Determining fault concerning a rear-end crash depends on the specific circumstances of the accident. In the majority of cases, the driver who rear-ends another vehicle is considered at fault. However, there are certainly exceptions to this rule of thumb.
While there is a general presumption that the following driver is at fault for rear-end collisions, this presumption can be overcome by evidence of either shared responsibility due to issues with both parties or evidence that the following driver was blameless.
Presumptions and possibilities
These are just a few of the factors that are taken into consideration as the presumption explained above and other possibilities concerning fault are evaluated by all involved:
- Failure to maintain a safe distance: The driver who rear-ends another vehicle is typically assumed to have failed to maintain a safe following distance. All drivers have a responsibility to keep a reasonable distance from the vehicle in front of them, allowing enough time to react and stop if necessary. If a driver collides with the vehicle ahead, they are often presumed to be at fault.
- Duty to exercise caution: Drivers have a duty to exercise reasonable caution and be prepared for sudden stops or changes in traffic conditions. This includes being attentive, avoiding distractions and maintaining an appropriate speed. If a driver fails to exercise reasonable caution and rear-ends another vehicle, they may be held liable for the accident.
- Contributory negligence: Although the driver who rear-ends another vehicle is generally considered at fault, there are instances where both parties may share some degree of fault. For example, if the driver in front suddenly and unexpectedly reverses or makes a sudden and abrupt stop without a valid reason, they may be found partially at fault for the collision.
It is also possible for the lead vehicle operator to be at fault, especially if they behave aggressively and brake-check the vehicle behind them or are so distracted that they are forced to slam on their brakes, which could impact the following vehicle operator’s ability to respond, even with a proper following distance between their vehicle and the lead vehicle.
Due to the myriad of circumstances that can lead up to a rear-end crash, it is important to avoid making assumptions about causation and fault without legal guidance. Contact an attorney at Phillips & Mille Co., L.P.A., to learn more about your legal options.