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Who is liable in a rear-end collision?



Rear-end collisions are one of the most prevalent auto accident types. If a driver's vehicle is struck from behind by another vehicle, the resulting accident is nearly always the striking driver's fault. This holds true regardless of the reason for the first driver's stop or slow down. Why?

Because basic traffic laws mandate a driver must be able to come to a safe stop if the vehicle(s) ahead stops or slows down. Incidentally, this traffic rule also governs sudden stops. If the subsequent driver cannot come to a safe stop, chances are he or she is not driving in a safe manner and probably not as safely as the driver in front of him or her.

How Does Damage From a Rear-End Collision Belie the Basis of Liability?

In nearly every rear-end collision insurance claim, vehicle damage tells a great deal about what happened. Specifically, resulting vehicle damage is able to demonstrate and even prove how the accident transpired. If one vehicle's front end is damaged and a second vehicle's rear end is damaged, there is usually no big mystery or doubt surrounding what type of accident occurred. Namely, a rear-end collision must have occurred, in which one vehicle struck the rear of the other vehicle.

What About a Case in Which a Car Is Pushed Into Another Because of a Car Behind It?

In some more complicated and bigger damage claims resulting from rear-end collisions, two cars are pushed into each other when a third car hits the middle car, forcing it into the rear of the first car. In such instances, the driver of the third car is the one facing liability and fault for the rear-end accident. The middle and first car drivers would file claims against the third car driver's liability insurance policy. The traffic and liability laws protect the middle car driver in such instances. Why? Because it is clear the residual or secondary collision caused between the middle (or second car) and the first car is actually the result of a prior or primary collision between the third and second cars.

A similar variation to this scenario can occur. For example, suppose a driver hits the car of a driver in front of him or her because yet another driver caused the first car to suddenly stop or slow down. The striking driver may have a third-party claim against the third-party driver who caused the slow down or sudden stop.

Is It Possible for the Driver of Car Hit From Behind in a Rear-End Collision to Be Partially at Fault?

Yes, it is possible for the driver whose car is hit from behind to bear some fault in a rear-end accident. This is particularly true if the hit car driver's negligence caused the accident in some way. Perhaps the hit car's brake lights did not function. Or the hit car blew a tire and stopped in the middle of a traffic lane, rather than retreating to the shoulder of the road. In those instances, the hit car's driver may have some comparative or contributory negligence in the collision that would reduce or eliminate any ultimate monetary recovery.