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Can I be found liable if my car is rear-ended in a crash?

Rear-end collisions are one of the most common types of traffic accidents in the United States. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), about 40% of all traffic crashes are rear-end collisions with over 2.5 million of these accidents every year. There is a rear-end crash somewhere in the U.S. every 8 seconds.

Still, these accidents are a bit unique because they are typically considered “no-doubt” liability cases. This means that in a rear-end collision, the rear driver is found at fault about 99% of the time. If you are hit from behind, the other driver will very likely be responsible for the accident and your damages, but there are some exceptions to this rule. This is why it’s still important to hire a personal injury attorney if you are seriously injured in an accident, even if liability seems clear.

Rear-End Crashes and No-Doubt Liability
In the vast majority of rear-end crashes, the rear driver is found at fault. It doesn’t matter if the front driver had slowed down rapidly or even stopped. This is because traffic law requires that all motorists maintain a safe distance and be able to come to a stop if another vehicle comes to a sudden stop or slows down. There is an automatic legal assumption that the rear driver in a collision was not maintaining this safe distance.

Understanding Liability
In any car accident, the damage can tell how the crash happened and it can be used to establish liability, especially with rear-end accidents. In all rear-end collisions, one car will have damage on the rear and while another vehicle has front-end damage. This type of damage to the vehicles is indisputable and shows which vehicle rear-ended the other and is responsible for the accident.

Multiple Vehicle Collisions
While liability may seem very clear-cut in rear-end crashes, it can become complex when there are several vehicles involved in the accident. For instance, what happens if one vehicle pushes two other cars into each other, forcing one car to rear-end the other? In this type of accident, the first vehicle would be found liable for the rear-end collision between the other two vehicles, even though it didn’t hit the vehicle that was rear-ended. The other two drivers could file claims for damages against this first driver’s insurance policy.

Less commonly, sometimes one driver rear-ends another because a third vehicle in the front caused the middle driver to come to a sudden stop. In this type of situation, the driver who rear-ended the middle driver may have a claim against the lead driver who caused the middle car to stop.

Can a Rear-Ended Driver Be At-Fault?
It is possible for a driver who has been rear-ended in a crash to be found at least somewhat at fault for the crash, typically when the driver’s recklessness or negligence contributed to the accident. This may be the case if the car’s brake lights were out and made it difficult for the rear driver to tell if the vehicle had slowed or if the driver stopped due to a blown tire or other malfunction instead of moving to the shoulder.

Sometimes neither driver is responsible if road conditions caused the crash. If the accident happens because the roads were not maintained properly, even the municipality can be responsible.

In general, here are the most common reasons a driver can be found at fault, even if they were rear-ended:

  • The driver went into reverse without warning
  • The driver did not give warning and made a sudden turn
  • The driver did not move to the shoulder of the road after a car malfunction
  • The car had non-functioning brake lights

If you are rear-ended in a collision and suffer serious injuries, it’s important to schedule a consultation with experienced personal injury attorneys to protect your rights. A personal injury lawyer can help you investigate the accident to establish liability and negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf to seek fair compensation for the injuries you have sustained.

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