear-end collision fault is best left to an experienced attorney. Call The Flood Law Firm at (860) 346-2695 today for a free consultation.

What Causes Rear-End Collisions?

In 2022, the Connecticut Crash Data Repository recorded a total of 71,965 motor vehicle accidents. Where the cause of the crash was identifiable, the single largest driver action contributing to accidents was following a vehicle too closely. All told, 14.72% of drivers who caused car accidents (18,861 in total) were tailgating.

Other issues that can lead to rear-end collisions include:

It is also important to understand how mechanical failures can lead to rear-end collisions and who may be at fault. Brakes, tires, and other components can all fail when a vehicle is in motion. Even experienced and attentive drivers may struggle to avoid an accident when this happens.

Ultimately, both the actions of the driver and the condition of the vehicle need to be taken into account when determining rear-end collision fault. Other important considerations include bad weather, visibility, the condition of the road, and more.

When Is the Rear Driver At Fault?

As a rule, drivers who follow too closely or engage in other reckless actions can be held liable for accidents caused by their behavior. This is usually the case even when factors outside the driver’s control contributed to the crash. For example, a motorist’s ability to see taillights may be reduced when it’s snowing, but he or she is still expected to be aware of other cars, adjust speed, and allow extra room between vehicles.

The same rule of thumb applies when a mechanical failure leads to a rear-end collision. Drivers are responsible for maintaining their vehicles, making necessary repairs, and responding to recall notices. If the other driver neglected any of these duties and an accident ensues, the driver in back will likely be found at fault for rear-ending another vehicle. (The manufacturer of a defective part and/or a mechanic or service center that performs negligent repairs may also be held liable in such a situation.)

Prompt investigation is necessary to determine what caused the accident and who is at fault. While the police will be concerned with determining whether any laws were broken, a car accident attorney can identify the liable party or parties and collect evidence to prepare your claim.

Can You Be At Fault for Being Rear-Ended?

Although the driver in the rear is usually at fault for a rear-end collision, there are situations where the driver in front may be wholly or partly to blame. Potential situations where rear-end collision fault may be attributed to the lead driver include:

  • Swerving: If a vehicle swerves unexpectedly into your lane, you might not have time to avoid rear-ending the vehicle. The swerving driver may be liable for the accident if issues of inattentiveness, distraction, etc. were involved.
  • “Brake check” accidents: Intentionally braking hard without warning in front of another vehicle is a careless and even aggressive maneuver. Although the trailing driver may have been following the car in front too closely at the time, the lead driver will likely be deemed responsible for a rear-end collision caused by brake checking.
  • Improper turns: A careless driver may violate the right of way and turn into your lane with no time for you to react. If this happens and a rear-end collision occurs, you may be able to make a claim against the driver who turned in front of you.
  • Failure to signal: Turn signals tell other drivers that a vehicle is departing from the current lane. The driver in the rear may not be at fault when a driver fails to signal and/or slows down or stops without warning.
  • Non-functioning brake lights: In addition to the failure to use the brakes or turn signals, the driver in front and/or the owner of the vehicle may be held liable for a rear-end collision if the car didn’t have working brake lights or turn signals.
  • Back-up accidents: Most common in parking lots but still possible in other circumstances, the driver in front will almost always be held liable for backing into another vehicle.

Connecticut is a comparative fault state. Damages for an accident can still be recovered provided you are found to be no more than 50% at fault (see Connecticut General Statutes § 52-572h).

With this in mind, neither the driver in the front nor the driver in the back should automatically assume that they are 100% to blame or totally blameless in a rear-end collision. The evidence may show that one or both motorists are entitled to some amount of compensation.

Determining Rear-End Collision Fault

Bringing an accident claim after a rear-end collision may be more complicated than you think. The other driver’s insurance company will employ a number of tricks to avoid paying what you deserve for your injuries and damages.

At The Flood Law Firm, we investigate immediately and collect evidence thoroughly to establish who is at fault for the accident. Our attorneys can negotiate a favorable settlement or, if necessary, file a lawsuit and take your case to trial.

Contact The Flood Law Firm today for assistance with a rear-end collision case.

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